It is an incontestable fact that ethnic bloodshed, gross rights abuses and other regime atrocities in Nigeria’s present dispensation have deteriorated on account of conspiratorial roles of the security forces, aided and abetted by the Presidency as well as well as coordinated conspiracy of silence maintained by the (former) mainstream human rights, good governance and democracy activists or groups; majorly concentrated in the Southwest part of Nigeria and dominated by activists of Southeast and Southwest sections of the country. It is also an undisputed fact that the conspiracy of silence under reference came on account of an existing partisan alliance between the referenced rights and democracy CSOs, their leaders and then AC/APC controlled Government of Lagos State (since 2003); through a Government-CSO liaison arrangement. This was later extended and enlarged ahead of 2015 general elections that produced Gen Muhammadu Buhari and his APC as the sixth Nigeria’s central civilian government.
We further wish to inform that apart from choosing “conspiracy of silence” as an alliance policy with the Buhari administration, the referenced activist-CSOs also adopted pro establishment, advisory or non-critic concept of CSO activism. A major area of their nowadays peripheral activism is rooted in their blind supports to the present regime’s anti corruption alarmist policies. As far as the referenced activist-CSOs are concerned, fight against corruption, no matter how crude and human rights, rule of law and constitutionally unfriendly it is; must take precedent over gross breaches of fundamental human rights of the citizenry. To them, democratic governance is no longer collective effort at ensuring collective good, welfare, unity, cohesion, security, safety, protection, prosperity and national development; but an opportunity for few to be privileged and have access to the corridors of political power with its illicit goodies.
Today, the referenced activist-CSOs advocacy, if any, is not only utterly selective, but also sectional and establishment oriented. The principles of neutrality, bias, impartiality and grassroots orientation have not only departed their advocacy, but the bodies and individuals under reference now see the Buhari administration as “incapable of doing wrong or engaging in any misconduct”. To the greatest surprise of all and sundry in Nigeria and beyond, with the exception of Intersociety and minute others; the conspiracy of silence has become the permanent policy of the referenced activist-CSOs; to the extent that till date, no firm advocacy statements or proactive advocacy steps have emanated from them concerning all the evidential regime atrocities associated with the Buhari administration particularly the massacre of over 80 members and supporters of IPOB and maiming of over 170 others in Onitsha, Aba and other key cities of Southeast and South-south regions. Their conspiracy of silence has also been extended to other regime and non regime atrocities such as recent Agatu and Ukpabi-Nimbo (Uzo Uwani) butcheries by the Fulani Janjaweed. Where any statement is rarely issued, it is empty, advisory, defensive and utterly establishment oriented.
A clear case in point, which must have captured the attention and worries of the Speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Hon Onofiok Luke; is the press statement issued by the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG); a supposedly non-partisan coalition of CSOs dominated by the Southwest based activist-CSOs, which say they are advocating for credible and popular elections in Nigeria or any part thereof. The TMG has in a statement issued on Friday, 29th of April 2016, belatedly accused the former Goodluck Jonathan administration of attempting to offer it a bribe of N2billion ahead of the 2015 general elections. It further accused the former administration of pressuring it to accept “50,000 PDP members as elections observers”. While the statement in its entirety is political and APC friendly, the TMG group failed to disclose in same why it chose to make it public over 12 months after the said elections were held. The link below contains the TMG reference statement http://elombah.com/index.php/reports/6667-jonathan-offered-us-n2b-ahead-of-2015-elections-tmg
The roles of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in all these are condemnably alarming and shocking. The Commission has not only lost focus but it is also spineless and conspiratorial. Till date, there is no single statement from the Commission condemning the massacres and butcheries under reference, despite enormity of powers and oversight functional mechanisms at its disposal. Its roles in the Zaria Shiite massacre are nothing but “cooling off” and escapist. It has maintained, till date, total silence over IPOB massacres and shootings as well as Agatu and Ukpabi-Nimbo (Uzo Uwani) butcheries by the Fulani Janjaweed; likewise other plethora of regime atrocities of the Buhari administration. For instance, it took the NHRC over four months to respond to our “urgent action” letter addressed to it, dated 13th of November 2015, concerning flagrant abuse of legal rights of Citizen Nnamdi Kanu (POC) by DSS; guaranteed by the Chapter Four of the 1999 Constitution.
