By Nelson Okoh
Amnesty International (AI) has been at the forefront of escalating, misinforming and disrupting the peace in Nigeria. Some of their activities have been inimical to the well-being of Nigeria, and these caused well-meaning Nigerians to protest against the organisation in August 2019 and February 2020. They claimed that AI was a formidable driver of the insecurity and tensions in the country as they played a major part in encouraging IPOB and ISWAP to reign over the freedoms of others, under the guise of human rights.
Cross-sections of Nigerians have also accused the AI of encouraging secession by falsely but constantly implying the absence of a functional and responsive government in Nigeria. Protests against AI have portrayed the frustration of some Nigerians about the depiction of the country since her return to democracy by certain AI reports.
A constant feature of the reports on Nigeria is a gamut of negatives peddled by AI without any iota of hope, improvement, and positive policy direction on human rights and human coexistence. These are also compounded by the organisation’s misrepresentation of the Nigerian military in the fight against Boko Haram in the North-east.
AI’s reports from 1999 to the present have a consistent ‘cut and paste’ repetition of moods and themes that show that the organisation is not on the ground, or is perhaps aloof to its practical requirements of its duties while developing fictional stories like armchair tourists disguising as social workers.
The Nigerian Government has repeatedly accused AI of ‘damaging the morale’ of its soldiers in the trenches against Boko Haram. President Muhammadu Buhari urged the Western-oriented rights group to retrace its steps, take stock of its actions, and rejig its operations to ensure a true and objective report of events and issues.
Although the military has so far kept a decorous distance from the AI, making sure that it does not infringe on the rights of the international organisation or its members, security experts are firmly concerned that the government should critically re-consider the presence and role of Amnesty International in Nigeria as the group continues to oversteps its bounds by undermining the sovereignty of Nigeria through its reckless statements.
The Nigerian Army (NA) has also accused the AI of being sponsored by politicians and fifth columnists who ramp up support by damaging the country’s reputation. At a time when the NA is doing all it can to endear the Nigerian people to itself so that it can receive moral and patriotic support as well as valuable intelligence to destroy the strongholds of insurgents and bandits, Amnesty International intensifies its portfolio of allegations.
The AI had reported that the Nigerian Army committed human rights abuses in an attempt to eliminate the threat of insurgency and threat to the sovereignty of the nation. However, such allegations have been vehemently denied by the Army who described the AI’s position as full of ‘heinous’ intentions in its relentless ambitions to ‘obliterate objectivity, fairness and simple logic’.
The NA had set up a board of inquiry to interrogate the accusation of men on the battlefield. For the Army, this was an extension of its standard practice safeguarding human rights as enacted by the Chief of Army Staff, General Tukur Buratai.
Unfortunately, the AI is quick to transpose its stymied notions of Nigeria’s past on its Armed Forces. It is unwilling to report the advances in human rights culture of the Nigerian Army. It has turned a blind eye to the development of human rights pamphlets for all divisions of the NA since 2016. It has not reported the improved relations between the NA and communities around and outside the barracks since the same year.
With the strategy of cultivating a great rapport with the communities and supporting them with basic infrastructural and social needs, the Nigerian Army has also made sure that civilians who engage in overt or covert roles in assisting Boko Haram were fished out, apprehended, and interrogated without any form of torture.
They also encouraged legal representations from the Ministry of Justice for arrested insurgents and their informants. The AI has also refused to acknowledge the NA’s programme of rehabilitating repentant Boko Haram members. Rather, it was quick to issue spurious reports on an alleged razing of an entire village in Borno State, and the arrest of six men who were remanded and allegedly ill-treated at the Maimalari Military Camp for a month in January 2020.
Some of such alleged practices run counter to the policy of the Nigerian Army on human rights in the North-east, and contradicts in full terms the standard operational directive on the rules of engagement.
The prejudicial pattern of reporting was rehashed in June 2015 when AI reported that the NA has carried out extrajudicial killings of 1,200 people, and 7,000 young men who were in the Army’s custody.
Contrary to this position, the NA even at that time did not have a facility to detain many people. A recent documentary revealed that it shares a camp with other security and intelligence agencies in the country. The Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation evaluates conditions of detainees and transfers them to a competent court of law on a weekly basis no matter the extent of the threat to national security.
Former military spokesman Major-General Olukolade had accused the human rights agency of blackmail. According to him, ‘It is unfortunate that the organization just went out and gathered names of specific officers in a calculated attempt to rubbish their reputation as well as the image of the Nigerian military. The action, no doubt, depicts more of a premeditated indictment aimed at discrediting the country for whatever purpose which we don’t know at this moment.’
What was clear was that the AI retches in its own vomit of woes that it uses to soil the fabric of the country. The danger of having such foreign organisations operate in the country is that they arrogate to themselves illusory powers to undermine the country in the comity of nations.
Mallam Garba Shehu, spokesperson to President Buhari, had warned in 2018 that the AI was training spies sympathetic to Boko Haram. Shehu expressed concern that the organisation had peddled fake news which were propagandist in nature and designed to aid the terrorist.
He said, ‘The federal government is increasingly concerned about the role that Amnesty International is playing in the war against terror in Nigeria…. The organisation’s operations in Nigeria seem geared towards damaging the morale of the Nigerian military… It often appears as if the Nigerian government is fighting two wars on terror: against Boko Haram and against Amnesty International.’
Brigadier-General Sani Usman, a Public Relations Director of the NA, corroborated the Presidency by asserting that Amnesty International was ‘determined to destabilise’ Nigeria with a constant rendering of fabricated and ‘fictitious allegations of alleged human rights abuses’, and a ‘clandestine sponsorship of dissident groups to protest’ against the government, while bolstering up their illegitimate resolves to heat up the polity.
