It is factually unchallenged that Human Rights as those rights that belong to all human beings from creation as a result of being human beings, who think and reason; regardless of citizenship, religion, ethnicity, tribe, race, gender or class; are in danger in Nigeria. The greatest threat to Human Rights comes when the State that is charged locally and internationally to ensure their ceaseless respect and protection; turns its State coercive institutions into instruments of gross human rights abuses or violations. The leadership of International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Intersociety) is, therefore, alarmed and shocked by new turn of events in Nigeria under the new administration of Buhari.
It is on account of the above that we resolved to draw the attention of Nigerians, the international community particularly the United Nations and respected local and international human rights organizations over the full return of dictatorial and militarist democracy under Retired Gen Muhammadu Buhari and his political party; All Progressives Congress (APC). It is also important to urge the international community to take note of the fact that hitherto respected and leading rights based civil society organizations of the Southwest extraction, appeared to have thrown their full weight behind the Buhari civilian dictatorial governing styles.
This conclusion of ours was arrived at after observing with shock the recent public commentaries credited to some (former) leading rights activists of the Southwest extraction, in support of Buhari’s obvious and brazen breach of the fundamental provisions of the 1999 Constitution and the Civil Service Rules of the Federation in the course of his official conducts particularly as they concern the appointments made into top federal offices as well as removal of their former holders. A clear case in point is the recent public speeches in favor of President Buhari made by the duo of Mr. Femi Falana, SAN and Mr. Festus Keyamo over the President’s referenced misconducts. The referenced misconducts were carried out in gross breaches of the 1999 Constitution and the Civil Service of the Federation.
We had since the declaration of Retired Gen Muhammadu Buhari and his APC as the winners of the March 28 highly divisive presidential election issued a number of constructive public statements warning on catastrophic dangers inherent in infesting the Federation of Nigeria with governance styles reminiscent of the Buhari and Abacha’s military inglorious epochs, which haunted and terrified the country from 1984 to 1985 and 1993 to 1998. The above constructive position of ours stems from our observation that Retired Gen Muhammadu Buhari is still indoctrinated in military subculture and has not undergone any known leadership training program to acquaint himself with modern democratic, human rights and constitutional governance norms. We had further observed that then President-elect and his Party (APC) failed woefully to showcase their constitutional democratic governance credentials including capacities to respect and uphold human rights and fundamental freedoms and govern strictly according to the dictates of the rule of law and the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.
The duo of Buhari and his APC were also found lacking in statesmanship, which is fundamentally needed to heal and bind all segments of the country’s ethnic nationalities, wounded and scattered by age-long deep ethno-religious divisions; and heightened by the 2015 presidential election. The above informed observations of ours led us into issuance of a statement, dated 14th April 2015 and titled: Public Comment Blunders & Related Issues: Why Buhari Should Be Sent To The National Democratic Institute In USA (for democratic leadership training).
In spite of the above clarion calls, Retired Gen Muhammadu Buhari and his Party (APC) dangerously chose to ignore the informed advice and went ahead and got sworn-in, presidentially, without being tutored and mentored with the fundamentals of modern constitutional democracy, founded and laid on respect and protection of human rights and rule of law, total subjection of State coercive apparatuses to civil authorities and rule of law; constructive and developmental governance policy directions; and elimination of culture of war and violence through prohibition of politics of exclusion, segregation, religion and ethnicity.
It is our observation that since President Muhammadu Buhari was sworn-in on 29th May 2015, he had barely acted democratically. Most of his presidential conducts including office appointments; accusation, investigation and arrest of some popular citizens are unknown to the provisions of the 1999 Constitution and the rule of law procedures. We had in response to these fundamental breaches issued the following constructive and informed statements: Secret Police Operations In Nigeria: The Rule Of Law In Danger (19th July 2015), The Return Of Presidential Dictatorship In Nigeria (18th July 2015), A Presidential Sallah Gift (a copy of 1999 Constitution) & Call For Return Of Constitutional & Procedural Democracy In Nigeria ( 27th July 2015), and Call For Abrogation Of The 1999 Constitution: Coupist; Voice Of Jacob & Hand Of Esau (10th August 2015 (see www.intersociety-ng.org).
