A group of civil society organisations finds the attack on Amnesty International, Abuja, very disheartening and considers it a huge set back, considering how much civil society organisations have fought to ensure the right to freedom of expression.
Amnesty International is a credible global movement that campaigns for human rights, is independent of any political ideology, economic interest or religious affiliations and is reputed to report facts established by empirical research. The 2016 Annual Report is not an exception. It is based on verifiable facts, including documented interviews of real victims. Amnesty International reported issues of arbitrary arrests both in the North East and Niger Delta; death penalties carried out in a Benin prison in Edo State; the killing of over 100 members and supporters of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). None of these have been disproved by the protesters. Their resorting to tantrums and issuance of ultimatum reveals a deficit in their capacity for intellectual discourse and casts doubts on to their genuineness as part civil society they claim to be otherwise they should be demanding an investigation instead of attacking the source of information. If the government has said they would investigate the report, and even the army has mentioned that an investigation would be carried out, why are the protesters issuing threats and issuing ultimatums for the organisation to shut down its operations in Nigeria? We find this a case of crying more than the bereaved.
In a country where the roles civil society organisations play is critical and cannot be quantified, as they help the citizens hold the government accountable, it would be detrimental to the growth of the nation as a democracy and counter-productive to human rights and the right to freedom of expression, epically where issues of basic human rights to life, freedom and dignity og human persons are threatened.
We recognise the fact that this attack is not just an attack on Amnesty International, but those civil society groups that are in support of ensuring that non-violation of human rights in Nigeria. If Amnesty International is given the boot, as some are clamouring, it would mean anyone can sponsor certain people to protest against a civil society organisation that steps on its toes or that is bold to declare the truth it has uncovered.
While we understand the concerns expressed by Nigerians over the possibility of Amnesty International human rights report to ‘favour’ some groups such as Boko Haram, Niger-Delta militants and IPOB, it is essential that the country adheres to the laws governing it and ensure that the fundamental human rights of citizens are guaranteed.
May we use this medium to remind the ill-informed protestors and their pay masters that human rights issues are global and that they are guaranteed in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as well as several other international instruments to which Nigeria is already a signatory, and seeks to protect through such institutions as the national Human Rights Commission. Therefore to reduce it to Amnesty International and think such reports would go away if they leave Nigeria is the height of ignorance as there are several Nigerian civil society organizations who would still continue to speak up whenever violations occur.
We therefore call on the Federal Government and relevant security agencies to, as a matter of urgency, investigate the findings of Amnesty International’s 2016 Annual Report and also the attack on Amnesty International, Abuja, in order to ensure that those that are taking the law into their hands are brought to the ambit of the law without infringing on their human rights.
Accountability Maternal New-born and Child Health in Nigeria (AMHiN)
African Centre for Media and Information Literacy
Centre for Advance Social Sciences (CASS)
Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD)
Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD)
Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC)
Environmental Rights Agenda/Friends of the Earth (ERA)
Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law
National Procurement Watch Platform (NPWP)
National Tax Justice and Governance Platform, Nigeria
Partners on Electoral Reform
Partners West Africa-Nigeria
Protest to Power Movement
Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civil Education (CHRICED)
Say No Campaign – Nigeria
State of the Union (SOTU)
Women in Nigeria
Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement YIAGA.
Zero-Corruption Coalition (ZCC)