The Defence Headquarters has responded to the recent claim by the Amnesty International, which accused military personnel of raping thousands of women and girls at Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs camps in the country.
AI had, in a new report released last Thursday, revealed how the Nigerian military and Civilian Joint Task Force (Civilian JTF) separated women from their husbands and confined them in remote ‘satellite camps’ where they were allegedly raped, sometimes in exchange for food.
Responding to the claim for the first time, Acting Director, Defence Information, Brig Gen John Agim, faulted the claim by the international rights watchdog.
Agim maintained that operatives of the Nigerian Armed Forces never molested, sexually assaulted nor raped any IDP as alleged by Amnesty International in its recent report.
His statement reads below…
Hence, the need to take you round the 2 most populous camps in Borno State which are Bakassi IDP Camp with over 35000 displaced persons from 5 different local governments areas namely Marte, Monguno, Gwoza, Gwuzamala and Nganzan as well as Dalori IDP Camp with over 7800 persons from Bama and Konduga Local Government respectively.
For the Military particularly On Gender Based violence, rape is an outright aberration. It is considered grievous and cannot go unpunished. However, blanket allegations and insinuations as contained in the Amnesty International report as alleged against the armed Forces of Nigeria are rather very ineffective methodologies to address this ill. It is therefore high time we address this issue squarely, rather than resorting to blanket allegations. In the Armed Forces, we maintain that we do not condone rape and do not have rapists among us. The Military has several measures in place to regulate the conduct of troops and to define their relationships with members of their host communities.
Furthermore, before troops are deployed in the frontlines, they are made to undergo mandatory Pre-Induction Training for about five weeks on Fundamental Human Rights, International Law of Armed Conflicts, Rules of Engagement, and Gender Based Violence. A Code of Conduct to regulate the conduct of military personnel in the theatre of operation is printed in hard copies and distributed to troops during the Pre-Induction training before they are finally deployed.
Additionally, there are very effective instruments of discipline in place, to deter would-be erring personnel and to mete out punitive sanctions to defaulting personnel. There is a court martial in place at 7 Division where erring personnel have been tried and the verdicts of their trials made public. Accordingly, the court has tried and sentenced some service personnel found guilty of various offences in a bid to deter others. Some of these verdicts are as follows;
A soldier who shot and killed 5 rescued civilians without just cause was tried for the offence of murder. At the end of the trial he was found guilty, convicted and sentenced to death.
Another soldier maltreated a minor whom he suspected of stealing his money, as a result of which the minor had his right arm amputated. The soldier was tried for causing grievous body injury, found guilty, convicted and sentenced to 3 years imprisonment and dismissal from the service.
While on deployment at one of the FOBs, a soldier lured a minor girl and defiled her in the process. The soldier was arraigned for defilement of a minor and he was sentenced to dismissal from service with ignominy and sentenced to 3 years imprisonment.
A soldier was arraigned for shooting and killing an innocent civilian at Konduga without just course. The soldier was convicted for murder and sentence to death.
A certain boy in one of the areas where the military are deployed was suspected of stealing soldier’s handset upon which 2 soldiers tortured him to death the soldiers were arraigned for the offence of murder but the court found them guilty for man slaughter. They were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.
We must clearly point out here, that the Military has zero tolerance for indiscipline and in addition assures members of the public that it will not treat any report of rape or any other form of gender based violence with levity, if such report is made.
On the issue of sex for food, it must be clarified that troops are not in charge of distribution of food and other relief materials in the IDP camps, rather, other agencies at the state and national levels, statutorily shoulder these responsibilities and are custodians of relief materials. Troops cannot access food that is not in their custody and cannot therefore trade food for sex. Aside, our troops are centrally fed in any location they are deployed, hence possessing dry rations (raw food) is near impossible and therefore does not provide them with any opportunity to trade food for sex. Our role in any IDP camp is clearly in the outer cordon of the camp and not inside the camp. Our troops are not involved in the administration of the camp, except where they are occasionally called upon by the camp authorities to maintain order, after which they return to their duty posts. Their interaction with the IDPs is therefore very limited and consequently does not avail them opportunity for sexual exploitation.
As the Armed Forces shares in the emotions and sympathize with the unfortunate situation the IDPs in the north east have found themselves, we urge members of the public to be rest assured that we are here to alleviate their suffering and not the contrary. We are paying the price to protect the good people of the north east and to ensure their safety even at the expense of our own lives.
Just yesterday, troops of 271 Deployed in Operation LAFIYA DOLE Ran into an improvised explosive Device and lost 5 personnel in the incident. These are among the many other incidences encountered by the troops while securing the people of the north east. We have also gone out of the line of duty to provide aids and life support to the people. Furthermore, the Armed Forces have rescued women, children and men from Boko Haram captivity, brought them to safety and liberated their communities. We are working round the clock to fight terrorism and insurgency.