As if these were not enough, the dictatorial conducts under complaint have continued unchecked. Our critical observation of their trends and patterns under the Buhari administration clearly shows that all State coercive institutions including the Nigeria Police Force have speedily reverted and adapted to the new culture of presidential dictatorship. The first State coercive institution to lead the way is the State Department of Security Services (DSS). Retroactive or ex post facto law enforcement applications are now in vogue and common, leading to threats and endangering of the rule of law and due process in the country.
The DSS has now taken over the statutory law enforcement functions of the Nigeria Police Force leading to unlawful invasions, arrests and detentions and court arraignments rested on unsubstantiated criminal investigation reports. For instance, we had during our analysis of the DSS statement justifying its invasion of the houses of former NSA, Col Sambo Dasuki; faulted the Service on the point of law particularly as it concerns the spurious accusation of treasonable felony against him. The DSS later dumped its spurious charge of treasonable felony and came up with a charge of illegal possession of firearms. We had held that “assuming but not conceding that Col Sambo Dasuki was found to be in possession of some prohibited firearms without license; he ought to be charged for illegal possession of firearms, and not treasonable felony”. This is just an instance out of numerous executive recklessness and excesses now commonly applied by Buhari Presidency using the DSS.
As a matter of fact, the DSS has since the inception of the Buhari administration unlawfully invaded various private homes and offices and made spurious criminal allegations (i.e. allegation of treasonable felony against former NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki; allegation of unlawful possession of millions of naira cash made against some Resident Electoral Commissioners; and alleged discovery of huge sums in dollar currency and arms made against the Government of Akwa Ibom State leading to its unconstitutional invasion). Trumped up allegations have also been designed and used by the DSS to cause unlawful arrests and detentions of statutorily appointed senior electoral officers including INEC Resident Electoral Commissioners, who are still being harassed, intimidated and persecuted by the Buhari Presidency for elections they conducted six months ago or in March and April 2015. It is important to note that this is the first time Resident Electoral Commissioners are arrested and detained in Nigeria over civil matters of conducting elections. By law, they are only required to give evidence and defend the elections so conducted before electoral courts. Criminal invitation and questioning of electoral court judges are also indiscriminate and common under Buhari Presidency. This is also unheard of in the history of democracy in Nigeria.
Further, for the first time after the Ngige public office kidnap saga of 2004 in Anambra State, during which he was kidnapped by a brigade of renegades as a sitting governor, in abominable violation of the gubernatorial immunity in the 1999 Constitution; the Government House of Akwa Ibom State was unconstitutionally and unlawfully invaded by the DSS on orders of President Buhari and in gross violation of gubernatorial immunity provisions in Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution. By the DSS Establishment Act of 2004, the Service takes direct orders from the President in all its operations. By the provisions of the 1999 Constitution, the office of the Governor including Government House and Governor’s Lodge and their occupants (governor and deputy governor) created by Section 176 of the Constitution; enjoy a Constitutional immunity provided in Section 308 (3) of the Constitution.
By invading the Government House of Akwa Ibom State and confiscating useful items from the spot, the gubernatorial immunities of the State Governor and the Deputy Governor have been grossly and brutally violated. In 2006, for instance, a serving police AIG, who headed the Zone 9 Command in Umuahia, Southeast; was transferred and reprimanded, in spite of his deep personal and public apologies; for ordering the arrest of Mr. Peter Okala, who was in then Governor Peter Obi’s convoy. Mr. Okala was a market leader who had issues with another leading to lodging of a spurious criminal complaint against him at Zone 9 Command. Then Governor Peter Obi was returning to Awka Government House when the shocking incident took place, after inspecting the bombed Nnewi Central Police Station, destroyed by a group of dare devil armed robbers. The AIG, who was present, physically ordered the arrest in defiance of the Governor’s Constitutional Immunity.
The Nigeria Police Force, on its part, has also returned to policing brigandage including mass arrests, indiscriminate mounting of roadblocks and extortion of innocent citizens. The ongoing indiscriminate arrest of members of MASSOB and IPOB across the country is a clear case in point. According to the official statement by the authorities of the Nigeria Police High Command, a total of 22 Biafran self determination activists belonging to the two groups are presently in the NPF net. Police invasions were carried out in various meeting locations of members of the two groups including Asaba, Onitsha and Owerri.
