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Nigeria: Cycle of Violence in Northeast

AfricaFocus Bulletin
October 27, 2013 (131027)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

The cycle of violence in northeastern Nigeria, confirm two new Amnesty International reports this month, is fueled by indiscriminate killings both by Boko Haram and by the Nigerian military's Joint Task Force (JTF). More than 950 people are reported to have died while in detention by the JTF in the first six months of 2013, while Boko Haram has continued deadly attacks on schoolchildren and teachers.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains excerpts from those two Amnesty International reports, detailing the recent record of violence. The military response, according to numerous critics both inside Nigeria and internationally, not only violates human rights but leads to escalating rather than diminishing violence from Boko Haram.

Elsewhere in the country, while open conflict in the Niger Delta is reduced from the period before the 2009 amnesty to rebels in the region (;, the structural issues of environmental damage, poverty, and lack of accountable law enforcement have not been addressed. In addition to the lack of accountability of oil companies themselves and of government revenues from oil, a complex set of actors, both in and out of government, are reportedly responsible for theft of oil "on an industrial scale."

See "Nigeria's Criminal Crude: International Options to Combat the Export of Stolen Oil" Chatham House, September 2013

Nigerian crude oil is being stolen on an industrial scale. Nigeria lost at least 100,000 barrels of oil per day, around 5% of total output, in the first quarter of 2013 to theft from its onshore and swamp operations alone. Some of what is stolen is exported. Proceeds are laundered through world financial centers and used to buy assets in and outside Nigeria.

For additional analysis see the blog post by Amnesty International at

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Nigeria, including a number of reports on the Niger Delta as well as on the conflict in the northeast, visit

Also see the recent article by A. Carl Levan, "Sectarian Rebellions in Post-Transition Nigeria Compared," Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding, May 2013 Can be downloaded freely at, which compares current violence in Northeastern Nigeria and Nigerian coercive response perpetuating a cycle of violence to earlier events in the Niger Delta.

For regular news on Nigeria, visit and

For updates on campaigns for environmental rights in the Niger Delta, see and

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++

Nigeria: authorities must investigate deaths of Boko Haram suspects in military custody

Amnesty International

Public Statement

Index No: AFR 44/025/2013

16 October 2013

[Excerpts: for full text see]

Hundreds of people may have died in detention facilities run by the Joint Task Force (JTF) in 2013. Amnesty International is calling on the Nigerian authorities to conduct a thorough, impartial and transparent investigation into the deaths, as a matter of urgency.

Amnesty International received credible information from a senior officer in the Nigerian Army that over 950 people died in detention facilities run by the Joint Task Force in the first six months of 2013 alone. A large proportion of these people are believed to have died in Giwa military barracks in Maiduguri, Borno state and Sector Alpha, commonly referred to as 'Guantanamo' and Presidential Lodge (known as 'Guardroom') in Damaturu, Yobe state -facilities used by the JTF to detain people suspected of being members of or associated with Boko Haram.

According to former detainees interviewed by Amnesty International, people died on an almost daily basis in Giwa barracks as well as Sector Alpha detention centres, from suffocation or other injuries due to overcrowding and starvation. Some suffered serious injuries due to severe beating and eventually died in detention due to lack of medical attention and treatment.

18 former detainees of Giwa barracks and Sector Alpha interviewed by Amnesty International also said they had witnessed soldiers taking detainees from their cells and heard them threatening to shoot the detainees. The detainees were never returned to their cells. In some cases, they may have been extra-judicially executed.

Another senior officer in the Nigerian Army in an interview with Amnesty International earlier this year said "Hundreds have been killed in detention either by shooting them or by suffocation. People are crammed into one cell. There are times when people are brought out on a daily basis and killed."

Amnesty International received information that on or around 19 April 2013, over 60 bodies were deposited by the military at the Sani Abacha General Hospital mortuary in Damaturu, Yobe state. The soldiers reportedly claimed that the bodies they were depositing were Boko Haram members who had been killed in a shoot out. According to a source close to the military interviewed by Amnesty International, the men were detainees in Presidential Lodge (Guardroom) detention centre in Damaturu, Yobe state, and had been taken out of their cells and shot and killed by soldiers.

Bodies of detainees are regularly deposited by the military at public mortuaries in Maiduguri and Damaturu. In April 2013, Amnesty International delegates counted about 20 corpses lying on the ground in the compound of the State Specialist Hospital mortuary in Maiduguri. There were no visible gunshot wounds on the bodies. They looked emaciated. Eyewitnesses told Amnesty International that the corpses were deposited at the mortuary by the JTF.

