By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
Coalition of Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, in Africa, Thursday, condemned attacks on Amnesty International in Nigeria.
The condemnation was made in a statement signed by leaders of 50 CSOs including Community of Practice Against Mass Atrocities; Global Rights; Witness; Centre for Community Excellence; Srarina Initiative for Peace Justice and Development; Alliances for Africa; Sesor Empowerment Foundation; Tap Initiative; Women Crisis Centre; Kebetkache Women Development And Resource Centre; Benue We Deserve; Bwaatiye Community DA; Zinariya, Dinidari Foundation; Concerned Nigeria Group.
Others are Connected Development; Sterling Centre for Law Development; Mojirayo Ogunlana Nkanga Foundation; Centre For Liberty; Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution; Lex Initiative for Rights Advocacy and Development; Raising New Voices Initiative; Haly Hope Foundation; Access to Justice; Education as a Vaccine; Dorothy Njemanze Foundation; FEMBUD; TechHerNG; Dataphyte; The Interactive Initiative for Social Impact; Pitch Nigeria; Invictus Africa; Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC); Nigeria Feminist Forum; Gatefield; House of Justice; Molluma Medico-Legal Centre; Girl Child Enlightenment and Intervention Centre; Enough is Enough Nigeria.
Butterfly Effect Empowerment Initiative; Youth Concerns Development Foundation – Africa; Imo Peoples Action for Democracy; OnlineHubNG; Initiative for Social Development in Africa; Foundation for Environmental Rights, Advocacy and Development; Mowalek Centre for Sustainable Community Development; We The People; International Refugee Rights Initiative, Uganda; Lets Help Humanitarian Foundation; and African Women’s Development and Communications Network (FEMNET).
The statement decried threats to citizens and civil society organizations who dared to demand good governance through the #EndSARS movement, or sought to amplify their voices.
The statement reads in part, “The Community of Practice Against Mass Atrocities and a coalition of other civil society organizations across Africa signed below, condemn in the strongest terms, the renewed attacks on Nigeria’s civic space, and in particular, on Amnesty International’s Nigeria staff and offices.
“We have observed with dismay recent events in Nigeria’s civic space, in particular threats to citizens and civil society organizations who dared to demand good governance through the #EndSARS movement, or sought to amplify their voices.
“Through the course of the protests, and in its unfortunate aftermath, we note with concern, negative roles played by both state actors, and non-state actors with the apparent acquiescence of the state.
“We are particularly concerned about the regular threats and attacks on Amnesty International’s Nigeria Office and staff for their work exposing human rights violations within the country.
Rather than treat them as partners in ensuring an orderly, democratic society built on the ethos of the protection of the rights and dignity of all citizens, the government and nameless groups clearly enjoying the protection of the government and its agencies, have sought to attack the organization and its staff through a sustained campaign of intimidation.
“We remind the Nigerian government that the Constitution mandates that their primary purpose is to ensure the security and welfare of all citizens; and that their security and welfare cannot be fulfilled where their human rights are violated.
“In a democracy, citizens must always be able to express dissenting opinions and demand accountability of those that they employ through the ballot, and through the institutions of the state. The government must ensure that they by no means shrink the very space that brought them to power, and fosters the sovereignty of its employers – citizens.”
The coalition also pointed out that Peaceful #EndSARS protesters were attacked by violent counter-protest groups with the support of persons who had access to tools of the state; Violent attacks on security agents and state assets by assailants who appear to enjoy the protection of state assets; Extrajudicial killings and brutality by the state on peaceful protesters, in particular, the attack on unarmed and peaceful protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate Lagos on October 20, 2020; The failure of the government to acknowledge its role in the breakdown of law and order in the aftermath of the #EndSARS protests; The clampdown on supporters of the #EndSARS protesters through an extrajudicial “No-fly list” and the freezing of their personal and corporate bank accounts; An orchestrated campaign to tarnish digital expression in order to find an excuse to shut down social media in Nigeria;
Intimidation of and attacks on the media in order to induce further self-censorship and uncritical regime support; The failure of the government to arrest and prosecute persons and groups who in the public forum including press conferences threatened to inflict violence on human rights advocates, #EndSARS protesters, and their supporters; and to instigate ‘civil disobedience.
“For example A group, which self-identified as ‘Abuja Indigenous People’, which on October 19, 2020, threatened to attack #EndSARS protesters at the nation’s capital; The Centre for Africa Liberation and Socio-Economic Rights (CALSER) led by a “Princess Ajibola”, which on November 4, 2020, threatened to attack Amnesty International’s offices and staff in Nigeria for their unbiased documentation of the attack on peaceful protesters at Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos, and issuing them a 7 days ultimatum to leave the country. Specifically, the group stated that “Amnesty International’s offices and those of all its affiliated organisations and known supporters in Nigeria will be set upon the same way that “its agents destroyed critical assets in the country”, it alleged.
However, the coalition made a 4-point demand which they said the government should look into and act appropriately.
“We, therefore, ask the Nigerian government:
- To ensure the security and welfare of all, and to ensure that the rights and dignity of all citizens, including those who demand accountability and have dissenting opinions, are protected at all times
- Investigate and prosecute the threats to the staff and facilities of Amnesty International in Nigeria; and in addition, preempt the threat of attack by providing them with adequate security.
- Immediately remove the unlawful no-Fly list designed to deny the constitutionally protected right of freedom of movement of persons whom the government chooses to link to the #EndSARS protests and to remove the transaction embargo on the accounts frozen.
- Ensure that it investigates and prosecutes all persons who participated in the attacks against security personnel, state assets, and peaceful protesters in the context of the #EndSARS protests.
“We remind the government that its aforesaid actions, inactions, and continued abuse of the human and constitutionally guaranteed rights do not foster constitutional stability, or democracy for Nigeria, or Africa at large.”