Nigerian Army, Amnesty International bicker over reinstatement of general indicted for human rights abuse

The Nigerian Army has defended its decision to reinstate Major General Ahmadu Mohammed into military service, insisting that its position was in order.

Mohammed was in 2014 sent on compulsory retirement following allegations of misconduct levelled against him while serving as the General Officer Commanding of the 7 Division, Maiduguri, Borno State.

Along with eight other senior commanders, Mohammed, was accused of criminal responsibility for war crimes including the deaths of more than 8,000 of detainees.

“Major General Mohammed must be investigated for participating in, sanctioning or failing to prevent the deaths of hundreds of people,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

“Young men and boys, rounded up by the military, were either shot, starved, suffocated or tortured to death and no one has yet been held to account. It is unthinkable that Major General Mohammed could resume command of troops before an investigation has even begun.”

A statement issued in Abuja on Tuesday by Colonel Sani Usman, the acting Director of Army Public Relations, however said the compulsory retirement of the senior officer was arbitrary and did not follow due process.

Usman said the Army authority revisited the case and found lapses in the process that led to his compulsory retirement.

He said objections to the officer’s reinstatement into the military were ill-informed and unfair, stressing that his reinstatement followed legal procedure.

He said: “The compulsory and premature retirement of Major General Mohammed did not follow due process and was rather arbitrary.

“The senior officer was never charged, tried, let alone found guilty of any offence that justified his premature retirement.

“The action was, therefore, a clear violation of extant rules, regulations, as well as Terms and Conditions of Service of the Armed Forces of Nigeria.

“Consequently, the realisation of these omissions called for a review of the case by the Army Council and his subsequent reinstatement into the Service.”

Usman called on Amnesty International or any other individual or group questioning the officer’s reinstatement to provide evidences indicting the officer.

According to Usman, Amnesty International should provide the Army with records and clear evidences directly indicting Mohammed on human rights abuse to enable it act on it.

He assured Amnesty International that the Nigerian Army respects human rights, stating that it was ready to partner with the organisation in promoting human rights protection.

Amnesty International said Mohammed’s reinstatement “underlines the monumental failure of the government to stamp out impunity for war crimes at the highest level.”