November 7, 2020

EndSARS protests: CNG faults Amnesty International, petitions its London office

Amnesty International

By Ibrahim HassanWuyo

The Coalition of Northern Groups, CNG, has accused Amnesty International of attempts to cause disaffection between the Nigerian government and citizens.

CNG, in a letter addressed to the Amnesty International ,said Amnesty International’s intervention, exclamations and actions on issues in Nigeria ought not be drawn to discountenance the effort of government to protect citizens from violence and to impose law and order.

“Let it also be clear that while international law allows for peaceful protest, assembly and association, it at the same time, does not legitimize violence and destruction,” they said.

The letter signed by Abdulaziz Suleiman, CNG spokesperson was addressed to the  Secretary General, Amnesty International Headquarters, London, WC1, United Kingdom.

The letter ,captioned ,RE- Nigeria: Authorities must stop attempts to cover up Lekki Toll Gate massacre – new investigative timeline, reads “the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) is profoundly concerned about a purported timeline dated 28 October, 2020  generated by the office of Mr. Osai Ojigho, the Country Director of Amnesty International, bearing the above title.”

“We are thus concerned because the timeline essentially aims to legitimize the sad fallout of the clumsy and unregulated disturbances across the country that lasted and grew in dimension for about two weeks in the pretence of protesting the excesses of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a unit of the Nigeria Police Force.

Notwithstanding the availability of contrary evidence of the level of rampage and brigandage prompted by the desperation of the #EndSARS protests, the timeline released by Amnesty International claims to rely on collated photographs and video footages to conclude that:”

“Nigerian Army vehicles left Bonny Camp military base and were tracked to the Lekki toll gate, one of the major public spaces occupied for the #EndSARS protests since beginning of October.

“The “Nigerian military opened fire on the #EndSARS protesters who were “peacefully calling for an end to police brutality.”

“That Amnesty International’s Crisis Response experts investigated and verified social media videos and photographs that confirm the Nigerian security forces were present at the Lekki Toll Gate when the shootings occurred and alleges mope up by the military to cover-up its involvement.”

CNG said It is important to note that the #EndSARS protests that began early October this year, concentrating mostly in the Southern parts of Nigeria,  were preceded by other marches seeking an end to the deteriorating security situation across all sections of the northern region.

“The #EndInsecurty version of the protests, which had been going on for four months to call  government attention to issues of banditry, killings, kidnapping, rape,  insurgency and complete displacement of whole communities in many parts of the North, were universally adjudged as most civic and peaceful.”

“While the more germane demands by the #EndInsecurity protests were largely neglected, on October 11th, 2020, few days into the protests, Nigerian authorities heeded #EndSARS demand and dissolved the police unit.”

“The Inspector General of the Nigerian Police followed this up with further assurances that a team of investigators, including civil society groups and human rights organisations would be set up to investigate alleged abuses and other forms of police misconduct.”

“As if by design, the #EndSARS protests persisted and spread despite the unprecedented swift government response to their demands, until they escalated into violence in several states and the Federal Capital.”

“The carnage began on the 19th of October, with reports of a prison break in Edo,  that was linked to the protesters, followed by more reports of jailbreaking in Lagos and Ibadan with attacks and widespread arson. ”

According  to  CNG ,for several days afterwards, the carnage, assumed dangerous contours with the greater risk of degenerating into a case of the complete breakdown of law and order, which was certainly not in consonance with the objectives of peaceful protests anywhere in the world.

The group said the  first negative impact of the unnecessarily protracted nature of the EndSARS protests was on human lives that came with the gruesome attacks and killings of about 22  policemen, razing of 205 police offices and targeted vandalization of unaccounted number of private and public assets.

‘This was followed by the coordinated attacks  on northerners living as minorities across several states in Southeast Nigeria and some parts of the South-South, resulting in unaccounted number of deaths, disappearances, displacements and loss of billions of Naira in properties.

Then came the severe  impact on business activities across the country, which were so profoundly crippled that the Nigerian economy suffered an estimated Seven Hundred Billion Naira [₦700 billion] loss in the first twelve days of the protests alone.”

“The refusal of the protesters to progress to the next stage of civic engagement, which is dialogue, had also inadvertently contributed in pushing Nigeria further down investors’ pecking order as looting and destruction of properties sent danger signals, with investors assets’ security no longer guaranteed, and the country risking loss of investor-confidence.”

“The massive disruptions, blockades and barricades around our major cities and interstate highways also came at great cost to the welfare of Nigerians inflicting even more hardship on the very citizens that the protesters claimed to seek to protect.’

After a reasoned analysis of the basis of the purported Amnesty International timeline, CNG observed  among others,that by jumping to conclusions on the basis of doubtful and flimsy pieces of circumstantial evidence, Amnesty International has just made what was known as a Fundamental Attribution Error.

“While the CNG appreciates the value of citizens’ engagement and the demand for accountability, which the EndSARS protests essentially represent,   we are also convinced that at a point, they fell way  out of consonance with every democratic norms leading us to the following resolutions:”

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“We call on the Amnesty International to take measures to urgently reclaim its internationally acclaimed reputation that is fast waning in Nigeria and Africa, with the conduct of such country directors as the one in Nigeria.”

“To call on the Amnesty International to redirect its effort to the more demanding humanitarian service of securing northern Nigerian communities.”

“Finally, we use this opportunity to remind Amnesty International that its bilateral relationship with any nation, is guided by the principles of sovereignty, promotion of peace and the standards that guide legitimate interference.

In this regard, Amnesty International’s intervention, exclamations and actions on issues in Nigeria ought not be drawn to discountenance the effort of government to protect citizens from violence and to impose law and order.

Let it also be clear that while international law allows for peaceful protest, assembly and association, it at the same time, does not legitimize violence and destruction.”

“Amnesty International should understand that there are clear provisions in Nigeria as there are in international law and other international conventions and treaties on the legality of restricting violent assembly, and on enforcing the law to protect the right of others, to ensure national security, and to guarantee public safety and public order.”

“It is also important that Amnesty International and our friends in the international community understand what a distabilised Nigeria will mean to the entire sub-Saharan region.

As the most populous country on the continent and one that continuous to influence peace and stability across the sub-continent, any breakdown of law and order will further make dangerous the situation in the region, and escalate the humanitarian situation in terms of regional security, international cohesion, migration and other challenges that will affect Africa and beyond.,” they wrote.