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‘It’s just an empty threat’: Amnesty International says Army can’t stop its work in Nigeria

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AMNESTY International (AI) says it cannot be deterred by the “empty threat” of the Nigerian Army, calling on the military to rather study its report so as to address the problems highlighted in it.

Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, chair of AI Nigeria, said this on Monday while responding to questions at the launch of its latest report, “Harvest of Death: Three Years of Bloody Clashes Between Farmers and Herders in Nigeria”, in Abuja.

Describing the threat as “unnecessary hostility on issues that affect all of us as human beings”, he said the organisation will not be joining issues with the military and will rather advise them to note the recommendations in its report and tackle the challenges.

“This threat to shut down Amnesty International is not the solution to violent conflicts and everything we are seeing in Nigeria,” the AI boss said.

“What Amnesty is really saying is that they have a duty and responsibility as enshrined in our laws and constitution to protect the lives and properties of Nigerians, and their failure to do that is not acceptable because they are supposed to be helping to protect the lives and properties of the citizens of Nigeria.

“So we are not joining any issue with anybody. We are not agents of destruction. We are not a politically motivated organisation. We are purely a human rights organisation, which in so many instances, even some of the security agents are victims of human rights [abuses], only for them to come out and start looking for Amnesty International to speak about their issue.”

Rafsanjani also said everyone is prone to having their human rights violated at one point or the other, adding that it is crucial for there to be a voice like AI that can speak on behalf of the voiceless. He said the threat “is not the solution to the negligence or tardy response to issues of human rights and providing safety and security for Nigerians.

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“Like we have said, a lot of government officials at the state, local and national level have failed to take proactive measures. Nobody is responding in a timely manner… We are saying that please can you engage in more proactive dialogue and put structures in place that will ensure that we prevent the conflict before it happens,” he added.

“We are not just interested in reporting all these things. We are just quoting this because we want them to take action. This is our response to the army: We are not a threat, we are rather partners in progress because we don’t want this violence to continue. If you are sincere and you are actually protecting the citizens, you should use these findings to see how you can improve the work you are doing.

“You should be bold enough to address those lapses, but to come and be threatening a group that you cannot even stop is not supposed to be. Government cannot stop Amnesty International from documenting and monitoring human rights violations whether in Nigeria or outside Nigeria. So … it is just an empty threat.”

Sani Usman, Army spokesperson, had released a statement earlier on Monday accusing AI of working hard to destabilise the country by using fictitious allegations about rights abuses, and threatening to close the group’s offices “if such recklessness continues”.

“They have tried over the years using Boko Haram terrorist’s 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,” he said.

On Friday, the Nigerian Army had announced a three-month ban on the activities of the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) in the North East, accusing the organisation of spying on military formations and sabotaging its war against terrorism. It, however, lifted the ban after some hours.

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'Kunle works with The ICIR as an investigative reporter and fact-checker. You can shoot him an email via [email protected] or, if you're feeling particularly generous, follow him on Twitter @KunleBajo.

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