An investigation by the Coalition on Conflict Resolution and Human Rights in Nigeria has shown that Nigerian military didn’t kill any during a riot in Zamfara State contrary to the report in a section of the media.
The human rights group said the report in a section of the media accused the troops of war crime was mischievous, fallacy and clear attempt to dent the image of the hard-fighting military.
The Coalition said it conducted a preliminary investigation into the anti-bandit protests held by youths in parts of Zamfara state following reports that the rights of citizens might have been violated.
It said the painstaking review showed that fake news and disinformation might have been at play in making the report of extrajudicial killings and other abuses to trend.
Maxwell Gowon Esq, Executive Director of the coalition while presenting the report on Saturday, said findings have shown that the protestors were legitimately expressing their grievances against perceived lack of action against bandits that have been killing people in some parts of the state.
It report further noted that the protests were hijacked in some instances by hoodlums that have been specifically recruited for that purpose by some political players that respondents were not willing to name.
The report reads in full.
The Coalition on Conflict Resolution and Human Rights in Nigeria is made of CSOs and NGOs that work in the area of monitoring the level of adherence to human rights by government security agencies. The Coalition was occasioned by the growing allegation of abuses against the personnel of these agencies and the need to ensure that no Nigerian and any human being is unduly abused, including being extrajudicial killed.
The Coalition conducted a preliminary investigation into the anti-bandit protests held by youths in parts of Zamfara state following reports that the rights of citizens might have been violated. The painstaking review showed that fake news and disinformation might have been at play in making the report of extrajudicial killings and other abuses to trend.
The review was under pressure to gather information before they are manipulated, whether deliberately or inadvertently. Researchers sent out by the Coalition interviewed witnesses, protestors, troops and their commanding officers.
It also reviewed the content of news publication on the websites that reported casualties from the protests as well as those that did not. This included content analysis of the videos, pictures and multimedia published on the subject matter under consideration by the selected websites.
The protestors were legitimately expressing their grievances against perceived lack of action against bandits that have been killing people in some parts of the state.
The protests were hijacked in some instances by hoodlums that have been specifically recruited for that purpose by some political players that respondents were not willing to name.
These hoodlums were solely responsible for the destruction and mayhem that characterized what organizers had intended as peaceful protests with the intention of drawing attention to their plight.
Property were destroyed and some people injured by the hoodlums. They then tried to shift the blame for this destruction on the responding security agencies that were drafted to the scenes to maintain order.
The military was deployed to contain the situation when the protests became unruly and violent beyond what the Nigerian Police Force and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) could manage.
The military, with other responding security agencies, managed the protests consistent with the recognized rules of engagement.
There was no evidence that the military massacred, brutalized or indiscriminately arrested protesters.
The reports carried by some online sites, which reported large scale extra-judicial killings, were not reflected in the mainstream and legacy organizations. The content of such reports did not stand up to scrutiny and were totally at variance with the accounts given my respondents.
In view of the sensitivity of the allegations being made in publications that reported wholesale massacre of protesters, it is recommended that the Coalition commissions a full scale review of events around the protests with a view to putting the matter in clearer perspective to prevent it being used as another subject of manipulated reports meant to upset the country.
It is further recommended that:
The attention of the news sites that published the misleading reports about protestors being extra-judicially killed should be drawn to their error with a challenge to them to fact check what they have published. Where they fail to publish retractions after discovering their error from fact checking, the necessary legal process could be initiated against them.
The Federal Government should review existing conflict zones in the country and properly identified the ones that warrant the deployment of military personnel. Matters that are deemed as falling within jurisdiction of the Police should be so assigned in order to minimize the distractions to troops from the military being deployed to deal with what the police should is able to deal with in other climes.
The Federal Government should urgently investigate the identities of those facilitating the bandits’ attacks. It must also those unmask the identities of those that hijacked the protests.
Those found culpable in the destruction of property in the course of the protests should be prosecuted to serve as deterrence.
The Federal Government should decisively deal with the problem of banditry in Zamfara state axis. Since the military is already on some form of operation in the area, efforts should be made to provide troops with modern combat equipment and other logistics to ensure that the area can be cleared of killers in a matter of weeks.
The Nigerian Police Force should be mandated to make special deployment to Zamfara state as part of preventive measures so that bandits are stopped before they strike.
The report presented by this coalition should be addressed with dispatch to ensure that the government is able to identify the hijack of legitimate protests by hoodlums as a red flag which must be given urgent consideration. There is the danger that other legitimate gatherings could be hijacked and deployed for violence.