By Joseph Erunke – Abuja
A joint committee of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and the House of Representatives Committee on Human Rights set up to investigate allegations of human rights abuse made against the Nigerian military by some foreign media organisations has absolved the country’s troops of wrongdoing.
Rather, the committee, in the report, sighted by Vanguard in Abuja, said the Nigerian Military especially the Nigerian Army has demonstrated adequate will to recognise international standards on human rights in its war against Boko Haram insurgents in the Nort-East region.
The committee, chaired by Dr Isaac Dikko, insisted in the reported that the “Nigerian military authorities have always acted in the best interest of national security.”
Besides, the committee recommended “that the National Assembly leadership should recommend adequate compensation and state recognition for troops to encourage them in the line of national duty to rehabilitate and sustain their morale, summit in clear terms expulsion as a punishment for erring non-governmental organisations in the country, legalise the auditing of NGOs by security agencies as well as “invite Action Against Hunger and Amnesty International with a view to answering why they should not be banned from operating within Nigerian territory”.
It recommended, “That the National assembly leadership summit that the reports emanating especially from foreign Organisations does not represent the true situation of affairs in the North-East,
And, “That the National Assembly leadership summit that issues of human rights abuse are subjective, and that the Nigerian military authorities, particularly the Nigerian Army, have demonstrated adequate will to recognise international standards on human rights; with reference to creation of a special desk on human rights in the Nigerian army”.
Chairman of the committee, Dr Isaac Dikko, had earlier submitted the report to the National Assembly, where he noted that national security remained the only motivation for the sacrifice of the committee.
Dikko, stated, ” if not for the interest of national security, and to fact check if the war against insurgency is being truly successfully prosecuted, nobody would dare to have a committee secretariat situate in the North-East for firsthand information, particularly given the low and gloomy media reportage of the military successes in the region especially by foreign media organisations.
“Unknown to us like majority of Nigerians, a lot of successes have been made in the war against insurgency in the Northeast. The only challenge is resettlement, rehabilitation and rebuilding of infrastructure hitherto destroyed. But this is beyond military mandate and will take time.”
According to the chairman, the committee dared the region with double-pronged view; to validate or invalidate the allegations against the military authorities and censor the activities of the non-governmental organisations’ operations in the North-East region so as to come up with facts that are verifiable.
The report was coordinated by a foreign NGO, the Mahatma Gandhi Peace Foundation Nepal.
In a remark on the sideline of the presentation, Senior Programme Officer for the foundation, Rev Solomon Semaka, noted that their involvement in the committee fact-finding mission was to ensure that the interest of NGOs and media organisations were represented and given a fair hearing.
He acknowledged on behalf of NGOs that the representations in the report were 6truly fair given the glaring evidence and testimonies the committee received.
Semaka said that “one of my lowest points and greatest shocker as a development worker myself, whose interest in the committee was to protect NGOs was when a medical doctor & Staff member of ACTION AGAINST HUNGER (AAH), one of the NGOs working in the North-East region confessed before the committee that truly, they offer random treatment and provide food to wounded insurgents. However, under cross-examination, he admitted that was not there major purpose in the North East”.
“Sometimes we offer the insurgents medical assistance because we also want to protect ourselves and at other times, you never can tell whether one is a terrorist or a victim so you just have to treat them” on food, our stores are most times bugled by insurgents and there is little or nothing we can do.
This gives a negative impression against my organisation”, one AAH worker was quoted as saying.
He further conceded that though, some senior officials actually liaise with leaders of the insurgents.
Meanwhile, the alternate chairman of the committee has said the recommendations would be submitted to the Presidency through the National Security Adviser, the National Assembly leadership, the United Nations, foreign missions, the council of traditional rulers, the Nigerian public as well as all critical stakeholders.
This is with a view to laying bare the facts and restores confidence and morale in the country’s military (Army) in the interest of national security.