Gentlemen and ladies of the fourth estate if tge realm. We want to make an appeal to the military authority and the organised civil society community. We have observed in recent times that Nigeria has come under very terrific, ceaseless attacks from some terror forces. They are determined to destroy the territorial integrity of the nation.
As citizens of this country, we owe it a duty to do whatever we can to ensure that at least there is stability in the area of security and certainty that the rights of citizens are not jeopardised or undermined unduly.
I think so many of us, if not all have witnessed a war situation. It is something nobody should pray for. Nigeria is at war. One thing that is happening in the North East of the country is a war. And most of us think that it is just something that is happening in an isolated area.
We want to commend the Nigerian soldiers who have fought very strongly to keep our nation away from Boko Haram forces, in the last three years.
They have been very consistent. But it looks as if there are huge challenges which members of the military hierarchy are not ready to tell Nigerians what the problems are, even though the challenges are surmountable.
The challenges require the corporation of each and everyone of us, especially those of us who are spending our time working to advance the human rights of our fellow citizens, that is, the civil society community.
We, also, commend the Amnesty International for doing a very credible work. Some of us who are members of Amnesty International, know that it has no destructive intention. It is not working to undermine the security of Nigeria. So, the misunderstanding between the Amnesty International and the Nigerian military is misplaced.
We appeal to the military to exercise a little patience with civil society organisations like Amnesty International, because they are very credible. It is not the kind of organisation that will want to pull off the roof on our heads. So many people that work with Amnesty International in Nigeria, are all citizens of the country. And they are very credible. I know almost all of them. Their methods of recruitment is very transparent.
However, we want to appeal to them to also exercise the highest level of restraint. Nobody is stopping them from documenting their observations if there are human rights violations.
Normally, when you work in such a situation it is inevitable not to turn a blind eye. The Nigerian soldiers that are fighting, may have actually committed human right violations but that should not constitute a distraction. Amnesty International should do their work methodically without unnecessarily appearing confrontational with the Nigerian government.
They should publish their reports keep calm and allow those who are in the field battling to save the country to continue doing it.
The most important thing is for Nigeria to be at peace. Anybody who thinks that the Boko Haram forces are joking then the person is day dreaming. They have shown their capacity for maximum mischief.
Also, there was a call by some organisations asking the military to render account. And there are times we also expressed similar sentiment but not exactly to the extent that the FOI request that is being made and the threat to institute legal actions against the army, didn’t get as far as that. For us, it is a total distraction. The army has been under the control of the Chief of Army Staff, who has always been there.
Mind you, in the last three years Nigeria has never had such a robust, independent-minded National Assembly. This is the first time in the recent history of Nigeria that we have had an activist-like National Assembly.
Nobody can say that the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, can be bribed to conceal any suspicions of financial misdemeanor that have happened. In fact, if there is any, they will be the first to raise the alarm because in so many occasions, the National Assembly has faced a lot of attacks from the presidency. And you know that the presidency is the appointing authority of military chiefs.
There are perceptions, at least in some quarters of the elections that have taken place especially that of Ekiti and Osun States, how some security forces undermined the integrity of most electoral processes. There is also a perception that there is a design or a plot by the presidency to use the powers of the military to muzzle the National Assembly.
So, if the military authority may have misapplied any of those subheads that have been released so far in the area of procurement of weapons, they will be the first to raise the observations.
This is not the appropriate the time for the military to publish details of their expenses. It is going to undermine the national security of the country. When you are fighting a war, you don’t go about bandying figures in terms of recorded accounts.
Most people think that it is a way of waging pyschological warfare. Nobody is campaigning against accountability or transparency in military spending. All we are asking is that some of us who are active in civil society advocacy to exercise some form of restrain when we want to delve into issues that have extensive national security implications. Of course, whoever is heading any segment of the armed forces, will answer questions when the war is over because the war against Boko Haram won’t last forever.
We, also, want to point out some mistakes embarked upon by the Federal Government. We absolutely condemn the government’s decision to release Boko Haram suspects caught while the war was going on. You don’t catch people who have committed atrocities and you think you can rehabilitate and release them when the committed atrocities have not been sufficiently atoned for.
What is the logic of releasing people who fought against the Nigerian state even when the atrocities they are accused of is still raging?
The political authority is not really helping the military to achieve their objectives. The government should stop any further releases of Boko Haram suspects. The last Chibok girls that were released, we were told that the Nigerian government negotiated for an exchange of some of the Boko Haram commanders. There is no need releasing someone who will still go back and fight us. The military personnel will not say it. But as citizens of this country, it is a major mistake that the government is making.
They should have a rethink inasmuch as we are calling on every Nigerian citizen to support the military in the fight against insurgents.
Also, it is wrong for the current government to hire people to appear on television using some of the successes achieved as a campaign material to advance the course of the government. It is entirely unnecessary because the military is an institution devoid of any political inclination.
Don’t forget that governance is a continuum. We, also, want to commend the military authority for raising awareness and conscientising their people about the implications of violating the laid down principles of engaging in a war.
Not too long ago, HURIWA was among some NGOs that attended the launching of a booklet containing the offences in the Geneva conventions. For example, nothing gives you the right as a combatant to kill the other fighting forces who have surrendered. It is a crime as contained in the booklet. It is not as if nothing is being done to also caution combatants against violating rights against non-combatants and those who are in conflict with the laws. It is important that some of these observations are made.
In synopsis, what we are saying is that there is no need for the military to ask the Amnesty International to close down their office. It is not necessary. Rather, the military should look at the merits and demerits of the reports. And if there are areas that they can use to improve the respect of the rights of Nigerians, they should use it. On the part of Amnesty International, they should possibly allow the military to finish the job.
ADDRESS OF COMRADE EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO THE NATIONAL COORDINATOR IF HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) AT A PRESS BRIEFING ON THE COUNTER TERROR WAR VIS A VIS RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS DATED 18TH DECEMBER 2018.