The Buhari Media Organisation (BMO) has accused Amnesty International (AI) of carrying out a hatchet job for the opposition in the run up to the 2019 general elections.
This, it says, is obvious with the release of a report titled ‘Harvest of Deaths’ which focused on Herders-Farmers clash in the last three years, but which was tilted to make it look like the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari did little or nothing to stem the tide of violence.
BMO said in a statement signed by its Chairman Niyi Akinsiju and Secretary Cassidy Madueke that AI was out to send out subtle message to eligible voters in a report that was expertly made to appear balanced.
“It is also suspicious that Amnesty International went to great lengths to establish what we have always known- that herders’ communities had also been victims of a mindless orgy of violence over land and grazing routes.
“Could it have to do with the fact that the Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is also a member of the same Fulani ethnic stock like the President?
“But it is mischievous to create the impression that the conflict is either a three-year old conflict or that it was worse in the last three years.”
BMO also questioned the real intention of Amnesty International in releasing its report barely two months to the election.
“If the rights’ watchdog meant well for Nigeria, it should have released the report at a time some Nigerians felt that it was a one-way attack by Fulani herdsmen on innocent farming communities because of the ethnic identity of President Buhari.
“This would have served to correct that impression, but not at a time of relative peace in virtually all the states listed in the report.
“Could it be that Amnesty is bent on stoking the dying embers of the conflict in those states?
“Or why has a group that is meant to be interested in peaceful co-existence not opted to focus on what the government had done right to manage the century-long conflicts between farmers and herdsmen.”
It added that the report is on one hand a continuation of Amnesty International’s gripe against Nigeria in recent times, and on the other hand an affirmation of what its management has always said in spite of information to the contrary.
“The report is a product of a pre-conceived notion which AI just used witnesses to back up. For instance AI’s country Director Osai Ojigho had in a February 2018 interview in ‘The Cable’ claimed that ‘despite the fact that this has been going on for a long time, can we point out one or two cases where people have been arrested, persecuted and fully went through the course of the law to ensure justice’.
“If it operated with an unbiased mindset, Amensty would have known that a 15-year-old Fulani herdsman, Haruna Usman was sentenced to death for killing a farmer in Kogi in 2017; just as another court in Adamawa handed down the death sentence to five young men for killing a herdsmen also in 2017.
“All these happened before Ms Ojigho’s interview where she was emphatic that there had been no arrests and prosecution of people on both sides of the conflict”.
“The report gave chilling account of how people including two catholic priests were killed in Benue state but was silent on the prosecution of the suspects in a report that painted a picture of little or no arrest or prosecution.
“More surprising is that the AI report conveniently left out the fact that security forces arrested and are prosecuting six suspects including the commander of the state Livestock Guard Tahaku Aliyu in connection with the April 24, 2018 killing.
“The Police made the arrests within a few weeks and as at May 31, the suspects were facing trial but Amnesty International conveniently omitted it from a report which concluded that security agencies and the government are not doing enough to prosecute suspects.
“In addition, the Police have recovered 9,657 illegal firearms and ammunition from suspected militias, armed herdsmen and farmers in a nationwide mop-up exercise.
“The Army, on its part, launched full scale military operations in Taraba, Benue, Nasarawa, Kogi, Kaduna and Niger states which led to the death of scores of militant herdsmen and several arrests.”
The Pro-Buhari group consequently urged well-meaning Nigerians to view the latest report with suspicion, especially as the government is not only taking steps to mop up illegal weapons, but is also putting in place confidence-building mechanisms that have significantly reduced tension in the affected states.