Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai

Access to Justice (AJ), a human rights group, says the federal government should suspend Tukur Buratai, chief of army staff, over a recent report released by Amnesty International.

The Amnesty report contained alleged sexual abuse and exploitation of internally displaced persons in the north-east by soldiers and members of the civilian joint task force.

The presidency, however, said the report was short on credibility.

In a statement by Joseph Otteh, convener of AJ, the group said a responsible government cannot dismiss reports of horrendous crimes against its citizens without investigating them.

Otteh said the knee-jerk reaction has cheapened the lives and dignity of all whose stories were the subject of the allegations.

“In this case, a government which vaunts that it takes human rights abuses seriously has committed itself to the position that that allegations of serious atrocities made against agents of the state are unfounded without lifting a finger to verify them,” Otteh said.

“The grounds for dismissing the report are deplorable. Government says proper description of such people constituting the source of information was not provided. That objection is abjectly ludicrous, even more so for a government that is supposedly promoting a whistle-blower’s policy and protecting the identities of persons who provide information to it on criminal activities.

“How is it tenable for government to request for sources of information in the 21st century before it can act on complaints of the possible commission of war crimes, particularly when those sources can be exposed to further traumatization or possible destruction should they be revealed?

“Besides Amnesty International, other independent organizations, including the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), have conducted similar studies and returned findings indicting the military of staggering lawlessness and excessive violence on a number of occasions.

“This inordinate rush to absolve the military of wrongdoing whenever incriminating claims are made against it continues to harden the culture of impunity within military institutions, and strengthen the belief of military officials that they are invincible and untouchable, and can “kill and go” at will. If security operatives are indulged to think that way, it is not far-fetched that they will continuously act unprofessionally and atrociously towards civilian populations.

“Access to Justice therefore calls on the federal government to immediately reverse its statement on AI’s report and undertake a prompt, impartial investigation of the allegations contained in the report by an independent panel of persons widely known for their integrity and independence.

“Pending the outcome of investigations, and to reduce risks of interference with any investigation, suspend all military officers, including the chief of army staff who have either been implicated in, or have control over units or divisions where those implicated belong to.

“Hold all those who are found to have committed verified abuses accountable by bringing them to justice.

“Strengthen oversight on internal displacement camps, and instate procedures to avoid extortion, exploitation and starvation, as well as provide adequate reliefs and assuagement to all those who have been victims of abuses in all IDP camps.”

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