AI: Chibok Girls’ Anniversary a Chilling Reminder of Scourge of Boko Haram

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  •   Calls for abolition of death penalty in Nigeria

Paul Obi in Abuja and Goddy Egene and Nume Ekeghe in Lagos

As Nigeria marks the third anniversary of the kidnapping of the Chibok girls, Amnesty International (AI),  wednesday said the kidnapping of the girls is a chilling reminder of the increasing scourge of abductions by the Boko Haram sect.

Amnesty International Country Director, Makmid Kamara, stated that government must expedite action  towards the release of the remaining Chibok girls.

He said: “Nigerian authorities must ramp up efforts to secure the release of the remaining Chibok girls and thousands of others abducted across the northeast by Boko Haram, said Amnesty International on the third anniversary of the armed group’s chilling abduction of 276 Chibok schoolgirls.

“Boko Haram continues to abduct women, girls and young men who are often then subjected to horrific abuses, including rape, beatings and being forced into suicide bombing missions. Sadly, many such abductions go unnoticed and unreported by the media. This has left many parents and relatives without any hope of being reunited with their loved ones,” Kamara added.

According to him,  “these appalling abductions and other attacks, some of which constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity, are carried out by Boko Haram on an almost daily basis. They must stop. Today we remember and lend solidarity to the families of the Chibok girls as well as the thousands of other women, girls and men abducted, killed or displaced by Boko Haram.”

“Amnesty International, which stands in solidarity with #BringBackOurGirls campaigners, is also urging the Nigerian government to ensure that all other abductees are accounted for and their families given adequate support.

“The organisation has documented at least 41 other cases of mass abductions by Boko Haram since the beginning of 2014.

“While the Nigerian government is making considerable efforts to recover the 195 girls remaining in Boko Haram’s custody, victims of less-publicised mass abductions have not benefitted from similar support.

“The Nigerian government is making progress in recapturing territory held by Boko Haram but more needs to be done to prevent further abductions, bomb attacks and provide proper support to all those who have already been rescued or escaped Boko Haram captivity,” Kamara stressed.

“This bloody Boko Haram insurgency and the security forces’ efforts to end it, has displaced more than two million people across the north-east and brought many to the brink of starvation. It is vital for the Nigerian people that those responsible for atrocities in the conflict are brought to justice.

“Since 2009, Boko Haram has been carrying out a violent campaign against civilians in North-eastern Nigeria through almost daily killings, bombings, abductions and looting.

“Towns and villages have been pillaged. Schools, churches, mosques and other public buildings have been attacked and destroyed. Boko Haram is brutally mistreating civilians trapped in areas under its control and has disrupted the provision of health, education and other public services.

“Amnesty International’s research shows that Boko Haram has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity with impunity.”

Kamara, explained that “in April 2014 Boko Haram fighters kidnapped 276 girls from the Government  Secondary School in Chibok. Abductions are a consistent part of Boko Haram’s attacks and on April 14, 2015, Amnesty International released a comprehensive report which documented 38 cases of abduction by Boko Haram.

“Since April 2015, thousands of women, men and children who were abducted by Boko Haram have escaped or been rescued, but thousands more remain in captivity.”

However, Amnesty International has urged the federal government to stop death sentence, saying it would  not  deter criminal activities.

In its annual global report on the death penalty, the human rights group had on Tuesday said death sentences in Nigeria rose to 527 in 2016, from 171 in 2015.

It had described the development as a “massive and worrying spike,” placing Nigeria second only to China.

Speaking on the report on ARISE Television, THISDAY’s sister television network, Mrs. Esther Ikubaje, who is one of the researchers who worked on the report,  yesterday said death penalty should be discontinued in Nigeria because it is cruel and inhuman.

 According to her,   the rise in the   number kidnappings and other criminal  activities in the country’s oil-producing south and the ongoing fight against Boko Haram Islamist group in the North-east was responsible for the spike in death sentences in 2016.

Although people are being sentenced without being executed, Ikubaje said  three people were executed  last December.

“We had three people executed and one of them was actually sentenced in 1997 by a military ruler and he never had the chance to appeal. He was sentenced for armed robbery. And that is why Amnesty International is saying that Nigeria needs to respect obligations especially regarding international human rights law,” she said.

She added that  Nigeria needed to take one step forward and actually join the global trend by abolishing the death penalty.

“We have seen governors now appending signatures to death warrant. At the same time, we have also seen more states passing laws because of the rise in terrorism. We also need to talk of decongestion which of course had been one of the reasons for our research. But we feel that death penalty is not a deterrent and should not be the last resort because it is the most cruel and inhuman treatment you can ever accord to a human being,” Ikubaje said.