By Ahmed Badamosi
The Avocats Sans Frontières France (Lawyers Without Borders France), ASF France, has added its name to the list of foreign organizations who see nothing good in Nigeria.
It is well known that there are some groups which never pull the attention of the rest of the world to any positive happening in Nigeria but never miss the opportunity to cast the country in a bad light at the slightest chance.
ASF France has joined this army of naysayers, when in the bid to gain relevance, interfered in the internal matters of Nigeria by issuing a biased statement against its security agencies.
Nigeria, with a population of over 200 million people, is always of interest to the international community and its role as a stabilising regional force has long been established.
Due to its significance to the world, mushroom organizations, who have run out of ideas plying their trades in other climes without getting any attention, try to take advantage to seduce the needed attention.
This is what the Avocats Sans Frontières France (Lawyers Without Borders France), ASF France did recently by its so-called intervention in the internal affairs of Nigeria where it says it is condemning reported cases of brutality and extra-judicial killing of civilians by security agencies, in the course of enforcing the COVID-19 lockdown.
The ASF France, hd in a statement through its head of office in Nigeria, Angela Uwandu, said it views the action of security agents as reported by the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, “of having killed 18 citizens in the first 14 days of the enforcement of lockdown regulations on the COVID-19 pandemic,” as unacceptable and a direct disregard of their role as protectors of the society.
But in trying to appear as protecting the Nigerian citizenry, the ASF France has exposed the ulterior motive behind its so-called intervention and exhibited basic ignorance about the issues it claimed to be trying to address.
That the ASF France had set out from the beginning to do a hatchet job to discredit the security agencies is evidenced on the fact that it relied one hundred per cent on a report by an agency indicting other agencies, but did not conduct an independent investigation to verify the allegation in a matter as sensitive as alleged extrajudicial killings.
Neither did it make any effort to contact any of the agencies alleged to have carried out the judicial killing to confirm if the allegations are true.
As an organisation which claims to be defending the right of citizens, the ASF is well aware that the principle of fair hearing is fundamental to justice and should have in this case extended it to the security agencies before rushing to the media with what has turned to be a one-sided and obtuse report.
It would appear there are certain international bodies always out to hinder security agencies in Nigeria from doing their work and would always display their mischievous penchants for exaggeration of errors and witch-hunting at the slightest opportunity they get.
Not long ago, it was Amnesty International, AI, that advertised itself as ever willing to look the other way when terrorists blow up humans in their hundreds through either bomb or by the use of other devices but would find fault the moment the Nigerian Army or the other security agencies are called to stop the carnage by the terrorists who are well armed and who have made their intentions to overthrow the government of Nigeria known.
The hypocrisy and selfish intent of the AI were exposed by their constant claims that it is the security agencies that are killing the terrorists while not mentioning any atrocity committed by the terrorists.
It seems the ASF is now trying to continue from where the AI seemed to have stopped but has picked on the wrong issue.
The Government of Nigeria, worried by the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic, otherwise known as COVID-19, the world over, took certain measures which include the closure of international borders, restriction of internal movements, maintaining citizen social distancing and directing a stay at home order, to stop the spread of the pandemic.
To ensure compliance, the government then mandated the security agencies to monitor the stay at home order for their own safety.
The law enforcers, driven by a sense of patriotism and the need to serve humanity, did not mind the risks involved but stepped into action to ensure compliance with the government’s order.
In the course of achieving that, those found to have contravened the laws were brought to the mobile courts established for the purpose and tried. The speed with which the security agencies attended to the matter helped increase the level of compliance in all the states of the federation.
This in effect has resulted in a stoppage of community transmission, identification of those who had come in contact with positive cases and generally brought down the number of contraction as people began to stay at home.
While a vast majority of people, including the government of other countries expressed joy knowing well the impact of what an explosion could cause and are commending Nigeria for how it is handling the situation, all that the ASF France could see about the development is negative.
It is instructive that while the ASF France did not commend the efforts of the Nigerian government in halting COVID-19 in the statement, it made heavy weather out of some infractions that occurred in the course of ensuring compliance by indicting Nigerian security agencies of killings not minding that it is doing so on a false premise and without proper investigation.
Groups like the ASF must be reminded that Nigeria is a sovereign nation and is well aware of how to handle its internal affairs without undue interference by self-serving originations.
The issue of COVID-19 is a sensitive matter and it borders on the health, wealth, security and general well being of the nation hence steps taken for the general good should not be viewed from an adverse perspective nor misinterpreted and cast in a bad light.
The essence of deploying security personal is because they possess the requisite facility for monitoring, investigating and apprehending offenders and it is not only Nigeria that has involved the security agencies. South Africa, on Wednesday, mobilized 70,000 of its security personnel to ensure strict compliance.
The security agencies as far as COVID-19 are concerned, have been going about their duties with the utmost sense of decency and decorum and should not be smudged with the tar of isolated but regrettable incidents.
So far, the mobile courts have heard and dispensed with 90 per cent of the cases brought before them. This is proof that the security agencies have not been arbitrary in handing the issues but observed, following due process.
So far, no Nigerian has reported that security agents broke into their home and dragged them to answer for charges they are not aware of.
All the cases have been of those that violated the stay-at-home order.
From the various reactions of the offenders, particularly in Abuja where a man even removed his clothes and another lady who drove past a blockade, it is clear that the security agents have made a tremendous effort to maintain civility even when provoked.
So, therefore, this is not the time for any organization to begin to query the role of the security agencies in their bid to ensure that COVID-19 is defeated. This early campaign to cast a slur on the conduct of the military is a subtle way of encouraging lawlessness and would not augur well for the country if security agents are blackmailed into not doing their jobs.
A responsible civil society organization should have occupied itself with contributing to the success of the campaign by championing the cause of defeating COVID-19 through focusing on issues like the regular washing of hands, maintaining social distancing and maintaining basic hygiene rather than devote its attention and resources on attacking agencies of government trying to do their best in the circumstances they found themselves.
If the problem of the ASF officials is that they only understand French and the French ways of doing things, they should have asked Nigerians who understand the English language to explain to them what is going on.
That way, they would have appreciated what the Nigerian security agencies are doing, thus saving themselves the embarrassment of advertising their ignorance and lending their services to unacceptably interfering in the affairs of a sovereign nation.
Badamosi wrote this piece from Abuja.