FG tackles Amnesty over controversial report on farmers-herdsmen violence

Posted by Innocent Oweh | 21 December 2018 | 859 times

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•Herdsmen wielding weapon

The Presidency has faulted claims by Amnesty International (AI) that deadly clashes between farmers and herdsmen in some parts of the country are attributable to failure of government officials to respond swiftly to early warning signs.

Amnesty also accused the All Progressive Congress (APC)-led government of complacence, especially in bringing offenders to book to serve as deterrents.

The AI, a non-governmental organization with focus on addressing human rights violations, had in its report released on Monday and titled “Harvest of Death: Three Years of Bloody Clashes Between Farmers and Herders in Nigeria” taken a swipe at the Buhari administration.

But in a reaction by Presidential Spokesman, Garba Shehu, said the Amnesty Report only confirms President Muhammadu Buhari’s position that the conflict between herders and farmers in Nigeria was not anchored on religion.

Shehu also alleged that Amnesty Report may have been influenced by local politicians who are of the mind-set that this whole problem is about scarcity of resources.

The Presidential Spokesman also said the report raises questions about the validity of Amnesty’s evidence-gathering.

“It is like knowing the facts but drawing the wrong conclusions. Still, Amnesty International got some of its facts wrong. It is not correct to state in any way that the problem between farmers and herders is a new thing over the last three years.

“It has been happening for over 100 years. Colonial Powers Britain and France had regularly recorded these conflicts which are available in archives.

“It is equally untrue that government has done nothing. Alleged human rights abuses have been investigated. Clashes have been reduced through government’s actions.

“This progress is due to the strong determination of the administration to punish rights violators no matter who they are, including the military through Orderly Room trials, Court Martials and the regular courts.

“This administration has given absolute freedom to the National Human Rights Commission and set an important record by paying compensation to the victims of the rights abuses. The Apo Six, for instance, had received compensation to the tune of N135 million. Just a few months back, the President signed the law against torture.

“In an interim report in October this year, the International Criminal Court, ICC, stated that:

“The Nigerian authorities appear to have taken concrete steps in fulfilling their primary responsibility of investigating and prosecuting ICC crimes.

“While there seem to be a tangible prospect of further proceedings against members of Boko Haram including high level commanders, at this time, the same cannot be said of NSF in particular since the Nigerian authorities deny any allegations against the latter.”

Shehu explained that every country experiencing any level of insecurity or insurgency either as a matter of external aggression, or even more sensitively, internal conflict is confronted with complex and sensitive issues.  Nigeria is no exception.

He said the government is very much concerned about the sad and unfortunate loss of lives and properties, and the collateral broken/threatened communal relationships and societal mutual trust occasioned by attacks our nation has experienced.

Shehu also stated that Amnesty, in addition to stating inaccurate casualty figures, misleadingly alleges that the government has failed to protect affected communities and refused to investigate, arrest and prosecute perpetrators of these attacks. Nothing could be further from the truth.

He said the Buhari administration has continued to work ceaselessly to enhance security in affected parts of the country, ensure that victims are provided with relief, and that criminals are arrested and prosecuted. It is careless and mischievous to misrepresent the facts and thereby mislead the public.

He said our security forces are not going to be deterred, neither will their morale and effort be affected by any tendentious report that mischaracterizes the important sacrifice they make to protect citizens at great risk of injury or death.

He noted that it is the global norm and custom that assessors and commentators are fair and factual in their reportage and accounts of incidents and situations so that they do not endanger the lives of security personnel or worsen conflicts. Nonetheless, our security forces will continue to intensify ongoing and new multi-pronged approaches to conflict resolution.

 He however noted that Federal Government welcomes fair and constructive assessments aimed at dousing tension and promoting mutual communal confidence, safety and security, but rejects inflammatory statements, reports or assessments that stoke tension and deepen mistrust and thereby intensify conflicts and violence.

 “‘The attacks by suspected herdsmen and other bandits will not be tolerated. I appeal to all Nigerians to refrain from reprisal attacks. The security agencies have standing instructions to arrest and prosecute any persons found with illegal arms. I will once again express my condolences and sympathy to all the affected victims of these barbaric acts.’”

“This position was again reiterated by the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, in June 2018 during his visit to Plateau State, where he held meetings with community leaders and condoled with the people.

“A vital component of our successes or any success in similar conflicts is accurate reporting and credible intelligence. We encourage reporters to be accurate and citizens to provide information about known or even suspicious activities or persons to ensure we succeed in preventing attacks, and eliminating this scourge.

“Finally, and in the interest of openness, the Federal Ministry of Justice is analysing the Amnesty International Report for further responses, and actions where applicable and necessary.

“The Federal Government also appeals to communities not to be provoked or inflamed by this misleading report to seek or pursue reprisal action against others within their communities, but to remain assured that the government will continue to take steps to secure citizens and promote amicable conflict resolution as well as peaceful co-existence,” he stated.

Sourced from a Daily Independent report

Source: News Express

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