•Say Amnesty damaging morale of soldiers; accuse it of bias, inaccurate reports
•Nigeria branch of Amnesty determined to destabilize Nigeria —Army
•Buhari Media Organization accuses AI of carrying out hatchet job
•How security failures led to loss of lives, by Amnesty International
Abuja —President Muhammadu Buhari, has taken on Amnesty International, over its report entitled ‘Harvest of Deaths,’ documenting an upsurge in violence across the country.
The report catalogued clashes in Nigeria between farmers and semi-nomadic herders, noting that more than 3,600 people have been killed since 2016, most of them this year.
But President Buhari, yesterday, faulted the report, saying the operations of Amnesty Int’l in Nigeria appeared to have been geared towards damaging the morale of the country’s military, adding that AI’s report had the impression that Nigeria was fighting two wars on terror, that of Boko Haram and Amnesty Int’l.
On its part, the Nigerian Army said there “is credible information that the Nigerian branch of the International non-governmental organisation is determined to destabilise the Nigerian nation.
The report, inter alia, said: “The Nigerian authorities’ failure to investigate communal clashes and bring perpetrators to justice has fuelled a bloody escalation in the conflict between farmers and herders across the country, resulting in at least 3,641 deaths in the past three years and the displacement of thousands more.”
This came as the Buhari Media Organisation, BMO, accused Amnesty Int’l of carrying out a hatchet job for the opposition in the run-up to the 2019 general election, adding that it was obvious with the release of a report, which focused on herders-farmers clash in the last three years, made it look like the administration of President Buhari did little or nothing to stem the tide of violence.
Also, the Nigerian Army has faulted the report, calling for the closure of Amnesty Int’l offices in Nigeria, saying that it had uncovered credible intelligence report showing that the Nigerian branch of Amnesty was working concertedly to destabilize the nation.
A statement by Brigadier General Sani Usman, Director, Army Public Relations said: “The Nigerian branch of Amnesty Int’l that has hitherto been well respected has deviated from the core values, principles and objectives of the original Amnesty International domiciled in the United Kingdom.”
In the main Amnesty Int’l noted that of the 310 attacks recorded between January 2016 and October 2018, 57 per cent were in 2018.
“These attacks were well planned and coordinated, with the use of weapons such as machine guns and AK-47 rifles,” said Osai Ojigho, Amnesty’s Nigeria director.
“Yet, little has been done by the authorities in terms of prevention, arrests and prosecutions, even when information about the suspected perpetrators was available.
“In some places, because of the failures of the security forces, competition over resources is used as a pretext to kill and maim along ethnic or religious lines.
“The conflict has also been dangerously politicized by some state government officials who have inflamed tensions by embarking on a blame game along political party lines,” said Osai Ojigho.
Reacting, President Buhari in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, appealed to the leadership of the international organisation to always scrutinise its advocacy in Nigeria, especially as it relates to the war against terrorism.
He said: “The Federal Government is increasingly concerned about the role that AI is playing in the war against terror in Nigeria.
“While President Buhari cherishes and encourages the noble ideals on which institutions like Amnesty International are founded, 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 AI. The obvious bias and inaccuracies in AI’s recent country reports on Nigeria risk Amnesty’s as an impartial international organisation.
“President Buhari appeals to the leadership of Amnesty International to scrutinise its advocacy in Nigeria, especially as it relates to the war against terrorism.”
The Nigerian Army on its part, said: “There is credible information that the Nigerian branch of the International non-governmental organisation is determined to destabilise the Nigerian nation.
“This is noted through fabrication of fictitious allegations of alleged human rights abuses against the Nigerian security forces and clandestine sponsorship of dissident groups to protest, as well as unfounded allegations against the leadership of the Nigerian military.
“They have tried over the years using Boko Haram terrorists conflicts, Islamic Movement in Nigeria, some activists and now herders-farmers conflicts.
“The NGO is at the verge of releasing yet another concerted report against the military, ostensibly against the Nigerian Army. Consequently, Nigerians should be wary of Amnesty Int’l (Nigeria) because it’s goals are to destabilise Nigeria and to dismember it.“
On its part, BMO, in a statement by its Chairman, Niyi Akinsiju and Secretary, Cassidy Madueke, said AI was out to send out subtle message to eligible voters in a report that was expertly made to appear balanced.
“It is also suspicious that Amnesty Int’l went to great lengths to establish what we have always known- that herders’ communities had also been victims of a mindless orgy of violence over land and grazing routes.
“Could it have to do with the fact that the Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is also a member of the same Fulani ethnic stock like the President? But it is mischievous to create the impression that the conflict is either a three-year old conflict or that it was worse in the last three years.”
Questioning the real intention of releasing its report barely two months to the election, it said: “If the rights’ watchdog meant well for Nigeria, it should have released the report at a time some Nigerians felt that it was a one-way attack by fulani herdsmen on innocent farming communities because of the ethnic identity of President Buhari.
“This would have served to correct that impression, but not at a time of relative peace in virtually all the states listed in the report. Could it be that Amnesty is bent on stoking the dying embers of the conflict in those states?
“Or why has a group that is meant to be interested in peaceful co-existence not opted to focus on what the government had done right to manage the century-long conflicts between farmers and herdsmen?”
How security failures led to loss of lives, by AI
Amnesty International’s research reveals a disturbing pattern of failure on the part of security forces to protect people from vicious and mostly deadly attacks by armed groups. Eye-witnesses, victims, local officials and others independently interviewed have recounted several incidents where police and soldiers have either ignored credible warnings of impending attacks and/or abandoned people during or just before deadly attacks by heavily armed groups, suspected to be members of herder or farmer communities. The cases documented by Amnesty International demonstrate at least, wilful negligence; at worst, complicity. Despite continued public outcry, the government has not taken any meaningful measures to investigate these incidents and the role of security forces.
The attacks, which started at about 6am in Koh Village, lasted at least five hours. Witnesses said a pick-up truck with eight policemen led by the Divisional Police Officer [DPO], first arrived at Koh around 10am, followed 30 minutes later by two trucks with 17 soldiers. But the police and soldiers withdrew after about one hour, when the DPO was killed and a soldier shot in the leg while engaging in cross-fire with the suspected Fulani gunmen. By the time the security forces returned to Koh, at about 2pm, the attack had ended. Amnesty International wrote to the Chief of Army Staff and the Inspector General of Police regarding this attack but no response had been received at the time of writing this report.
Amnesty International’s research further reveals that this and subsequent attacks could have been prevented if law enforcement agents had acted on the information they were given.