Commandant of the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) who was also the former General Officer Commanding (GOC) 7 Division Maiduguri, Major General Ibrahim Manu Yusuf has said that the Reuters report of allegations of gross human rights infractions by the Military in Counter Insurgency Operations in the North East is completely false, malicious and ill-intended, adding that the Nigerian Military deserves commendation and not condemnation or distraction.
Testifying before the Hon. Justice Abdu Aboki led Special Independent Investigative Panel on Human Rights Violations in Counter Insurgency Operations in the North East (SIIP-NE), the former GOC said those allegations contained in the news report are weighty, arguing that the military operates in a community where it interacts with different categories of stakeholders including personnel of United Nation Agencies who could have noticed and reported any human rights violations from the onset.
Continuing, the Commandant of the NDA said the people in the communities will also not keep quiet and watch such atrocities happen without hinting the appropriate authorities. “We have had to answer questions simply because we closed down markets following intelligence information we got on planned attacks by insurgents, if this can happen do you think such alleged crimes reported by Reuters will go unnoticed without any questioning before now?” he asked.
The former leader of the Joint Multinational Task Force further stated that the Military is a regimented institution that pays particular attention to every detail in relating with people “when you throw away the rule of law, you have lost it, you cannot win the hearts and minds of the people you are protecting, they will also not trust you, and it will be difficult for you to operate in their territory”.
Expressing disappointment in the Reuters report, the army officer said it is unimaginable for anyone to think that the military can kill rescued children for any reason. He pointed out that the military has celebrated the naming ceremony of children fathered by Boko Haram “we have on our own provided rams and bought clothes for the celebration of naming ceremonies of children of Boko Haram born in our custody, and some of these children were named after us as a way of expressing excitement over our goodwill. If we want to exterminate them, we would have done so by killing the pregnant women even before they gave birth, we won’t have to go through the headache of conducting the said abortions”.
Describing the allegations as painful and irrational, the Commandant said no military formation keeps women and children when they are rescued; they are immediately handed over to the camps, if you keep them they become a threat and distraction to you.
On his part, the Solicitor General and Permanent Secretary Borno State Ministry of Justice Barr. Garba Musa Chibok, who earlier appeared before the 7-man panel, said it is very unreasonable for anyone to fabricate stories that are baseless.
He challenged Justice Abdu Aboki (rtd) and led the panel to invite Reuters for questioning, saying Borno State as of 2013 (the period referred to in the Reuters report) was in turmoil, people were busy running for their lives and seeking hiding places from the insurgents while the military was bothered about neutralizing the terrorists. “Tell me, in this situation who has time to think of anything like abortion?”
On the issue of the massacre of children, the Solicitor General also debunked the allegation saying “I am from Chibok and I am seriously affected by this problem, all the children rescued from the frontline are alive, I know them some of them are my relations, you can call them to come here and talk to you. None of them was killed; some of the girls released at that time came with one baby or more. Where did Reuters see those ones that they claim have been killed? Please invite them, let them come here and tell us” he appealed.