A large coalition of civil society groups, led by Jude Ndukwe and Ariyo Dare-Atoye, conveners of the group, staged a solidarity rally in support of Amnesty International, a global human rights body, which has come under attack from groups sponsored by the Nigerian Army and the dictatorial Muhammadu Buhari regime.
The solidarity march took off from Unity Fountain in Abuja and ended at the office of the Amnesty International in Nigeria.
The group was received by officials of the human rights body led by Onyinye Onyemobi who heard speakers from among the civil society coalition extol Amnesty International for its work investigation, documenting, and exposing the , appalling human rights abuses of Nigerian state agents.
Jude Ndukwe, national leader of the Movement for the Advancement of National Transformation, MANTRA, presented the official statement of the coalition to Amnesty International and members of the press.
He recalled that last week there was“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’ against Amnesty International Office, Abuja”. He described the paid rallies 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 organisation 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.”
One of the leaders of the rally, Comrade Abdul Mahmud, a former national president of NANS and leader of Public Interest Lawyers League, told the rally that in 1991, during one of Nigeria’s darkest military eras, he was arrested along with his colleagues in NAN and was illegally detained for six months and brutalized by the military junta.
He revealed that it was Amnesty International that first exposed the violation of his fundamental human rights to the world and worked assiduously for their release by continuously piling pressure on the government of the time to release him.
A spokesperson for 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 that 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-Atoye, leader of the Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution, CDNDC, and a co-convener of the rally.
While presenting the gifts, Mr. Dare-Atoye 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 gifts 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 organisers of the rally for standing by them.
She said that the solidarity visit has further encouraged them to keep on with their work and 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 at the rally were members of Global Rights and Human Rights Watch.