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Nigerian army killed 350 and secretly buried the bodies, Amnesty says



  • As Reps receive official communication from Buhari on gray areas

The Nigerian military has been urged to “come clean” over the deaths of 350 civilians who are alleged to have been shot or burned alive and then dumped in a mass grave following a confrontation in the north of the country last December.

A new report from Amnesty International, which includes witness testimony and satellite images of a possible mass grave, accuses the military of illegally attacking members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) and then trying to cover up the atrocities.

Between 12 and 14 December last year, more than 350 men, women and children belonging to the Shia sect are thought to have been killed in the town of Zaria in Kaduna state. Violence erupted after IMN supporters – some of whom were armed with batons, knives and machetes – refused to allow an army convoy to pass along a road close to the group’s headquarters.

The military has claimed that the vehicle carrying the Nigerian chief of army staff, General Tukur Buratai, was attacked with a petrol bomb and that the convoy came under fire. IMN members, however, have denied the claims.

After the initial clash, the military is alleged to have surrounded areas in which IMN members had gathered and begun to fire at them both deliberately and indiscriminately.

Zainab, a 16-year-old schoolgirl, told Amnesty: “We were in our school uniforms. My friend was shot in her forehead. We took her to a house where they treated the injured but, before reaching the house, she already died.”

Other witnesses described raids on two buildings inside the residential compound of the IMN’s leader, Ibraheem Zakzaky, saying soldiers targeted a makeshift clinic and morgue there.

A 22-year-old student called Alyyu told researchers he was shot in the chest outside the compound and taken inside for treatment, only to find the clinic under assault later.

“There were lots of injured people in several rooms,” he said. “There were dead bodies in a room and also in the courtyard. Around 12-1pm soldiers outside called on people to come out, but people were too scared to go out. We knew they would kill us. Soldiers threw grenades inside the compound. I saw one soldier on the wall of the courtyard shooting inside.”

Another witness said he saw soldiers setting fire to the clinic later that afternoon. Despite suffering serious gunshot wounds, Yusuf managed to drag himself away. Others were less fortunate.

“Those who were badly injured and could not escape were burned alive,” he said.

“I managed to get away from the fire by crawling on my knees until I reached a nearby house, where I was able to hide until the following day. I don’t know how many of the wounded were burned to death. Tens and tens of them.”

Mobile phone footage thought to have been taken by IMN supporters shows bodies with gunshot wounds as well as charred bodies strewn around the compound.

According to the report, the military then closed off the compound and the surrounding area, razing sites, washing away the blood and sweeping up the spent cartridges. “Piles of bodies” were taken to the morgue of the Ahmadu Bello University teaching hospital, which was then sealed off for two days.

The bodies are believed to have been taken away later by truck and buried.

“There were five or six large trucks and several smaller military vehicles, and they spent hours digging and unloading the trucks’ cargo into the hole they dug and then covered it again with the earth they had dug out,” said one witness. “They were there from about 1 or 2am until about 5am. I don’t know what they buried. It looked like bodies, but I could not get near.”

Amnesty has identified and visited the location of a possible mass grave in the Mando area, near the city of Kaduna. Satellite images of the site taken the month before the attack and 10 days after show “disturbed earth spanning an area of approximately 1,000 square metres”. They also reveal the complete destruction of buildings and mosques.

Amnesty International’s Africa research and advocacy director, Netsanet Belay, said “the true horror” of what had happened in Zaria over two days in December was only now coming to light.

“Our research, based on witness testimonies and analysis of satellite images, has located one possible mass grave,” he said. “It is time now for the military to come clean and admit where it secretly buried hundreds of bodies.”

A judicial commission of inquiry was established by the Kaduna state governor in January 2016 to investigate the incident. Amnesty is calling on the commission to protect witnesses and victims – and to publish the results of its inquiry.

Its report adds: “Without this, the culture of impunity that has allowed and encouraged gross human rights violations, including war crimes and crimes against humanity, to be perpetrated will remain pervasive.”

