Amnesty International's claims that the Nigerian military has been violating the rights of citizens have been proven to be false.
There was high drama at before the Presidential Investigation Panel to Review Compliance of The Armed Forces following the inability of human rights monitoring organization, Amnesty International [AI], to prove human rights abuses in Nigeria.
The AI was invited to testify before the special board of inquiry set up the Federal Government after AI accused the Nigerian Army of human rights violation in the fight against Boko Haram insurgents in the north-east parts of the country.
The Army team led by Professor Yemi George, [SAN], who cross-examined AI’s team of researchers at the tribunal on their methodology, said the entire report lacks any iota of credibility to be published in the first instance, if not for selfish motives.
The ongoing public sitting briefly descended into an exchange of heated words between members of the panel and the AI representatives.
The rancor started when a member of the panel, Olawale Fapohunda, asked the representatives of AI if they are aware that having access to restricted documents they copiously referred to in their report was an illegal act.
To this, AI’s Senior Director for Research, Dr. Anna Neistat, replied that if the panel is accusing the organization of committing any crime, the organization would like its corporate lawyer to be present.
“If you insist AI should answer this question, it would be provided in writing after consulting with our organization’s lawyer,” she replied.
Fapohunda had earlier asked if, in the over 55 years existence of AI, there was an occasion where it was discovered that facts contained in their publications were found to be incorrect, to which Dr. Neistat replied:
“Yes, there are cases of minor errors discovered and in all these cases, they have been immediately corrected and rightly communicated.
But none of these errors have ever affected any of the allegations we raised. We have an extremely rigorous process before publishing our reports.”
However, when another member of the panel, Maj. Gen. Patrick Akem [Rtd] said he found it shocking that AI did not visit Maiduguri before publishing its report entitled 'Stars on their shoulder, blood on their hands', the counsel representing AI, Prof. Ernest Ojukwu [SAN] replied that the panel was already 'telling us your result without any conclusion. You are already shocked and it sounds conclusive.'
At this point, the Chairman of the panel, Sir Justice Biobele A. Georgewill intervened, assuring that although it was expected that there would be a little altercation in such hearings, no single panel member will have a final say.
“Please, ignore these exchanges, just let the panel conclude its investigation,” he said.
The Chairman, however, asked AI how it expects the panel to go about investigating the allegations when it did not provide specifics or present eye-witnesses.
“Groups like us document our allegations to form a prima facie case for the government to investigate. Our role is not to implicate any individual,” AI’s Director of Research and Advocacy for Africa, Netsanet Belay said.
In an incident that further underscored Amnesty International's growing loss of credibility in Nigeria and other parts of the world, the Save Humanity Advocacy Centre [SHAC] said it would be forced to kick the international NGO out of Nigeria if the Federal Government fails to expel it for its many atrocities against the country.
SHAC said it takes particular exception to reports by AI like 'Blood on Their Hands,' and other reports aimed at undermining the ability of the Nigerian military and security agencies to respond to security threats and protect its citizens.
It further disclosed that it would mobilize Nigerians to the International Criminal Court [ICC] to reject the NGO's position while ensuring that Amnesty International is compelled to pay the necessary compensation for the damages done to the image of the country.
The video, pictures, and submissions were earlier discredited by SHAC which paraded nine international experts on human rights and conflict resolution.
The local NGO which submitted three memos on the Nigerian state’s response to threats to humanity had monitored proceedings of the panel since its inauguration including a visit to the north-east, south-east and south-south geo-political zones of the country where its experts assessed the threats being faced by the people of Nigeria.
Lead Counsel to SHAC, Edward Omaga, while speaking to newsmen after the sitting, said AI should apologize to the Nigerian people for the various unsubstantiated allegations it published as reports in online and electronic media even before approaching the panel and the ICC without a single proof to back up its claim.
He warned that failure by AI to do this within 14 days will force SHAC to institute an action against them at the ICC same way they did against the Nigerian authorities as their motive has clearly been exposed by their poor outings before this panel in Nigeria.
"AI has constituted itself into a court where the same party acts as a judge, a victim and a defendant in its own case.
This must not be tolerated any further anywhere close to Nigerian soil and the attempts to discredit the Federal Government in protecting its citizens has surely failed.
Nigerians will not forgive Amnesty International for trying to twist the successes of the anti-terrorism campaigns against those whose blood was used as sacrifices for us to have the current peace and tranquility in the country," Omaga stated.
He then called on genuine NGOs and international partners to support Nigeria in addressing the humanitarian issues in the north-east and other parts of Nigeria and not to add to the woes of the people in any way.
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