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“Gunmen on rampage across the country” – Amnesty say Nigerian Authorities not doing enough to protect lives



Alarming escalation of attacks, abductions for ransom and frequent killings across Nigeria have left people feeling more unsafe, showing utter failure of the Nigerian authorities to protect lives and properties, said Amnesty International today marking the 60th anniversary of the organization.

Amnesty International started working on Nigeria on 1 June in 1967 with an intervention on the Nigerian civil war which ended in 1970. Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka was declared a prisoner of conscience, for being detained solely for his dissenting opinions. Between 1968 and 1969 the annual report documented and expressed concern over suspension of human rights in the context of the civil war.

“Not much has changed about human rights in Nigeria since 1967 and the concerns remain flagrant disregard for human rights, failure of authorities to protect the people, threats to human rights including the right to freedom of expression, suppression of dissenting voices and lack of accountability,” said Osai Ojigho Director Amnesty International Nigeria.

“Incessant killings and the stunning failure of the authorities to end them and bring suspected perpetrators to justice have been and continues to be a threat to the right to life in Nigeria. From the days of military’s heavy-handed rule to the years of civil rule and up to today violation of human rights by both state actors and abuses by non-state actors continue to be matters of concern,” said Osai Ojigho

On 10 April 1978 six Nigerians students were killed and many were detained while protesting staggering increase in student fees. From then on Nigerian youths continued to face violent crackdown for exercising right to freedom of peaceful assembly. From the 12 June 1993 pro-democracy protests, occupy Nigeria protest of 2012, to the #EndSARS protest of 2020 Nigerian authorities continue to violently repress peaceful protests.

“While facing violations or policies that undermine people’s rights, Nigerians always resort to protest – and other peaceful means of seeking change. But violent clampdown on protests remains a major area of human rights violation. Protest is not a crime and Nigerians must be able to assemble peacefully and express themselves without fear,” said Osai Ojigho

“We are concerned that the civic space is shrinking and the fear of violence by security forces and sponsored thugs are undermining the right to peaceful protest, and having profound impact on other human rights,” said Osai Ojigho

The use of excessive force by the police remains an unresolved human rights issue. In 2004, 2009, 2016 and 2020, Amnesty International published reports on the same issue; documenting increasing violation of human rights by the Nigerian police. All the claims of reforming the police turned out to be ineffective. Despite the systemic human rights violations perpetrated by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) no one has been held accountable.

Rape of women and girls by both the police and security forces, and within their homes and community, is endemic in Nigeria. The government, however, is failing in its constitutional and international human rights obligations to ensure access to justice for victims: suspected perpetrators invariably escape justice, and women and girls who have been raped are denied any form of redress for the serious crimes against them.

“From the 1960s to date, the work of Amnesty International Nigeria shows that while some successes have been recorded in some areas like Child Rights Act and Anti-Torture Act, suspected perpetrators continue to enjoy a sense of impunity for human rights violations. Attacks by Boko Haram insurgents continue to pose danger to lives, as they now intensify attacks in Borno state and beyond. Failure to address violations by the military in the fight against Boko Haram has denied the hope of getting justice for hundreds of victims,” said Osai Ojigho.

Nigeria consistently failed to bring suspected perpetrators to justice. In most cases, victims of human rights violations hardly get justice. Failure to bring violators to justice is a stain on Nigeria’s image. Nigeria’s law enforcement and judicial system must be empowered to deliver justice.

Amnesty International is calling on Nigerian authorities, at all levels, to invest in people’s welfare and prioritize access to education, health care and other basic public services. Leaders must be accountable to the people and must also listen to what they are saying.

“At 60 Amnesty International is geared to do more for the protection and promotion of human rights. The organization will broaden its work in Nigeria to ensure that suspected perpetrators of human rights violations face justice, and that victims enjoy access to effective remedies. The organization will continue to insist that authorities respect the rights of everyone. People deserved to live with dignity and to enjoy the right to due process of law. Our research work from 1967 shows a pattern of disregard for human rights. This must change,” said Osai.

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