The frequent disappearance of people in Nigeria without any trace of their whereabouts has been condemned by the world’s leading human rights body, Amnesty International.
In its latest report last Monday, the organization accused Nigeria’s Federal Government of using security forces to clamp down on members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), resulting in arbitrary arrests, detentions, disappearances and extrajudicial executions in the South East and Niger Delta.
The Nigerian government, the report said, must urgently address the heinous crimes of enforced disappearances, to comply with Nigeria’s international law obligations, Amnesty International made the observation on the International Day of Support for Victims of Enforced Disappearances Monday August 30.
The body said families affected by enforced disappearance live through unimaginable torment, adding, “When people vanish without a trace, with the acquiescence of the state which then denies all knowledge, it is impossible to move on”.
“My brother’s disappearance affected everyone at home. We just decided to leave everything to fate, hoping he will show up one day. As it is now nobody knows whether he is alive or dead,” a sister to a 33-year-old businessman, who disappeared since August 2014 after arrest by the police, told Amnesty International.
“Each year, this symbolic day marks families’ daily wait for the truth of the fate of their disappeared relatives. The Nigerian authorities must bring them hope for justice, stop their delaying tactics and fulfill their promise to end enforced disappearance.”
Nigerian security forces’ attempts to clamp down on Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) militants have led to arbitrary arrests, detentions, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions in the Southeast and Niger Delta area of Nigeria.
The whereabouts of at least 50 suspected members of IPOB arrested in Oyigbo, Rivers State, are still unknown since their arrest in October and November 2020
The unresolved enforced disappearances of several activists underscore the need for action. Abubakar Idris also known as Dadiyata, a vocal government critic and university lecturer, was abducted in his home in Kaduna on August 2, 2019, and has not been seen since. The government has denied holding him.
Fifteen years-old Emmanuel John was arrested by soldiers when they raided a synagogue at Oyigbo in Rivers State on October 2020 in search of members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). His family members have searched for him without success. His whereabouts remain unknown.
Another victim, Felix Adika (44), was last seen on February 27, 2016, after he was arrested by the DSS in Bayelsa in a similar case of enforced disappearance, Izuchukwu Okeke, a 41-year-old commercial motorcycle rider was last seen on July 5, 2021, when he visited a police station in Owerri, Imo State. He was earlier arrested on June 17, 2021, and released after being detained for two weeks. He was lured back to the station and rearrested after the police accused him of informing the relatives of other detainees about the whereabouts of their sons. The police warned his relatives that they will be shot if they ever come for his bail. Since then his whereabouts remain unknown.
The cases of at least 200 people – including former militants from Niger Delta, members of IPOB, #EndSARS protesters and security suspects believed to have been subjected to unresolved enforced disappearances in Nigeria have been documented by Amnesty International – The real number is believed to be higher, said Isa Sanusi
Reacting to the report, the Presidency condemned Amnesty International’s observations, regretting that “they have decided to side with terrorists, before the liberty of those they injure, displace and murder”.
Malam Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, made government’s position known in a statement on Wednesday September 1, in Abuja.
The presidential aide, however, dismissed the allegation, saying the government will continue to fight terrorism with all the means at its disposal, no matter the criticism it faces for doing so.