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How The Nigerian Military Scored An Own Goal By Justifying Killings Of 45 Unarmed Protesters With Trump’s Words

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by Mercy Abang

The Nigerian Army decision to use words of the US President, Donald Trump to justify it’s fatal shootings of rock-throwing protesters was not only an own goal but helped to draw the attention of the international community  into cases of rights abuses by the President Muhammadu Buhari led government.

In a tweet, which has since been deleted, the Nigerian Army shared a video of President Trump warning to migrants traveling in a U.S.–bound caravan that if they throw rocks, U.S. troops will respond with lethal force.

The tweet by the Military was posted with the caption ‘Please Watch And Make Your Deductions’ forced the hands of the international community, diplomats and media organisations, beaming the spotlight into the killings of muslim protesters, but not for that tweet, the killings of Muslim Shiites wouldn’t have gotten that much of attention.

Although, organisations like Amnesty International and leaders of the protest have continued to cry out over the massacre of their members by the Nigerian Military but most of that ends within some section of the local press and others completely ignoring the broad day light massacre of women and children.  Even after more than 40 people were killed Monday, with more than 100 wounded by bullets, the Nigerian media front pages was a-washed with the Politics of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC and a fraction of opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

But the singular decision by the official handle of the Nigerian Military to tweet the video by the US President led to a more larger global outrage with analysts and International Journalists pointing to the implications and impacts of the remarks by a US President and abusive government capitalising on such statements to crackdown on dissents .

‘This is why Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric should not be taken as just a distraction or a “”stunt”. Abusive governments around the world are taking cues from him’. – Karen Attiah, a Global Opinions editor,  wrote.

Various International Media outlets reported the tweet that seeks to validate actions by the Nigerian soldiers with a long standing history of human rights abuses forcing the Military to delete the tweet .

One of the Major outrage by an international diplomat was from Samantha Power, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, calling the post by the Nigerian Military “sickening.”

She wrote,“Sickening. Under scrutiny from human rights orgs for firing on a crowd of protesters, the Nigerian Army tweets Trump from yesterday telling US troops that any migrants throwing rocks should be handled as if they are armed with “a rifle” 1/2”.

Mrs Power continued, attaching a link to a story along with her tweet,“According to the Nigerian Army, We released that video to say if President Trump can say that rocks are as good as a rifle, who is Amnesty International?” 2/2.

President Trump made the remarks at the White House Thursday, saying of the migrants, “They want to throw rocks at our military — our military fights back. We’re going to consider it, and I told them, consider it a rifle. When they throw rocks like they did at the Mexico military and police I say consider it a rifle.”

Nigerian Soldiers had on Monday fired on a march of about 1,000 Islamic Shiite activists who had blocked traffic on the outskirts of the capital, Abuja. Videos that circulated on social media showed several protesters hurling rocks at heavily armed soldiers who then shot fleeing demonstrators in the back.

 In 2015, Nigerian soldiers killed nearly 350 protesters from the same group, the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, since the extra-Judicial killings took place, no one has been prosecuted in the military.

Amnesty international in a statement recently issued wrote,“Since a massacre of over 350 IMN supporters which took place in Zaria in 2015, the Nigerian authorities have consistently sent in the military to respond to IMN protests or marches. This strategy appears to be at least partly to blame for the bloodshed witnessed on Saturday and Monday.”, the human rights group accused the Nigerians Military of “the continuous failure to investigate these gross human rights violations is fueling a dangerous disdain for the sanctity of human life in Nigeria.”

The group organizes frequent protest marches but they’ve been more consistent in recent years in demanding the release of their leader Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky.

In December 2015, the Nigerian Army raided his residence in Zaria, seriously injured him, and killed hundreds of his followers; since then, he has remained under state detention in the nation’s capital pending his release, which was ordered in late 2016.

According to the judgment of the high court of Nigeria on 2 December 2016, Ibrahim Yaqoub El Zakzaky was ordered to be released from the custody of the Department of State Services detention into police custody within 45 days – El Zakzaky and his wife were to be paid the sum of 50 million Naira in compensation. The judge announced that the justification of “holding him for his own protection” is not sufficient.

 On January 13, 2018, Zakzaky, detained at an unknown location without charges since December 2015, made a short public appearance, his first in two years, being allowed to see his doctor, the state security services had claimed. 

John Agim, a spokesman for the Nigerian Army, in a statement issued Friday said the initial posting of the video was a response to Amnesty International, which had criticized what it called the military’s use of excessive force.

“We released that video to say if President Trump can say that rocks are as good as a rifle, who is Amnesty International?” he said. “What are they then saying? What did David use to kill Goliath? So a stone is a weapon.”

“Our soldiers sustained injuries,” he continued. “The Shiites even burnt one of our vehicles, so what are Amnesty International saying?”