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Odinkalu Faults HRW’s Report on Violence in Nigeria

Chairman of the Governing Council of the National Human Rights Commission, Dr Chidi Odinkalu has faulted the report of Human Right Watch (HRW) which blamed violence in Plateau and Kaduna States on government’s in action.

In the report released in Abuja recently, HRW blamed government’s inaction for the recurring cycle of ethno-religious violence in the northern part of the country,
resulting in the killing of thousands.

The group said that government’s reluctance to confront the perpetrators of violence and bring them to book, combines with the ineffectiveness of the nation’s criminal justice system and police’ inability to conduct thorough investigation, to sustain this reign of violence.

It said rather than confront the problem of sectarian and communal violence in the country, the government often politicized it and set up commissions to investigate cases of killings, but always ended up not acting on reports produced by such commissions.

But in a letter to Mr Kenneth Roth, the Executive Director of HRW, Odinkalu  said that the human rights organisation ignored ample materials which would have helped it to reach a different conclusion.

He said HRW proceeded with a fixed viewpoint that the crises in central Nigeria was sectarian in nature.

He said: “The report makes no effort to pursue any alternative or complimentary explanation for the crises.

“Its line of inquiry is thus pre-determined at the point in which it reduces all identity-related violence or conflicts in Nigeria to sectarianism amok.”

Odinkalu noted that in its previous writings on Nigeria, HRW recognised the fact that religion was merely being used as a disguise and was not the actual cause of the crises in some parts of Nigeria.

He cited HRW’s memorandum to the Judge Ajibola Commission of Inquiry into the Crisis in Jos in which HRW had testified that “religious, political and ethnic disputes often serve as mere proxies for the severe economic pressures that lie beneath the surface.”

Odinkalu said that this inconsistency in the position of HRW was not explained.

He said: “If, over four years later, HRW has revised or updated its  theory to narrow the underlying or effective causes only to sect and religion, it surely has a burden to explain and support how its theory has evolved over this period and why.

“This report offers no such material and does not appear to recognise this as necessary.

“Its line of inquiry seems pre-determined by theoretical blinkers that are incompatible with dispassionate human rights fact-finding and places it t risk of credible accusations of descending into jingoism.”

The HRW’s report titled: “Leave everything to God: Accountability for inter-communal violence in Plateau and Kaduna states, Nigeria,” catalogued horrific sectarian violence in Kaduna and Plateau states, in which over 3,000 people have died since 2010.

In the 146-page report, the group stated that government had largely ignored years of mass murder in Plateau and Kaduna.

It observed that many victims of communal violence, including women and children were hacked to death, burned alive or shot simply based on their ethnic or religious identity.

The report examined government’s failure, with rare exception, to hold perpetrators accountable, even though many of their identities were well-known in the affected communities.

AmarSim Associations Development Consultants

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