By Kingsley Omonobi
LAGOS — Human rights group, Amnesty International (AI), has condemned the reinstatement of a former commander of the 7 Division of the Nigerian Army, Ahmadu Mohammed, who the organization accused of possible war crimes, following the alleged execution of suspected Boko Haram detainees in Giwa Barracks, Maiduguri, Borno State.
Meanwhile, the Defence Headquarters, yesterday, faulted Amnesty International over its condemnation of the recall of Major General Ahmed Mohammed.
Amnesty implicated Mr. Mohammed, a Major General, alongside other serving and retired military chiefs for possible war crimes, following the alleged torture and extra-judicial killings of more than 8,000 suspected Boko Haram detainees.
Mohammed was specifically accused of overseeing the killing of 640 detainees at Giwa Barracks, Maiduguri, Borno State on March 14, 2014 after the barracks’ detention centre was attacked by Boko Haram.
Mohammed was retired in 2014 after a mutiny by soldiers who accused him of knowingly leading them into a Boko Haram ambush around Chibok on May 12, 2014.
More than 70 soldiers were killed in the ambush. Mohammed, whose vehicle was shot at by the angry soldiers during the mutiny, has been quietly reinstated after he allegedly wrote several letters to the army authorities asking to be recalled.
Mohammed must be investigated
In a statement issued yesterday, Amnesty International described the reinstatement of Mohammed as a monumental failure of the government to stamp out impunity for wars crimes at the highest level.
“Major General Mohammed must be investigated for participating in, sanctioning or failing to prevent the deaths of hundreds of people. Young men and boys, rounded up by the military, were either shot, starved, suffocated or tortured to death and no one has yet been held to account.
“It is unthinkable that Major General Muhammed could resume command of troops before an investigation has even begun,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.
According to the group, the report that implicated Mohammed, “Stars on their shoulders, blood on their hands: War crimes committed by the Nigerian military,” was based on years of research and analysis of evidence, which included leaked military reports and correspondence as well as interview of some 400 victims, witnesses and top military officers.
AI stated that the report “exposed a range of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity committed by the military in the course of operations against Boko Haram.”
It found that, since March 2011, “more than 7,000 were starved, suffocated, and tortured to death in military detention camps. A further 1,200 were rounded up and unlawfully killed.”
The group also stated that the recall of Mr Mohammed flew in the face of assurances by President Muhammadu Buhari that allegations of human rights abuses against the military would be investigated and those found culpable brought to book.
Defence Hqtrs faults rights group
Speaking with Vanguard, Acting Director, Defence Information, Brigadier General Rabe Abubakar, said: “Allegations by Amnesty International against the officer is unproven. We have our own administrative procedure.
“Last year, the armed forces set up a committee to look into all allegations from human rights bodies against military officers. They were invited, they did not come or send any representative.In fact, if you ask me, I think what the Army did is something worth commending.
“If we could recall over 3,000 soldiers who committed offences and were sentenced but due to law of fair hearing, they were given a second chance, what more of an officer who was not convicted of any crime or offence.
‘’The military felt that a mistake was committed and it corrected the mistake. That is we deserve commendation not what Amnesty is saying.
‘’There is no legal competent court that found him guilty of anything. Based on our code of conduct, rules of engagement, terms and condition of service, he was not found wanting anywhere so his recall should be commended.”
Vanguard had reported exclusively two weeks ago, that President Mihammadu Buhari directed the Nigerian Army authorities to immediately reinstate Major General Ahmed Mohammed, whose official vehicle was famously fired at by troops protesting the death of their colleagues in a Boko Haram ambush.
Consequently, the former GOC was recalled and is currently awaiting posting by the Army headquarters.