By Philip Agbese
Still on the research paper titled, “Fake Civil Society: The Rise of Pro-Government NGOs in Nigeria,” written by a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP), scholar, Mr. Matthew T.Page. I promised to examine another dimension of the issues I still find germane for interrogation in the piece.
The research paper essentially de-marketed the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari as cultivating pro-government or “briefcase,” Non-Governmental Organizations’ (NGOs) to blur authentic NGOs at the detriment of popular agitations in Nigeria’s civic space.
In this phase of my reply, I will expose Mr. Page’s fraudulent and criminal parameters and conclusions on the output of what he flaunts as “mainstream” NGOs. Particularly, I will x-ray the named foreign organizations in the research which have also passed his credibility test, but perceived by an appreciable percentage of Nigerians as the external masked vehicles of destabilization and forces campaigning for the breakup of Nigeria.
We should also not forget that I faulted Mr. Page’s hypothesis that the authenticity of NGOs operating in Nigeria is not determined solely by the outputs, as echoed by the self-acclaimed researcher. I judge them in this light because they also goof and derail, especially, when they embrace other ulterior motives as often experienced in our clime.
A scrutiny of some of the mainstream NGOs consistently reveals veiled postures and inordinate sympathy for opposition elements in the country. Quite a number of these mainstream NGOs and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have also assumed the toga of alternate governments and mouthpiece of the opposition in Nigeria, while they pretend as organizations servicing public interests. I have been to their stockyards and I know what I see.
However, I observed that the so-called researcher was very reserved in mentioning the names of the mainstream NGOs/CSOs he aligned with impeccable credentials, but wrote splendidly in their defence. Nonetheless, Mr. Page mentioned Amnesty International (AI) and the CNN. He portrayed these organizations as among the victims or those frequently harangued or attacked by the pro-government or fake NGOs over their position in promoting good governance in Nigeria.
I feel, it is unfair to drag unnamed organizations into the furnace of this conversation, but restrict myself to the ones mentioned by Page and his sponsors . I will endeavour to point out a few instances where the organizations cited by Page, incited and displayed partiality, rather than perform neutrally in accordance with the laid down procedures of these organizations. They rather promoted civil unrest, clandestinely supported Boko Haram terrorists and other dissident groups in conspiratorial style against Nigeria.
In the estimation of Page and the CEIP, Amnesty International (AI) is a credible international human rights organization operating in Nigeria. But in the course of executing its assignment, AI has dispensed itself as a force aligned to partisan and incendiary pursuits in the country.
The AI’s reports of 2015/2016/2017 on human rights violations in Nigeria were heavily centered on the unprovable indictments of security forces in the prosecution of counter-insurgency operations and allied unrests in parts of the country.
I stand to be corrected that since 2015, AI has not proved a single allegation it has made against Nigeria. In one of the reports, AI wrote; “Torture and other ill-treatment by police and military remained pervasive. Extrajudicial executions, extortion, and arbitrary and prolonged detention were rife.”
It is not new to all laws that the person who alleges, shoulder the onus of proving his case. The Federal Government of Nigeria under President Buhari was shocked with the AI’s report and least believed the alleged atrocities ever occurred, especially, perpetrated by the Nigerian Military prosecuting the war against Boko Haram in the Northeast.
The Nigerian Army was figured prominently in the allegations. In a bid to ascertain the veracity of the claims, the then, COAS, Lt. Gen. TY Buratai (rtd) instituted a special military probe panel. The internal Army probe panel into AI’s allegations comprised representatives from the legal and human rights communities. AI shunned the probe panel’s sittings and refused to substantiate its allegations. I don’t think it is proper that simply because an organization has the power to speak to the listenership of the world, it has the liberty to churn out unverified deadly claims.
The Federal Government of Nigeria also constituted another Presidential Probe panel as ordered by the then Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo to also pry into AI’s allegations. For the second time, AI turned it down. It raised suspicious dust about the real motive of AI in Nigeria. AI cannot lead campaigns on lawful engagement between the Military and civilians in wartimes, but brazenly show disregard to our internal laws and constituted authority, whilst its reports drapes with insidious support for dissident groups troubling the country.
Again, during the #EndSARS protests in October 2020, AI displayed this disdain and the inclination to peddle lies ostensibly to please certain veiled interests. Firstly, AI defended the protests as peaceful to its end. But there were abundant evidences that the protests turned bloody from the fourth day, with the protesters involvement into unlawful and undemocratic acts, such as killing of security agents, vandalism, arson, rape of women and looting of private and public buildings.
