Ejiofor Alike and Martins Ifijeh
Amnesty International has alleged that the Nigerian military is increasingly resorting to threats, intimidation and smears to discredit its work documenting the human rights violations it has committed, and vowed that it would not stay silent in the face of human rights abuses in Nigeria.
The rights group recently released a report, which documented the prevalence of sexual violence against starving women and girls detained in satellite camps under the control of Nigerian soldiers and militia.
According to a statement issued yesterday by the Media Manager, Amnesty International Nigeria, Isa Sanusi, the Nigerian military responded by organising smear campaigns and issuing threats to â€œtake action against Amnesty International.â€
Rather than taking action to address the issues raised in the report, like investigating countless allegations of rape and other war crimes, the Director of Amnesty International Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, alleged that the Nigerian military has rather fallen back on its usual hostile tactics of denials and threats.
â€œAmnesty International always shares the findings of its investigations with the Nigerian military before publication. We ask detailed questions to ensure the military can provide its side of the story, but in all cases, the military has either completely ignored these attempts to engage or referred us to other arms of government, in a clear attempt to evade our questions,â€ Ojigho said.
Amnesty International described the decision by the Senate to probe allegations raised in â€˜They Betrayed Usâ€™ as a welcome development, and a sign of hope for victims seeking justice.
â€œDespite the militaryâ€™s best efforts, we will not stay silent. In the face of efforts to evade responsibility or to smear our organisation, we will continue to raise our voices whenever and wherever we see injustice, sexual abuse, discrimination against women or any other violations of human rights in Nigeria,â€ Ojigho said.
Amnesty International stated that according to standard practice, all its reports on human rights violations in Nigeria call for investigations into the allegations they contain, but the Nigerian military has repeatedly responded instead with smear campaigns, intimidation, and threats.
For example, March on 2017, sponsored protesters carrying a coffin invaded Amnesty Internationalâ€™s office in Abuja chanting slogans against the organisation like â€˜Amnesty International supports Boko Haram,â€™ and â€˜You are demonic, leave Nigeria now.â€™
The protesters, some of whom were internally displaced persons from camps outside Abuja, said they were paid N1,400 every day by agents of the sponsors of the protest, who they met at Unity Fountain, Abuja.
On May 23, 2018, a day before the launch of â€˜They Betrayed Usâ€™, pre-emptive media smear campaigns and organised protests were carried out with the apparent aim of intimidating and harassing Amnesty International.
â€œThese diversionary tactics are a shameless attempt to avoid investigating the accounts of human rights violations which have been presented by the agency. The statements by the Nigerian military clearly show that they have not read our reports.
â€œFor example, while our recent report was based on remote satellite camps in places like Bama and Banki, the military took journalists to the wrong camps in Maiduguri in their attempts to prove us wrong,â€ Ojigho added.