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Amnesty International to Military: Threats won’t deter us from defending human rights

AMNESTY International (AI) says it will not be deterred by the increasing threats, intimidation and smear campaigns by the Nigerian Army, aimed at discrediting the group’s activities.

According to Osai Ojigho, AI’s Country Director in Nigeria, instead of investigating reports of human rights violations by its personnel, the Nigerian Military would rather resort to issuing threats and sponsoring protests against the group.

Citing an example with the recent report published by AI, which documented incidences of sexual abuses by soldiers on women and girls in displaced persons’ camps across the country, Ojigho said security authorities were contacted while the report was being compiled, but they refused to comment.

“Amnesty International always shares the findings of its investigations with the Nigerian military before publication,” Ojigho said.

“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.”

However, when the report was eventually published on 24 May 2018, “rather than taking action to address the issues raised … the Nigerian military has fallen back on its usual hostile tactics of denials and threats,” Ojigho said in a statement on Thursday.

Ojigho also recalled that in 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.

“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,” Ojigho said.

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