Amnesty International Nigeria’s Morayo Adebayo was on telly yesterday to defend her organisation’s 2016 annual report from attack by the Nigerian military.
The annual report on human rights in Nigeria, based on two reports last year, chronicled the extrajudicial killings of the Nigerian army against Shia Muslims, pro-Biafran protesters, torture and other abuses in detention centres in the northeast of the country.
The military dismissed the report as “a series of spurious allegations aimed at tarnishing the good image of the Nigerian military”. It is clear that this statement is an outright lie because very few Nigerians would associate the country’s military with a “good image”.
Watch Adebayo on the programme:
Adebayo explained that the contents of the annual report are not new. When Amnesty International published earlier reports on the state of detention centres and extrajudicial killings, the then new regime of President Muhammadu Buhari promised a thorough investigation. No investigation was carried out since.
She said that denial of their human rights reports is not uncommon. However, before publishing their reports, Amnesty International reaches out to the military because they have an obligation to have balance in their story. They send the military a summary of the key facts in the report. But letters and other forms of communication with the military were not responded to.
She stressed that the government’s attitude towards their report does not discourage Amnesty International from carrying out their work.
Adebayo also accepted the possibility that the numbers quoted in their reports on the deaths of members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Shia Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) could have been underestimated. Members of both organisations usually dispute figures published by Amnesty International, claiming more were killed by security forces. Adebayo said her organisation only uses figures that they could verify and the reports acknowledge the death tolls could be higher by qualifying the number of deaths with the phrase “at least”.
She stressed that the Nigerian army was not trained to handle civil disturbances and tended to use “excessive force” and were “high handed” in responding to civil unrest. Rather than engage in denial, Adebayo called on the Nigerian authorities to carry out independent investigations of the human rights abuses.