Several different sources told Amnesty International that bodies were brought to the mortuary in Maiduguri by the JTF on an almost daily basis. They remained in the mortuary until it was full. The corpses were then taken away by the Borno State Environmental Protection Agency (BOSEPA) and buried in the cemetery.

Information received by Amnesty International indicates that information about deposited corpses is no longer being properly recorded by the mortuaries in Maiduguri or Damaturu. In some cases the mortuary staff are only allowed by the military to record the number of corpses deposited rather than the names and other personal details of the deceased. Post-mortem examinations are not being carried out at the mortuary.

Lawyers and relatives of ex-detainees told Amnesty International that in some cases families had no adequate information about their detained relatives andwere often not even allowed by the military to collect the bodies from the mortuary, which meant that the corpses were buried by the respective state environmental sanitation agencies.

In a meeting with Amnesty International in July 2013, senior officials at the Defence Headquarters in Abuja said that they have records of all deaths in custody and investigate the circumstances of those deaths. However, they were unable to provide additional information on the investigation process.

No one interviewed by Amnesty International in Maiduguri and Damaturu about the deaths of their relatives or friends said they had been informed by the security forces or other government agency that an investigation would be or had been carried out, or were offered any apology. No suspected perpetrator is known to have been arrested and brought to justice for the deaths of detainees in JTF custody.

International standards require that any death in custody must be investigated thoroughly and impartially. The death of anyone in custody -- or otherwise at the hands of security forces -- merits an inquiry whose goal should be to identify the body and determine the cause and circumstances of death. This should include an adequate autopsy, as set out in the UN Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions (Principle 9). Dependants or relatives of persons killed, or their legal representatives, are also entitled to an independent process, including judicial process, and publication of a report of the investigation. Whenever an individual dies in state custody, the responsibility of the state is to be presumed; the state must affirmatively provide evidence that it lacks responsibility to avoid that inference.

Federal Coroner's Laws, which are in force in most Nigerian states, oblige the state authorities to investigate and determine the circumstances of all unnatural, sudden or violent deaths through an open, public inquiry, and to investigate every death in custody. However, inquests into deaths in custody are rare in Nigeria.

Despite the existence of Nigerian laws and international standards requiring investigations of such deaths and prosecution of suspected perpetrators where deaths have been unlawful, relatives are often not informed about the death of their family members and investigations are rarely carried out.

Without a thorough, impartial and transparent investigation and appropriate prosecutions of suspected perpetrators, violations of the rights of detainees in military custody will continue.

There is an urgent need for regular and independent monitoring of JTF detention facilities, including the conditions, the treatment of detainees and their access to lawyers, the courts and family members.

The National Human Rights Commission is mandated to investigate human rights violations and visit places of detention. However, research by Amnesty International indicates that NHRC monitors have not been granted access to detention centres run by the military such as Giwa barracks in Maiduguri and Sector Alpha and Presidential Lodge in Damaturu, Borno and Yobe states.

The National Committee Against Torture is mandated to visit all places of detention in Nigeria and to promptly and impartially examine any allegation of torture. The Committee is yet to be given an adequate budget for carrying out their mandate.

Amnesty International is calling for lawyers and human rights monitors to be granted access to the detention centres in Giwa barracks in Maiduguri and Sector Alpha and Presidential Lodge in Damaturu and all other facilities run by the JTF in northern Nigeria.

The Nigerian authorities must, as a matter of urgency, conduct a thorough, impartial and transparent investigation into allegations of deaths in military custody in northern Nigeria and the findings of such investigations must be made public. In cases of unlawful killing, suspected perpetrators should be brought to justice in a fair trial without recourse to the death penalty.


Amnesty International has previously documented the unlawful arrest and detention of hundreds of people by the JTF in response to the violence in some parts of northern Nigeria. Many have been detained incommunicado for lengthy periods without charge or trial, without being brought before any judicial authority, without access to lawyers and without proper notification of family members. Hundreds are detained without charge or trial at Giwa Barracks, 21 Armoured Brigade, Maiduguri4 and in 2013 Amnesty International interviewed several different sources who said that suspected Boko Haram members are also being detained in Sector Alpha in Damaturu, in harsh conditions that may amount to ill-treatment.

Several people interviewed by Amnesty International, who had been detained by the JTF in Maiduguri, said that they were denied access to medical care as well as vital medication while they were in detention.