Such legal rights under breach, warranting our referenced letter to it included disobedience to bails granted by courts and denial of access to his lawyers, family and medical doctors while he was in the DSS captivity. It took NHRC over four months to respond to our letter of 13th of November 2015 via its letter to us, dated 4th of March 2016 and referenced: C/2016/983/HQ. The letter was delivered to our secretariat on 22nd of March 2016. Signed by A.A. Yakubu for Executive Secretary/CEO; the letter read in part, “you are informed that the subject of the complaint is before a competent court and is subjudice and cannot be admitted by the Commission”. By this the Commission is saying that once a citizen is arrested, arraigned and remanded in prison by a magistrate court without trial, his or her fundamental human rights including legal rights cannot be discussed and protected or even when he or she is put on trial, same cannot be discussed when abused or under threat of abuse.
We, therefore, share the deep concerns recently expressed by the Speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Hon Onofiok Luke, over conspiracy of silence of the CSO rights activists in the country at a time the country is in dire need of courageous people to speak on governance and against poor leadership. The Speaker further said that “it is worrisome that a few years ago there were myriads of activists who spoke against bad government and there seems to be a conspiracy of silence in the face of even worse leadership crisis in the country presently”. The Speaker spoke while addressing members of the Young Lawyers’ Forum of the Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, in Uyo, where he asked: “Where are the activists in the country now?”
The Speaker went further to say: “We have a great challenge facing us today as the leaders of this country for tomorrow. In the last eight years when things were wrong, we had senior lawyers who would hit the streets shouting and making demands in the name of human rights activists.“Yet the same things which happened in the last couple of years are happening today, and even taking worrisome dimensions, but there seems to be a conspiracy of silence”.“What we find today is that people become activists when political situations don’t favour them. But when they are on the side which favours them, they feign ignorance of harsh realities. “This is why, till tomorrow, we respect the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi.” (Sources: This Day Newspaper and the News Express online, 30th of April 2016). Our answer to the above question by the Speaker (where are the activists in the country now?) is that “mainstream activists in the country have slumbered and are on the run”; leading to birth of a new generation of rights, democracy and good governance activists across the Niger and the creeks of the Niger Delta. In other words, though mainstream activist-CSOs have conspiratorially slumbered, but others abound and waxing.
Conspiratorial Roles Of Security Forces In Regime Atrocities & Other Rights Abuses: Pieces of credible evidence exposing the conspiratorial roles of security forces in the country’s non-State actor butcheries across its rain forests region are mounting on daily basis; likewise those directly linking the Buhari’s Federal Government and its security chiefs to incessancy of State terrorism and murders in the Southern part of Nigeria. There are continuing reports of sponsored security personnel particularly members of the armed forces posing as “alamajari” shoe makers or shoe shiners, “Mai-ruwa” (water fetchers), beggars, finger nail cutters, and barrow pushers flooding the streets of southern cities particularly those of the Southeast and the South-south regions for the purpose of embarking on well coordinated intelligence gathering missions for Hausa-Fulani oligarchs. From Nnewi to Onitsha; Awka to Ekwulobia; Abakiliki to Enugu; Umuahia to Aba; Owerri to Port Harcourt; the number of cities under siege by those marauding elements is many to be named.
In Nnewi, Anambra State, for instance, a doctor of a teaching hospital recently ran into an officer he knew way back in the north, called Sani, whom he saw posing as a shoe shiner along a road in Nnewi. On shouting his name twice, the officer-soldier saw and recognized him; took to his heel and abandoned his shoe shining basket. In Owerri, Imo State, there was also a case of another soldier posing as shoe maker, whose identity card dropped from his pocket and a person nearby picked it and discovered that he is a serving soldier of the northern extraction. At Ekwulobia, Anambra State, there was a heated argument between a supposedly shoe maker of northern extraction and his customer; leading to a near-fist cuff and along the line, an identity card of the supposed shoe maker dropped from his pocket and he turned out to be a soldier of the northern extraction. Other instances abound.
Just recently, 76 unarmed and innocent natives of Ugwuneshi Autonomous Community in Awgu LGA of Enugu State were arrested and tortured by soldiers of the 144 Battalion in Abia State; detained and influenced a feeble magistrate to remand them in prison for fifteen days for protesting against the menace of the Fulani herders and their armed Janjaweed in their area. As if that was not enough, the DSS recently arranged a press conference where it accused IPOB of “killing five Hausa-Fulani civilians”. The accusation turned out to be watery, vexatious and grossly unsubstantiated. In the Agatu and Ukpabi-Nimbo (Uzo Uwani) butcheries by the Fulani Janjaweed, in which over 300-400 defenseless citizens mostly women and children were killed; the DSS has not said anything or arrested anybody till date. Just recently, the Commissioner of Police Anambra State, CP Hosea Karma publicly claimed that “IPOB and MAASOB activities”, were his major security headache. How nonviolent protests guaranteed in democratic society and the Constitution have become violent crimes warranting the CP’s security headache, has not been publicly explained by the CP till date.
