Chris Steven, Abuja
The Amnesty International (AI) has asked the Nigerian government to release hundreds of Nigerians that are being held in secret detentions or disclose information about their fate or whereabouts.
Osai Ojigho, Director of Amnesty International Nigeria, said in Abuja on Wednesday that the organization fears that hundreds of people are being held in secret detention – a conduct prohibited under the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, to which Nigeria is a state party.
Speaking on the occasion marking the International day of support for victims of Enforced Disappearance, Ojigho said that enforced disappearances are being used to instill fear into civilian population living in areas of the country wracked with conflict and insecurity.
He said, “Many families of the victims of enforced disappearance spend painful years searching for justice, truth and reparation but are ignored or misled about the fate of their relatives. The authorities must do the right thing now, by releasing all of them or disclosing information about their fate or whereabouts”
According to him, Nigerian government must investigate all cases of enforced disappearances and bring all those suspected of criminal responsibility to justice in fair trials before ordinary civilian courts without recourse to death penalty.
He added that the authorities must provide full reparation to victims and their families, including compensation, rehabilitation, restitution, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition.
“We call on authorities to investigate cases of enforced disappearance across Nigeria to end this crime under international law that makes the victims vulnerable to torture and other human rights violations”, he said
“The families of the victims of enforced disappearance have already waited too long for answers. They deserve justice, truth and reparation now. Enforced disappearances are perpetrated by state agents or people acting on their behalf.
“The deprivation of liberty is then followed by a refusal to acknowledge that the individual is being held, or the deliberate concealment of his or her fate or whereabouts, placing the person concerned outside the protection of the law.
“Disappearances frequently follow a pattern: once arrested, the victims almost never appear before a court and there is almost never a record of their “crime” or their detention. Once out of the public eye, individuals subjected to enforced disappearance are at great risk of ill-treatment, torture and even death”.
The international human rights organization disclosed that its research revealed that most enforced disappearances take place in the conflict-ridden north-east of Nigeria where young men are often seized by the military after being accused of affiliation to the armed group Boko Haram.
The organisation said it obtained details of men, women and children victims of enforced disappearance in other parts of Nigeria.
According to figures provided by the Islamic Movement of Nigeria at least 600 of their members’ whereabouts is not known since the clashes with the military in December 2015 in Zaria, Kaduna state.
More than 350 people are believed to have been unlawfully killed by the military between 12 and 14 December 2015.
Families of some of the victims told Amnesty International about their painful ordeal of years in search for justice.
Malama Zainab Isa said that her husband Abdullahi Abbas and their six children’s whereabout or fate is not known since the night of December 14, 2015 following the clashes in Zaria
“He sells books at the Husainiyyah where the clashes took place. All six of our children were with him that day. Up to now we don’t know their fate. We don’t know whether the seven (7) of them are alive or dead and no one is giving us any information that can ease our pain.” She said
Ibrahim Aliyu, whose three brothers’ whereabouts or fate is not known since 2012 after arrest by state security services, is also lamenting their sudden disappearance.
He said, “before my three brothers disappeared we used to contribute money to support our extended family. Now without them, the burden is entirely on my shoulder. I have to do everything; take care of their families and provide for our mother. Our mother is now perpetually sick, because she thinks a lot about my brother’s fate. Sometimes I feel I can’t bear the pain anymore.”