By Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru (MFR), today received in audience the Secretary-General of Amnesty International (AI), Mr. Salic Shetty. Accompanying Mr. Shetty, were Mr. Eduard Nazarski (Director of Amnesty in the Netherlands), Mr. Chris Crawshaw (Director of the Office of the Secretary-General), Ms. Lucy Freeman (Interim Deputy Director – Africa Programme) and Mr. Makmid Kamara (West Africa Researcher, Africa Programme).

Present at the occasion were the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Ambassador Martin Uhomoibhi, the Under-Secretary (Regions and International Organization), Amb. A. C. Uzoka-Emejulu, Director (International Organization Department) Amb. Abdullahi Omaki, among other top officials of the Ministry.

The Amnesty International (AI) Team is in Nigeria to present its report titled “Nigeria; Trapped in the Circle of Violence”. The Report chronicles allegations of human rights by Nigeria's security forces in dealing with the menace of Boko Haram.

In introducing the report, the AI Secretary General spoke about environmental pollution arising from oil spills in the Niger Delta, demolition of houses in water fronts in River State and alleged human rights violations by Nigerian security forces in tackling the menace of Boko Haram.

In his response, the Honourable Minister welcomed Mr. Shetty and his delegation. He categorically stated that Nigeria has had and would continue to have a very good working relation with AI, emphasizing that this fact does not support the allegation of Nigeria's refusal to cooperate fully with the body.

On oil spills, the HMFA noted that government is holding the oil companies involved accountable for their activities. He also noted that government had impressed on the oil companies to adopt environmentally sound practices and to ensure that reparations are paid to victims of oil spills, including the need to clean up the polluted areas.

On the demolition of houses at the waterfronts in Rivers State, Amb. Ashiru noted that government has its laws governing such exercises. He noted that compensations are usually duly paid to owners of affected properties. He added that such controlled demolitions are carried out on the basis of risk assessment particularly involving those on coastal areas that are prone to erosion and other natural disasters.

As regards the challenge of Boko Haram, the Honourable Minister stressed that, while terrorism was new to Nigeria, Government had adopted a multi-track approach, anchored on robust law enforcement, military strategy, indirect dialogue, including constructive engagement with religious leaders as well as the implementation of the Transformation Agenda.

Ambassador Ashiru further enumerated government's efforts in addressing the menace of Boko Haram and other national challenges. These include the establishment of Almajiri Schools in the North, Skills Acquisition Centers, Agricultural Farms, Youth enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria, etc. He underscored the strong conviction that the success of Government's Transformation Agenda would assist in addressing the root causes of terror in terms of wealth and job creation as well as mass education of the people.

The Honourable Minister stoutly denied allegations of mass extra-judicial killings, arguing that the Security Forces have been very restrained in their response to the complex challenge posed by the insurgents, many of who remained faceless and brutal in their tactics. He recalled that members of Nigeria Security Forces had fallen victims to the Boko Haram Sect in the course of carrying out their lawful duties and urged AI to be more circumspect, nuanced and balanced in their assessment of the situation in the country. He called on AI to demonstrate greater objectivity and openness in its reports on Nigeria.

In concluding his remarks, the Honourable Minister invited AI to explore the possibility of opening Country Office in Nigeria in order that it may obtain first hand information rather than relying on third parties.

31ST OCTOBER, 2012