To further push the game to attract the international community, AI reported the alleged killing of 38 protesters by Nigerian soldiers deployed to Lekki Tollgate in the heat of the mutation of the protests into violence to maintain peace and security. This report has begged for authentication from AI to this day. But it damaged national coherence and engendered incitement.
AI’s official website screamed of massacres at Lekki tollgate. When tension calmed, the Lagos State Government instituted a Judicial Commission of inquiry into the incident. For the umpteenth time, AI could not establish the massacres at the Lekki tollgate by armed soldiers. It rather relied on secondary reports such as the misrepresentations and uncertain figures bandied by sponsors of the protests.
To straighten the fight against the FGN by external organizations, the Cable News Network ( CNN), came on stage to bolster AI. The CNN tweeted on its official website on October 22, 2020 that, “At least 56 people have died across Nigeria since the #EndSARS protests began on October 8, with 38 killed across the country on Tuesday alone, according to human rights group Amnesty International.” (Check this link: https://edition.cnn.com/2020/10/22/africa/nigeria-protests-56-dead-jail-fire-intl/index.html).
But BBC’s reporter and editor who covered the Lekki tollgate incident live, disputed the claims of AI in a separate report. However, when the falsity of these reports generated tension across the country, CNN employed the trick of profuse denials, by muddling up the facts contained in the reports it aired! Is Page and his sponsors also alleging that BBC has joined the league of pro-government NGOs since it refused to be part of the fraudulent claims by AI and CNN?
Again, CNN’s rejigged story on the incident on October 22, 2020, claimed, the 38 deaths it reported on October 20, 2020 was across the nation. But its tweet on October 23, 2020 was that the military did the killing on the said day. It also credited the source of death of the 56 persons in its report to Amnesty International, only to recant it in a hazy fashion the next day in a “clarification” tweet which rather confirmed the falsified casualty figures!
Therefore, on one incident, both AI and CNN could neither investigate the true death figures nor agree on the figures they concocted and published for public consumption. I have no doubt that both organizations were conscious and deliberate about the damage they plotted to trigger on Nigeria.
We knew and patriotic Nigerians discerned sinister motives of AI and CNN. They were after the agenda of projecting Nigeria as a country consistently violating human rights of Nigerians even under the Buhari Presidency.
This effectively sealed, the Leahy Law would be invoked against Nigeria and the country would continue to be denied both military technical assistance and weapons to battle Boko Haram and sister insurgencies plaguing the people. This was AI and CNN’s veiled, but manifested support for terror sects tormenting Nigeria.
And Page and his co-travelers, at CEIP expected patriotic Nigerians like myself not to voice out against this evil? Like I emphasized in the earlier piece, we were obliged to use any weapon at our disposal to stop the traitors in amplifying degree of our plight!
And Page’s claim on the “briefcase” groups did not invalidate the genuine and patriotic actions. But CESJET, one of the NGOs in the category of Mr. Page’s one-man or “briefcase” group took the bold step to petition the ICC over the partisan derailment of AI and others in the performance of their duties in Nigeria in 2016.
CESJET’s petition was duly acknowledged in a “letter with reference number OTP-CR+265/16 was dated September 9, 2016 and was signed by Mr. Mark Dillon, head of Information and Evidence in the Office of the Prosecutor, ICC, and alleged that AI in “…promoting and protecting human rights has been derailed into an incendiary and partisan goal…For now, lopsided views, shortsighted and hasty conclusions, some not backed by facts are Amnesty International’s hallmark instead of bold objectivity in the pursuit of its vision.”
Therefore, it is erroneous for Page to postulate that “… the activities of mainstream NGOs are typically constructive and contribute to good governance, sustainable development, and economic prosperity.”
Quite frankly, I perceive the glaring compromises and abuses by the so-called mainstream NGOs/ organizations that Page sees as holy or saintly as extremely injurious to the stability, peace and security of Nigeria. The disappointment and frustrations they wrought on the Nigerian Military in fighting the multiple insurgencies were also destructive of national interest.
Each time I read some of their reports and outings on insecurities in Nigeria, it aligned with the preference for terrorists to win the war against Nigeria, than the country’s triumph. The immediate consequence of these aberrational actions has been the prolongation of the counter-terrorism war in the country, which is still with us today!
I dare say, AI and its allies are agents of Page and his financiers. With Page’s submissions, I am prodded to question the neutrality and credibility of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP). Let me conclude by advising Page, his cohorts in Nigeria and CEIP to come out clean from the advertised bias, clandestine and, sometimes subversive disposition against Nigeria. They should promote international peace from the standpoint of neutrality and truth.
Agbese is a UK trained human rights researcher and wrote this piece from Agila.