Brigadier-General Usman referred to the immense media support divisive groups, such as IPOB and the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), have received from Amnesty International, indicating that the AI is often politically-motivated in some of its activities. It has consistently misinformed the public and other international organisations about the internal security issues and the human rights issues in the country, and has sought to undermine the sovereignty of the nation.
Justin Idakwo, a public affairs commentator, links the activities of Amnesty International to the subtle funding it receives from ‘unanimous donors’; what he described as a ‘euphemism’ for ‘key players in the war industry’.
Idakwo links AI to Shell Companies and other amoral donors who believe in agendas such as Same Sex, intersex, Freedom for Prostitution, and Abortion Rights. He accused AI of being a culpable sponsor of IPOB because it did not only show support for IPOB, it also played an international role in securing asylum for IPOB operative, Obianuju Catherine Udeh.
The IPOB operative had close contact with AI and received support through their testimonies at the Canadian Parliament from Stella Kemdirim, an IPOB Member, and Tim Okafor, the National Coordinator of IPOB in Canada. AI validated their claims when it shared the same position with the IPOB.
Nigeria is, however, not the only country in Africa where the AI has outdone itself by misrepresenting the facts, and creating silences in areas where it should be communicating progress and prosperity.
Africa Rights, a London-based human rights group accused the AI of deliberately misrepresenting facts in Africa. It accused AI of contributing directly or indirectly to the 1994 genocide spurred by campaigns of tribal cleansing between the Hutu and Tutsi. While the AI tried to avoid some of the concrete arguments of the report, it acknowledged the ‘practical obstacles’ that have made its results contested by the African Rights, such as ‘the time lapse between when the incident occurred and when it is eventually reported, and the obvious biases of witnesses.’
If the AI international could be constrained by its witness account in Rwanda, does it not speak volumes to the potential repetition of such constraints with AI reportage of the Zabarmari Massacre, the EndSARS protests, the killings and banditry in the North-west, and the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-east?
For the EndSARS protests, Amnesty International through Osai Ojigho, its director, firmly assaulted the Nigerian state by standing on the side of fake news without a shred of evidence. It is based on the hurriedly conceived and regurgitated claims of Amnesty International garnered on social media that led CNN to boldly produce a fictitious feature based on a pastiche of scenic trappings.
Amnesty International claimed that it drew its conclusions based on ‘existing patterns’ without recourse to the dynamism of human nature, the unpredictability of conflict, and the shifts in causes led by internal and external stakeholders.
It rises to occasions with its preconceived data to deploy to the world a normative postcolonial script of the ‘third world’. It is within this framework that African Rights accused it, while drawing similar conclusions of the situation in Rwanda and the Republic of Congo.
In Morocco, the government had to restrict the activities of AI officials because it received Foreign Direct Investment payment from unknown sources, which is contrary to known international and Moroccan laws on funding for NGOs.
Unfortunately, many non-governmental organisations, scholars, development workers, investors and diplomatic agencies still reference Amnesty International as a standard of truth on issues of human rights and human developments, despite its huge shortcomings in empirical research, consultations and fieldwork.
The implication is that AI has helped to establish a gamut of fabricated lies which constantly besmirch Nigeria and the continent at large without any responsibility to correct its errors, or retrieve its misconceptions. Its groundless untruths engender fallacious discourses that make Nigeria and other African nations grapple with its international reputation and reckoning.
The US Government has also found Amnesty International wanting in its biased reportage of Israeli rights abuses against Palestinians. The Trump administration after engaging the fact of the matter labeled Amnesty International as an anti-Semitic organisation. Likewise, the US has repudiated Amnesty International when it reported that the US has kept ‘ghost and unaccounted for’ prisoners in the Guantanamo Bay Prison for years.
While the US remains lenient, the Israelis are more decisive in considering an outright ban on Amnesty International. Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Natanyahu, has long complained of the ‘biased and disproportionate’ records of Isreali-Palestinian clashes.
Last year, Gilad Erdan, Israel’s former Strategic Affairs Minister, threatened to ban Amnesty International over its advisory to the tourism platform to boycott listings in Jewish Settlements in Palestine having blackmailed the businesses by asserting that they were profiting from ‘war crimes’.
A 2019 Konterra Group review advised that AI decentralises its staff strength by making sure that there are more field people in areas of civil unrest and conflict. The review states that 70% of staff strength of the oganisation experienced ‘Significant Distress’ at work. Konterra Group noted ‘Amnesty cannot effectively strive to make the world a better place, while perpetuating an organisational culture deeply marked by secrecy, mistrust, nepotism and other forms of power abuse.’
This is a clear marker of the internal operations of Amnesty International since the 1990s, which has brought about a grounded distrust for it in Nigeria, Morocco, Chile, Venezuela, Israel, Russia, China, and even the US.
The primary duty of the Nigerian Government is to secure the lives and property of the Nigerian people within a predominant context of fundamental human rights.
While the NA strives to consistently improve human rights in the country, Amnesty International continues to lead detractors in throwing darts and daggers at the Nigerian military and creating distracting narratives designed to support the activities of insurgents and criminals in the country. The NA needs to wage a single war: the war against the enemies of Nigeria’s sovereignty. The war should not be disturbed by unhealthy propaganda, interjections, and interruptions from Amnesty International.
However, in situations where the nation’s sovereignty is being sabotaged, or is challenged by foreign agencies and governments, the Federal Government must do the needful to eliminate the cankerworm that seeks to destabilise the nation.
(Nelson Okoh is a writer and media practitioner based in Lagos).
#Politics #Propaganda #Nigerian #Military