Indications emerged that the recent report by Amnesty International (AI) Nigeria indicting the military in the killings of several of its men and civilians has been a major source of worry to President Muhammadu Buhari and the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai .
The military has since rejected AI’s report on attacks.
The army accused the rights group of planning to destabilise Nigeria by claiming that 3,641 deaths were recorded in herders/farmers clashes. It called for its expulsion.
But the organisation insisted on the integrity of tis reports and dismissed the army’s position as “empty threats”.
President Muhammadu Buhari joined the fray. His opinion – AI’s operations seem to be dampening the military’s morale.
In a statement yesterday, Army spokesman Brig.-Gen. Sani Usman said AI’s attempt to destabilise the nation was noted through fabrication of fictitious allegations of alleged human rights abuses against security forces.
Gen. Usman also alleged that AI had engaged in clandestine sponsorship of dissident groups to protest against the leadership of the military against who unfounded allegations were reportedly leveled.
A coalition of Civil Society Organisations (Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, Enough is Enough, and BudgIT) have recently called for the probing of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) over the funding of the war against terrorism and other crimes in the country.
The CSOs alleged that the army had not made commensurate achievement in the fight in line with the huge fund the Federal Government allocated to it.
The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, explained that some of the allocated funds had no cash backing yet and, therefore, not at the disposal of the military.
Gen. Usman said the local branch of AI, which was hitherto well-respected, had deviated from the core values, principles and objectives of the original parent body in the United Kingdom.
The military spokesman said: “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 concocted report against the military, ostensibly against the Nigerian Army.
“Consequently, Nigerians should be wary of Amnesty International (Nigeria) because its goals are to destabilise Nigeria and to dismember it.
“The Nigerian Army has no option than to call for the closure of Amnesty International offices in Nigeria, if such recklessness continues.”
The body said there was nothing to worry over on the military’s verdict that its activities were subversive.
AI was responding to the army’s reaction to its report on the death toll recorded in the farmers/herders’ clashes in the last three years.
AI Nigeria Chairman Auwal Rafsanjani said nobody could stop the organisation from documenting and monitoring human rights violations, whether in Nigeria or elsewhere.
Speaking yesterday at the unveiling of its report “Harvest of death: three years of bloody clashes between herders and farmers”, Rafsanjani said: “Our response to the threat of the military; just like they have threatened to shut down UNICEF activities in the Northeast, I think that rather than this unnecessary hostility on issues that affect all of us as human beings, we will rather advice the military to look at the recommendations that we have provided. Threatening to shut down the operations of AI Nigeria is not the solution to the continued violence, conflicts and criminality we are seeing in Nigeria.
“We are not a threat, we are rather partners in progress, addressing the lapses of human rights violations but to come and be threatening things that you cannot even stop is a waste of time; nobody can stop AI from documenting and monitoring human rights violations, whether in Nigeria or outside the country, so this is not a threat that really worries us, it is just an empty threat.”
AI’s Country Director Osai Ojigho said the organisation want the government to live up to its responsibilities, so that if anyone commits a crime, he is arrested and dealth with.
Ojigho stated that the report showed how the government’s inaction fuelled impunity, resulting in attacks and reprisal attacks, with no fewer than 3,641 people killed between January 2016 and October 2018, 57 per cent of them in 2018 alone.
She said AI visited 56 communities in Adamawa, Benue, Kaduna, Taraba and Zamfara states affected by these clashes and conducted 262 interviews, including remotely with members of communities in Nasarawa and Plateau states.
Her words: “This report documents the violent clashes between members of farmer communities and members of herder communities in parts of Nigeria, particularly in the northern parts of the country, over access to resources: water and pasture. It also documents the failure of the Nigerian government in fulfilling its constitutional responsibility of protection of lives and property by refusing to investigate, arrest and prosecute perpetrators of attacks.
“The report shows how government’s inaction fuels impunity, resulting in attacks and reprisal attacks, with at least 3,641 people killed between January 2016 and October 2018, 57 per cent of them in 2018 alone.
“AI visited 56 communities in Adamawa, Benue, Kaduna, Taraba and Zamfara states affected by the clashes and conducted 262 interviews, including remotely with members of communities in Nasarawa and Ptateau states.”