The Nigerian army, which described the report as “hasty, impartial and lack[ing] objectivity”, has called on Amnesty to let the judicial process run its course without comment or interference.

“The NGO should understand that Nigeria is a sovereign nation and it should be respected,” said a spokesman. “Already, a judicial inquiry is in place in addition to investigation by the National Human Rights Commission. The NGO’s hasty report – if true – is against the principles of the Amnesty International itself as it is pre-emptive and judgemental. They must allow the judicial commission of inquiry and all other relevant agencies to complete and submit their reports before
jumping to conclusion.”

He added: “Let the NGO search its conscience please.”

There have been frequent clashes between IMN and Nigeria’s armed forces. Thirty-four of its members – including two of Zakzaky’s sons – were killed in 2015 in an incident that, according to the army, was also sparked by activists blocking a major road.

In the meantime, the House of Representatives, on Thursday, confirmed the receipt of an official communication from President Muhammadu Buhari, detailing the gray areas in the 2016 appropriation budget passed last week by the joint chambers of the National Assembly, which made him to refuse to assent it as required by law.

Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Honourable Abdurazak Namdas, disclosed this in  Abuja, on Thursday, during his weekly briefing of the House of Representatives Press Corps.
He said that following this development, both chambers had been meeting to harmonise their position after which the leadership of the National Assembly would go back to President Buhari for further consultation.

“I can say emphatically that we have received an official communication from the president on the gray areas in the budget and the leadership of the two chambers have been meeting to harmonise their position and go back to Mr President for further consultation,” he stated.

While assuring that the meeting with the president and other consultations would be concluded this week, he restated that the National Assembly was ever ready to cooperate with the executive in resolving the grays identified for the bettermnt of the nation.

The House of Representatives had met over the controversy trailing the budget as passed and mandated the Speaker, Honourable Yakubu Dogara, to interface with President Buhari, with a view to finding out his grievances on the budget as part of efforts to resolve the matter amicably.

Guardian with additional report from Tribune


WAIVER CESSATION: Igbokwe urges NIMASA to evolve stronger collaboration with Ships owners



…Stresses the need for timely disbursement of N44.6billion CVFF***

Highly revered Nigerian Maritime Lawyer, and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mike Igbokwe has urged the Nigeria Maritime Administration and safety Agency (NIMASA) to partner with ship owners and relevant association in the industry to evolving a more vibrant merchant shipping and cabotage trade regime.

Igbokwe gave the counsel during his paper presentation at the just concluded two-day stakeholders’ meeting on Cabotage waiver restrictions, organized by NIMASA.

“NIMASA and shipowners should develop merchant shipping including cabotage trade. A good start is to partner with the relevant associations in this field, such as the Nigeria Indigenous Shipowners Association (NISA), Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Oil Trade Group & Maritime Trade Group of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA).

“A cursory look at their vision, mission and objectives, show that they are willing to improve the maritime sector, not just for their members but for stakeholders in the maritime economy and the country”.

Adding that it is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a through briefing and regular consultation with ships owners, in other to have insight on the challenges facing the ship owners.

“It is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a thorough briefing and regular consultations with shipowners, to receive insight on the challenges they face, and how the Agency can assist in solving them and encouraging them to invest and participate in the maritime sector, for its development. 

“NIMASA should see them as partners in progress because, if they do not invest in buying ships and registering them in Nigeria, there would be no Nigerian-owned ships in its Register and NIMASA would be unable to discharge its main objective.

The Maritime lawyer also urged NIMASA  to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF)that currently stands at about N44.6 billion.

“Lest it be forgotten, what is on the lips of almost every shipowner, is the need to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (the CVFF’), which was established by the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act, 2003. It was established to promote the development of indigenous ship acquisition capacity, by providing financial assistance to Nigerian citizens and shipping companies wholly owned by Nigerian operating in the domestic coastal shipping, to purchase and maintain vessels and build shipping capacity. 

