November 11, 2020

Securing Amnesty International is government’s responsibility – UN

Amnesty International

…Nigeria is in denial- Akinterinwa

The United Nations has charged the government of Nigeria with the responsibility of securing Amnesty International in the country, following threats issued to the body by a little known nongovernmental organisation, NGO, last week.

Recall that the NGO, Centre for Africa Liberation and Socio-Economic Rights, had issued Amnesty International a quit notice, promising dire consequences for non compliance.

As the 7 day deadline lapses, various civil society groups have expressed deep concern over the matter, particularly in the context of the present fragility of the security framework throughout the country exacerbated by widespread brigandage following the alleged attacks on peaceful ENDSARS  protesters by  soldiers at the Lekki toll plaza last month.

Speaking through its Country Director Ronald Kayanja, the United Nations told Vanguard that the only authority empowered to expel an NGO was the government, adding that the Nigerian government has never done that.

“People talk and I hear there was an NGO trying to expel Amnesty International from Nigeria but for me, what I was concerned about was government.  The UN was formed to ensure international peace and security so if there is anything that is trying to threaten peace around the world, the UN will be interested

“That is why you hear we have peace keeping operations in Mali and Central African Republic. That is the reason for our existence”.

Kayanja said protecting Amnesty International is the responsibility of the government of Nigeria, which has institutions and the capacity to deal with things like that.

International human rights lawyer, Kola Alapinni  corroborated this,  telling Vanguard that an attack on Amnesty International in Nigeria would be going too far.

“I can assure you that the government of Nigeria is perfectly capable of ensuring the safety of the staff of Amnesty International. They are also capable of ensuring there is no endangering of the lives of the staff. The Nigerian government would never stand aside and allow this to occur. The security forces are capable of preventing this. As a matter of fact I would have expected the security forces and responsible government agencies to have invited the conveners of such groups for questioning by now. That is where the attention of the press should be directed. What is government doing about this?”

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As counsel to Omar Farouk, the 13 year old boy convicted and jailed in Northwestern Nigeria for using foul language about Allah, Alapinni who has been on the forefront of fighting against human rights abuses especially in the northern part of the country said Amnesty International has always been vocal against various human rights abuses springing up sporadically up North.

“They have issued statements, they have been at the forefront of pushing things to the international media and letting them know of the gradual erosion of fundamental human rights by constant violations which is growing at an alarming rate”, he added. He said while there is  no evidence that the government is in consonance with them,  it is lamentable that the latter has not issued any statements denouncing what they said.

“It is unfortunate that a civil society organization would be issuing threats. I don’t understand this current trend. The government ought to react, assuring Amnesty  International of their safety and their welcome in Nigeria. I don’t think it is in the place of any CSO to issue such against a human rights organization.

Asked whether it is within the purview of Amnesty as an international organization to interfere in security matters within a sovereign state, Alapinni responded, “that is what international human rights organizations do. Even the UN does that and many other groups as well so I don’t understand the singling out of Amnesty. That is what we need, the vigilance of civil society both domestically and internationally. It has no basis in law. They are an international advocacy group and they are well within their right to draw the attention of the world to all these violations. I don’t see where they have gone wrong”.

Nigeria is in denial- Akinterinwa

Professor of International Affairs and a former director general of the National Institute for International Affairs,  NIIA, Bola Akinterinwa said there is the principle of freedom of association in a democracy.

“When we talk of Amnesty International, the internationalization cannot be ignored.  Citizens of Nigeria are members of Amnesty International. The implication is that if an authority comes out to say they should be sent away, what of the members who are Nigerians? Those calling for their expulsion are missing the point.  It’s like saying a Nigerian by the principle of blood descent as provided for in the constitution should be deported from the country.  A judge cannot sit in the court and be giving the ruling of a death sentence to a suicide bomber “.

He said Nigerians are living in self denial, while citing a BBC report where the journalist said they saw someone on the floor at the Lekki tollgate shooting, though not as a result of shooting.

“Whether it was the shooting that affected the victim we would not know but there was casualty.  They are asking Amnesty to go out of Nigeria in the belief that they are interfering.  The Nigerian military first denied, then said they were invited by Sanwoolu of Lagos.  Now they shot blank bullets.  To do what? conflicting statements.  You now want to hold Amnesty International responsible. It doesn’t show any seriousness of purpose, does not project our government in good light ”

Vanguard News Nigeria