In that of Owerri, Imo State, the leader of MASSOB, Barr Ralph Uwazuruike and scores of his members were arrested and detained at the State Police Headquarters. The NPF has also announced a nationwide clamp down on the two movements. By this unpopular order, the Inspector General of Police has returned his officers to Nigerian roads particularly roads in the Southeast where extortion and extra judicial killings are rained and reined on innocent Nigerians. The era of indiscriminate arrests, detentions and leveling of trumped charges including labeling and killing innocent citizens under the guise of “being MASSOB members”, is back; likewise indiscriminate killing of innocent citizens using “Police Order 237”. Nigerians and the world are yet to recover from the tragedy and traumas of mass murder of about 50 innocent citizens including nine MASSOB activists and dumping of their lifeless bodies inside the Ezu River in Awka, Anambra State. The Anambra State Police Command particularly its SARS unit is still socially and circumstantially accused till date. The disguised return of police roadblocks on the Southeast roads using MASSOB clamp down is seen by Intersociety as an institutionalization of official criminality by the present IGP, yet it is said in every nook and cranny that the present Buhari administration is “fighting corruption”.
The armed forces in the country are not left out as well in the resurged State terror under President Muhammadu Buhari. For instance, on 30th August 2015, the Nigerian Navy Outpost in Ogbaru Local Government of Anambra State opened fire on innocent members of the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB), killing two of them: Obasi Maduka from Ebonyi State and Ebuka Nnolum from Anambra State and wounded others. Officers of the Navy Outpost under reference have also been noted for indiscriminate torture of innocent passers-by and systematic extortion of commercial motorcycle, tricycle and bus operators at its Uga Junction Onitsha checkpoint.
Instances of dimensions of resurged State terror under the barely four months administration of Retired Gen Muhammadu Buhari are a booklet. Freedom of information and expression safeguards in the 1999 Constitution and the African Charter on Human & Peoples Rights are also under threat. By Section 22 of the Constitution, the mass media are empowered and tasked to monitor and report the Social Contract governmental obligations otherwise called “Fundamental Objectives & Directive Principles of the State Policy”, contained in Chapter Two of the 1999 Constitution. Freedom of Expression is also guaranteed and safeguarded by Section 39 of the Constitution.
But with the recent unconstitutional arrest and remanding in prisons of the duo of Seun Oloketuyi and Chris Nwandu of the CKN online news, the right to free speech and press in Nigeria under Buhari administration, is threatened and endangered. The two detained and arraigned media activists are Nigeria’s leading bloggers. The circumstances of criminalization of their legitimate media practice are totally incoherent and inconsistent with Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution. That is to say that any law to that effect enacted in contradiction with Section 39 is unconstitutional, null, void and of no effect. Section 46 of the Constitution (Fundamental Human rights enforcement) clearly empowers any citizen including head of corporate body or public office holder who feels libeled, scorned or damaged by a publication or news story to take a legal action and demand retractions, apologies and monetary compensations and get same after proving judicially that he or she was so libeled or damaged.
Finally, it is on records that most, if not all our public warnings, predictions and positions on topical social, political, economic and securitization issues in Nigeria have come to pass, leading to our vindication as warned. From the 2015 presidential election, which outcome we predicted correctly due to corruption of voting card process; to present sorry state of governance under President Muhammadu Buhari, instances are too many to be mentioned.
We call on the international community particularly the United Nations to beam its searchlight in the direction of the new Buhari administration and pressurize him to discontinue the resurged dictatorial and totalitarian governance styles and return the country to its suitable constitutional and pluralistic democracy, where rule of law, due process and respect and State protection of human rights reign supreme. We also call upon international respected human rights organizations to follow suit as it concerns the resurged and raging State of terror and gross abuse of the citizens’ civil liberties. Maintaining local and international silence in the midst of all these is the greatest disservice to innocent and endangered citizens of Nigerians particularly those of Igbo and minority ethnic backgrounds. Waiting or folding hands and allow the country and its citizens to be executively roasted or rotted before acting or speaking out may most likely be too late and amount to efforts in futility.
Emeka Umeagbalasi (B.Sc., Criminology & Security Studies)
Board Chairman, International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law
Uzochukwu, Oguejiofor-Nwonu, Esq., LLB, BL, Head, Campaign & Publicity Department
Obianuju Igboeli, Esq., LLB, BL, Head, Civil Liberties & Rule of Law Program
Chiugo Onwuatuegwu, Esq., LLB, BL, Head, Democracy & Good Governance Program