Air Marshal Sadique Baba Abubakar, former Chief of the Nigerian Air Force, and his Army Staff counterpart, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai, will face criminal charges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) over alleged human rights abuses and extra-judicial killings during their time as security chiefs.
Abubakar is the gubernatorial candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Bauchi State for next year’s general elections.
Dr Ifure Atafure, while speaking for the African Centre for Human Rights on Tuesday, noted that the alleged atrocities committed under the duo as service chiefs would be tendered at the ICC.
He stressed that civilian fatalities from airstrikes in conflict areas across Nigeria were a recurring dilemma under Abubakar, which killed many scores of armless citizens.
“In April 2020, at least 17 people, mostly women and their children playing under mango trees were said to have been killed when a fighter jet belonging to the Nigerian Air Force ‘accidentally’ dropped a bomb on Sakotoku village in Damboa Local Government Area (LGA) of Borno State,” Atafure said.
He further noted that the centre had been in touch with the ICC and that, in the coming days, the retired Air Marshal would be invited and prosecuted.
He said Abubakar must provide explanations for the multiple avoidable crashes under his watch despite billions invested in purchasing fighter jets.
Atafure said: “So far Abubakar has not accounted for all the crashes involving NAF jets under his watch. This is despite spending billions of naira for the procurement of training and fighter jets. It is on record that virtually all the aircraft that were purchased by the former Chief were not only poorly refurbished with record-breaking highly inflated prices but were technically risky and not safe to undergo the kind of pressure it underwent.
“Nigeria Air Force personnel are also alleged to have committed murder, rape, imprisonment, enforced disappearances, enslavement – particularly of women and children, sexual slavery, and torture under the former chief.”
The group alleged Buratai of ordering the army to massacre over 500 defenceless Shiites in 2015 on the ground that they “touched a General’s chest” in Zaria, Kaduna State, which according to Atafure worsened the insecurity situation in the country.
He is also believed to have ordered the October 20, 2020 shooting of innocent civilians who were protesting at the Lekki Toll Gate and sanctioned the extrajudicial massacres in Oyigbo, an Igbo settlement in Rivers State.
The group insisted that the soldiers and officers involved in the killings were never prosecuted or punished, an indication that the atrocities were committed with the approval of the army leadership.
“In September 2021, a dozen civilians in Buhari village in Yunusari Local Government Area of Yobe State were bombed by a military aircraft, and more than 20 other residents suffered different degrees of injuries. Two weeks after, 20 fishermen were killed when the Air Force targeted terrorist camps in Kwatar Daban Masara in the Lake Chad area. Ground troops were also victims of these ‘accidental’ bombings. In April 2021, some soldiers were killed after a fighter jet belonging to the Nigerian Air Force shelled a military truck in Mainok, Borno State,” he said.
He recalled that the ICC Chief Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, had last year said that the court had received sufficient information to investigate the pair for alleged war crimes, and they were confirmed as ambassadors.
While Buratai was posted to the Benin Republic, the Senate confirmed Abubakar as the country’s Ambassador to Chad which granted them immunity.
He revealed that an extensive investigation has been carried out on the two former military chiefs and the centre has gathered sufficient evidence in a 500-page document to indict the former service chiefs at the ICC in Hague, Netherlands.
The five years, six months-tenure of Buratai and Abubakar was allegedly characterised by rights abuses and extrajudicial killings of Nigerians by soldiers, the centre affirmed.