By Adetutu Folasade-Koyi
Amnesty International (AI) has reported that a total of 240 people, including children and babies, died in military cells in Maiduguri, Borno State in 2016.
Also, it said a military clampdown on agitators for Biafra resulted in 177 deaths in the South-east last year.
In its 2016/17 report released yesterday, the group said mass arrests of people fleeing Boko Haram led to overcrowding in military detention facilities.
“The report said: “At the military detention facility at Giwa barracks, Maiduguri, cells were overcrowded. Diseases, dehydration and starvation was rife. At least, 240 detainees died during the year.
“Bodies were secretly buried in Maiduguri’s cemetery by the Borno State Environmental Protection Agency staff. Among the dead were, at least, 29 children and babies, aged between newborn and five years.”
On the military’s action against the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), the report said the group lost over 177 members between January and February 2016.
Amnesty reported: “The military was deployed in 30 out of Nigeria’s 36 states and in the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja where they performed routine policing functions, including responding to non-violent demonstrations. The military deployment to police public gatherings contributed to the number of extrajudicial executions and unlawful killings.
“Since January, in response to the continued agitation by pro-Biafra campaigners, security forces arbitrarily arrested and killed, at least, 100 members and supporters of the group, Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). Some of those arrested were subjected to enforced disappearance.
“On February 9, soldiers and police officers shot at about 200 IPOB members, who had gathered for a prayer meeting at the National High School in Aba, Abia State. Video footage showed soldiers shooting at peaceful and unarmed IPOB members; at least, 17 people were killed and scores injured.”
The group also said no fewer than 60 people were killed in a joint security operation carried out by the Army, Police, Department of State Security (DSS) and Navy. “Pro-Biafra campaigners had gathered to celebrate Biafra Remembrance Day, in Onitsha (Anambra State). No investigation into these killings had been initiated by the end of the year.”
AI also noted in its report that Boko Haram’s activities affected, at least, 14.8 million people, even after the military seized control of its base in Sambisa, Borno State.
“About 195 Chibok schoolgirls remained missing,” at the end of 2016, AI said in its report.
Speaking specifically on internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the North East, AI said there were, “at least, two million IDPs in Northern Nigeria; 80 per cent of them lived in host communities, while the remainder lived in camps. The camps in Maiduguri remained overcrowded, with inadequate access to food, clean water and sanitation.
“In the so-called inaccessible territories in Borno State, tens of thousands of IDPs were held in camps under armed guard by the Nigerian military and the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), a state-sponsored civilian militia formed to fight Boko Haram. Most of the IDPs were not allowed to leave the camps and did not receive adequate food, water or medical care.
“Thousands of people have died in these camps due to severe malnutrition. In June, in a guarded camp in Bama, Borno State, the NGO Médecins Sans Frontières reported over 1, 200 bodies had been buried within the past year.”
Amnesty said the International Criminal Court (ICC) was considering eight human rights cases in Nigeria, with the view to determining whether they would be investigated.
“In its November preliminary report, the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced that it will continue its analysis of any new allegations of crimes committed in Nigeria and its assessment of admissibility of the eight potential cases identified in 2015, in order to reach a decision on whether the criteria for opening an investigation are met,” the report said.