Leke Baiyewu, Abuja
The Senate has begun an investigation of the allegations of rape and human rights abuses against the Nigerian military in a report by the Amnesty International.
An ad hoc investigative panel was set up to probe into the claims made by the global human rights body.
The probe was based on a point of order raised by Senator Shehu Sani (Kaduna-Central) at the plenary on Wednesday, urging the Senate to verify the content of the report, a copy of which he laid before the chamber.
He stated that it was not enough for the Presidency and the military to dismiss the report, stressing that the claims by Amnesty International must be verified.
Sani said, “The report by Amnesty International is a report that carries details and empirical evidence of torture, rape and starvation of women detained in the northeastern part of Nigeria. Many of these women are women that have survived or escaped Boko Haram attacks and invasions.
“As a democracy we have a twin obligation to prosecute the war against terror and in every possible way protect and defend the fundamental rights of Nigerians.
“It is a concern that this report impinges on the integrity, image and reputation of not only the security forces of Nigeria but Nigeria as a country. We have seen reports like this by credible international organisations being discussed globally.
“As a part of this country that has been overrun by Boko Haram and a hub of humanitarian activities, this damning report has the capacity and ability of denting the war against terror in Nigeria.”
The Deputy Majority Leader, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah, however expressed mixed feelings about carrying out the investigation.
He noted that while it was necessary to investigate the allegations, the lawmakers should carry out the probe with caution.
He said, “I sympathise with the position of Senator Shehu Sani on this report. Intricate as the report looks like, I accept the fact that this report by an international organisation shows that a little bit of responsibility exists to carefully look at that report.
“However, I also want the Senate to understand the intricate nature of this war.
“Happily enough, Senator Shehu Sani has accepted the fact that members of the armed forces and security agencies have paid the supreme price in this intricate war.
“The nature and character of what we have in the country makes it almost practically impossible not to have the kind of report that Amnesty is reporting about Nigeria.
“We must recognise the fact that we are not fighting the war against a defined enemy.”
In his ruling, President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, said, “Deputy Leader, I could see you struggling on both ways. I can see many people raising their hands,Amnesty but I think the Deputy Leader raised a point; whatever your contributions are going to be will rather be speculative in the sense that you have not seen the report.
“His prayer is for us to investigate the report; make the report available to members and investigate it. Then we can take an informed position before we contribute.”
Saraki named members of the panel as including Senators David Umaru (Chairman), Babajide Omoworare, Abubakar Kyari, Jeremiah Useni, Binta Masi Garba, Stella Oduah and Ben Murray-Bruce.