By Anthony Kolawole
Nigerians have a penchant for treating serious issues with annoying levity. It is more gratifying now to say, the critics, commentators, rights groups and civil society organizations in the country are yet to come to full wakefulness over Amnesty International’s (AI) absurd and malicious propaganda against Nigeria have been rendered another chance to re-examine AI.
It appears the chickens have come home to roost and AI, the international human rights watchdogs is caged by its own antics in Nigeria. Its serial mischievous gaffes have turned the tide against them. It seems AI may bath in same shame in Nigeria, like in some other countries, suspicious of their disreputable operations.
Twice or thrice – in Maiduguri and Port Harcourt, AI has refused to appear or send representations to the Presidential probe panel with proof of alleged human rights abuses, tied mainly to extra-judicial killings and mass graves of victims. It was also absent at the opening session of the panel in Maiduguri, where AI alleged two mass graves of victims of human rights abuses by the military.
Serially and particularly, in the 2016/2017 report tagged, “State of Human Rights in Nigeria” released by AI, the human rights body published allegations on rights abuses, many Nigerians declared as spurious against the Nigerian military and other security agencies. The alleged series of human rights abuses, such as extra-judicial killings and mass burials in secret graves, torture, and prolonged detention without trials, disappearance and starvation of detainees among others, as committed by the Nigerian military. AI was vexatious and vehement in alleging that soldiers killed and buried over 300 Muslim Shiites and nearly 2, 000 pro- Biafra activists in Nigeria’s Southeast in mass graves.
The human rights watchdogs instantly haggled for a probe of the allegations. And what many considered an apparent bias and pre-determined conviction, AI through its Country director in Nigeria, later pre-empted the results of the findings, as it mounted the campaigns for probe. While calling for an independent Presidential probe, AI at the same time “directed” the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) to pay monetary compensation to the supposed victims.
The AI’s report, which mainly indicted the Nigerian Army, motivated the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusufu Buratai to set up a Special Military Board of Inquiry to probe the alleged rights violations concerning the Army. After a meticulous assignment and findings released, AI and its cohorts disputed and rejected it.
To satisfy all righteousness and in fairness to all parties in the matter, President Muhammadu Buhari who at the outset promised a special probe when the AI’s obviously conjured and fabricated report was released, eventually set it up. The then Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo instituted the Special Presidential Panel to review compliance of the Nigerian military with human rights obligations and rules of engagement on August 4th, 2017.He inaugurated it a week later with specific terms of reference and chaired by Justice Biobele Georgewill to unravel the veracity or otherwise of the allegations.
The Presidential Panel publicized notice of collection of public memorandum from all parties, which spanned for a month. It has commenced hearing for weeks now. And it is traversing Nigeria to engage, interact and collect or be led to evidences from the accusers and victims.
But AI and others have conspicuously taken an undignified delve into their cocoons, as they shamelessly dread confronting the panel with the “facts” they mouthed in unison. But the key accusers have gone into hiding, a clear indication of a “deal” gone bad?
It is inexplicable why AI and the other principal accusers of the Nigerian military and other security agencies of human rights malfeasances have suddenly developed cold feet in appearing before the panel to buttress and justify the claims.
One can only appreciate the severity of the shame AI and such groups, which have flaunted these spurious and perky allegations against the Nigerian military, have wrought upon themselves in these words by Professor Hauwal Ibrahim, Secretary of the presidential probe panel, thus;
“In Maiduguri for example, we are coming from there, that is why I am using that place. The chunk of the people we spoke to in Maiduguri are victims. We wanted more of the victims…There was allegation of mass grave by amnesty international but nobody could show us this, this is one of the difficulties we had with amnesty international. We went to the military cemetery we could not see the mass grave. So far we have only one side of the narrative, so we hope amnesty will come to prove its allegations.”
Sometimes, it is much easier to mouth allegations, than justify any of its strands. Nigeria has suffered tremendously based on AI’s report on human rights violations, including the initial refusal of America to sell critical military weapons to Nigeria to fight Boko Haram terrorism, because of such reports by AI and others. And AI’s conduct now is eventually confirming the fakeness and falsity of such claims.
The few skeptical Nigerians, who doubt the professionalism and integrity of the Nigerian military, are expecting to be proved right by AI’s credible evidence before the probe panel to substantiate and secure their claims. But these expectations are being dubiously dashed by AI and other key players.
Today, the presidential judicial commission of inquiry is out to dispassionately and neutrally probe the allegations, but the dramatis personae are too shy to make presentations or advance proofs. Only two Civil Society Organizations, Sahelian Centre and the Save Humanity Advocacy Centre [SHAC] have visibly made presentations to the panel and devoted time to monitor proceedings and listen to presentations of aggrieved parties.
However, it must not escape the conscience and judgment of Nigerians that AI’s present conduct had been foretold. The Global Amnesty Watch (GAW), an infantile rights organization with roots in Geneva, earlier in the year provided instructive insights into the weird operations of AI, especially in Nigeria. Through its maiden human rights seminar in Nigeria, it allegedly exploded superbly on its exposure of AI as a terrorists propaganda tool in the country.
Many Nigerians have been oblivious of the real enemies of Nigeria, until the expose in the seminar, where international experts on conflict management and resolution provided useful insights about the reality. And in Nigeria AI has advertised itself more as aligning with the agenda of terrorists, than interest in protecting the dignity and human rights of law abiding citizens in a country that has accorded them hospitality.
In spite of AI’s now clearly unjustified demonization of the Nigerian military, suffice it to say, like millions of Nigerians suspected, the Nigerian state is indeed at war with terrorists, as against the Nigerian military, as AI’s secret agenda seem to push. This much was reflected by GAW in live presentations on television.
How else can the mystery of inflaming Nigerians against its own military be explained? First, a Special Military Board of inquiry by the Nigerian Army, found nothing incriminating against Army personnel AI’s indicted. The wild, chilling and frightening stories of mass graves contained in Amnesty International’s reports could not find firm roots when subjected to thorough investigations.
The military panel visited the Catholic Church in Abia state, and several other locations where AI and its local assets had alleged rights abuses against the Nigerian state in recent times. But no evidence pointed to it. They were all confirmed to be cooked lies and indeed the signpost of AI’s show of shame in Nigeria.
But AI discountenanced the report and opted for Presidential Inquiry, thinking the Nigerian government would dread its constitution. The presidential panel has commenced work, but it is rather AI which is too scared to advance its “abundant” evidence of human rights violations. The Presidential panel pleads and begs, for proof of mass graves from AI, but the human rights body has suddenly or perhaps, has lost its senses about the locations.
If AI doubts every other person or institution, does it expect anybody to believe its own reports? Time has come for AI to speak out or be prepared to have its London office face the Court and international shame. When it is dragged to such levels, Nigeria will angle for appropriate compensation to the Nigerian state for AI’s blackmail of Nigerians and the Armed Forces. The FGN should keep its fingers crossed to do the needful, if AI is eventually exposed as an organization which lied against Nigeria’s security forces for ungodly motives.
Meanwhile, AI should bury its face in shame forever for its resistance to proof its allegations and uphold its integrity, even in the face of subtle persuasion. Had AI any confidence in its report, it ought to have been eager. To say the least, Nigerians are now wiser and only those profiting from AI’s reign of ink terrorism on Nigeria would still delight in it. Nigerians await the presidential probe panel report anxiously and in the event it again exonerates the Nigerian military, AI would not be permitted any attempt at a comeback to constitute an attack dog on Nigeria’s sovereignty anymore.
Kolawole PhD contributed this piece from Keffi, Nasarawa State.