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Missing persons: Groups want military’s N’East operations probed

A coalition of human rights activists, journalists, non-governmental organisations, security agencies, among others, has called for the probe of the counter-insurgency operations in the North-East

The groups made the call in a communique issued after a round-table meeting, which also featured the representatives of government (including the National Assembly, Ministries, Departments, and Agencies). They deliberated on what could be done to improve the conditions of residents of violence-stricken regions in the country, particularly in the North-East, where about 22,000 persons had been reported missing or abducted.

The communiqué at the end of the meeting held in Abuja, last week, also recommended that the rules of warfare, which required that the government must account for the missing and the dead, be upheld.

The meeting focused on ‘Justice for Missing Persons in the North-East,’ and was organised by the International Centre for Investigative Reporting with sponsorship from Ford Foundation.

The International Committee on Red Cross had claimed that nearly 22,000 Nigerians had been reported missing in the North-East crisis.

This figure, according to the ICRC, represented the highest number of missing persons registered with the ICRC in any country.

It also claimed that nearly 60 per cent of the reported missing persons were minors at the time they went missing, meaning that thousands of parents did not know where their children were and if they were alive or dead.

The communiqué read, “We need to compile some of the incidences of disappearance and file a formal complaint against Nigeria at the International Criminal Court.

“There is the need to create awareness on the problem of missing persons in Nigeria, especially using the opportunity created by various international days.

“The problem should not only be seen as a human rights issue but as an issue closely linked to the government’s fundamental responsibility to the people as enshrined under Section 14(2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.”

It said it was not enough to account for missing persons but that justice must also be done through the provision of adequate assistance in the forms of basic amenities, economic empowerment, basic infrastructural development, psycho-social and basic health care, and the return of missing persons to their communities.

It was also suggested that serving military officers, alleged to have killed people in the North-East extra-judicially, be probed and made to answer for their actions.

The communiqué also read, “Well-meaning persons and organisations should engage and partner relevant stakeholders, interest groups such as Jire Dole, and other affected persons.

“The government should empower former missing persons economically and also create shelters, where they can feel safe following their rescue or escape.

“The government should implement the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which it has signed and ratified, by first setting up and mandating a commission to supervise this task.”

It asked the Nigerian military to publicise the number of persons arrested in connection with the insurgency in the North-East, the number of those that died in Giwa Barracks and other detention facilities.

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