• Amnesty report on military lacks evidence -Presidency
By Ese Awhotu and Lawrence Olaoye Abuja with agency report
Nigeria’s Ambassador/Permanent Representative to the UN, Tijjani Bande has said that no fewer than 700 Boko Haram fighters have indicated their intention to surrender arms.
This is just as the Presidency has dismissed the latest report of Amnesty International (AI) alleging human rights violation by the nation’s security agencies.
Bande who disclosed the intention of Boko Haram fighters to surrender to the UN Security Council, said, so far, many insurgents had willingly surrendered to the military, while about 700 others had indicated interest to surrender.
He also said that, 14.8 million people were affected by the Boko Haram crisis in the North East of Nigeria.
According to him, 1.7 million people were internally displaced, with the most adversely affected being children and women.
Bande, who spoke during an Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflicts, however, assured the international community that ‘The Buhari Plan’ would bring relief to North-Eastern Nigeria, currently ravaged by Boko Haram, as all efforts were being made against the insurgency.
The Presidential Committee for North-East Initiative developed ‘The Buhari Plan’ – a framework of action to ensure the rehabilitation of the victims of insurgency and the reconstruction of their communities.
Bande said a robust Social Protection Initiative, and a second National Action Plan to fully implement the provisions of resolution 1325 (2000) had been instituted to protect civilians, particularly women and children from the Boko Haram ravages.
“To that end,” he said, “the initiatives will also complement the implementation of ‘The Buhari Plan’, which provides a blueprint for the comprehensive humanitarian relief and socioeconomic stabilization of the North-East, as well as the return and resettlement of displaced persons.
“We are collaborating with our neighbours, Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Benin, within the framework of the Multinational Joint Task Force, to defeat the Boko Haram insurgency, which is targeting civilians, particularly women and children,” Mr. Bande said.
The envoy noted that Nigeria was among the first group of states to endorse the Safe Schools Declaration in Oslo, thereby making a pledge to protect schools during armed conflicts and using and promoting the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict.
Bande said the declaration complemented and strengthened Nigeria’s national Safe Schools Initiative, established in 2014, as part of the response by the Federal Government to promote safe zones for learning.
He said these initiatives reflected government’s commitment to ensuring the security of women and children during armed conflicts and enhancing their active and direct participation in conflict prevention and peace building.
The ambassador said: “It is heartening to note that over a thousand kidnapped women and children have been rescued; and all territories once controlled by the group have been recovered.
Meanwhile, in a statement made available to newsmen by Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari, Mallam Garba Shehu, the Presidency said the allegation of human rights abuses made by Amnesty International against the Nigerian Military was inherently battling with credibility, falling vehemently short of evidential narration.
He stated: “It is short on credibility because it does not contain factual leads that could have laid the foundation for investigative actions.
“Findings are attributed to people but proper description of such people constituting the source of information is not provided.
“Engagement was claimed to have been made with Nigerian authorities but which authority is it; is not provided with clarity. This then is just a wild goose chase report, in essence.
“In some breath, the report seemed like the one in 2015, and the one in 2016, and the one after that year – the same things being recycled again and again.
“It ignores the fact of the existing mechanisms put in place by the military, as a self-correcting step and the high-level committee constituted by the Presidency to examine any such claims.
“Over this period of time, the Nigerian military had indeed established cases of abuse, and punishments meted out from Orderly Room trials and Court Martials that resulted in losses of rank, dismissals, and trials and convictions by civil courts.”
“Indeed, as President Buhari said during his recent joint press conference with President Trump at the White House: “The government of Nigeria remains deeply committed to the principles of human rights, as well as promotion and protection of people’s freedom, even in the process of fighting terror. We commit to ensure that all documented cases of human rights abuses are investigated, and those responsible for violation held responsible.”