INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON HUMAN RIGHTS AND ARMED CONFLICTS IN NIGERIA
The Global Amnesty Watch in conjunction with the Institute for African Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka co-hosted the International Conference on Terrorism at the International Conference Centre Abuja on Monday May 28, 2018.
Participants were drawn from across the world with a large representation of Nigerians that work in conflict mitigation and resolution, human rights activists, legal and security experts, civil society organizations and others.
Local and international speakers at the conference include David Falt, Global President, Global Amnesty Watch, Professor Pita Ogaba Agbese, University of Northern IOWA, [USA]; Mary Johnson, Human Rights Lawyer, [USA]; Dr Malfouz A Adedimeji former Director, Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Ilorin Kwara State; Mr. Stuart McGhie, Senior, Expert/Practitioner in Humanitarian Law, London; Professor Emmanuel O. Ezeani of the Conflict Resolution and Peace Building Unit, Institute of African Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State, Dr. Udenta O. Udenta as Conference Moderator and a host of other Speakers who sent in their papers.
Participants and resource persons evaluated Nigeria’s war on terrorism in the three years from 2015 till date, the period the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has been in office.
Participants at the conference observed that:
The war against terrorism made progress in the three years under review during which senior commanders of the terror group have been killed arrested or surrendered; remnants of the group have resorted to sporadic cross border raids – they launch attacks from neighboring Niger, Chad and Cameroon as well as retreat back to these places once the Nigerian military is in pursuit. It is regrettable that there has been a stall in the efforts to totally eradicate Boko Haram insurgents owing to several external interferences. These interferences include strategic support for the terrorists by international NGOs like Amnesty International and other groups representing its interests in Nigeria and the failure of Nigeria’s neighbors to honor international and regional commitments.
The support from these NGOs has ensured that Boko Haram continues to get sympathy to use as propaganda for recruiting and radicalizing new members and continue to attempt occasional attacks on soft targets. It has in this regard moved from using hardened fighters to deploying underage girls that are able to evade security scrutiny to carry out attacks.
Other terrorist, extremist and militant groups like the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPoB), Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), and the Niger Delta Avengers have at some point during the period under review attempted to attract the kind of backing Amnesty International is giving Boko Haram. The robust response from the Nigerian Army ensure that these groups were contained and not allowed to grow into the scale of threat that Boko Haram became.
The civil police have within the reference period largely abandoned its jurisdiction in the northeast and other trouble spot in the country for the military to assume jurisdiction even when this is not in consonance with the laws. This growing practice of burdening the military with civil policing is a drain on resources needed to conclusively prosecute the war on terrorism.
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are being exploited as pawns by blackmailing the Federal Government and the military. Some people are being sent to infiltrate the camps and impersonate IDPs to grant interviews that are used by dubious international organizations as bases for issuing fictitious reports. Such reports are targeted at presenting authorities as the ones exploiting the displaced people.
The condition, status, treatment and fate of interned Boko Haram suspects at the various military holding facilities have proven controversial. Some right groups, especially ones without the requisite grasp of the situation, have campaigned for the suspects to be freed unconditionally without profiling or rehabilitation, citing conditions at the facilities as reason, even in the face of the high risk of recidivism.
Relative to other countries, the budget for security in Nigeria remains low relative to the needs of the country. The limited funding has meant logistics and equipment challenges that have prevented the military from scaling up efforts at home grown solutions to providing needed equipment and hardware for the war on terrorism.
In reaction to the backlash from Nigerians against their interference, Amnesty International and its collaborators adopted a strategy of using other organizations to front for them. The group for some time routed its false report through UNICEF, which in turn got other groups to form Protection From Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA) Nigeria that was used to create a doctored sex abuse dossier. These platforms go to extra length to compromise media representatives so that their own misleading accounts of events get traction with the publics.
The Federal Government has largely refrained from activating the international responses at its disposal to counter these dangerous international NGOs and the client states they are operating for. This has left the war on terrorism largely in the hands of the Nigerian Army, which does not have the mandate to engage these groups internationally, even as they continue to empower Boko Haram and other groups.
The International Criminal Court is constantly used to harass and intimidate military commanders and troops to discourage them from being committed to defeating Boko Haram. The myriads of false reports from Amnesty International and other groups usually have built in texts that threaten military personnel with arraignment for war crimes and crimes against humanity before the International Criminal Court. It was noted that South Africa, Burundi, Kenya and the Gambia are countries that have taken different steps towards exiting the court created by the Rome Statute because of its confirmed selective justice and usage as a tool for modern day colonialism.
There are other reports from groups that are genuinely committed to the end of terrorism in Nigeria. Their reports are not given prominence as much as the damaging reports from Amnesty International, UNICEF and groups that have huge PR budgets to push their narratives. The government is yet to take active steps in adopting the reports of such pragmatic groups in reviewing and fashioning further responses to fighting terrorism.
The conference resolved to:
Commend the Commander-in- Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, the Nigerian Army, the entire Armed Forces for the dedication that has led to Boko Haram being degraded to its present state. It however desire to see the terror group dealt the final blow that will make it history.
Urge the Federal Government to increase support to the military in the areas of increased funding and escalation of diplomatic support to counter the effects that groups like Amnesty International have on the war on terrorism and coercing Niger, Chad and Cameroon to do more in degrading the terror group within their own borders.
Demand that the Federal Government immediately activate the necessary steps for Nigeria to exit the Rome Statute and its creation, the International Criminal Court, to ensure that the military can fight terrorism without the cloak of blackmail constantly hanging over them. The Government must in the interim assure the military that it is insulated from the International Criminal Court in view of its operations meeting international standard of rules of engagement.
Demand that the Federal Government expels Amnesty International and any other organization that undermines the war of terrorism from Nigeria; the expulsion is without prejudice to any actions brought against staff of these organizations under the anti-terrorism laws of the land.
Request that the Federal and State Governments shut down the IDPs Camps since Boko Haram no longer occupies the communities from where the IDPs were displaced; the ability of the terrorists to attack soft targets would be neutralized once returnees adopt community policing approach to pass intelligence onto the police and military authorities.
Request that the civil police, Nigerian Police Force re-assume jurisdiction in the north east except for localities where soldiers still have needs to engage remnant of Boko Haram terrorists. This will allow the military to focus on flushing out whatever is left of the terror group and remove its capacity to attack soft targets.
Recommend that the government adopt the report of groups other than destructive international NGOs in reviewing the prosecution of the war on terrorism.
SPECIAL TASK TEAM
Participants set up a special task team to review and respond to any report emanating from Amnesty International, UNICEF and or their associates. The task team is to help citizens understand when they are being willfully misled by these entities. The task team is made up of representatives from the CSOs that attended the conference.
Participants expressed appreciation to the Global Amnesty Watch and the Institute for African Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka for providing a neutral platform to review the war on terrorism in a context that allowed them to brainstorm on a home-grown approach to monitoring how the operation is being executed. They thanked the resource persons for the refreshed views and context they brought to Nigeria’s war on terror that had hitherto been reduced to an issue to be perceived from an imperialistic colonial viewpoint.
It was agreed a future review should take place in another one year when some of the recommendations from the 2018 Conference would have been implemented. Proceedings of the conference are to be communicated to the Federal Government, Presidency, the Service Chiefs and supra national organizations in the country.
Dr. Mutiullah Olasupo
Chairman, Communique Drafting Committee
Barr Maxwell Gowon
Secretary, Communique Drafting Committee