By Israel Abiodun
Like a half-drunk arousing from a stupor, Amnesty International is finally exiting a self-inflicted reverie by returning to the trenches against the Nigerian state and the institutions entrusted with maintaining the country’s sovereignty, law enforcement and military agencies. It is an assignment at which it failed in the past and has apparently also failed in this instance even before it has properly relaunched itself.
The international human rights monitoring non-governmental organization was apparently dazed by a quick series of events: the former service chiefs left office on excellent notes and got higher national assignments contrary to its expected outcome from the campaign of calumny against them during their tenure; the legacy of these former service chiefs was sustained by their successors, which means terrorists that are Amnesty International’s clients continued to receive heavy punishment at the hands of government forces; and against the lies told to block Nigeria from acquiring military hardware, the country successfully bought attack aircrafts that has further tipped the equation against terrorists.
Caught out in this manner, the folks at Amnesty International, possibly hard pressed for a strategy to roll back the progress recorded by the government against the terrorists it has always been sympathetic to, the NGO dug up its old style book and resorted to a worn tactic of presenting Nigeria’s military and law enforcement organizations as being tools in the hands of a government it has done everything to cast as repressive and murderous against the citizens.
A first manifestation of this was the publication of its trademark hasty report titled “Nigeria: At least 115 people killed by security forces in four months in country’s Southeast”. The story touted that ‘“The evidence gathered by Amnesty International paints a damning picture of ruthless excessive force by Nigerian security forces in Imo, Anambra and Abia states,” said Osai Ojigho, Country Director at Amnesty International.’
That report, scanty on facts and heavy on conjectures, tenuously attempted to present all those in the figures it cited as innocent. The impression it created was that member of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), a designated terrorist organization, and its militant wing, the Eastern Security Network (ESN), were innocent of the carnage they claimed responsibility for in the southeast. Perhaps Amnesty International has a database of all IPOB/ESN members against which it was able to verify the identities of the casualties from the security operations against terrorists in the region and that it was also able to crosscheck its database about the membership of the 500 persons it reported as arrested.
It used the testimony of two persons, with a mix of faceless and nameless persons thrown in, as a basis for establishing the innocence of the people that were unfortunately killed or arrested in these operations. This alone is reason to be suspicious of whatever figures Amnesty International throws around – a population sample that is statistically flawed and conclusions that are overly reliant on anecdotal reckonings that it makes no efforts to substantiate.
What should set the alarm bells tolling for any conscientious Nigeria, however, is this organization’s subtle but insidious pitching of citizens against each other by creating the impression that the terrorists, their innocent victims, and the government forces that are protecting innocent citizens from terrorists are different breeds of humans that should be accorded different level of human rights. The group overly focused on the killing and arrest of suspected terrorists while glossing over other fundamentals.
Its reports said ”Nigeria’s government has responded with a heavy hand to killings and violence widely attributed to the armed group calling itself Eastern Security Network (ESN), the armed wing of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), a pro-Biafra movement. According to government officials, the ESN killed dozens of security operatives and attacked at least ten public buildings, including prisons and police stations, from January to June. In response, security forces comprising military, police, and Department of State Services (DSS) have killed dozens of gunmen, as well as civilians, where attacks have been committed.”
Thus, Amnesty International accused the government of responding to terrorist acts “with a heavy hand” while it glossed over the fact that those killed were mostly during gunfights that ensued when they attacked security formations in the southeast. It trivialized that civilian that refused to subscribe to IPOB/ESN’s preference for violence were summarily executed by these terrorists in the goriest manner. It equally attempted to be clever by half when it admitted that “the ESN killed dozens of security operatives and attacked at least ten public buildings, including prisons and police stations, from January to June” yet was critical of the response to these crimes. Can Amnesty International name one country that would allow crimes of this magnitude against the state and citizens to be treated with kids’ gloves?
In what could possibly be the most perverted instance of revisionism recorded in the year 2021, Amnesty International flippantly dismissed the casualty on government side as “dozens of security operatives”. For the avoidance of doubt, The Brigade Commander of 34 Artillery Brigade, Obinze, Owerri, Imo State, Brig. Gen. Raymond Utsaha reported that IPOB/ESN “gunmen had killed 78 police officers, 38 army officers, five Naval officers, seven Air Force officers, 15 Nigeria Security and Civil Defence officers, 31 community policing members and over 100 innocent citizens in the five states of the South-East region since the unrest (January to the first week of June 2021).” Who should Nigeria hold responsible for these atrocities? Would the criminals, bold enough to commit these kinds of atrocities, allow themselves to be taken in without a fight or alive for that matter?
The reality, irrespective of the spin by Amnesty International, is that the more than 262 people that IPOB/ESN killed under the franchise of “unknown gunmen” were Nigerians, they had names and identities with families and loved ones that have remained in mourning. It is appalling that this so-called human rights NGO has behaved in a manner that confirms that it places terrorists above these deceased Nigerians in terms of value and the need to safeguard their lives. It is an irresponsible act of misplacing human right monitoring and reporting that the entire world should rise and condemn.
Of greater concern is the long-term damage that Amnesty international is attempting to inflict with the questionable report, as it has done in the past. Its mainstream and social media circuits have already picked up this piece of trash without interrogation and are running with it to perpetrate the fable of “a repressive government” while proxy and franchise NGOs are already keening on the report in the hope of hobbling the government to give free reign to IPOB/ESN’s desired reign of terror. A whole lot of pseudo activists, who are in the real sense opposition politicians and crises entrepreneurs, are already running all over the place as end users of Amnesty International’s poisoned chalice.
It is thus pertinent to caution those celebrating the Amnesty International’s report that there is absolute need for circumspection. The report from this organization, like many before it, is not meant to serve the interest of Nigeria. Rather, it is geared as part of a larger effort to promote chaos in the country by petrifying personnel of law enforcement agency into not being willing to fight terrorism so that terrorists can gain the upper hand and consequently achieve the breakup of Nigeria: by now it should be clear to all that Amnesty International has routed for Boko Haram/ISWAP to form an Islamic (Sharia) republic in the northeast of the country, IPOB/ESN in the southeast and who knows what else they will back in other parts of the country while exploiting ethno-sectarian schisms that were never there prior to its deep state operation in Nigeria.
Let us all agreed that Amnesty International’s human rights campaign in Nigeria is misplaced to the extent that it has deployed its work for diabolical purposes that are against the interest of Nigeria. We should tell this organization to cease and desist so that government forces can restore normalcy in our security situation.
Abiodun wrote this piece from Ibadan.