Wednesday, 22 March 2017

News Release: Joint Statement By A Coalition Of Civil Society Organizations In Nigeria On The Siege On Amnesty International's Abuja Office


We, the undersigned leaders and representatives of various civil society organizations spread across Nigeria wish to express our collective dismay over the ignominious display by a group of rented crowd masquerading as members of a civil society organization under the name ‘Global Peace and Rescue Initiative (GOPRI)’. This hitherto unknown group has, since Monday March 20, 2017 besieged and occupied the Abuja offices of the Amnesty International (AI), accusing the global human rights advocacy group of trying to smear the reputation of Nigerian security forces. The group led by one unknown Melvin Ejeh, who describes himself as the Executive Director said it is ready to occupy Amnesty's offices interminably, should the organization refuse to leave the country within 24 hours.


The group which commenced its siege on AI’s offices on Monday returned on Tuesday (yesterday) and has been quoted as having threatened that it will take further actions in its determination to intimidate and force AI out of the country:

"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. 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," Ejeh said, according to the Premium Times news site.

The stated basis for this clearly preposterous demand on Amnesty to leave Nigeria is that Amnesty’s various reports on the activities of the military in their fight against insurgency in the North and in their various interventions in civil disturbances across Nigeria have consistently indicted the military.

While the group has made no attempt to fault the factual accuracy or validity of any of the reports by Amnesty, it simply claims that Amnesty is trying to smear the image of the country, the same line of argument adopted by the military in their responses to every successive report that Amnesty has released in recent times. The military has attacked AI reports and staff since 2012.

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.

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. If anything smears the image of Nigeria, it is GOPRI and its sponsored siege on AI.

It is useful to point out that AI-Nigeria is a fully Nigerian organization, registered in Nigeria, whose members are Nigerians. We stand solidly in solidarity with AI and urge the protesters to give peace a chance and to respect the fundamental rights of AI to freedom of expression. They have nowhere to go and they are not going anywhere.

We urge the government of the Nigeria to independently investigate all AI reports and findings with a view to ensuring redress and accountability for the violations documented in them.

The government of Nigeria has a duty to guarantee the safety and security of all persons in the country, including staff and property of AI. We call on 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.

Signed:

1. Okechukwu Nwanguma, National Coordinator, Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN) Lagos
2. Chino Obiagwu , Chairman, Steering Committee, Human Rights Agenda Network (HRAN)
3. Dr. Chidi Odinkalu, Chairman, Board of  Directors, International Refugees Rights Initiative (IRRI)
4. Dr. Otive Igbuzor, African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development
5. Mr. Z. N Senbanjo, Executive Director, Confluence of Rights (CoR) , Nigeria
6. Comrade Femi Aborisade, Centre for Labour Studies (CLS)
7. Kemi Okonyedo, for Partners West Africa, Nigeria
8. Bar. Mrs.) Ogechi Ogu, National Coordinator, Olive Justice Initiative Network
9. Faith Nwadishi, Ag. Executive Director, Independent Service Delivery Monitoring Group (ISDMG)
10. Ibrahim Oviawe Esq, President, Network of Civil Society Organizations of Nigeria (NOCSON), Benin City, Edo State
11. Emeka Ononamadu, Executive Director, Citizens Centre for Integrated Development and Social Rights (CCIDESOR), Owerri, Imo State
12. Justus Ijeoma, Executive Director, International Human Rights and Equity Defence Foundation (I-REF), Onitsha, Anambra State
13. Comrade Dede Uzor A Uzor, National Publicity Secretary/Southeast Zonal Chairman, Campaign for Democracy
14. Abdul Mahmud, President, Public Interest Lawyers League (PIL), Abuja
15. Justus Ijeoma, Executive Director, Human Rights Social Development and Environmental Foundation (HURSDEF), Port Harcourt, Rivers State
16. Walter Duru Ph. D, Executive Director, Media Initiative Against Injustice, Violence and Corruption (MIVOC), Rivers State
17. Ariyo-Dare Atoye, Co-Convener, Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution
18. Samuel Akpologun Esq., Samuel Apkologun and Co, Legal Practitioners and Fundamental Rights Activist, Lagos
19. Nathaniel Ngwu, for Legal Resources Consortium,
20. Okeoma Ibe, Centre for Entrepreneurship and Development, Abuja
21. Comrade Doe, The Sex Workers Collective, Abuja
22. Amaka Biachi, African Centre for Human Advancement and Resource Support, Abia State
23. Comrade Nnanna Nwafor, Executive Director, Foundation for Environmental Rights Advancement Development (FENRAD)
24. Comrade Waheed Saka, Committee for Democracy and Rights of the People (CDRP)
25. Okere Scholarstica Ngozi, principal Coordinator, BEAFRO
26. Anyakwee Nsirimovu, Institute for Human Rights and Humanitarian law, Port Harcourt, Rivers State
27. Chijioke Emeka, senior Counsel, Human Rights and Development Advocates (HURIDA),Lagos
28. Kate Ibeanusi, Executive Director, Initiative for Sustaining Family Units (IforSFU)
29. Olu Omotayo Esq., President, Civil Rights Realization and Advancement Network (CRRAN), Enugu
30. Comrade  Omobude Agho, Coordinator General, Edo Civil Society Organizations, Benin City
31. ComradeOsazee Edigin, Coordinator, Action for Socio-Political and Economic Change, Benin City, Edo State
32. Comrade Okalawon Toyin, World Youth League International, Lagos
33. Sylvester Yibis, Coordinator, Bauchi Human Rights Network (BAHRN)
34. Barrister Gloria Nweze, Executive Director, Center for Human Rights and Anti Torture Initiative, Lagos
35. Peter Nkanga, Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism –PTCIJ
36. Angela Uwandu,  Avocats Sans Frontieres (ASF),  France
37. Wale Adeoye, Journalists for Democratic Rights (JODER)
38. Charles Ejefonye, Chief Training Officer, Human Rights Volunteer Corp (HRVC) Anambra State
39. Kate Duru, Echoes of Women in Africa Initiative
40. Comrade Debo Adeniran, Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL)
41. Ken Henshaw, Ag Executive Director, Social Action

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