Chris Steven, Abuja
The Global Amnesty Watch (GAW) has exonerated Nigerian troops from the various allegation of complicity in the abuse of Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs in the North Eastern part of the country.
Helen Adesola, Country Representative, Africa Affairs of the Global Amnesty Watch disclosed this at the public presentation of its report on sexual harassment and exploitations being carried out in various IDPs camp across the country.
She said the ugly incidents came to light in the form of rumours and idle talks, which prompted GAW to initiate further scrutiny of the claims being made.
Adesola said such cautionary step was necessary to ensure that traumatized victims do not wrongly accuse anyone and to ensure that perpetrators do not get alerted and have enough time to intimidate witnesses or victims.
“The allegations however found their way into the media before GAW could conclude its investigation.
“Even after losing the cover of unanimity under which it had wanted to conclude the review of the various incidents in the IDPs Camps, GAW went ahead with the exercise.
“It must however be admitted that it became an uphill task given the resulting sensationalism in the mainstream and social media, which muddled the facts with a handful of fictitious accounts.” She said
GAW also proposed that necessary changes should be made in the running of the camps in addition to improving on the security at the various locations.
Adesola said, “the patriotic actors in the fight against terror and the troops have been most embarrassed by the allegations that they were engaged in raping the Nigerians they are meant to be protecting especially with the kind of damaging piece by New York Times.
“This notwithstanding, authorities need to order a fresh investigation that will do away with the bias that had been created by the way the allegations of rape were published with certain groups unilaterally indicting soldiers even before a proper probe has taken place.”
She added that the mental, physical and emotional wellbeing of the survivors and indeed all IDPs in camps must be given higher priority to ensure that there is no repeat of what has been reported.
Adesola also proposed the Identification, apprehension and punishment of the real culprits as a first step towards realizing this since our research has cleared the military and its personnel.
GAW also called for an overhaul of the curfew system in IDPs camps to ensure that impersonators do not have the benefit of sneaking out of their own quarters to commit havoc while pretending to be soldiers or security operatives.
“IDPs in the various camps should be encouraged to form watch groups that function like “camp police” that will provide timely information to authorities whenever they observe anything untoward.
“Social workers, therapists and counselors should be engaged to work with willing rape survivors after which their testimonies should be revisited when they must have gotten a handle on their trauma so that the criminals behind their ordeal can be apprehended” she said
Adesola added that GAW will provide legal services to IDPs and families who were molested by any individual either in the military or amongst the civil population.
“Non-state actors should be advised to desist from making bogus claims that are capable of eroding the gains made by the Nigerian military”she concluded.