Army: AI Report on Clash with Shiites Hasty, Subjective

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  • Says satellite videos of mass grave are fake

By Senator Iroegbu in Abuja

The Nigerian Army has berated Amnesty International (AI) over its recent report on the clash with members of Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) in December 2015 in Zaria, Kaduna State, which it described as too hasty, partial, judgmental and subjective.

This was stated at the weekend by the Director of Army Public Relations (DAPR), Col. Sani Usman, in response to the THISDAY inquiries about the latest allegations by the AI about the army conduct during the deadly confrontation with IMN popularly acknowledged and known as Shiites Islamic sect.

Usman said the international non-governmental organisation (NGO) was in a hurry to publish  what it noted was a premeditated report without waiting for the constituted Judicial Commission of Inquiry set up by the Kaduna State Government and National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to submit its report.  

“Please note that if there is any report from Amnesty International as you stated, we believe it is hasty, partial and lacks objectivity. The NGO should understand that Nigeria is a sovereign nation and it should be respected. Already, a judicial commission of inquiry is in place in addition to investigation by the NHRC,” he said. 

The AI had last Friday accused the Nigerian military of mass slaughter of hundreds of men, women and children by soldiers in Zaria, saying the attempted cover-up of the alleged crime demonstrates an utter contempt for human life and accountability. 

The human rights watchdog said it has published evidence gathered on the ground revealing how the Nigerian military burned people alive, razed buildings and dumped victims’ bodies in mass graves.

 The body claimed that the report titled: ‘Unearthing the truth: Unlawful killings and mass cover-up in Zaria’, gave a shocking eyewitness testimony of large-scale unlawful killings by the Nigerian military and exposes a crude attempt by the authorities to destroy and conceal evidence.

The rights group also stated that more than 350 people are believed to have been unlawfully killed by the military between December 12 and 14, following a confrontation between members of the IMN and soldiers in Zaria.

According to the Al’s Research and Advocacy Director for Africa, Mr. Netsanet Belay, “The true horror of what happened over those two days in Zaria is only now coming to light. Bodies were left littered in the streets and piled outside the mortuary. Some of the injured were burnt alive. 

“Our research, based on witness testimonies and analysis of satellite images, has located one possible mass grave. It is time now for the military to come clean and admit where it secretly buried hundreds of bodies.”

However, these claims were dismissed by the army spokesman, who said the rights group is acting out a script together with the IMN.

He noted that: “The NGO’s hasty report is against the principles of the itself as it is pre-emptive and judgmental.” 

Usman further urged the AI to allow the judicial commission of  inquiry and all other relevant agencies complete and submit their reports before jumping to conclusion. 

He accused the global human rights watchdog of dishing out a biased report in favour of the Shiites to influence the ongoing inquiry towards a predetermined conclusion.

He said: “Let the NGO search it’s conscience please. It is apparent also that is uncomfortable with the daily reports from Kaduna. It is the basic reason why it has rushed to town with another jaundiced report to divert attention from the proceedings of the committee. 

“Simply because witness accounts seems not to tally with their predetermined conclusion, they hastily churned out highly biased and unsubstantiated report to save face and arrived at their prejudiced conclusion. It’s a highly biased report and one perspective; the IMN and anti-government report. Nothing was mentioned on the rebellious attitude and the violations of human rights by the IMN. Neither did they bother to ask why the IMN attempted to assassinate the Chief of Army Staff (COAS.”

Also speaking to THISDAY, an army general dismissed the AI claims of satellite imagery of mass grave, saying it was a lie concocted to deceive members of the public.

The officer said even when the IMN brought up the mass grave images, it was debunked “because we where able to prove that the pictures where taken from the North-east and not anywhere in Kaduna.”

Speaking further, the source cast  doubt on the methodology used by the AI to arrive at the report, querying why they should rely on only the interviews granted mostly by Shiites and their sympathisers.

The senior officer stressed: “If you read carefully their so called interviews it was from the Shiites or their sympathisers. So what do you expect. 

“Another issue there is that how can they claim to have conducted the interview and findings immediately the clash occurred. Where they part of the Shiites then to have been there. If you also read carefully, where they claimed to have interviewed someone who was shot at the chest. How then could he have survived and even at that be in a condition to speak to them.”