A coalition of 40 civil society organizations has condemned the recent protest against the international human rights group, Amnesty International, AI, in Abuja, by people the coalition described as a “group of rented crowd.”
Recall that a group of protesters that called itself “Global Peace and Rescue Initiative, GOPRI” had on Monday besieged the office of Amnesty International in Abuja refusing to leave the premises and demanding that AI should leave the country.
The so called GOPRI accused AI of smearing the reputation of the Nigerian military and promoting anti-government sentiments.
Leader of the group, one Melvin Ejeh, was quoted as saying during the protest that the group was ready to occupy AI’s offices indefinitely and would take further actions in its determination to intimidate and force the global rights group out of Nigeria.
“Let us warn at this point that there will be no interval of respite if AI fails to leave Nigeria at the end of the five days as we will activate other more profound options to make the organization leave Nigeria,” Ejeh said.
“We therefore use this opportunity to call on Nigerians to join the movement to get this evil out of our land before it plunges us into real war.”
According to GOPRI, AI’s various reports on the activities of the military in the anti-terrorism campaign in the North and in their various interventions in civil disturbances across Nigeria have consistently indicted the military.
However, a joint statement issued on Wednesday and signed by representatives of 40 Civil Society Organizations roundly condemn the so-called anti-Amnesty International protest, describing GOPRI as an “unknown group.”
The statement pointed out that GOPRI “made no attempt to fault the factual accuracy or validity of any of the reports by Amnesty (but) simply claims that Amnesty is trying to smear the image of the country.”
“We believe that if anyone or group has any objections to any of the reports by AI, the most reasonable approach to address such objections is to provide alternative facts or information to debunk the disagreeable or contentious issue in the report. This has not happened,” the statement read.
“We wish to state unequivocally that neither the group ‘Global Peace and Rescue Initiative (GOPRI)’ nor its leader is a known entity within the Nigerian civil society community.
“We have no iota of doubt that the protest the group has embarked on is procured and orchestrated.
“Members of the group have been paid to do the hatchet job for cowards in high places who are uncomfortable with the hard facts and truths contained in the evidence-based reports by AI.
“We, as leaders and members of recognized and recognizable civil society organizations in Nigeria with track records hereby condemn the shameful activities of these fellow citizens who have shamelessly offered themselves as tools to tarnish the image of the country as an entity.
“We denounce and disclaim members of this non-existent group and their sponsors and state that they do not and cannot represent the views or positions of credible civil society organizations in Nigeria on the factually undisputed accounts of the state of law enforcement and human rights in Nigeria as vividly captured in the various reports by AI.”
The coalition of CSO’s pointed out that the Nigerian arm of Amnesty International “is a fully Nigerian organization, registered in Nigeria, whose members are Nigerians” adding that “they have nowhere to go and they are not going anywhere.”
It also called on the Nigerian government to independently investigate all reports from AI with a view to ensuring redress and accountability for the violations documented in them.
The statement also urged the Inspector General of Police, IGP, to urgently intervene and ensure “that these rented protesters do not further disrupt public peace or continue to infringe on the rights of AI to peaceably occupy space in which it undertakes lawful work.”
Some of the CSO’s that signatories to the statement include: Chidi Odinkalu, Chairman, Board of Directors, International Refugees Rights Initiative, IRRI; Debo Adeniran, Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, CACOL; Gloria Nweze, Executive Director, Center for Human Rights and Anti Torture Initiative, Lagos; Chijioke Emeka, senior Counsel, Human Rights and Development Advocates, HURIDA, Lagos; Femi Aborisade, Centre for Labour Studies, CLS, among others.