Here's why military and international organisation are exchanging bitter words

Amnesty International and the Nigerian military are at each other's throats. Here's why.

In the opening paragraph of its report, AI writes that; “Nigerian authorities’ response to communal violence is totally inadequate, too slow and ineffective, and in some cases unlawful…clashes between herdsmen and farmers in Adamawa, Benue, Taraba, Ondo and Kaduna have resulted in 168 deaths in January 2018 alone”.

According to the international crisis group think tank,“On 4 December 2017, Nigeria’s air force sent fighter jets to fire rockets at villages as a “warning” to deter spiralling communal violence, as hundreds of herdsmen attacked at least five villages in Adamawa state to avenge the massacre of up to 51 members of their community, mostly children, the previous month in Kikan”.

Burning homes of civilians

The organization says instead of bombing hoodlums who were fomenting trouble in the Adamawa Numan communities of Lawaru, Dong, Kodomti, Shafaron and Nzuruwei, the military’s air raids took out civilian settlements, leaving scores dead.

“This is unlawful and excessive force on a catastrophic scale. It is yet another tragic example where Nigeria’s armed forces are found applying deadly military tactics to law enforcement situations,” said Osai Ojigho who is Director Amnesty International Nigeria.

Ojigho adds that “hundreds of people lost their lives last year, and the government is still not doing enough to protect communities from these violent clashes. Worse, with murder”.

'Lies'

But the Nigerian military has referred to AI’s allegations as “unfounded” and a tissue of “lies”.

In a statement sent to Pulse by Air Vice Marshal Olatokunbo Adesanya who is Director of Public Relations and Information in the Nigerian Air Force (NAF), the military said; “It is very unfortunate that a highly respected international organization such as Amnesty International would make such unfounded allegations.

"At no time has the NAF been involved in settling any “herdsmen-farmers” clash in the Numan general area, as alleged by Amnesty International.

“It is particularly disturbing that an organization of the stature of Amnesty International would believe a ridiculous story that the pilot of an aircraft flying at a high speed would be able to distinguish between a herdsman and a local farmer before deciding which one to “bomb”!

Hoodlums as targets

NAF says its air raid on the day was targeted at hoodlums “mostly dressed in black attires, who appeared armed and who were sighted ransacking and setting a village on fire. In addition, the hoodlums set large portions of farmlands ablaze”.

NAF adds that “the report by Amnesty International is therefore deemed to be unfair, one-sided and apparently aimed at embarrassing the NAF”.

NAF says its intervention ensured the hoodlums didn’t burn down other villages and rustle cattle around Numan. It adds that that the hoodlums even shot at flying military aircraft on the day.

NAF says its raid "was aimed at dispersing the huge crowd and thereby stopping the ongoing carnage. After several low passes, the crowd was undeterred and refused to disperse. Rather, the assailants started firing shots at the aircraft and continued in their dastardly act of burning houses within the settlement.

"The aircraft therefore had to fire shots ahead of the rampaging crowd when it became obvious that they were heading for Numan to inflict further damage. Sequel to the NAF’s intervention, the hoodlums started scattering and fleeing to a nearby bridge".

Retraction

NAF has called for a retraction from AI.

“The report by Amnesty International is therefore deemed to be unfair, one-sided and apparently aimed at embarrassing the NAF.

“Amnesty International should produce credible evidence to substantiate its baseless allegations that NAF air attacks led to the destruction in the villages as well as loss of lives, failing which it should go to the press and retract its allegations”, the NAF statement added.

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