Renowned human rights organisation, the Global Amnesty Watch, has exonerated the Nigerian Army of complicity in the alleged abuse in Internally Displaced Persons Camps in some parts of the country.
The group said from its findings, the reports of the allegations of rape and sexual harassment of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) by the troops in the course of their work at the various camps housing them were false.
Recall that the Nigerian Army Chief, Tukur Buratai and President Buhari, had ordered investigation into alleged misconduct by soldiers at an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp in Bama, Borno state.
Buratai gave the following reports of sexual abuse of female IDPs.
The women had accused some soldiers and members of civilian JTF, a local vigilance group, of demanding sex in exchange for favours.
However, GAW said the development made it to initiate further scrutiny of the claims being made by the IDPS, especially the women folks by deploying its staff and researchers to conduct interviews with survivors of the reported harassment.
The human rights organisation said it also conducted on-site observation and assessment of the camp facilities just to ascertain the authenticity of the claim.
GAW made this known through its Country Representative, Africa Affairs, Helen Adesola at the presentation of field report and practices in Nigeria’s war against insurgency on Tuesday.
According to the group, some IDPs in the camps entered into sexual relations, sometimes pressured by the need to supplement their constraints resources; where such arrangements end on acrimonious notes it was not unusual for the parties involved to give damaging accounts about each other, including allegations of sexual assault.
The report reads below…
“There are genuine rape survivors that were able to establish that they were violated against their will in incidents that were frequent and continued for some length of time.
“The accounts of rape were tempered the survivors’ trauma, social stigmatization and ostracization, fear of reprisal, belief that the rapists would not be punished and resignation to fate. These distortions were further amplified, first by the reportage and later by NGOs that intervened remotely without being in touch with the reality on ground.
“It was impossible to conclusively establish that the rapes and abuses were carried out by military personnel as it was found that some male IDPs and even camp officials were able to claim “military connection” to commit such acts.
Some of the approaches to reporting the incidents in the camps, like a recent one by the New York Times, weaponizes rape allegations into something that unscrupulous people can use to blackmail or indict anyone they have issues with.
“The New York Times publication amounts to a calculated attempt to denigrate the patriotism and the efforts that Nigerian soldiers have put into the war against terror globally.
“The Nigerian military had deployed in the past to several places in and outside the country where they engaged in numerous social responsibility initiatives without being accused by any single perosn of rape.
“The patriotic actors in the fight against terror and the troops have been most embarrassed by the allegations that they were engaged in raping the Nigerians they are meant to be protecting especially with the kind of damaging piece by New York Times.
This notwithstanding, authorities need to order a fresh investigation that will do away with the bias that had been created by the way the allegations of rape were published with certain groups unilaterally indicting soldiers even before a proper probe has taken place.
“The mental, physical and emotional wellbeing of the survivors and indeed all IDPs in camps must be given higher priority to ensure that there is no repeat of what has been reported. Identifying, apprehending and punishing the real culprits would be a first step to realizing this since our research has cleared the military and its personnel.
“On the strength of our findings, we recommend an overhaul of the curfew system in IDPs camps to ensure that impersonators do not have the benefit of sneaking out of their own quarters to commit havoc while pretending to be soldiers or security operatives.”