In a scathing critique of President Bola Tinubu’s administration by Amnesty International, the Director for Nigeria, Mr. Isa Sanusi, asserted that the government has fallen short in upholding human rights and the rule of law, marking a concerning trend six months into Tinubu’s tenure.
During the launch of Amnesty International’s Human Rights Agenda 2023 in Abuja on Wednesday, Sanusi highlighted the need for immediate action to address the prevailing human rights crisis across Nigeria. Despite the unveiling of new government policies, the administration has failed to confront the pervasive human rights violations that continue to afflict the nation.
Tinubu’s government now stands at a critical juncture, where it has the opportunity not only to ensure the full enjoyment of human rights by all citizens but also to hold accountable those responsible for past violations. The call to action emphasizes that human rights must be at the core of government policies, urging the implementation of recommendations from previous investigation panels on human rights violations.
In a direct appeal to President Tinubu and his administration, Amnesty International urges a public commitment to ending decades of human rights abuses. The organization calls for the implementation of safeguards that significantly enhance respect for human rights and the development of a comprehensive blueprint to address the gross violations that have scarred the nation.
Isa Sanusi, the Director of Amnesty International Nigeria, asserted, “Amnesty International has prepared a detailed human rights agenda for the Nigerian authorities. The government must now respond not by paying lip service to human rights, but by ensuring that their words are matched with concrete actions to protect and uphold the rights of everyone in the country.”
Amnesty International’s human rights agenda for Nigeria outlines specific measures to effectively respect, protect, promote, and fulfill human rights in the country. Despite constitutional provisions and the ratification of international human rights treaties, decades of violations persist, necessitating urgent and comprehensive action.
The agenda demands that President Tinubu’s administration guarantees and ensures respect for the human rights of all citizens, addressing routine violations of freedom of expression and media freedom. The report highlights instances where security forces have threatened, arrested, and detained journalists, bloggers, human rights defenders, and activists during their work.
Moreover, a crucial aspect of the agenda calls for a thorough, impartial, independent, effective, and transparent investigation into counter-insurgency operations in Nigeria’s northeast. The military’s actions since 2009 have been marred by gross human rights violations and crimes under international law, including extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests, and incommunicado detention.
As Nigeria grapples with these pressing human rights issues, the international community keenly awaits President Tinubu’s response to Amnesty International’s call for concrete actions that align with the principles of justice, accountability, and respect for human rights.
Amnesty International’s report underscores that President Tinubu’s administration must guarantee and ensure respect for the human rights of everyone in the country. Particularly alarming is the routine violation of the rights to freedom of expression and media freedom in Nigeria. Security forces are reported to occasionally threaten, arrest, and detain journalists, bloggers, human rights defenders, and activists merely for carrying out their work. The period surrounding the 2023 general elections witnessed a surge in such violations, with at least 42 journalists facing attacks, harassment, beatings, or denial of access to cover the elections.
One of the pivotal concerns raised by Amnesty International pertains to the Lekki Toll Gate incident on 20 October 2020, where peaceful #EndSARS protesters were allegedly killed by the military and police. The organization emphasizes the necessity for the full implementation of investigation findings into these killings, demanding justice for victims and compensation for their families. Furthermore, all atrocities committed by the police, both before and after the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), must be thoroughly investigated, with perpetrators held accountable.
The economic challenges facing Nigerians, exacerbated by the removal of fuel subsidies and increased taxation, have been highlighted in the report. The rising cost of living has pushed millions of families into deeper poverty, impeding their ability to afford basic necessities such as food, education, and healthcare.
The long-standing issue of civilian killings in Southern Kaduna remains a festering wound, with authorities failing to bring an end to the deadly attacks. Since December 2022, over 100 people have lost their lives in Southern Kaduna, yet the perpetrators remain at large. Similarly, the violent clashes between farming and herding communities over resource access persist, necessitating thorough and impartial investigations into the numerous incidents.
The report further scrutinizes a series of past human rights violations, including the mass slaughter in Zaria in December 2015 by the Nigerian military. Amnesty International calls for comprehensive, independent investigations to bring justice to the victims and hold accountable those responsible for these shocking crimes.
In the North-west region, particularly in Zamfara and Sokoto states, attacks by gunmen, commonly referred to as bandits, have become alarmingly frequent. Last week’s abduction of at least 100 people in Zamfara state adds to the toll of ruthless attacks on rural communities. Amnesty International strongly advocates for an end to this violence, emphasizing the imperative need for fair trials to bring the suspected perpetrators to justice.
The report also underscores the persisting grave human rights violations, including torture, enforced disappearances, and extrajudicial executions, with over 23,000 people reported missing since the insurgency began in the northeast. The case of Abubakar Idris, also known as Dadiyata, who went missing over four years ago, remains unresolved.
Amnesty International’s comprehensive analysis extends to the rising insecurity in the southeast, where gunmen have carried out violent attacks. The report criticizes the use of excessive force, including extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, detention, and torture, by Nigerian security forces during operations in Southeastern Nigeria.
Isa Sanusi, Director of Amnesty International Nigeria, reiterated the call for President Bola Tinubu’s administration to conduct thorough, impartial, independent, effective, and transparent investigations into these human rights violations. The organization stresses the importance of bringing suspected perpetrators to justice in fair trials, underlining the urgency of addressing the systemic challenges that continue to plague the nation.
Dr. Tony Ojukwu, the Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). Ojukwu welcomed the amnesty agenda, emphasizing the importance of having a dedicated human rights agenda for any nation. He stated that such an initiative was timely for the current administration to address the expectations of Nigerians regarding their rights.
“We are not asking for too much; we are asking for freedom of expression, protection of children, and an end to torture and violence in several parts of the country,” Ojukwu emphasized. He pointed out specific challenges in different regions, such as the presence of unknown gunmen in the southeast, Boko Haram in the northeast, and clashes between herders and farmers in the north-central. Ojukwu stressed that the human rights agenda aims to ensure the government fulfills constitutional provisions by providing security and addressing citizens’ welfare.
Mallam Auwal Rafsanjani, echoing Amnesty International’s stance, underscored the need to uphold citizens’ rights to protest. He urged swift efforts to release individuals in captivity, particularly emphasizing the release of the Chibok girls. Rafsanjani drew attention to the increase in out-of-school children, especially girls, due to fears of kidnapping. He highlighted the importance of creating a justice system that works for everyone, including security officials, emphasizing that human rights encompass all individuals.
Rafsanjani clarified that Amnesty International is not anti-government, partisan, or attempting to assume the role of security forces. Instead, the organization aims to support human rights and complement government efforts. He called on the government to implement measures addressing the plight of the people, including their right to housing.
Representing the police force, CP Kunle Olasokan, on behalf of Inspector-General of Police Mr. Kayode Egbetokun, acknowledged the importance of human rights protection. He acknowledged concerns about police abuse but assured that positive changes were underway within the force. Olasokan emphasized that the police are committed to protecting human rights, and improvements in the police force are imminent.
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