Amnesty International has accused Nigerian security forces of killing 150 peaceful pro-Biafra protesters and intimidating media professionals and activists in the country.
In south-east Nigeria, security forces led by the military, embarked on a chilling campaign of arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances,” the non-governmental organisation focused on human rights said in a report on Wednesday.
“Many individuals are still being detained incommunicado while state security agents have killed at least 150 peaceful pro-Biafra protesters.”
In the report it accused politicians of wielding “a toxic, dehumanising ‘us vs them’ rhetoric” and the Nigerian government of using “harsh, disproportionate measures to respond to legitimate security fears”.
“2016 was the year when the cynical use of ‘us vs them’ narratives of blame, hate and fear took on a global prominence to a level not seen since the 1930s. Across the world, and in Nigeria specifically, we witnessed governments responding to legitimate dissent with extreme measures that had devastating impacts on the civic space,” Media Manager at Amnesty International Nigeria, Isa Sanusi, said.
AI also warned of a serious crackdown on freedom of expression and assembly, saying, “The past year has also seen a disturbing rise in arrests and intimidation of media professionals and activists in Nigeria. At least ten journalists and bloggers were arrested in 2016, some for alleged connections to Boko Haram, in a crackdown that appears to have been orchestrated to suffocate freedom of expression.”
Explaining further, it said the raid of the offices of Premium Times in January by the police and arrest of the Publisher, Dapo Olorunyomi, and judicial correspondent Evelyn Okakwu, “sent a clear message to intimidate journalists and the media”.
The NGO also said the Boko Haram insurgency had left millions in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.
“The armed conflict drove millions from their homes, leaving them living in squalid conditions in camps under heavy military guard and without adequate access to food, water and medical care. Throughout the year, hundreds died in these camps because of malnutrition,” it said.