The Nigerian army is confused. Less than a week after it accused the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) of working for Boko Haram insurgents, ordering the stop of their operations in Nigeria and then reversing itself when it realised its folly, the Army is at it again. This time it has called for the closure of all offices of Amnesty International (AI) in Nigeria and their complete exit from the country.
Backstory: The Army accused AI of trying to destabilize the country amidst controversies surrounding a new report by the organization. Army spokesman Brig. Gen. Sani Usman, said on Monday that the group fabricated stories of human right abuses allegedly committed by Nigerian security forces. He said the group gave backing to protests against the Army and also made false allegations against Nigerian military heads.
Quote: “They have tried over the years using Boko Haram terrorist’s conflicts, Islamic Movement in Nigeria, some activists and now herders-farmers conflicts… The Nigerian Army has no option than to call for the closure of Amnesty International offices in Nigeria, if such recklessness continues,” Sani said.
What sparked off this latest Army reaction: The organization released a report which accused security officials of slow reaction to the issues resulting from the conflict between farmers and herdsmen across the country. The group alleged that the slow pace with which the military addressed the issue has led to the death of about 3,641 people over the past 3 years.
Osai Ojigho, Director of Amnesty International Nigeria, said, “The Nigerian government has displayed what can only be described as gross incompetence and has failed in its duty to protect the lives of its population and end the intensifying conflict between herders and farmers. The authority’s lethargy has allowed impunity to flourish and the killings to spread to many parts of the country, inflicting greater suffering on communities who already live in constant fear of the next attack.
“Our research shows that these attacks were all planned and coordinated, with the use of machine guns and AK 47 riffles. Yet, little has been done by the authorities in terms of prevention, arrests and prosecutions, even when information about the suspected perpetrators was available.”
Recall that earlier this month, Amnesty International asked the International Criminal Court to investigate the Nigerian government accusing them of failing to investigate and prosecute members of the Boko Haram sect and the Nigerian military. It alleged that Nigerian security forces had been involved in war crimes against humanity ranging from from torture and murder, to attacking ordinary civilians.
Bottom line: The Army is making a mess of itself and embarrassing the country. Rather than putting its house in order, it chooses to attack the messengers. Last time it was UNICEF, and now AI, whereas nothing said by the group is exactly new. Nigerians have been speaking about the Army’s culpability in the farmers-herdsmen crisis for months now, with a former chief of defence staff, Theophilus Danjuma even slamming the FG and military. Amnesty International has been very consistent even under the previous government in decrying the lack of professionalism in the Army, and more often than not, events have proved them right.
Last week when after the Army made baseless accusations against UNICEF, it reversed itself, claiming that it was due to the intervention of “concerned Nigerians”. In other words, it simply forgave an organization it accused of working with terrorists simply because concerned Nigerians told it to. Says a lot about the Army’s leadership.