By Mohammed Momoh
Amnesty International (AI) has released a 91-page report, indicting Nigerian military inhuman treatment of children in northeast, the amphitheatre of Boko Haram fighters.
Although the military has faulted the report as usual, but Amnesty International said on May 26, that children are subjected to unlawful detention and torture.
According to AI, the report is based on interviews conducted between November 2019 and April 2020 with more than 230 people affected by the conflict, “including 119 who were children when they suffered serious crimes by Boko Haram, the Nigerian military, or both’’.
The report, ‘We dried our tears: Addressing the toll on children of Northeast Nigeria’s conflict”, alleged that the military had compounded the problems of the children they were supposed to protect.
The military had been engaged with Boko Haram since 2009 in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states in Northeast of Nigeria which also share boundaries with Chad, Cameroon and Niger.
No fewer than 39,000 people had been killed in the insurgency which is still raging and now complicated with the recent involvement of elements of fighters of the Islamic States of West African Province (ISWAP).
The Amnesty International said it had discovered that 48 children had been held in military detention for months or years, as well as 22 adults who had been detained with children.
AI also accused international donors of bankrolling “a flawed programme that claims to reintegrate former alleged fighters’’.
“The past decade of bitter conflict between Nigeria’s military and Boko Haram has been an assault on childhood itself in Northeast Nigeria, ‘’ Joanne Mariner, Acting Director of Crisis Response at Amnesty International, said in a statement on May 26, 2020.
“The Nigerian authorities risk creating a lost generation unless they urgently address how the war has targeted and traumatized thousands of children.’’
Amnesty also reported that children in areas controlled by Boko Haram are subjected to torture and forced to watch public executions and other brutal punishments.
“Children who escaped Boko Haram territory are arbitrarily detained for years in military barracks, in conditions amounting to torture or other ill-treatment.
“Most such detentions are unlawful; children are never charged or prosecuted for any crime and are denied the rights to access a lawyer, appear before a judge, or communicate with their families. The widespread unlawful detentions may amount to a crime against humanity.”
The rights group estimated that at least 10,000 people, including many children, have died in detention during the conflict.
Amnesty advised Nigeria to urgently address its failure to protect and provide education to an entire generation of children in the northeast.
In a reaction to the report, The Coordinator of Defence Media Operation, Maj.- Gen. John Enenche, said flayed the postulation of AI and accused the rights organisation of always digging faults where they did not exist.
“I do not know where AI is getting its information from. At least they should get the input of the military before coming out with such reports.’’
“The military will respond appropriately and convincingly with facts and figures to dispel the lies,’’ he said.
The Nigerian Army and AI have been having a running battle over rights abuse accusation and the military had once threatened to ban the activities of the rights group.
It accused AI and some humanitarian organisations of fostering the activities of Boko Haram and undermining the security of Nigeria.