Editor's note: Since Monday, March 20, a civil society group, Global Peace and Life Rescue Initiative (GOPRI) has occupied the Abuja office of an international human rights organization, Amnesty International (AI).
GOPRI in their protest accused AI of fabricating reports against Nigeria's military and security agencies especially in the North-East, South-South and South-East region. The group also said AI was undermining the efforts and strength of the military.
But in an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, one of Nigeria's senior lawyer Femi Falana said AI's office was been invaded by paid protesters,
Falana also advised the president to call the inspector general of police to order over the invasion of AI's office.
22 March 2017
Muhammadu Buhari GCFR
President, Federal Republic of Nigeria
Aso Rock Presidential Villa
Re: Request to urgently direct the Inspector General of Police to end the invasion of Amnesty International Office in Abuja by apparently paid for protesters
I am writing to request you to use your good offices and leadership position to direct the Inspector General of Police Ibrahim Kpotun Idris to end the invasion of Amnesty International Office in Abuja, and the harassment of the organization’s staff.
I note that Amnesty International (AI) is a well-known international NGO and among other NGOs operating legally in the country.
I recall that upon your election as President you met with the leadership of Al and promised among other things to look into the allegations of serious human rights violations and abuses allegedly committed by the military as contained in the reports published by the organization
I am seriously concerned that the police would allow some apparently hired protesters to invade the AI office in Abuja in broad daylight and subject its staff members to intimidation and harassment.
These intruders have impeded the work of the organization and threatened the safety and security of its members of staff who are all Nigerian citizens.
AI should not be harassed and stigmatized simply for exposing the human rights violations and abuses by the military in the North-East of the country.
To allow that to happen is to endanger and undermine the work of not only AI but also other civil society groups in the country. This will in turn create a climate of fear and send an intimidating message to the human rights movement in particular and the entire country in general.
It is not a crime for AI to expose the serious human rights violations and abuses allegedly committed by the military in the North-East. It is in fact consistent with the organization’s mandate to defend human rights.
Human rights work is imperative to ensure that millions of marginalized and disadvantaged Nigerians can fully enjoy their entitlements and realize their potential.
Therefore, consistent with UN Declaration of Human Rights Defenders, your government should publicly reinstate support for the legitimate work of civil society groups including AI and other international NGO operating in the country, and provide them with protection.
I am therefore calling on your Excellency to urgently direct the Inspector-General of Police to immediately remove the invaders from the AI office in Abuja and allow the organization to carry out its human rights work in a conducive environment.
I also urge your Excellency to direct Mr Idris to fish out those behind the invasion of AI office and to bring them to justice. It is imperative for your government to publicly condemn acts of intimidation and reprisals against AI and other civil society groups.
Finally, I urge your Excellency to institute an independent investigation into all allegations of human rights violations and abuses allegedly committed by the military in the context of the fight against Boko Haram in the North-East of the country.
Femi Falana, SAN
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