The Federal Government said on Tuesday that reports by a human rights group, Amnesty International (AI), on extrajudicial killings in some northern parts of Nigeria were not factual.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Olugbenga Ashiru, made the statement in Abuja at an international conference on “Human Rights, Human Security and Conflict”, organised by the Institute of Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR).
Amnesty International in its 2012 report had accused Nigerian security personnel of “unlawful killings, dragnet arrests, arbitrary and unlawful detentions, extortion and intimidation” in some northern parts of the country.
The minister said that the group had, however, apologised to Nigeria.
“Nigerian armed forces have served well over many countries with impeccable record; human rights is part of their training.
“When amnesty was here, they said they were sorry; if you are sorry, you say it outside, let people know. I have given them the invitation to come and open an office so that when they write, it will be factual.
“We are not afraid of our operations because the military keeps to the rule of engagement, that is why there are so many arrests made.”
According to him, those that are killed died in the usual course of exchange of fire and the military had a duty to protect themselves.
“For us in Nigeria, we are signatory to human rights and people’s rights; whatever level of involvement, we always remain conscious of our obligations to humanity.
“We are committed to continue the pursuit on this path for enduring peace both in Nigeria and Africa,” Mr. Ashiru said.
The minister described Nigeria as a major contributor to global peace, adding that issues of human rights were enshrined in the country’s constitution and were also complied with. He noted that human rights issues in Nigeria predated the colonial era.
According to him, the conference is an opportunity to showcase efforts being made in the sustenance of human right laws in the country.
“In Nigeria and most African countries, we have been forthright because we have entrenched human rights provisions in our constitution and that was what gave rise to the bill of rights of 1958.
“This has now formed into chapter 3 of the 1960 Independence Constitution, and today all the issues of human rights are enshrined in chapter four of our 1999 Constitution.
“Human rights have consistently been provided for in our constitution since our independence because of the respect we have for it.”
Mr. Ashiru said it demonstrated that the country did not only respect human rights, but it would also remain committed to its promotion in all facets.
In his remarks, Martin Uhomoibhi, Permanent Secretary of the ministry, explained that challenges of the promotion of human rights existed globally.
Mr. Uhomoibhi said the promotion and defence of human rights required collective and global efforts to be addressed.
“If all of us understand that we have challenges on human rights; that we are in the process of reaching that celestial state in the promotion, protection and defence of human rights, that is what we are all working toward at different phases of the society.
“The right to life is the number one human right; if this country is known for anything in the world; it is in the area of keeping peace and sustaining life.
“It is not fair to sit thousands of kilometres away; you have not been to a place and you jump to judgment about a people such as Nigeria that has lived all its life as a nation promoting, defending and sustaining human rights,” he said.
The permanent secretary urged Nigerians to recognise that protection of the lives of citizens was paramount to the government.
Joseph Golwa, Director-General, IPCR, said the conference was to achieve a clearer understanding on human rights related issues and come up with suggestions to promote peace in the country.