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03. 09. 2019.
NEWS RELEASE - Nigeria needs urgent action to end “pressure cooker” of violence claiming thousands of lives, says UN rights expert
Nigeria needs urgent action to end
“pressure cooker” of violence claiming thousands of lives, says UN rights
GENEVA / ABUJA (3 September 2019) –
Nigeria is a pressure cooker of internal conflicts and generalised violence
that must be addressed urgently, with issues like poverty and climate change
adding to the crisis, says UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard after visiting
“The overall situation that I
encountered in Nigeria gives rise to extreme concern,” said Callamard
presenting a preliminary statement at the end of her 12-day mission.
The absence of accountability is on
such a scale that pretending this is nothing short of a crisis is a major
mistake. If ignored, its ripple effects will spread throughout the sub-region
if not the continent, given the country’s important role.
“Nigeria is confronting nationwide,
regional and global pressures, such as population explosion, an increased
number of people living in absolute poverty, climate change and
desertification, and increasing proliferation of weapons. These are
re-enforcing localised systems and country-wide patterns of violence, many of
which are seemingly spinning out of control,” the UN expert said.
Callamard highlighted issues of
concern including the armed conflict against Boko Haram in the northeast,
insecurity and violence in the northwest, the conflict in the central area known
as the Middle Belt and parts of the northwest and south between nomadic Fulani
herdsmen and indigenous farming communities, organised gangs or cults in the
south, repression of minority and indigenous groups, killings in the course of
evictions in slum areas, and widespread police brutality.
The UN expert said some positive
signs had been reported in the fight against Boko Haram and splinter groups,
including a decreasing number of allegations of arbitrary killings and deaths
in custody at the hands of the military forces over the last two years.
However, she said there had been little progress in terms of accountability and
reparations for massive human rights violations in the past.
“I particularly urge the Nigerian
Government, and the international community, to prioritise as a matter of
urgency accountability and access to justice for all victims, and addressing
the conflicts between nomadic cattle breeding and farming communities, fuelled
by toxic narratives and the large availability of weapons,” said Callamard.
“A number of high-profile cases of
killings by police have resulted in the arrest and prosecution of the officers
responsible. Some cases relating to the conflict between Fulani herdsmen and
indigenous farming communities have led to investigations in Benue State.
However, such examples of accountability remain the exception,” Callamard said.
“In almost all of the cases that
were brought to my attention during the visit none of the perpetrators had been
brought to justice. It is unfortunate that most of the findings made in this
regard by the then Special Rapporteur in 2006 remain accurate.
“The loss of trust and confidence
in public institutions prompt Nigerians to take matters of protection into
their own hands, which is leading to a proliferation of (vigilante)
self-protecting armed militia and cases of ‘jungle justice’,” she said.
“I call on the Nigerian authorities
to look carefully into my findings and I remain available for further
cooperation,” Callamard said.
During her mission, Callamard met
Government officials and local authorities as well as family members whose
relatives had been brutally killed, people forced to move from their homes
(internally displaced persons), civil society organisations, and the UN. She
visited Abuja, Maiduguri, Makurdi, Jos, Port Harcourt and Lagos.
The Special Rapporteur will present
a final report containing her conclusions and recommendations to the UN Human
Rights Council in June 2020.
Ms Agnes Callamard (France),
Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, has a
distinguished career in human rights and humanitarian work globally. Ms
Callamard is the Director of Columbia Global Freedom of Expression at Columbia University
and has previously worked with Article 19 and Amnesty International. She has
advised multilateral organisations and governments around the world, has led
human rights investigations in more than 30 countries, and has published
extensively on human rights and related fields.
The Special Rapporteurs are part of
what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special
Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights
system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and
monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or
thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a
voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their
work. They are independent from any government or organisation and serve in
their individual capacity.