ABUJA/Nigeria: Hundreds of people are being held in secret detention in Nigeria, Amnesty International said, said at an event to mark the International Day of the Disappeared.
The day is observed across the world every August 30 to draw attention to the fate of individuals imprisoned at places and under poor conditions unknown to their relatives or legal representatives.
Relations of some of the victims of secret detention in Nigeria attended the event at the held in Abuja. However, the federal government through the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in a quick reaction, described the group’s claim as untrue.
“Today is very important for us as Amnesty International because of the work we do to promote and protect human lives.
And the fact that we want to ensure that victims and victim’s voices are heard, it is important for days like this to give them the opportunity to do so,” Osai Ojigho, the organisation’s Country Director said at the event.
Some families, who alleged that their members were suffering arrest or detention by security forces in Nigeria, shared their ordeal at the event.
Ibrahim Aliyu, 38, said he had not known the whereabouts or condition of his three younger brothers since 2012 when they were allegedly arrested by the Department of State Service, DSS, during a raid at his residence.
Ojigho said it feared that hundreds of people were being held in secret detention in Nigeria, a conduct it said was prohibited under the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons From Enforced Disappearance.
Noting that Nigeria was a signatory to the convention, Ojigho called on the Federal Government to release details on the fate and whereabouts of all those who have allegedly disappeared.
He said a research it conducted revealed that “most enforced disappearances take place in the conflict ridden North-East of Nigeria where young men are often seized by the military after being accused of affiliation to the armed group, Boko Haram.”
The organization said it had also obtained details of men, women and children victims of enforced disappearance in other parts of Nigeria.
The country director also highlighted the allegations of human rights abuse levelled against the military during the clash that reportedly led to the killing of over 300 Shiites in Zaria in December 2015.
Reacting to the claim, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, described the claim as untrue, adding that if there were such facilities, he would be aware of such. He said: “I should know if such a thing exists.
This government is not in the least repressive, this government is tolerant of all views. It is a big shame if an organisation like Amnesty International will cook up this kind of story.
‘’I should know. Who are the dissidents that are being kept in an unknown place? I should know. I face a lot of criticism, I face a lot of attack. Who are the dissidents that are being detained there? It is certainly untrue, let them come out with facts and should stop relying on hear-say and some so-called NGOs.
‘’When they have this kind of story, they should contact the government before they go out to smear the name of the country. They should know that at Amnesty International, people take them seriously.”