Amnesty International also recorded accounts of people being arrested by the Joint Task Force (JTF) and then later found dead, or subjected to enforced disappearance. Investigations have rarely been carried out into allegations of violations by the security forces; in the few cases where investigations have taken place, the findings have not been made public.

To execute someone who is in state custody or otherwise under the control of the authorities in the absence of a trial which fully meets international standards of fairness is a form of extrajudicial or summary execution, and constitutes a crime under international law for which those responsible must be brought to justice.

Under international law, every use of lethal force in law enforcement operations, including those that are allegedly accidental or in self-defence, must be subject to an independent and impartial investigation. However, in practice investigations of such killings in Nigeria are rarely carried out or if they are, the findings are not made public.

While Nigeria's security forces have a responsibility and duty to maintain public order and to pursue and bring to justice those responsible for human rights abuses, such law enforcement functions need to comply with Nigeria's national law and international human rights obligations.

Since 2012, Amnesty International has repeatedly raised its concerns with the Nigeria government about the treatment of detainees in military custody in northern Nigeria, the conditions of detention, the lack of access to military detention facilities by lawyers and human rights monitors and the flouting of the rule of law. In September 2013, Amnesty International shared its research findings with the Chief of Defence Staff and requested information from the Defence Headquarters in Abuja. No response was received.

In a meeting in July 2013, senior officials at the Defence Headquarters in Abuja informed Amnesty International that the Chief of Defence Staff had set up a committee comprising representatives from all the security agencies and the Ministry of Justice, to investigate allegations of ill-treatment of detainees in JTF custody in northern Nigeria.

Amnesty International requested for the terms of reference for this special committee in order to direct complaints and share findings with members of the committee. The request was refused. ...

The arrest and detention of people by the JTF, police and SSS in Maiduguri, Damaturu, and other parts of the country is often conducted outside the provisions of both Nigerian law and international human rights law and standards.

"Keep away from schools or we'll kill you."

Education under attack in Nigeria

Amnesty International

October 2013

Index: AFR 44/019/2013

[Excerpts: for full text, including footnotes and photographs, see]

1. Introduction

"I saw the gunmen walking towards the school compound, two of them. I was shouting at the kids to enter their classrooms. I think he was trying to get some peanuts from the woman that sells outside the gate. All the children were there. They parked their car a few yards away and came straight to him and shot him at close range. We all ran for cover when we heard the shot. It was scary. All the children were screaming. Mallam Yusuf has been a teacher all his life. Many young men and women have passed through him in this state. I wonder why anybody would want to kill such a peaceful and quiet person. He was just doing his job as a teacher." - A colleague who witnessed the killing of Mallam Yusuf Mohammad, a 44- year-old teacher in a primary school in Gwange III, who was shot and killed by unknown gunmen outside his school in Maiduguri in May 2013. Nobody claimed responsibility for the killing.

Education is under attack in northern Nigeria. Since the beginnings of 2012, according to Amnesty International's research, at least 70 teachers and over 1001 schoolchildren and students have been killed or wounded. At least 50 schools have either been burned or seriously damaged and more than 60 others have been forced to close. Thousands of children have been forced out of schools across communities in Yobe, Kaduna, Adamawa and Borno states. Many teachers have been forced to flee for their safety to other states. The highest number of attacks was in Borno state in the north-east. According to the Nigeria Teachers' Union, more than 1,000 teachers have been forced to flee from areas in the north since 2012.

The Islamist armed group commonly known as Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for some of the attacks. As far as Amnesty International is able to ascertain, no other group or individuals have claimed responsibility for attacking schools in the north. However, it is possible other groups or individuals have also carried out attacks. In a video statement released in July 2013, the purported leader of Boko Haram Abubakarr Shekau denied that Boko Haram had carried out an attack on a school in Yobe state, although he declared his support for the attack.

Attacks against schoolchildren, teachers and school buildings demonstrate an absolute disregard for the right to life and the right to education. Such attacks may also constitute crimes against humanity as defined in Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Amnesty International urges Boko Haram and any affiliate armed groups or individuals in northern Nigeria to immediately stop all attacks on schools, teachers and pupils.

The Nigerian government is obliged, as part of its obligation under Article 13 of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), to protect everybody's right to education and to take measures that prevent third parties from interfering with the enjoyment of the right.

Amnesty International urges the Nigerian authorities to provide better protection for schools and ensure that attacks are properly investigated and suspected perpetrators brought to justice in a fair trial without recourse to the death penalty.

