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IPOB, militants: Global rights group slams govt

Information.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has criticised the Federal Government’s  handling of last year’s Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) protests and the renewed militancy in the Niger Delta.

In its 687-page 2017 World Report, its 27th edition, HRW reviews human rights practices in more than 90 countries.

The Report, which reviews human rights situation in countries for 2016, was released yesterday. The international rights watchdog expressed “growing concerns about intolerance of dissent and a heavy-handed response to protests”, which it said dominated Nigeria’s human rights landscape in 2016.

It alleged that “government rhetoric about security sector reform and improving accountability for rights abuses has yet to translate into concrete action”.

The group said: “In the Southeast, police killed at least 40 pro-Biafra members of the separatist Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) during protests and processions in February and May 2016. No security agent has been prosecuted for the killings.

“In December 2015, soldiers killed 347 members of a Shia Muslim minority group, allegedly for blocking the army chief’s motorcade in Zaria, Kaduna State. Scores more had died when bans placed on the group by governments of Kaduna and four other northern states triggered days of mob and police violence in October and November 2016.

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“A resurgence of militancy in the Niger Delta, Nigeria’s economic powerhouse, has been met by harsh sweeping security measures against communities perceived as harboring militants.

“Soldiers allegedly destroyed homes and businesses in three Bayelsa State communities during a search for members of the militant Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) group.”

A Nigerian researcher with the HRW, Ms Mausi Segun, said: “People shouldn’t be killed for taking part in peaceful protests and processions

“The use of extreme force by government forces appears to be fueling the transformation of non-violent activities into bloody clashes.”

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On Boko Haram, the report said: “As the seven-year Boko Haram conflict wanes in intensity in the northeast, a near-catastrophic food shortage is affecting many of the 2.5 million displaced people. Severe restrictions on their movement have affected access to basic livelihoods, health, education, and protection from sexual abuse.

“The now fractured Boko Haram holds hundreds of people, including 197 Chibok schoolgirls and more than 300 school children from Damasak, Borno State. Contrary to government claims, the conflict is not over. More than 550 civilians died in 2016 during suicide bomber attacks, and fighting across the region.”

The report, however, gave kudos to Nigeria for showing “a commitment to justice by maintaining support for the International Criminal Court, and successfully co-sponsoring a UN resolution on internet rights.”

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