A large coalition of civil societies from all over Nigeria converged on the Unity Fountain, Abuja, on Wednesday, March 22, from where they marched down to the Abuja offices of Amnesty International Nigeria to show solidarity and support to the global human rights body.
Received at the Amnesty International premises by some officials of the organization led by Onyinye Onyemobi, speaker after speaker eulogized the body for its consistency in compiling and exposing the appalling human rights abuses of state agents despite the overwhelming intimidation, blackmail and harassment it is made to pass through in the hands of such agents.
Opening the stage for the deluge of speeches that characterized the rally, Comrade Abdul Mahmud, a former national president of NANS and leader of Public Interest Lawyers League, who was also among the leading lights of the rally, went down memory lane and recalled how in 1991 during one of Nigeria’s darkest military eras, he alongside some other officials of NANS were illegally detained for six months and brutalized by the military junta, it was Amnesty International that first exposed the illegality to the world and also worked assiduously for their release by continuously piling pressure on the government of the day.
While presenting an official statement of all the CSOs represented at the rally, Jude Ndukwe, national leader of the Movement for the Advancement of National Transformation (MANTRA), and a co-convener of the rally, recalled “the ignominious display of ludicrousness by that group of rented crowd masquerading as members of a civil society organization under the name ‘Global Peace and Rescue Initiative (GOPRI)’ against Amnesty International Office, Abuja” the previous week describing their anti-Amnesty rally as shameful and condemnable.
He lampooned GOPRI for its brazen and impudent threat for Amnesty International to leave Nigeria within 24 hours, describing the carrying of a coffin to the offices of the international human rights organization as an act that has brought opprobrium upon the nation.
Reiterating its support for Amnesty International, the coalition of CSOs declared that “Amnesty International has come to stay. Amnesty International is going nowhere. You have our full support. Keep the focus and do not be intimidated or deterred, for those who are for you are greater than those who are against you.”
Also speaking, one of the spokespersons of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Abdulmumin Giwa, recounted how the military killed about a thousand of their members in Zaria in December of 2015 and attempted to cover up their heinous crime by burying a majority of them in shallow graves. He said but for the prompt reactions and reports of organizations like the Amnesty International, the murder of IMN members would have been swept under the carpet.
The highlight of the rally was a symbolic presentation of palm frond and torchlight to Amnesty International which was done by Comrade Ariyo Dare-Fatoye, Leader of the Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution (CDNDC), and a co-convener of the rally. While presenting the items, Ariyo stated that “with the powers vested upon us by the oppressed citizens of this great nation, some of whom have died just for exercising their fundamental human rights of association and assembly, mowed down by those paid to protect them, we hereby CANCEL the ultimatum by GOPRI for Amnesty International to leave Nigeria.
“In place of the coffin and its evil significance brought here by GOPRI, we present to Amnesty International this palm frond which is a symbol of peace, victory and triumph.
“For the darkness they brought here, we bring light which this torchlight symbolises, and for the death they placed here we bring life. We nullify their evil plans and void their threats. We render all their enchantments puerile and nullify all their incantations”.
Receiving the items and responding on behalf of Amnesty International Nigeria, Onyinyechi said they are not in any way deterred by the activities of those trying to intimidate them and thanked the organizers of the rally for standing by them, saying the solidarity visit has further encouraged them to keep on with their work.
She presented copies of a book “Amnesty International Report 2016/2017: The State of the World’s Human Rights” to leaders of the rally.
Also present were members of Global Rights and Human Rights Watch.