As recently as Saturday, 30th of April 2016, the Governor of Enugu State, Hon Lawrence Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi made a shocking revelation of how relevant security chiefs in the State including the CP and the GOC of 82 Division of the Nigerian Army were duly informed over eight hours before the Ukpabi-Nimbo Fulani killings, yet they could not do anything. The State CP, Ekechukwu Nwodibo, obviously acting on a script from the above, had after the butchery claimed that “hoodlums not Fulani herders (Janjaweed) carried out the killings”. The Governor, on his part, also exhibited moral remorselessness and culpability. The same Governor that was caught in the media shedding tears during his visit to the butchery scene with a declaration of two days of mourning; was sighted in Aso Rock smiling and laughing as if he won a Nobel Prize for Peace in Norway. He also nearly turned himself into a snail while having a handshake with Gen Muhammadu Buhari; as if he was greeting and shaking “Saint Pope John Paul 11”. These are clear manifestations of conquest and modern day political slavery; responsible for ceaseless ethnic cleansing directed at Igbo population in Nigeria.
Further attestation to the conspiratorial roles under reference, is the hostile and war drumming position taken by the 19 Northern Governors Forum. The Forum not only defended and justified strongly the butcheries perpetrated by the Fulani Janjaweed particularly that of Ukpabi-Nimbo, but also described the butchers as “cattle rustlers”; yet they did not tell Nigerians why those seeking to steal cows (rustlers) from cow herders, would abandon cow herders and their cows and go after the lives of those not involved in cattle herding (Agatu and Ukpabi-Nimbo natives of Benue and Enugu States). The Northern Governors and the Buhari Presidency are also believed to be the brains behind the pendency of the National Grazing Reserve Bill before the National Assembly with its genocidal provisions. Totality of these explains our position that “the security forces in Nigeria are conspiratorially on rampage while the (former) mainstream activist-CSOs are on the run over the raging ethnic bloodshed, rights abuses and other regime atrocities in the country. Till date, the perpetrators are still on the prowl and not one of them has been arrested and prosecuted.
We are aware that the Oyo State Government has made it clear to Federal Government that “it does not have any land to give for National Grazing Reserve”; likewise the Government of Enugu State. That of Oyo State is commendable; not minding its affiliation with APC controlled Federal Government. The position of Ekiti State, too, is commendable. Condemned unreservedly is the silence of the graveyard maintained, till date, by the Governments of Anambra and Ebonyi States. The conspiratorial and parasitic position taken by the Government of Imo State is not unexpected; yet it does not represent the majority views of the Imo People. That of Abia State should be explicit and frontal. All the States of the rain forests region must rise with one voice and ensure prohibition of the Fulani Animal Husbandry in all parts of Nigeria except in the core north.
Call For International Criminal & Diplomatic Interventions: Time has also come for urgent international intervention by the International Governmental Organizations (IGOs) and other members of the international community. Specifically, the UN Security Council is called upon to carry out extensive criminal and diplomatic investigations into the activities of the Fulani Janjaweed and associated roles of the cattle owners and herders as well as conspiratorial roles of the country’s security forces and the Government of Gen Muhammadu Buhari, which, till date, have not arrested and prosecuted any perpetrator associated with the butcheries under reference. By this, the Buhari administration has not only failed to fulfill its international obligations, but also circumstantially an accomplice. The administration has further breached its obligation under the Rome Statute of the ICC by its “unwillingness and inability” to bring to justice those murderous elements within the Fulani Janajweed.
We hereby demand that the investigations under recommendation should follow the patterns applied in the Sudan’s Darfur Region by the international community and the UN Security Council (UNSC). Such international criminal and diplomatic investigations should be referred by UNSC, under Chapter Seven of the UN Charter to the Office of the Prosecutor for International Criminal Court for further investigation, indictment and prosecution of actors, sponsors, aiders and abettors. Alternatively, any State-Party to ICC Statute that feels deeply concerned over unprovoked butcheries in Nigeria is also called upon to refer the butcheries to the ICC for necessary remedial and punitive actions.
For: International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Intersociety)
Emeka Umeagbalasi, Board Chairman
Mobile Line: +2348174090052
Chinwe Umeche, Esq., Head, Democracy & Good Governance Program
Mobile Line: +2347013238673
Obianuju Joy Igboeli, Esq., Head, Civil Liberties & Rule of Law Program
Mobile Line: +2348180771506