By Abiodun Israel
A few days ago, the Nigerian Army headquarters drew the attention of the country and the international community to the sustained efforts of some foreign agencies like Amnesty International (AI) to destroy its reputation.
It said the international organization is planning the release of another damning report on the army.
The report turned out to not just target that institution but also aimed for the nation’s jugular by seeking to undermine institutions that exist to protect its integrity.
A statement by the Acting Director Army Public Relations, Col. Sani Kukasheka Usman disclosed the intention of AI to soon release a report with contents that falsely label Nigerian soldiers as mass murderers of defenceless IPOB/MASSOB protesters in the South-eastern part of the country.
We are increasingly concerned about the obviously unhealthy manner AI is dabbling negatively and frequently into the internal security affairs of Nigeria, with a pattern that portrays it as desperate to weaken and destroy the Nigerian Army and Nigeria. We have pointed it out severally on this medium the inaccuracy of AI’s many reports which do not hide the intent to persecute the Nigerian Army.
For example, a report by the organization mid this year, which accused soldiers of abuse or violations of human rights in its detention facilities in the Northeast where the army is battling insurgency, turned out to be patently false. Groups like Coalition of Civil Society Groups (COCSG), led by its President, Mr. Etuk Williams later proved the report as false and only a scheme by AI to dampen the spirit of soldiers in prosecuting the anti-terror war.
We find it necessary to restate that Nigerians cannot quantify the relief gotten for the country by the Nigerian Army through its successful suppression of insurrections. Those who have devoted time to closely monitor happenings in Nigeria would have no difficulty understanding the recklessness with which some aggrieved groups take to the streets to violently vent their anger.
The involvement of the Nigerian army in violent internal crises through its constitutional mandates of observing its Military Aid to Civil Authority (MACA) and Military Aid to Civil Powers (MACP) has saved Nigeria a lot of troubles, to describe it mildly. No one is in doubt about the fact that dissidents groups all over the country are armed to the teeth and that people delight more in violence than peaceful or amicable resolution of differences.
There are not just many, but frequent instances where whole communities or regions are held to ransom by armed criminal gangs within Nigeria. These gangs often display weapons and the sophistry most times make mockery of civil- orientated security agents like the police that has core mandate to tame such uprisings. It necessitates government’s deployment of soldiers.
At this point, it means the protesters, criminal gangs, separatists or dissident groups have launched a mini-war on peaceful citizens and the country. This scenario does not beg for levity in its handling by soldiers.
We refer and draw attention to the sophistication of weapons in the possession of Boko Haram Terrorists, in the Northeast or armed bandits and cattle rustlers in the Northwest, Niger Delta militants in the South -South and secession agitators such as IPOB in the Southeast. These AI’s civil protestors or rebels freely use these weapons even against security agents in the guise of protests or rebellion to draw attention to their perceived grievances.
We hasten to say, Nigeria has experienced unjustified deaths of its security personnel in the hands of these hoodlums who personify violence not just to the security agents, but also to the communities where they operate.
We are therefore saddened by the continuous and consistent vilification of the Nigerian Army by AI, a foreign organization we suspect has links with forces bent on destabilizing Nigeria.
Consequently, the alarm by the Nigerian Army Headquarters about AI’s planned release of a report it obviously cooked on alleged mass killings of MASSOB/IPOB defenseless protesters by “the military between August 2015 and August 2016,” is highly deplorable and balderdash. How the AI arrived at its casualty figures and the conclusion that IPOB members were defenceless is what beats the imagination.
It is logical that a civil protest which does not become uncontrollably violent does require the intervention of soldiers, but left to the Nigeria Police, the Civil Defence Corps and other arms of civil security. In the IPOB incident AI has purportedly prepared its tainted report, this sect of secession agitators are famed for their cruelty and acts of violence in a manner that threatens or poses grave danger to Nigeria’s internal security. No part of the Southeast has not tasted their bitter pill and in agonizing doses.
The army submitted that “ Security agencies are always targeted for attack by the MASSOB/IPOB instruments of barbarism and cruelty. For instance, in the protests of 30 – 31 May 2016, more than 5 personnel of the Nigeria Police were killed, while several soldiers were wounded, Nigeria Police vehicles were burnt down same as several others of the Nigerian Army that were vandalized.”
Can Amnesty International explain to the whole world how a group capable of summary execution of armed security agents on lawful duty, commit acts of arson on security vehicles would be unarmed or performed such acts with bare hands?
The tendency of IPOB Biafran agitators to propagate hate campaigns in the Southeast, kill and burn people from the settler communities, who are from other parts of Nigeria is widespread and disarmingly consistent.
“Such reign of hate, terror and ethno-religious controversies that portend grave consequences for national security have been averted severally through the responsiveness of the Nigerian Army and members of the security agencies,” the Army had noted.
It is in this light that we identify with the submissions of the Nigerian Army in sighting more the sinister motive of AI in dabbling into Nigeria’s internal affairs for reasons for ruination of the country rather than attempts to right perceived wrongs. In executing this suspicious paid job, Amnesty International turns a blind eye to objectivity, fairness and simple logic.
In the not too distant past, Nigerians have not only condemned such reports from AI, but called on the FGN to initiate moves for the investigation and possible prosecution of Amnesty International at the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the Hague before it fully executes its plot to ruin Nigerian Army and embolden dissidents groups against Nigeria.
It is instructive to remind that aside the existence of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) which probes issues of human rights abuses, the Nigerian Army under the COAS Gen. Yusuf Buratai has returned the army on its path of professionalism and respect for human rights in their engagement with the civil populace.
To appropriately address occasional wrongs, Buratai has also opened up a Human Rights Desk at the Army Headquarters in Abuja to receive and probe such complaints from the public. But the Nigerian Army has not received such petition from the IPOB members AI is set to promote with allegations of mass murder. It is now imperative for these groups and most especially the Federal Government of Nigeria to initiate moves to probe activities of AI at ICC. We believe the time to act is NOW.
Abiodun writes from UI, Ibadan, Oyo State.