2. Background

Since July 2009, the Islamist armed group Jama'atu Ahlis Sunnah Ladda'awatih wal Jihad [People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet's Teachings and Jihad], commonly referred to as Boko Haram [meaning "Western education is forbidden"], and individuals or groups claiming to be members of Boko Haram, have claimed responsibility for bombings and gun attacks across northern and central Nigeria. The group has killed Muslim and Christian clerics and worshippers, politicians, journalists and lawyers, and also police personnel and soldiers. Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for attacks on churches, prisons, police stations, school buildings, newspaper offices and the UN.

Attacks on schools increased in 2012. They were carried out mainly at night. Between 21 February and 1 March 2012, ten primary schools were attacked in locations across Maiduguri. In most attacks, the buildings were so badly damaged that they could no longer be used.

In March 2012, the then purported spokesman for Boko Haram, Abul Qaqa, was reported in the Daily Trust newspaper on 6 March 2012 as saying: "We are attacking the public schools at night because we don't want to kill innocent pupils."

Since the beginning of 2013, attacks appear to have become more brutal. They frequently happen when schools are occupied, and according to reports received by Amnesty International, teachers and pupils are now being directly targeted and killed.

In some attacks, teachers have been killed on school premises in full view of children. In others, school buildings have been set on fire and school property destroyed.

In May 2013, President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states, stating that many parts of northern Borno were "under the direct control of Boko Haram."

Since June 2013, several schoolchildren have been killed and injured in attacks on schools.

In July 2013, purported leader of Boko Haram Abubakarr Shekau, in a video statement, said Boko Haram were attacking schools because they are "un-Islamic". He also called for more teachers to be killed. In it he said: "teachers who teach Western education, we will kill them. We will kill them. We would burn down the schools, if they are not Islamic schools. We don't touch small children. Our religion does not allow that, but we'll burn down the schools."

The Numbers

The precise number of teachers and pupils killed and schools burnt and destroyed is unknown. Official figures are often incomplete and lower than those reported by the media, witnesses and civil society organizations. News reports and interviews with parents, teachers and civil society organizations suggest that up to 50 schools may have been attacked, burned or destroyed in Borno state during 2013. An official of the Borno state government was only able to provide Amnesty International with information on attacks on schools within the Borno state capital Maiduguri. He told the Amnesty International that five government secondary schools and nine private schools were razed to the ground by unknown gunmen between January and April 2013.

According to parents, teachers and human rights defenders from Borno state, many of whom were forced to flee to neighbouring states such as Bauchi, Kaduna and Plateau, nearly all of the schools in the Borno state towns of Bama, Baga, Jajeri, Umarari Garnam, Mai Malari, Mungono and Gamboru were forced to close between February 2012 and June 2013.

Another Borno state official reportedly stated that he did not know the exact number of schools that have been attacked and burned or destroyed across the state or the number of schools forced to close as a result of the violence but that at least 15,000 children have been forced out of schools in the state.7 According to an official in the Federal Ministry of Education poor communications with affected states make it difficult to obtain such figures.8


This briefing examines the attacks on schools and education structures between February 2012 and September 2013 in northeastern Nigeria, with a primary focus on Borno state. It draws on Amnesty International research carried out between April 2012 and September 2013, and highlights specific cases of attacks carried out by suspected members of Boko Haram in Borno state between January and September 2013.

Many of the victims, family members and witnesses who spoke to Amnesty International, as well as some of the lawyers, human rights defenders and government authorities asked not to be named in the briefing for fear of reprisals. Consequently, names of several witnesses have been changed or omitted for their own protection.

Amnesty International requested information from the Nigeria Police Force and the Ministry of Justice about how many, if any, criminal investigations, arrests and prosecutions had been carried out in relation to attacks on students, teachers and schools in Borno and Yobe states. No response was received.

The purpose of this briefing is to draw attention to the damaging effects of the ongoing violence on education in northern Nigeria. It calls on Boko Haram and other unknown gunmen to immediately cease all attacks on schools and educational facilities; and on the Nigerian authorities to take effective measures to ensure that the right to life and the right to education are adequately respected, protected and promoted in Nigeria.

[Detailed sections with specific cases follow, available in the full text of the original at]

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

AfricaFocus Bulletin can be reached at Please write to this address to subscribe or unsubscribe to the bulletin, or to suggest material for inclusion. For more information about reposted material, please contact directly the original source mentioned. For a full archive and other resources, see

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