SR-Lawyer and rights advocate, Mr. Femi Falana, has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to order investigations into a variety of acts of impunity and human rights abuses under his government, particularly extra-judicial execution of criminal suspects by the police and the unlawful killing of unarmed civilians including women and children by the armed forces.
These, Falana said in a letter to the President, dated 26 April, have continued unabated.
To instantiate human rights abuses by security agencies, Falana listed a number of cases of right abridgement. These, he said, include the killing many people durin the 2015 general elections. To support his claim, he said over 100 people quoting the National Human Rights Commission, were killed in Rivers State alone.
He also cited the widespread killing and destruction of properties during the re-run elections in the state. ” Apart from thugs and militants who have continued to unleash mayhem on innocent people, the Joint Task Force has been indicted in the unlawful killing of members of the public.
“On February 22, 2016, a platoon of soldiers invaded Ogoniland in Rivers state and killed three unarmed youths,” Falana said. He noted that the demand of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People( MOSOP) that the culprits be prosecuted has been ignored by the authorities.
While commending the federal government for its anti -graft war, Falana noted that the government had failed to punish army officers and soldiers involved in the unlawful killing of innocent people in the Northeast region, a trend condemned by local and international human rights organizations.
“Having confirmed that the federal government and the military authorities are unwilling to investigate the complaints of such unlawful killings, the Office of the Special Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has commenced investigations into the allegations of crimes against humanity committed by the indicted military personnel,” he stated.
Falana also complained about the trend, by the police, of publicly parading before the media robbery and kidnap suspects, a practice he blamed on the police commands in the country’s 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory. This, he explained, take the form of press conferences where hundreds of detained armed robbery and kidnap suspects are paraded before the media. “Upon the conclusion of such media briefings, a majority of the suspects are extra-judicially executed by the anti-robbery squads of the Police.
“After that, the dead bodies of the suspects are taken out at night and secretly buried in unmarked graves by the illegal executioners.
“In recent times, we have received complaints from the family members of a number of criminal suspects who have been unlawfully killed by the Police under the pretext that they were trying to escape from custody,” he noted. He similarly cited the 12 December 2015 clash between the Army authorities and the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, which took place in Zaria, Kaduna State. “Instead of requesting the Police to remove the nuisance from the highway, the army chief( