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Nigerians divided as military calls for Amnesty ban

Muhammad Al-Amin AFP, AP
December 18, 2018

Nigerians living in the north have expressed mixed views after the military recommended a ban on Amnesty International. The human rights group had reported that thousands have been killed in inter-ethnic conflict.

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari with military chiefs in Maiduguri
Image: Getty Images/AFP/A. Marte

Residents in Maiduguri, birthplace of the Boko Haram insurgency, are split over a call by Nigeria's military to have Amnesty International kicked out of the country. In a statement issued by the army's spokesman, Brigadier General Sani Usman Kuka Sheka, the top military official charged that Amnesty's operations were geared "towards damaging the morale of troops fighting Boko Haram insurgents." On Twitter, the army accused Amnesty of siding with Boko Haram insurgents. 

Musa Sani, a resident of Maiduguri in Borno State, is among those supporting the army. "They [Amnesty International] have to distinguish between the terrorist and those trying to unite the nation," Sani said.

Nigerian army claims to have cleared Mubi of Boko Haram
Nigeria's military accuses Amnesty of wanting to dampen the morale of soldiers fighting Boko HaramImage: picture-alliance/dpaD. Yake

Read moreAmnesty accuses Nigerian army of killing 150 Biafran protestors

"All Amnesty is doing, is that it is against the government. Based on their activities and the fight against the insurgency, Amnesty is against all these activities. So to me I'm in support of banning Amnesty."

Military's response to Amnesty's allegations

The statement by Nigeria's military is in response to Monday's report by Amnesty International which accused Nigerian authorities of failing to investigate communal clashes. The report went on to say that the failure to bring perpetrators to justice has fueled a bloody escalation in the conflict between farmers and herders across the country.

Read moreNigeria's communal violence: It's about more than land

The conflict has resulted in at least 3,641 deaths in the past three years and the displacement of thousands more, the report stated. Abubakar Sherif, another resident of Maiduguri told DW, the army's push to have Amnesty expelled would not resolve the security challenges Nigeria faces.

Amnesty International logo
Amnesty International has had a frosty relationship with the Nigerian government

"For me to tell them to leave the country is not the best," Sherif said. "But we seriously advocate that they [Amnesty International] should work within the confine of their mandate not going beyond that and trying to incite or bring disaffection among the Nigerian state."

UNICEF working with terrorists?

Amnesty is not the only international organization facing a backlash from Nigeria's security officials. On Friday, December 14, the army accused UNICEF of training 'Boko Haram spies' in the north-east. The military briefly suspended UNICEF's operations before reversing course after an outcry from rights activists.

Read moreNigerian army lifts ban of UNICEF after spy accusations

Rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have long accused Nigerian troops of human rights violations in their fight against Boko Haram. The military has often rejected these allegations, but this is the first time they have called for the banning of Amnesty International in Nigeria.

For Shu'aibu Munguno, a political analyst, the army should investigate instead of calling for the expulsion of these organizations.

"They should also try to infiltrate into the activities of UNICEF before jumping to this conclusion about sacking them or stopping them from activity. In the long run it will come to nothing."

Binta Aliyu-Assan contributed to this article.