Amnesty International maintains impartial stance, ignores media allegations of human rights abuse

THE Director of Amnesty International, Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, has declared that the organisation is impartial, and not politically controlled by the Nigerian government.

This was in response to a question asked by The ICIR regarding a report published by a newsletter, West Africa Weekly about the secret alliance between Amnesty International Nigeria (AIN) and the Department of State Services (DSS).

Ojigho acknowledged the report – done by the Editor of the newsletter, David Hundeyin, and an investigation by The ICIR – during a panel session of the Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum (DRIF) 2022 at Radisson Blu Hotel, Ikeja, Lagos, on April 28, 2022.


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She maintained that the global human rights body publishes its numerous report without fear and favour, taking into cognisance human rights principles.

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Ojigho said, “Amnesty International is an impartial organisation. We are non-political and do not support any particular regulatory arm. We do our report without fear and favour. What that means is that whatever position we take is based on human rights principles. We recognise the work we do and that some people might disagree with our approach, but we always explain the methodology of the research that we do and also how we carry out those activities.”

She explained that Amnesty International had been specifically targeted by both the Federal Government and the Nigerian military for its laser-sharp reports, which she said had continued to expose governmental ills.

She added, “During the #EndSARS protest, there were various attempts at demeaning us, calling us all kinds of names, like supporters of Boko Haram. But we stood still because we realised that the work we are doing is very important. This has come at a very great cost to myself and colleagues who do the tireless work. We are less than 20, covering the entire country and you can imagine the amount of work and the pressure that we go through in covering several human rights situations as they occur.

“We do this with the conviction that it is about humanity. But it is within the confines and the rules and regulations of an international organisation like Amnesty International, which is present in many countries. At times, it may not be very clear to people, but we do it with the recognition that the work we do is that everyone gets a fair chance, and that we also get a fair chance.”

In the investigative report published by The ICIR, the Executive Director, Citizens Advocacy for Social and Economic Rights, expressed disappointment at the state of human rights observation and enforcement in Nigeria and blamed Ojigho’s management style at AIN.

A screenshot of the public statement by AIN that was almost revoked.
A screenshot of the public statement by AIN that was almost revoked.

“It is more worrisome to me that the Director of Amnesty International, Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, is more eager to find justifications for neither responding nor interfering in the grave but trending human rights issues of serious national concerns in Nigeria, on the grounds that such issues are outside the set thematic areas of Amnesty International for 2018,” he wrote in a letter.

Similarly, human rights activist, Omoyele Sowore, in a tweet, asked Amnesty International to close down its Nigerian office for hobnobbing with what he called the country’s prime violator of human rights, the Department of State Services (DSS).

“After taking over @AmnestyNigeria and with its cells filled with innocent victims, Nigeria’s prime violator of human rights, the DSS, seeks better relationship with CSOs (civil society organisations). @amnesty ought to close down its Nigerian office at this point. #WeCantContinueLikeThis,” his tweet read.

At the same panel discussion, a Deputy Director at Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, (SERAP), Kolawole Oluwadare, revealed that the organisation had 37 lawsuits against different tiers of government.




     

     

    Oluwadare revealed that the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) was empowered by section 174 of Nigeria’s constitution power to discontinue at any stage the judgment to be delivered regarding any criminal proceedings in the public interest.

    He said, “You may not know what that means until it is done to you. That means that if the judgment is tomorrow for any criminal case that has gone on for 10 years, the AGF can come up today, take up their case, discontinue it and no one can challenge him. Lawyers have tried to challenge what public interest means, though the constitution says he can exercise that power in public interest. That is how powerful strategic litigation is, and that is what SERAP does.

    “Twitter ban, for example, we were able to get an injunction from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) court that stopped the Federal Government. If you remember, the Attorney General came out to say anyone found using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) would be arrested. While we were challenging the ban for being unlawful, you said anyone that uses VPN to access Twitter would be jailed. The court granted an interim injunction stopping the AGF from going on with his agenda. This is why it is called strategic litigation – to challenge vital areas of law.”

    He noted that the cases against the government were still too few. However, he stressed the importance of making use of the judiciary to determine rights between individuals, arms and tiers of government, and between government and the citizens to get justice.

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