“Research shows that this fund has grown to about N44.6billion; and that due to its non-disbursement, financial institutions have repossessed some vessels, resulting in a 43% reduction of the number of operational indigenous shipping companies in Nigeria, in the past few years. 

“Without beating around the bush, to promote indigenous maritime development, prompt action must be taken by NIMASA to commence the disbursement of this Fund to qualified shipowners pursuant to the extant Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (“CVFF”) Regulations.

Mike Igbokwe (SAN)

“Indeed, as part of its statutory functions, NIMASA is to enforce and administer the provisions of the Cabotage Act 2003 and develop and implement policies and programmes which will facilitate the growth of local capacity in ownership, manning and construction of ships and other maritime infrastructure. Disbursing the CVFF is one of the ways NIMASA can fulfill this mandate.

“To assist in this task, there must be collaboration between NIMASA, financial institutions, the Minister of Transportation, as contained in the CVFF Regulations that are yet to be implemented”, the legal guru highlighted further. 

He urged the agency to create the right environment for its stakeholders to build on and engender the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders.

“Lastly, which is the main reason why we are all here, cessation of ministerial waivers on some cabotage requirements, which I believe is worth applause in favour of NIMASA. 

“This is because it appears that the readiness to obtain/grant waivers had made some of the vessels and their owners engaged in cabotage trade, to become complacent and indifferent in quickly ensuring that they updated their capacities, so as not to require the waivers. 

“The cessation of waivers is a way of forcing the relevant stakeholders of the maritime sector, to find workable solutions within, for maritime development and fill the gaps in the local capacities in 100% Nigerian crewing, ship ownership, and ship building, that had necessitated the existence of the waivers since about 15 years ago, when the Cabotage Act came into being. 

“However, NIMASA must ensure that the right environment is provided for its stakeholders to build and possess the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders. Or better still, that they are solved within the next 5 years of its intention to stop granting waivers”, he further explained. 

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Breaking News: The Funeral Rites of Matriarch C. Ogbeifun is Live



The Burial Ceremony of Engr. Greg Ogbeifun’s mother is live. Watch on the website: and on Youtube: Maritimefirst Newspaper.

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Wind Farm Vessel Collision Leaves 15 Injured



…As Valles Steamship Orders 112,000 dwt Tanker from South Korea***

A wind farm supply vessel and a cargo ship collided in the Baltic Sea on Tuesday leaving 15 injured.

The Cyprus-flagged 80-meter general cargo ship Raba collided with Denmark-flagged 31-meter wind farm supply vessel World Bora near Rügen Island, about three nautical miles off the coast of Hamburg. 

Many of those injured were service engineers on the wind farm vessel, and 10 were seriously hurt. 

They were headed to Iberdrola’s 350MW Wikinger wind farm. Nine of the people on board the World Bora were employees of Siemens Gamesa, two were employees of Iberdrola and four were crew.

The cause of the incident is not yet known, and no pollution has been reported.

After the collision, the two ships were able to proceed to Rügen under their own power, and the injured were then taken to hospital. 

Lifeboat crews from the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service tended to them prior to their transport to hospital via ambulance and helicopter.

“Iberdrola wishes to thank the rescue services for their diligence and professionalism,” the company said in a statement.

In the meantime, the Hong Kong-based shipowner Valles Steamship has ordered a new 112,000 dwt crude oil tanker from South Korea’s Sumitomo Heavy Industries Marine & Engineering.

Sumitomo is to deliver the Aframax to Valles Steamship by the end of 2020, according to data provided by Asiasis.

The newbuild Aframax will join seven other Aframaxes in Valles Steamship’s fleet. Other ships operated by the company include Panamax bulkers and medium and long range product tankers.

The company’s most-recently delivered unit is the 114,426 dwt Aframax tanker Seagalaxy. The naming and delivery of the tanker took place in February 2019, at Namura Shipbuilding’s yard in Japan.

Maritime Executive with additional report from World Maritime News

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