The proposed transfer to Anambra prisons (Onitsha, Awka and Ekwulobia) and other prisons in the Southeast zone, of some detained suspects of the Boko Haram Terror Insurgency leading to mass protests on Saturday, 27th June 2015 by Igbo traders based in Anambra State, is seen by the leadership of International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law as an infamous policy by the reactionary forces at the Federal Government aimed at massive destruction of Igbo lives and properties and escalation of Islamic insurgency in Nigeria; the alleged belated denial of such moves by the public relations office of the Nigerian Prisons Service notwithstanding.
For the records, there were strong intelligence reports at the disposal of some highly placed public office holders of the Southeast extraction and other strategic citizens to the effect that signals were recently released to relevant prison authorities in the Southeast zone to prepare special grounds for prisoners transfer involving some, if not many detained suspects linked with the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria, currently held in a number of prisons in the north. Following the intelligence reports at the disposal of the referenced key public office holders, security agencies and the government backed Igbo market leadership of Anambra extraction were alerted, leading to the referenced successful protests and closure of all markets in Anambra State, which is the commercial capital of the Southeast zone.
Already, a leading politician of Southeast extraction, Chief Victor Umeh and undisclosed top prisons officials in the Southeast zone, have attested to the intelligence reports. Though, the Public Relations Officer of the Nigerian Prisons Service was lately quoted as denying the proposed plan, but the denial, if true, is most likely adopted as “damage control” or as part of usual “spinning strategies” adopted by the country’s public officials to extricate themselves from public bashing over certain unpopular public policies and decisions such as that under contest. This is more so when the protests under reference optimally got the blessings from the official quarters. Be that as it may, the alleged denial, whether true or false, is roundly rejected and changes nothing in our position over the issue.
Our Informed Fear: It is no longer news and new that the people of Southeast zone in Nigeria are endangered species in the Federation. Their hard-earned properties through self-help are also targeted for destruction and annexation by other federating partners including their military and civilian goons, at any slightest social misdirection. The emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari; a leading actor in the genocidal war against the Zone and their South-south counterpart between 1967 and January 1970; is seen by many in the referenced areas as resurgence of war vendetta policies and actions such as the above referenced.
Already, the Zone is yet to recover from codified social, economic and political marginalization, dates back to the 90s. Apart from receiving the least Federation’s monetary allocations, social services, infrastructural developments and political appointments; the Zone is also the least in the number of States, Local Government Areas (LGAs), Senatorial Districts and Federal Constituencies allocated to the country’s six geopolitical zones.
For instance, out of a total of 774 LGAs in the country, Southeast is least allocated with 95 as against 186 for Northwest, 138 for Southwest, 123 for South-south, 115 for North-central and 112 for Northeast. Shockingly, Kano and Jigawa States in the Northwest zone (formerly one State until 1991) alone have 77 LGAs. In the area of Federal Constituencies, which are designed in such a way that the transfer of national resources and distribution of public office personnel geopolitically are anchored on equity and fairness; the Southeast zone is least allocated with 43 as against 92 for Northwest, 71 for Southwest, 55 for South-south, 49 for North-central and 48 for Northeast. The same thing applies to the allocation of Senatorial Districts where the Southeast is least allocated with 15 as against 21 for Northwest, 18 for Southwest, 18 for South-south, 18 for North-central and 18 for Northeast. In the number of States, out of the 36 States of the Federation, Southeast is least allocated with 5 as against 7 for Northwest, 6 for Southwest, 6 for South-south, 6 for North-central and 6 for Northeast.
We at Intersociety are, therefore, not surprised at the calamitous policy being protested. The industrial properties of the Igbo people within and outside the Igbo land have steadily drawn contempt from other federating partners leading to their target for destruction or annexation during disturbances. In the North, such properties were forcefully possessed during politically sponsored ethno-religious disturbances of recent years. In the Southeast particularly, Onitsha, Nnewi and Aba, politicians of other federating units have openly expressed shock and contempt during their political campaign trends in the Southeast at the level of high rising industrial properties of the Igbo people leading to all manners of political and economic hash policies against the Igbo people resident in their States.
These explain why we held that the proposed transfer of the detained Boko Haram terror suspects is viciously aimed at massive destruction of Igbo lives and properties and relocation of Boko Haram insurgency to the Southeast and the South-south zones. The policy is, therefore, ill conceived and politically motivated. Till date, the northern political office holders, dominated by illiberal Muslims have sealed a policy of not allowing their higher institution graduates particularly women to do their National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in the South, particularly the Southeast and the South-south. Also, till date, it is a taboo in the north for a non Muslim or Christian bachelor to ask for a hand of a young Muslim woman in marriage; but a Muslim bachelor can ask and obtain the hand of a young non Muslim or Christian woman in marriage leading to her conversion to Islam by fire by force.
All these are geared towards a false labeling of any non Muslim Nigerian including former President Goodluck Jonathan as “an infidel” by Muslims of core north extraction. It is also akin to an aristocratic belief among Fulani men and women, to the effect that “it is a taboo for a Fulani man or a woman to bow for or worship any Hausa man or woman no matter how rich or influential, because a Hausa man or a woman is a slave to a Fulani man or woman”. To a reasonable extent, inter marriages between them are tabooed, save for Islamic reasons in some cases.
We, therefore, wonder the rationale behind the reported proposed transfer of the so called “martyrs of revolutionary Islamism to the areas controlled by the infidels”; if not for political motivation and ill conception (massive destruction of Igbo lives and properties and relocation of Boko Haram insurgency to the Southeast and the South-south zones).
We, hereby, challenge the Federal Government of Nigeria controlled by APC and Alhaji Muhammadu Buhari to prove the protesters wrong by reversing permanently the wicked and pogrom oriented policy. Access to justice including speedy trial, fair hearing and conventional convictions and sentencing is not done by resorting to prisoners transfer alone or exportation and escalation of insurgency to other strategic parts of Nigeria for clear political vendetta. This is more so when most of the said detainees are still in awaiting trial.
The fate of prisoners and the problem of prisons congestion in Nigeria are the test cases for the APC led Federal Government. All the prisons in Nigeria as well as their facilities are over stretched and overcrowded. There is a case of a prison in Lagos State built for 2,905 inmates capacity, which housed 4000 inmates as at 2008 and another one in Makurdi, Benue State, built for 240 inmates that now houses 500 inmates, etc. Similar thing applies to the prisons in the Southeast including those of Awka, Onitsha and Ekwulobia in Anambra State. They have exceeded their built capacities by over 100%.
Another test case for the APC led Federal Government is maximum application of the newly passed Administration of Criminal Justice Act of Federation 2015. The noble provisions in the Act with respect to addressing holding charge, endless capital criminal investigations, prosecutorial referrals and deficiencies, unfair hearings, long detentions without trial and long trial without convictions and acquittals; should be maximally exploited and applied in the instant matter under reference.
Emeka Umeagbalasi, B.Sc. (Hons) Criminology & Security Studies & IVLP Alumnus of US State Dept (2013). Board Chairman, International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law
Uzochukwu Oguejiofor, Esq., (LLB, BL), Head, Campaign & Publicity Department
Obianuju Igboeli, Esq., (LLB, BL), Head, Civil Liberties & Rule of Law Program