MEMBER of the British House of Lords Baroness Anne Cox has written to the Commonwealth Secretariat expressing her concerns over the escalating violence in Nigeria asking it to intervene in the matter.
Over recent years, insecurity has grown in Nigeria with Boko Haram stepping up its insurgency in the northeast, armed Fulani herdsmen carrying out murderous attacks against villages, kidnapping being on the rise and bandits running riot across the northeast of the country. In response to the mayhem, Baroness Cox has written to secretary-general of the Commonwealth, Hon Patricia Scotland, pointing out that Nigeria’s inability to protect its vulnerable citizens was a breach of its obligations under the Commonwealth Charter.
Nigeria currently has the highest number of internally displaced persons in the world with about 2.7m people living in temporary accommodation and makeshift camps. Baroness Cox urged the secretary-general to raise the matter with the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group, noting that in the least, some form of aid must be given to those who have lost loved ones and their livelihoods.
Baroness Cox said: “We write to highlight urgent concerns about escalating violence in Nigeria, where attacks led by Boko Haram, Fulani herders, and other Islamist militia continue in northern and central-belt states, with reports of increasing violence in the southeast. According to a report by the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for International Freedom of Religion or Belief, entitled, Nigeria: Unfolding Genocide? thousands of civilians have been killed and elements of the Nigerian government may be complicit in violence.
“APPG‘s concerns reflect the findings of a report by Amnesty International, We Dried Our Tears: Addressing the Toll on Children of Northeast Nigeria’s Conflict, which concludes that the Nigerian armed forces have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity during their operations. The Nigerian Army’s former chief of staff, Lt Gen Theophilus Danjuma, whom some of us have met and spoken to, says the armed forces are not neutral as they collude in the ‘ethnic cleansing in riverine states by Fulani herders.
“He insists that villagers must defend themselves because depending on the armed forces will result in them dying one by one. This ethnic cleansing must stop.”
In the letter copied 18 individuals and organisations, Baroness Cox emphasised that several cases of reported human rights violations must be investigated independently and anybody found complicit must be brought to book. She added that the Nigerian state’s failure to protect its citizens is a clear breach of its obligations under the Commonwealth Charter in respect of human rights.
Baroness Cox’s letter added: “We need to end impunity by ensuring that complaints related to human rights violations are promptly, independently, and impartially investigated and those responsible are held to account after fair trials. We write, therefore, to ask whether you are able to respond on behalf of the Commonwealth and to raise these urgent concerns with the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group.”