Amnesty international has accused the Nigerian army using of despicable and unlawful strategy in its perceived fight against insurgency in the north east which put people of the region in conditions they are expected to be protected from.
In a report released on Friday by right watchdog, it alleged that the Nigerian military is burning villages and forcible displacing and detaining of villagers while claiming it is a rescue operation
AI said that the Nigerian military burnt three villages and detained six men from the displaced villages at Maimalari military barracks in Maiduguri for about a month after which they were freed without any charge, thereby violating international humanitarian rights.
Director of Amnesty International Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, said, “These brazen acts of razing entire villages, deliberately destroying civilian homes and forcibly displacing their inhabitants with no imperative military grounds, should be investigated as possible war crimes.
“They repeat a longstanding pattern of the Nigerian military’s brutal tactics against the civilian population. Forces allegedly responsible for such violations must be suspended immediately and brought to justice.”
AI accused the military of deploying unlawful tactics, especially beginning December 2019, in response to Boko Haram attacks along the important road between Maiduguri and Damaturu, the capitals of Borno and Yobe States.
AI reported that residents of Bukarti, Ngariri and Matiri villages near Maiduguri-Damaturu road said soldiers arrived on Friday, January 3, 2020, and “went house to house and to surrounding farmland, forcing everyone to gather under a tree and by a graveyard” after which they were forced to board large trucks and saw them burn their villages.
“The trucks then took more than 400 women, men, and children to an internally displaced persons camp near Maiduguri.”
AI said the displacement of the inhabitants of these villages, where their security or imperative military reasons did not demand so, constituted a war crime, adding that the subsequent burning of their homes might amount to a war crime as well.
“The Nigerian government must not brush these violations under the carpet. They must be investigated, and alleged perpetrators must be prosecuted. Necessary steps must also be taken to ensure that military operations do not further forcibly displace civilian populations,” Ojigho added.
Residents from Bukarti were quoted as describing “scores of Nigerian soldiers arriving during the late morning of Friday 3 January”
“They said soldiers went house to house and to surrounding farmland, forcing everyone to gather under a tree and by a graveyard between Bukarti and the main road. Soldiers also rounded up people from neighbouring Matiri and brought them to the same area,” the report read.
“Around 3 pm on 3 January, soldiers demanded everyone walk to the main road, where the villagers were forced to board large trucks. Witnesses said that, as they were loaded into the trucks, some of the soldiers returned to Bukarti. The witnesses then saw their village burning.”
“We saw our houses go into flames,” recalled a woman, around 70 years old, from Bukarti. “We all started crying.”
The report added that the villagers Bukarti and Matiri, numbering over 400, were transferred to an unnamed IDP camp near Maiduguri, while a repeat of the incident played out in Ngariri, the next day.
AI quoted those affected as saying they “we lost everything” as they could not bring their belongings along with them to the IDP camp.
“Everything we harvested was destroyed, and some of our animals died,” a farmer in his 60s said. “I had a year [of harvest] stored – it’s what I would’ve sold to buy clothes and other things for my family.”
Another in his 30s said: “Everything was burned, even our food – it could feed [my family] for two years. Our clothes, our food, our crops, our kettles. Even the trolley we used for getting water. Only the metal dishes are there, but everything else is burned.”