Editor's note: A former president of the Senate has written an open letter to the president of the United States of America, Donald Trump.
Ameh Ebute in this piece said he believes that certain assumptions as contained in the "2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices" on Nigeria did not reflect the reality in our country under the President Muhammadu Buhari's administration.
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Read the open letter to President Trump from Ameh Ebute below:
March 20, 2019
President Donald Trump,
United States of America,
The White House,
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,
N.W. Washington, DC 20500.
Your Excellency, Sir,
“Time To Break off The Disintegration Of Nigeria:” An Open Letter.
Permit me to extend special compliments to you; the Government and people of the United States of America (USA) in the spirit of the Christian season of Lent.
I am encouraged as an elder citizen and leader in Nigeria to write you this open letter in order to correct certain erroneous impressions and strengthen the records on the punchy assault on the human rights direction of the incumbent leadership of the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) under President Muhammadu Buhari, and the Nigerian Military, especially the Nigerian Army.
My motivation for this open epistle is energized by a report recently released through the US Department of State titled, “2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.” In the report, the American Government accused the FGN and state agents, particularly, the Nigerian Army of arbitrary and unlawful killings and an array of other sundry crimes bothering on human rights violations allegedly perpetrated in our country in the year under review.
First, let me commend the friendly interest of the US Government in the affairs of Nigeria. It is a demonstration of the finest pursuit of the global agenda of upholding human dignity, peace, unity and security of nations of the world. I dare say, Nigeria relishes the good and smooth diplomatic ties with America in the last few years and believe it will further deepen in the years ahead.
I accept in totality that the US “2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices,” is one of the many ways the American Government keeps independent nations around the world on their toes, foster global communism, respect for human dignity and the fundamental human rights of all races of the world.
However, I believe certain assumptions as contained in the report on Nigeria, which hinged on human rights violations by the Nigerian Army did not reflect the reality in our country under the Buhari Presidency. We must first acknowledge that Nigeria is facing one of its toughest times in history, since independence.
With an array of threatening insecurity issues ranging from Boko Haram terrorism to other insurrectional uprisings and near senseless agitations, our country has been on the cliffhanger to say the least. It is glaring to all Nigerians that the veiled and open plots to destabilize Nigeria and possibly cause its disintegration spearheaded by internal actors is actively backed by foreign forces.
The gang-up against Nigeria to cause its break-up is strong, thick, scary and penetrative, as reflected in the barrage of existing and emerging insecurity threats across the country.
Our military, especially the Nigerian Army are overstretched in efforts to contain the pervading terrorism and insurrections. But the Nigerian Army under the able leadership of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lieutenant General Tukur Yusufu Buratai, who also doubles as the leader of the counter-insurgency operations in Nigeria have been the saving grace and they have never flinched.
It is needless to chronicle the steadfastness and sacrifices the Army as an institution and our soldiers have made in the last three years to anchor the relative peace and security we savour today in the country. We are proud of them for repressing our foes.
We owe them a debt of gratitude; Nigerian soldiers deserve our collective applause for the wonderful outings, especially against Boko Haram insurgency.
However, external enemies of Nigeria in league with devious internal allies are saddened by the unbreakable patriotism, loyalty and commitment of our troops to the cause of the emancipation of Nigeria, by mounting an effective, impenetrable and strong bulwark against these dark agents of destabilization and break-up of Nigeria.
Therefore, it is common knowledge that they have conspired to break the resolve of the Nigerian Army in winning the war against terror and insurrections. They have deployed various antics, including, but not restricted to false accusations of the Army on human rights violations, smear campaigns and outright vilification of the institution of the Nigerian Army to dampen the fighting spirit of soldiers and weaken their morale. But these gimmicks have failed to post the results the detractors expect.
A portion of the US report interested me; It said, “There were several reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary and unlawful killings. The national police, army, and other security services used lethal and excessive force to disperse protesters and apprehend criminals and suspects and committed other extrajudicial killings. “But this is not factual and indeed, inaccurate as it concerns the Nigerian Army.
The Nigerian Army under the leadership of General Buratai has always held itself accountable to the people and government of Nigeria. In all operations of soldiers, especially in the Northeast, the Army leadership has always ensured compliance with international best practices in observing human rights obligations and rules of engagement.
Your Excellency, it may interest you to know that the Nigerian Army under the leadership of Gen. Buratai has set up the Human Rights Desk in Army Headquarters,’ Abuja. It is the first of its kind since the establishment of the Nigerian Army. And its mandate is to pry into cases of alleged human rights violations of Nigerians by Army personnel. The Human Rights Desk is replicated in all Army Divisions in the country for ease of access.
An Army leadership with such disposition cannot be adjudged as courting human rights abuses. And truly, no innocent Nigerian citizen has been killed by either the military or any other security agencies without the appropriate sanctions.
And for the first time since the inception of the Nigerian Army, court summons are served soldiers by aggrieved litigants and the Army appears in court to defend allegations against their personnel. It is a remarkable departure from the tradition of the past, known to us, when soldiers were untouchable or never submitted themselves to lawful institutions for public trial.
When Amnesty International (AI) released its 2017 report on human rights abuses titled, “Stars on their shoulder, blood on their hands,” in which they elaborately accused soldiers fighting insurgency in the Northeast of various human rights abuses, the first reaction of the Army was to set up a Military Panel of inquiry to ascertain the veracity of the claims and possibly punish culprits.
Furthermore, the Presidency also constituted a Presidential Panel of Inquiry to probe the same allegations and or, review compliance of the armed forces with human rights obligations and rules of engagement. It was chaired by a distinguished jurist, Justice Biobele A. Georgewill. I attended one of the sittings of the panel in Abuja, I found it strange, the discovery that Amnesty International’s published the report on alleged rights abuses against soldiers in the Nigeria’s northeast without visiting Maiduiguri, the epicenter of the reported human rights violations.
Notwithstanding, the appalling reality, the Presidential Panel submitted its report in 2018. It is still being processed by the relevant authorities and a white paper would soon be issued. I believe based on the disposition of Mr. President, no one found guilty or complicit in the alleged crimes against humanity will be spared. The Buhari Presidency has zero tolerance for impunity and corruption, which shielding the probe panel’s report would amount to a self-indictment of his administration which has earned the trust and confidence of Nigerians on confronting these malaises.
I have no doubt that President Buhari has placed the security of lives and property of Nigeria paramount on his list of priorities and monitors security agents over rights abuses of Nigerians. And despite the overwhelming presence of soldiers drafted to assist civil security in virtually all the 36 states of the federation, there are fewer reported cases of human rights violations or undignified treatment of civilians by soldiers on special assignments.
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And Nigerians can testify to several instances where the Army leadership penalized soldiers found to have indulged in professional misconducts and human rights abuses of Nigerians.
Sir, it is my firm conviction that the contents of the US Department of State titled, “2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices,” are misplaced. I believe strongly that the researchers were misled into crafting the report based on speculative assumptions to erode the credibility of the FGN, the Nigerian Army and other security agencies.
I submit that the contents were not fair, truthful and completely in dissonance with the reality in Nigeria. I urge the US Government to investigate the researchers who packaged the report and apply appropriate sanctions on them for official ineptitude as advertised by the poor job.
Thank You for your kind audience. And may God bless the United States of America.
Senator Ameh Ebute,
Former President of the Senate,
Federal Republic of Nigeria,
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