From: AIDOGHIE PAULINUS and CHIMAGOZIWOM IWUNAMARA, Abuja
Country Director of Amnesty International, Osai Ojigho, has said that hundreds of Nigerians running into thousands have disappeared in the recent times.
This was even as the international human right body said in a press release to commemorate the International Day of the Disappeared that, according to figures provided by the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) at least, 600 of its members’ whereabouts were not known since the clashes with the military in December, 2015, in Zaria, Kaduna State.
The statement added that more than 350 people were believed to have been unlawfully killed by the military between 12th and 14th December, 2015.
It called on the Nigerian authorities to investigate all cases of enforced disappearances and bring all those suspected of criminal responsibilities to justice in fair trials before ordinary civilian courts without recourse to death penalty.
Speaking with Daily Sun, in Abuja, on the sideline of the event held in commemoration of the day of victims who had suffered enforced disappearances as a result of state’s action or inaction, Ojigho said the event was to raise the voices of the families and relatives of the victims, particularly in Nigeria.
She said it was one thing to know when someone is arrested by state officials or an agency and it was a second thing to be put into a constant state of no information, saying that for many families of the victims, this goes on for months and years.
Ojigho lamented that Nigeria is in a current state where there is the involvement of non-state agents such as vigilante groups and other security groups who pick people without any information about their whereabouts.
Ojigho added that when families of victims report such cases to the security agencies, often times, no assistance and no reprisal is available.
“We cannot give you a conclusive figure because the data varies from state to state. And also, in the manner in which this information has been captured because we don’t want to mix the figures with those who are in detention and who have been identified.
“For us, what we have based our information is on the report we have received from family members and from groups such as the IMN that have indicated that over 600 of their members have been missing since the incident that happened in December 2015. But these are unverified because we need to be able to corroborate this based on the information within the state coffers which we do not have access to.
“In recent time, those who have disappeared go into hundreds of Nigerians. We can’t put an exact figure to it, but if we are to take the IMN figures of 600 and if we are to look at what happened during the curbing of pro Biafra protesters in the South East last year and we put a number of about 200 people that have been missing, and the numbers could be actually higher. And then, we look at those who as a result of the conflict in the northeast, particularly in Adamawa, Yobe and Borno, who have been picked up by security agents, especially where there had been an attack by Boko Haram, and who no records have been found to date, then you can put another 300 that have not been verified. So, it is hundreds we can say, but we know that the numbers can definitely be in thousands,” Ojigho declared.
Asked why its country report is usually disputed by the security agencies, particularly the Nigerian Army, Ojigho said there was no conflict between Amnesty International and the Nigerian Army, saying it was just a misunderstanding of the role Amnesty International plays within the human rights regime in Nigeria.
While saying it had never been biased in its report, Ojigho said in arriving at its report, it took many months and in some cases, years to conclude on its report.
Testifying before the audience about enforced disappearance in her family, Mrs Sherifat Salihu, a member of IMN, said her husband, Yakubu Mohammed and her three children (Fatima Yakubu, Khadija Yakubu and Ahmed Yakubu), have been missing since December 13, 2015.
“We were in the house in Zaria. It was based on the issue of IMN. I, my husband and our children are members of IMN. They have been missing for almost two years,” Salihu said.
She called on the international community, the federal government and the Kaduna state government to urgently swing into action by unravelling the whereabouts of her family and promptly return them home.