Amnesty International has said the Nigerian military is increasingly resorting to threats, intimidation and smear campaigns in a bid to discredit its work documenting the human rights violations committed by officers and men.
This was contained in a statement issued on Thursday by Isa Sanusi, Media Manager, Amnesty International Nigeria.
AI recalled that after release of its latest report, “They Betrayed Us”, which documented the prevalence of sexual violence against starving women and girls detained in satellite camps under the control of Nigerian soldiers and militia, the military has been organizing smear campaigns and issuing threats to “take action”
The statement quoted Osai Ojigho, Director of Amnesty International Nigeria, as saying “Rather than taking action to address the issues raised in this report, like investigating countless allegations of rape and other war crimes, the Nigerian military has fallen back on its usual hostile tactics of denials and threats”.
“Amnesty 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.”
AI, however, described the decision of the Senate to probe allegations raised in “They Betrayed Us” as a welcome development, and a sign of hope for victims seeking justice.
It added: “Amnesty International’s work in Nigeria goes far beyond documenting violations by the military. The organization has also released reports on the multiple horrific abuses carried out by the armed group Boko Haram, and human rights violations by the Nigeria Police Force.
“Researchers have also documented violent forced evictions by Lagos state government, and worked with communities facing forced evictions in Kaduna state and in the Federal Capital Territory, in both cases supporting the right to adequate housing. The organization has also highlighted ongoing pollution by oil companies in the Niger Delta, and for decades has been calling for accountability for the resulting environmental devastation.
“According to standard practice, all Amnesty International’s 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, in 20 March 2017, sponsored protesters carrying a coffin invaded Amnesty International’s office in Abuja chanting slogans against the organization like “Amnesty International supports Boko Haram,” and “You are demonic, leave Nigeria now.”
“The protesters, some of whom were internally displaced persons from camps outside Abuja, said they were paid N1400 every day by agents of the sponsors of the protest, who they met at Unity Fountain, Abuja.”
On military’s response to the report, Ojigho stated: “These diversionary tactics are a shameless attempt to avoid investigating the accounts of human rights violations which have been presented by Amnesty. The statements by the Nigerian military clearly show that they have not read our reports”.
“For 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.
“Despite the military’s best efforts, we will not stay silent. In the face of efforts to evade responsibility or to smear our organization, 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.”