Widespread abuses in Nigerian IDP camps
Church leaders in Nigerian IDP camps claimed recently that widespread abuses were going on in the camps by officials unsympathetic to the plight of internally-displaced people.
A church elder in one of the large IDP camps in Maiduguri who wanted to remain anonymous told Global Christian News that life in the camps is “difficult and the hardship is further compounded by officials who are unsympathetic to the plights of many people in the camp. To many of them it is just a job to make money and get whatever benefits they can from the people in the camp. As long as you don’t have compassionate people working, you will always have these exploitations going on and I can assure you, the abuses are going on both by security men and other civilian camp officials.” He said.
A pastor in the camp said, “There are many things going on which we can’t say. It is you and the officials at the end of the day. They seem to determine your fate. That is all I can say for now. We need your prayers.”
These revelations came as the Nigerian Army expelled UNICEF workers for tarnishing the good name of the military. The Army declared that UNICEF is “not happy that Nigeria is at the verge of being totally liberated from the scourge of terrorism/insurgency in a very short while.”
Major General Rogers Nicholas has decided to expel three UNICEF staff; Priscillia Hoveyda, Maher Farea and Milen Kidane, for reporting that “the Nigerian military is using children below the age of 18 years in the North East to fight Boko Haram. It also said that some boys being detained in Giwa Barracks are being use to cook, as messengers and porters.”
The Army said it was unhappy about the allegations of human rights abuses labelled against soldiers fighting Boko Haram which include the rape of over 20 girls in different IDP camps in Borno State, northeastern Nigeria, the birthplace of Boko Haram.
The army claimed that the UNICEF reports were specifically “targeted to malign Nigeria and tarnish the good image of our gallant military that has launched a renewed campaign to bring to an end the menace of terrorism in the country.”
Major Nicholas denied that the army was using underage soldiers.
Earlier this year, Amnesty International accused the army of “extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, and torture and other ill-treatment, which, in some cases, led to deaths in custody.” Amnesty went on to say that the army, which was supposed to protect its citizens and defeat the radical Islamic insurgency had in 2017 showed “‘total disregard’ for human rights in its execution of the war against violent Islamist group Boko Haram.”
In September, a panel setup by the government to investigate these allegations sat to “review extant rules of engagement applicable to the armed forces of Nigeria and the extent of compliance thereto. To investigate alleged acts of violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws; and to investigate matters of conduct and discipline in the armed forces in local conflicts and insurgencies.”
The army has consistently denied these allegations and in declaring the UNICEF staff persona non grata, the army said, “The military personnel deployed in such areas are under strict instructions not to interfere with activities at such camps but are only there to ensure no harm is brought to workers, IDPs or any person authorized to work in the camp.” General Nicholas added that “it is therefore sad and unfortunate that somebody will sit down somewhere and concoct such false, baseless, unfounded and spurious allegation.”
The Army has since reminded its stance to expel the UNICEF staff. “The affected staffs are at liberty now to go about their duties in the Northeast,” General Nicholas said after a meeting with executives of the UN organisation.
Hassan John is West Africa Editor, GCN and Priest of the Anglican Diocese of Jos