Amnesty International has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to launch investigation into the death of about 149 people in what it called ‘horrific condition’ during military detention in Giwa barracks insde Maiduguri, capital of Borno state since the beginning of this year.
The Amnesty claimed that at least 11 children under the age of six, including four babies, were among the deaths, adding that several detainees died due to diseases, hunger, dehydration and gunshots wounds.
“Children under five years old, including babies, have been held in three overcrowded women’s cells. In the last year there has been a tenfold increase in the number of detainees in these cells, rising from 25 in 2015 to 250 in early 2016.”
The body said that the facts where gathered from witnesses’ accounts and corroborated by videos and photographs even as it said that unsanitary conditions mean that disease is rife.
“Amnesty International understands that there were around 20 babies and children under five in each of the three cells.”
Witnesses said detention conditions were worst in the men’s cells, where it is believed inmates received about half a litre of water and very little food per day. Detainees also said they had to sleep on the floor and did not have access to washing facilities.
“Despite steps taken to improve conditions in Giwa barracks in 2014 and 2015, with detainees receiving food three times a day, as well as blankets, sleeping mats and increased access to sanitary facilities and medical assistance, recent mass arrests appear to have erased some of these gains and death rates are on the increase,” said Amnesty. “Mass public releases of detainees, including young children and babies, earlier this year, have demonstrated that the detention of children in Giwa barracks is no secret.”
Amnesty claimed at least 1,200 people are currently detained at Giwa barracks and the majority of whom were arbitrarily arrested without evidence and were not granted a fair trial. Families were also separated upon arrest.
The rights group called on President Muhammadu Buhari to close the detention centre and launch an independent investigation into the recent deaths.
Meanwhile the spokesman of the Nigerian Army, Colonel Sani Suman has denied the report, saying: “the allegations by Amnesty International are far from the truth.” [myad]