By Agnes Aineah
Jos, 19 May, 2023 / 9:05 pm (ACI Africa). Published with permission.
Many individuals and organizations who vehemently spoke against Christian persecution in Nigeria are now silent, a Catholic human rights defender has said, noting that most activists no longer criticize the government amid increasing violation of rights because “they have been bought”.
In a Tuesday, May 16 interview with ACI Africa, Emeka Umeagbalasi, the founder of the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety), criticized the Nigerian government for setting aside large amounts of money to silence human rights activists in the country.
Some activists, he said, have received death threats, and intimidated in various other ways into abandoning their course. Others, further said, have jumped ship and are now government mouthpieces.
“The government has sponsored a multi-billion-naira international propaganda campaign to bastardize the work of human rights activists. Many activists have been bought and are now government apologists,” Mr. Umeagbalasi said.
The member of the Catholic Archdiocese of Onitsha added, “Ours is a government that has kept borrowing and using the money to bribe their way all over the world as they continue to kill people. Human rights activists here have been bribed. The government goes around bribing lobbyists even those outside the country to cover up Christian persecution.”
Mr. Umeagbalasi who serves as the board chair of Intersociety described “an atmosphere of fear” in Nigeria, with human rights activists increasingly fearing to speak out against the laxity of the government in addressing violence in the West African country.
“What we engage in is an extremely risky venture. Human rights organizations no longer publish reports to show the extent of Christian persecution in Nigeria. Many are now publishing ‘harmless’ reports on issues such as health, but little on the violation of religious freedoms,” he said.
The Catholic researcher who has a background in criminology, security studies as well as conflict resolution informed ACI Africa of an increase in “counterfeit research agencies”, aimed at watering down the work of legitimate investigative organizations.
“From 2015 to date, over 600 government-affiliated organizations have been established, and are being facilitated to bastardize our work. There are very few legitimate organizations still focused on painting the real image of what is happening in Nigeria concerning the persecution of Christians,” he said.
Intersociety is made up of volunteers who, the founder says are driven by passion to let the world see the suffering of Christians in Nigeria.
The organization does research and investigation through direct contact with the victims, eyewitnesses, media tracking, review of credible local and international reports, interviews, and closed sources among other methods.
Intersociety has prepared and released various reports detailing the persecution of Christians in Nigeria, including the April 10 report that revealed the killing of over 50,000 Christians since the 2009 Islamic uprising in the West African country.
And to mark the end of President Muhammadu Buhari’s term, Intersociety is preparing a report to show the number of Christian massacres committed in the outgoing administration.
The report will be launched “in the second week of June”, shortly after Buhari hands over power to the President-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, on May 29.
SOURCE ACI Africa. Published with permission.