A panel set up by the Nigerian army has cleared its troops of extrajudicial killing of members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and Boko Haram insurgent group.
The army on Wednesday made public the findings of the panel it had set up to investigate alleged human rights abuse levelled against its personnel by Amnesty International (AI).
AI had accused the army of “human rights abuse, excessive use of force and extra-judicial killing of terrorists in the north-east and members of IPOB in the south-east”.
But at a press conference in Abuja, Nuhu Angbazo, the chief of military/civil affairs, while presenting the findings, said the army was not guilty of the accusations.
The board however noted that members of the Boko Haram sect, for instance, were not allowed access to legal representation.
It also noted that “the right to counsel is fundamental to basic fairness that should be recognised even with respect to terrorism cases”.
“The board found that the process determining the legal status of Boko Haram detainees in all military detention facilities appear to have been left to the Nigerian army alone,” it said.
“We note in particular the difficulty encountered by the Nigerian Army in transferring detainees in Giwa Barracks in Maiduguri detention facility to the Maiduguri maximum prisons to ease congestion in the facility.
“The board found that a common feature in all the detention facilities visited was the delay in the legal processing and trial of Boko Haram detainees.”
The board also indicated in the findings that some of the terrorist detainees, at the time of the arrest, were “malnourished and in poor state”.
“This could be misconstrued as evidence of deliberate starvation.”
On the alleged killing of members of IPOB and their subsequent alleged burial in a shallow pit, the board in its finding did not find the army wanting.
It stated the board interacted with the Anambra governor, commissioner of police, state directror of DSS and some residents.
“They testified that no one was killed during the incident (IPOB protest) at Onitsha bridgehead but police report showed that 14 people were arrested on the day – May 29, 2016,” the report added.
“The board received the names and contact details of the five ring leaders of the protest who were arrested and handed over to the police on that day.”
On the allegation of war crimes against some senior officers, the board found nothing incriminating against them.
The senior officers include John Ewansiha, a retired major general; O.T. Ethan, A. Mohammed, A.O. Edokpayi and R.O. Bamigboye, a brigadier general.
Angbazo said the board recommended “quarterly high level meeting” on access to justice for insurgents to create “a platform for enhanced and better collaboration” between the federal ministry of justice and security authorities.
Tukur Buratai, chief of army staff, had on March 8 inaugurated the nine-man board headed by A.T Jibril, a retired major general.