On Tuesday, President Goodluck Jonathan had released a statement asking the Defence Headquarters to release some terror suspects from detention, especially the women and children.
The motive behind the release was said to send a signal to Boko Haram that the Federal Government had not foreclosed the option of amnesty as a solution to the insurgency and this was the first phase of the presidential directive on release.
“I can say that between 90 and 100 women and children would benefit from the first phase of the exercise. We are not keen on detaining anybody and we cannot disobey the order of the commander-in-chief. Whenever we get the order to release any detainee, we will do so,” a top Defence source reportedly told the Punch Newspaper.
According to reports, the unidentified source said that with the decision to set free the women and children, the government expected the sect to accept the offer of dialogue, adding that more detainees would be released from time to time based on the outcome of the negotiations between the Presidential Committee on Dialogue and Reconciliation and the insurgents.
[READ: Why Jonathan ordered the release of Boko Haram suspects – Doyin Okupe ]
“Others will be released later but I think everything depends on the outcome of the negotiations between the Amnesty Committee and the militants. You know, this thing is political, so it is difficult to put a number to all the people that would benefit from the exercise,” the source said.
The Director of Defence Information, Brig.-Gen. Chris Olukolade said:
“Consequent upon the directive of the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, the Defence Headquarters will be releasing from detention a number of persons being held in connection with terrorist activities.
“The move is in furtherance of the Federal Government position in response to requests by the Presidential Committee on Dialogue and Reconciliation.
“The measure which is in line with presidential magnanimity to enhance peace efforts in the country will result in freedom for suspects including all women under custody.”
The Punch reports:
Meanwhile, Amnesty International has urged the Federal Government not to use the state of emergency in the North-East zone as an excuse to commit human rights violations.
The international organisation, in a statement on Thursday by its Deputy Director for Africa, Lucky Freeman, said many people had been killed and arrested since the state of emergency was declared.
It said, “President Goodluck Jonathan must order the military to respect human rights and the rule of law; the military is not above the law.
“The government has an obligation to ensure the safety of all Nigerians, firstly by addressing the attacks from Boko Haram, but also by eliminating the human rights violations carried out by the very state security forces who are supposed to provide protection.
“Several people have reportedly been killed and hundreds arrested since a state of emergency was declared in the northern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe on May 14. The military reportedly claim those targeted are suspected members of Boko Haram.”
But Olukolade denied the AI’s allegations.
He said, “The allegation is untrue, unfair, malicious and unfounded. You cannot describe somebody found in a terrorist camp or in such an environment as indiscriminate arrest.
“This is the mindset of people who have made up their mind to discredit the military and this ongoing operation. The operation was planned with adequate consideration of the citizens’ rights.
“It is unfair, malicious. Untrue and I must say that we have done very well in this operation. We have observed the rules of engagement.”
The President had on May 14 declared a state of emergency in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states with the aim of flushing out members of the Boko Haram sect.
At least, 2,400 people have fled the region for neighbouring Niger Republic, according to a statement released on Tuesday by the International Committee of the Red Cross.