A circuit of prominent Nigerian activists appears to have missed out on as much as $10 million bumper deal meant to come their way from global rights monitoring group, Amnesty International following the prompt rescue of the 314 schoolboys, who were abducted by gunmen from their school in Kankara, Katsina State.
The abduction of the schoolboys gunmen initially thought to be bandits, and at some later point, Boko Haram terrorists had drawn international concerns sparking fears that a repeat of a similar but more unfortunate incident in Chibok, Borno state, in which 112 of schoolgirls abducted from their school by Boko Haram terrorists are yet to be reunited with their families was in the making.
The Nigerian government, however, turned things around for good by orchestrating the freedom and release of the children unharmed. The Nigerian Army’s Operation Sahel Sanity cordoned off the gunmen holding the schoolboys and effectively ended what could have potentially turned out to be a harrowing experience for the teenage boys as they were all freed unhurt in that operation.
Reliable reports gathered that Amnesty International had positioned to exploit the recent Kankara incident same way it did with Chibok Girls, using prominent anti-government activists to discredit the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari by highlighting how the abductions happened on his watch. The fallout from the abduction of the Chibok Girls was widely believed to have contributed to former President Goodluck Jonathan’s loss at the 2015 polls.
A source familiar with the plot disclosed that Amnesty, which has been accused of pursuing an agenda to destabilise Nigeria, had warehoused $10 million to mobilize local activists to design and implement “series of engagement on the Kankara Boys incident” which is reportedly a code phrase for widespread protests and campaign of propaganda directed against the government.
Activists reportedly on the list to benefit from the $10 million “sweetener” are Femi Falana, Aisha Yesufu, Ahmad Salkida, Deji Adeyanju, Oby Ezekwesili, Shehu Sani amongst others while they were in turn expected to draw in newly identified names from the #EndSARS protests to give the ensuing protests “an organic feel”.
According to the source, who crave anonymity over fear of a backlash, “Amnesty International was to pay the money to a company outside Nigeria on Friday. Unfortunately, the Federal Government successfully achieved the release of the boys after the military stepped in and made it impossible for the bandits to move out of the area where they were keeping the boys.
“They (activists) may not be directly connected to it but the video in which the boys were told to say they were abducted by Boko Haram was meant to give the activists more leverage to harass the government by claiming that the military has further lost grip of the country to Boko Haram, which would, in turn, enable Amnesty International to attribute series of events in the north-west of Nigeria to the military. Things could have gotten really ugly,” the source who claimed to have brokered the similar deal for a female among the activists stated.
Hints of the $10 million budget for advancing the anti-Nigeria agenda had triggered a flurry of activities among the activists as they jostled to set the narrative for what was nationally feared would end up a tragedy. They had created hashtags that were meant to make trend the abductions on social media similar to what they did with #BringBackOurGirls. #KankaraBoys #KankaraStudents and #BringBackOurBoys were thrown up and were already trending before the boys were rescued by the military.
Senator Shehu Sani, @ShehuSani, wrote, “The Friday night attacks in Kankara town Katsina state and the reported kidnappings of students of the Government Secondary School by bandits is another tragedy in the season of woes. Until the (sic) these bandits are tackled and crushed, the problem will not fizzle out.”
Oby Ezekwesili, @obydzeks, said “What exactly is the grossly incompetent and coldly indifferent @NGRPresident @MBuhari really doing in Katsina State while disconsolate parents of 333 #KankaraBoys cry their eyes out? Does the President know more than we are being told about the whereabouts of those students?”
Even after the students were freed from captivity, there was last-minute push on the part of some of the activists who reportedly told Amnesty International that they can still use the incident to do some damage. It was however unclear if the organization bought this argument or if it went ahead to disburse part of the funds since the basis on which it was to be spent has been overtaken by events.
The activists nonetheless continued their attacks on government while twisting preventive steps being taken to keep other students safe out of context. Aisha Yesufu @AishaYesufu for instance jubilantly said “The reasons Boko Haram gave us for abducting #KankaraStudents was so western education should be stopped. Schools are being closed. They won! When will Nigeria government go after Boko Haram terrorists?”
Her assertion is consistent with what Amnesty International had declared a clear four days before. The international NGO had rushed to credit Boko Haram for the abduction of the schoolboys, which further cement claims by some organizations that the rights group was running propaganda to present the terrorist group as stronger than it actually is. Its statement, titled “Nigeria: Education under attack in the north” went as far as validating an erroneous claim that more than 500 students were abducted when in reality the 314 that were rescued were the only ones abducted in the ugly incident.
Osai Ojigho, Director of Amnesty International Nigeria, had said “These children are abducted in serious risk of being harmed and being forced to become child soldiers. Nigerian authorities must take all measures to return them to safety, along with all children currently under the custody of Boko Haram.”
The activists have now reportedly raised a team to pressure Ojigho into persuading Amnesty International’s London headquarters that the funds can be channelled into executing projects that will deliver results and would be similar in impact too if the abducted schoolboys had not regained their freedom.