By Senator IroegbuÂ in Abuja andÂ Michael Olugbode,Â in Maiduguri
Officials and internally displaced persons at camps in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital on Friday defended the Nigerian military over the allegation of rape and sexual assault raised by Amnesty International.
This is as the military in a separate forum, again denied that its personnel neither molested, sexually assaulted nor raped any Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) as alleged by Amnesty International recent report.
Amnesty International in its most recent report had alleged that teenage girls were randomly raped by soldiers guarding internally displaced persons camp in Borno State.
The body also alleged other infractions committed by the soldiers against the society, in the report that drew the ire of military authorities in the country.
A visit to two camps, Dalori I and Bakassi, in Maiduguri by a team of media correspondents in the town, showed that the soldiers were restricted to their sentry, mounted outside the fence of the camps.
Some of the women and officials interviewed, said they had never witnessed any case of sexual harassment especially from the military deployed to guard the camp against invasion.
One of the officials at Dalori I IDPs camp, Alhaji Bukar Lambari, the Camp Chairman in charge of Bama and Konduga councils IDPs, said, â€œWe have about 7000 IDPs now in camp from both Bama and Konduga LGAs and have never heard or receive any rape case involving any military man”.
“All we know about the military at the camp is security and nothing more. This is even my first time of hearing this allegation; this is nothing but a lie just to smear the integrity of the military that are busy providing us with security day and night along with other security agents in camp.
â€œIt may be that the Amnesty International wants to instigate or provoke the military to withdraw their services at the camp in order for the enemies of government and IDPs to come into the camp to cause havoc or trouble again.â€
He asked journalists to go â€œround and ask the women and girls themselves to ascertain if what I am saying as their leader that if any of the women or girl has ever reported to us any rape case involving a military man since our stay here at the camp except for other cases which involved cases of stealing, fight, disputes and conflicts among IDPs.â€Â He also said the military had never been involved in the day to day administration of the camp.
Also at Dalori I IDPs, the Health Coordinator at the camp, Mrs. Ndas Zamdai said in all her years at the camp, no case of rape had been reported against the military.
At the Bakassi IDPs camp, the NEMA camp manager, Ali Maina said a case of rape against the military and other security had never been heard.
Two IDP women, Hadiza Gonin and Aishat Abatcha told journalists that there was no such issue and they had never heard of it.
Similarly, a CJTF on duty, Limits Ali Bashir said it was false and they had never left their duty post to allow any lapse or loophole and never heard of such case in the camp.
Babakura Mustapha, a CJTF at the Bakassi Camp also denied the allegation of rape at IDPs camp involving any soldier.
Meanwhile, the Director Defence Information, Brigadier General John Agim, sent to Maiduguri by the military authorities to ascertain the veracity of the allegation raised by Amnesty international, told journalists at a press conference that, “the blanket allegations and insinuations as contained in the Amnesty International report against the Armed Forces of Nigeria are rather very ineffective methodologies to address this ill.”Â
He stressed that “for the military particularly, on Gender Based violence, rape is an outright aberration. It is considered grievous and cannot go unpunished. “
He said: â€œGentlemen of the Press, as you have heard and witnessed from the visit to various Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps and have interacted with the stakeholders in the camps that the Nigerian Armed Forces has neither molested, sexually assaulted nor raped any IDP as alleged by Amnesty International recent concocted report.Â
” It is therefore high time we address this issue squarely, rather than resorting to blanket allegations. In the Armed Forces, we maintain that we do not condone rape and do not have rapists among us.Â
“The Military has several measures in place to regulate the conduct of troops and to define their relationships with members of their host communities.
“Furthermore, before troops are deployed in the frontlines, they are made to undergo mandatory Pre-Induction Training for about five weeks on Fundamental Human Rights, International Law of Armed Conflicts, Rules of Engagement, and Gender Based Violence.
“A Code of Conduct to regulate the conduct of military personnel in the theatre of operation is printed in hard copies and distributed to troops during the Pre-Induction training before they are finally deployed.Â
“Additionally, there are very effective instruments of discipline in place, to deter would-be erring personnel and to mete out punitive sanctions to defaulting personnel.Â
“There is a court martial in place at 7 Division where erring personnel have been tried and the verdicts of their trials made public.
“Accordingly, the court has tried and sentenced some service personnel found guilty of various offences in a bid to deter others.
“On the issue of sex for food, it must be clarified that troops are not in charge of distribution of food and other relief materials in the IDP camps, rather, other agencies at the state and national levels, statutorily shoulder these responsibilities and are custodians of relief materials.Â
“Troops cannot access food that is not in their custody and cannot therefore trade food for sex. Aside, our troops are centrally fed in any location they are deployed, hence possessing dry rations (raw food) is near impossible and therefore does not provide them with any opportunity to trade food for sex.
Â “Our role in any IDP camp is clearly in the outer cordon of the camp and not inside the camp. Our troops are not involved in the administration of the camp, except where they are occasionally called upon by the camp authorities to maintain order, after which they return to their duty posts.
” Their interaction with the IDPs is therefore very limited and consequently