By: Sheperd Akoto
Has Amnesty International found its match in Nigeria in the course of globally implementing a destabilization agenda in non-western countries? It is best that the London based NGO does not wait to find out or attempt to answer the question.
Amnesty International, AI for short, has been at the receiving end of a modify version of the trolling it is in the habit of dishing out to governments and entities it had accused of human rights violation in the past. The organization has been at the receiving end of harsh news conferences that chronicled its famed divisive activities. Its offices in Nigeria have become the target of occupation by angry groups that are demanding that it closes shop and leave Nigeria.
Not only are the protests larger than what one would describe as ragtag, they have also showed unusual staying power while calling for more Nigerians to join their ranks to overwhelm AI. Possibly sensing the shoe is now on the other foot, the NGO apparently recruited one of its allies, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) to demand that President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo “urgently instruct appropriate authorities to promptly and thoroughly investigate apparently sponsored and coordinated attacks against Amnesty International Office in Nigeria, and ensure the safety and security of its staff.”
This will suggest that even while under pressure, Amnesty International and its proxy in Nigeria continue to remain in denial of the negative roles they have played in matters affecting the stability of Nigeria. It also shows an arrogance of foreign occupiers and their privileged lackeys who cannot conceive of human rights groups that would voluntarily act without being induced or tele-guided. The perception they have of the protesting groups speaks volumes of what must have been the driving forces behind its reports and activities that the protesters find vexatious. This attitude and the bundled demands that accompanied it raise a few questions.
As delivered by SERAP, wouldn’t the demand for the protestors to be investigated by the appropriate authorities amount to stifling the freedom of expression and the right to freely associate? Probing protestors, assuming they were actually sponsored would amount to intimidation, at least going by templates earlier set by Amnesty International in other instances and other contexts. Where the government complies, how many months or even weeks would pass before this same people covertly sending SOS would turn around to author a report about how the government of Nigeria deployed its agencies to frighten innocent protestors?
It might not have been said in clear terms but this agent clearly expected that the security agencies would be deployed to disperse those occupying the offices of Amnesty International, which is a frightening prospect. How do the security agencies dispel the intruders without infringing on their rights? Knowing the vehemence with which these groups have vowed not to leave the occupied premises it would be helpful if AI or its affiliates can suggest ways of ejecting them without brutalizing them since the security operatives would not want to end up before the International Criminal Court, ICC.
The groups demanding AI’s exit from Nigeria must however not ride on these bad precedence instituted by the NGO to take matters into their own hands as that is not who Nigerians are. Even as several groups had articulated what they termed worrisome activities of that organization and its Nigeria partners, there is no point for new people to join the ranks of Boko Haram quality of dissention.
To the Nigerian government, the demand on behalf of AI cannot be wished away same as the accusations against the group must also be treated as grievous enough not to be discarded . This is especially so in the light of seeming concrete instances of how that organization’s actions have impacted other countries – and in all instances for the worse.
On its part, Amnesty International must reassess its position. How much of the claims being made about it are on point? What roles has it played in the instability plaguing several of the troubled countries in the world and what are its intentions in Nigeria? It must reassess its standing not just in the eyes of its Nigerian partners who may not be willing to give it the correct assessment in order not to lose their inflow of foreign currency that would give them financial security.
It is on this note that AI should give serious consideration to temporally shuttering its activities in the interest of the safety of its staffers and the protestors. If harm should come the way of its staffers its years of advocacy would not avail the development where those responsible would get the deserving stiff sentences. Where they do get punished it would have further hurt Amnesty International’s credibility as having double standards – one for when it is being the human rights organization and another for when it is on the receiving end. It can also not expect a clampdown on protestors as this would also deal a blow to its credibility and standing.
In the period that its activities would remain shuttered in Nigeria, the NGO must reassess its past conducts in Nigeria and other non-western countries with a view to identifying where it went wrong. It would also be a good time for it to fine tune its templates to ensure that when it does returns to operating in Nigeria it would not again experience the infamy of the current animosity it might have created for itself by allegedly threatening the stability of the very country in which it claims it was trying to uphold the observance of human rights.
Akoto, a civil rights activist sent in this piece from Iyana Ipaja, Lagos.