By Augustine Osayande
Amnesty International has accused the Nigerian military of burning and forcibly displacing the entire villages in Borno and Yobe States in their response to a recent escalation in attacks by the armed group Boko Haram.
The group in a press statement on Friday said its claim was based on interviews with affected villagers in Borno State and on satellite data analysis.
The International Human Rights Group said the military also arbitrarily detained six men from the displaced villages, continuing a pattern of violations, adding that the men were held incommunicado for almost a month and subjected to ill-treatment before their release on 30 January, 2020.
“These brazen acts of razing entire villages, deliberately destroying civilian homes and forcibly displacing their inhabitants with no imperative military grounds, should be investigated as possible war crimes.
“They repeat a longstanding pattern of the Nigerian military’s brutal tactics against the civilian population. Forces allegedly responsible for such violations must be suspended immediately and brought to justice,” said Osai Ojigho, Director of Amnesty International, Nigeria.
The group also stated that from December 2019, Boko Haram had increasingly carried out attacks in northeastern Nigeria, particularly along the important road between Maiduguri and Damaturu, the capitals of Borno and Yobe States.
“A recent Amnesty International research mission to Borno State shows that, in response to the attacks, the Nigerian military has resorted to unlawful tactics that have had a devastating effect on civilians and may amount to war crimes.
“Amnesty International interviewed 12 women and men forced to flee their homes on 3 and 4 January, 2020 from three villages near the Maiduguri-Damaturu road, between Jakana and Mainok in Borno State.
“The organization also reviewed fire data from remote satellite sensing, which indicates several large fires burning on and around 3 January in that area. Satellite imagery of Bukarti, Ngariri, and Matiri shows almost every structure was razed. The imagery also shows signs of burning in neighbouring villages” Ojigho said
The International Human Rights Group also reported that residents from Bukarti consistently told the organization that scores of Nigerian soldiers arrived during the late morning of Friday 3 January.
“They said soldiers went house to house and to surrounding farmland, forcing everyone to gather under a tree and by a graveyard between Bukarti and the main road. Soldiers also rounded up people from neighbouring Matiri and brought them to the same area.
“Around 3 pm on 3 January, soldiers demanded everyone walk to the main road, where the villagers were forced to board large trucks. Witnesses said that, as they were loaded into the trucks, some of the soldiers returned to Bukarti. The witnesses then saw their village burning,” Ojigho said