Alleged Extrajudicial Killings in Two States
As lawmakers and religious freedom watchdogs call for restoring a black-list human rights label for Nigeria, chilling media reports allege that Nigerian soldiers have committed extrajudicial killings in two separate states in recent days.
Rep. Chris Smith chaired a subcommittee hearing Tuesday to hear a litany of religious freedom violations that cry out for U.S. action, chiefly in India, Viet Nam, Nicaragua and Nigeria.
“Nigeria is like a slow-motion genocide,” said the chairman of the Bipartisan United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), Rabbi Abraham Cooper. “In Nigeria the religious freedom conditions have remained abysmal,” he said, pointing to “ blasphemy laws and armed attacks on believers that have continued to worsen.” In Nigeria the State Department’s own reporting corroborates these violations that justify restoring to Nigeria the label of “Country of Particular Concern,” considered a black-list term, which may prevent the U.S. government’s granting a bilateral trade agreement or may cause a conditioning of U.S. aid. Rep. Smith has sponsored a House Resolution (HR 82) that would instruct the State Department to do so.
Rep. Smith told the hearing that the United States needs to send an unmistakable message to newly elected Nigerian President Bola Tinubu. “Tinubu needs to be told that we take religious freedom seriously,” Smith said. “My USCIRF colleagues find it so frustrating. There’s always an excuse that leads to death and mayhem. This is not acceptable,” Smith said.
Rep. French Hill, (Rep. Ark), said the fact that Nigeria is not designated as a Country of Particular Concern “is a concern to me, adding “When I visited Nigeria, we were told that this is a tribal conflict, not a sectarian one, but the killing of priests on holy days shows that religion and theology do play a role,” Hill said.
Nigeria’s record for rule of law took a hit from allegations that Nigerian soldiers have executed five citizen guards called “vigilantes’ in two states in recent weeks, according to community leaders and witnesses interviewed by Truth Nigeria. Throughout the lawless rural regions of Nigeria’s Middle Belt, radicalized Muslim mercenaries, Muslim bandits and so-called unknown gunmen terrorize millions of Nigerian farming families. Because Nigerian police and military have been slow to answer calls for help, the rural dwellers rely on small teams of neighborhood watchmen carrying machetes and homemade rifles to defend them from marauding attackers. The heroic watchmen, dubbed “vigilantes,” can slow down a midnight attack to allow women and children to flee into the bush before being murdered in their houses.
As Truth Nigeria reported, three vigilantes were stopped on a highway in Panyam, in Mangu County, Plateau State at 2 p.m. on July 12, where they surrendered their rifles to the military, who shot them on the roadside, according to witnesses. An outraged local delegate to the Plateau State Assembly called for “a thorough and impartial investigation into the human rights violations by the Nigerian military.”
The incident prompted a leader of the Plateau State Assemblyman to call for a public investigation of the killings. “I call for a thorough and impartial investigation into the alleged human rights violations committed by the Nigerian military in central Plateau State,” said Del. Dewan K. Gabriel in a one-on-one interview with Truth Nigeria, referring to what he termed “the recent reported murder of three self-defense volunteers, who were shot while courageously protecting Christian villages from terrorists.”
The military in Nigeria are authorized to shoot any armed men who they suspect may be terrorists. However, vigilantes in Enugu State have charged that their uniformed members were shot by the military on June 29. Mr. Emeka Anigbo, who spoke to Nigeria’s PMNewsNigeria, said that on June 29, members of Nigerian Army’s 82nd Division opened fire of the vigilantes, killing one, along with his wife and wounding three others. https://pmnewsnigeria.com/2023/07/03/army-enugu-community-disagree-over-killing-of-vigilante-operative-housewife/?utm_source=ground.news&utm_medium=referral In virtually all states, uniformed vigilantes work alongside police and military to defend communities against attack.
The army spokesman for the military unit denied the account, claiming that soldiers encountered hoodlums on a highway and got into a shootout, killing one. Lt. Col Jonah Unuakhalu told PMNewsNigeria that the deceased woman was killed by a stray bullet.
“On approaching the soldiers, they started firing at us, killing one of our members and the wife of one of those who were [with us] who was on a motorcycle with her husband going back to Eke.
“Despite the fact that we were in our full security uniform and had identified ourselves, the trigger-happy soldiers opened fire on us at a very close range, killing Oke, and his wife,” Mr Anigbo said. https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/top-news/607784-vigilante-group-accuses-nigerian-army-of-killing-its-operative-wife.html?utm_source=ground.news&utm_medium=referral
Human rights watchers in Washington were quick to commend the call for the CPC designation for Nigeria. “We believe there are numerous religious freedom and human rights violations that have led to an unstable Nigeria, which the Nigerian government needs to be held accountable,” said Kyle Abts, executive director of the International Committee on Nigeria (ICON) to Truth Nigeria in a text. “Designating Nigeria as a Country of Particular Concern and appointing a Special Envoy will help this process, and the US government must take up the challenge.
Douglas Burton and Masara Kim are award-winning conflict reporters in Washington, D.C. and Jos, Nigeria respectively. They have contributed as subject experts on Nigerian violence to Fox News and Epoch Times TV.