Despite claims by federal authorities of increased security measures, an atmosphere of insecurity persisted across Nigeria in 2020. The month of December witnessed a huge number of human rights violations.

There were widespread kidnapping, banditry and recurring cycles of deadly violence by herdsmen and Boko Haram. The clampdown on peaceful protests, arrest and detention of activists show how far the government would go to deny the citizens their fundamental rights.

The Abuja-Kaduna highway, a major route out of Abuja to the northwest of the country became notorious for bandit attacks and kidnappings. People were killed while many others were abducted.

On December 2nd, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) faction of Boko Haram abducted an aid worker and a policeman in Bornu State. They were taken away when the vehicles they travelled in were stopped at a checkpoint mounted by the insurgents.

According to findings by the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, ISWAP was very active around that environment for three days before the abductions. It is indeed disturbing that the police and other law enforcement agencies could not stop them.

During the evening of 11th December, over 300 pupils were kidnapped from a boys’ secondary boarding school on the outskirts of Kankara, Kaduna State, northern Nigeria. A gang of gunmen attacked the Government Science Secondary School, where more than 800 pupils reside, for over an hour. An audio message was released on 15th December, purporting to be from Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, claiming that the group was responsible for the abduction of the boys. A video released later with the group’s emblem purported to show it was with some of the kidnapped boys.

Authorities came up with conflicting information as to who actually abducted the boys. On 17th December, Masari, the Governor of Katsina State, said that 344 of the victims had been freed from where they were being held in a wood in neighboring Zamfara State.

Amnesty International has previously documented how government failings have left rural communities at the mercy of gunmen. The abduction in Kankara further exemplifies government’s failures to protect its citizens.

A lot of these children caught up in armed conflict stand a risk of being recruited as child soldiers, and the same government which is supposed to protect them, punishments them, unashamed of their failure to protect them. On December 11, 2020, the United Nations Security Council’s working group expressed grave concern about the detention of children for suspected involvement with Boko Haram. This is a clear violation of the human right laws and international standards concerning child soldiers.

Barely one week after suspected Boko Haram fighters kidnapped two aid workers travelling from Damaturu to Maiduguri, and later used the aid workers’ facebook accounts to allege that they had killed them and that their corpses will never be found, they struck again on 18th December, taking away 35 commuters along the same route, setting vehicles ablaze. According to witness report, some people were able to escape into the bushes while others were abducted.

On 31st December, the Buhari-led government of Nigeria again displayed its disdain for human rights and peaceful assembly when security forces arrested human rights activist, Omoleye Sowore, and other activists in Abuja. Sowore and other activists were carrying out a peaceful procession when seven loaded vans of Nigerian security forces swooped on them, brutalizing everyone at sight, leaving Sowore with a broken nose. Sowore cried out via his twitter handle that they were being tortured and detained at Abattoir police station of the alleged disbanded Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) unit in Abuja. They were released several days later on very discriminatory bail conditions.

Authorities have an obligation to protect lives and bring to justice those who commit abuses or violations; the government and its agencies should not be the ones violating the rights of its citizens. The Nigerian authorities should prioritize civilian protection. Too many civilians are dying , and it is time the Nigerian state worked harder to protect them.

Offiong Ekanem


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