By Philip Agbese
Last week there was a reported meeting between the Nigerian Army and the international non-governmental organization (NGO), Amnesty International (AI) in Abuja, Nigeria. From what we gathered was at the instance of the Nigerian Army. Although it was a closed door meeting, feelers from the meeting pointed to the fact that the Nigerian Army briefed the organization and also answered all the questions it raised in its numerous reports and documentaries.
The meeting was indeed a welcome development as both sides acknowledged that it was first of its kind; it was the first time that any armed service of any country accorded the NGO such respect. Similarly, for the Nigerian Army, noted for its tendency to insulate itself from exposure to such organizations in the past, the interaction was the first time. Therefore, there were high hopes and expectations especially from the military and the citizenry as it provided an opportunity to explain or answer the allegations levelled against it over time by the AI.
For whoever has doubt about the genuine intentions of the Nigerian Army under the leadership of its Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai, needs to have a rethink as he has always matched words with deeds. They have defeated the terror group Boko Haram making it possible for many communities to return home picking the pieces to continue with their lives. A feat that could not be achieved in six years was accomplished within six months!
The concerted efforts to improve civil-military relations brought about renewed vigour in interfacing with so many stakeholders, NGOs, Civil Society Organizations and the media. It has also been collaborating with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) amongst others. The collaboration led to training workshops and continued consultation for the benefit of the society.
It is not surprising that the Army initiated a meeting the AI.
Unfortunately, the comments of the leader of the delegation to the meeting were to say least, very disappointing. After acknowledging the commendable commitment of the Army for a thorough investigation of all the allegations and explaining the line of action taken or disciplinary measures meted out to those found wanting, the NGO was not satisfied but brought new sets of unrealistic demands.
It is really curious to understand the motive and interest of AI or what they want to achieve. Whatever it is, such motives I dare say, were not in the best interest of our collective wellbeing or for the peace and security of our great nation. Apart of being rude, the posture of Amnesty really left so many questions as to its sincerity.
Moreover, there a lot of loopholes in the process of its investigations to discredit any report produced from such exercise. The Nigerian press and indeed all Nigerians should be very cautious of the AI. Their reports mainly were based on hearsay. Those that AI decided to access and interact with in arriving at its conclusions are those criminals and misguided elements that propagate anarchy and misinformation.
AI needs to review its mode of investigations. It must recognise sovereign states and the legally constituted organs of the government like the Nigerian Army. It must recognise the layers of administration and authority within such government institutions.
The Nigerian Army has its established legal system. Therefore, infringements, if any, on the rights of individuals by personnel of Nigerian Army are independently and impartially investigated by the higher administrative command of those involved. The AI must accept this and respect every institution of a sovereign state. In similar vein, our local human rights organisations are advised not to blindly echo antagonistic positions of the so-called human rights watchdogs at the detriment of national security and our sovereignty.
I think it is about time that AI should critically examine all those allegations and know that they were nothing but cheap blackmail and should therefore consigned to the dustbin of history. AI officials should also apologise to the Army and all the officers they falsely accused.
I shall at this point echo the wise words of General Yakubu Gowon, former Head of State that “AI should also apologize to Nigerians and the Army and all the officers they falsely accused.
“The Army should make its investigations and the punishments meted out to all those found wanting public to enable Nigerians and indeed the whole world appreciate its efforts.”
Agbese is a public affairs commentator based in the United Kingdom.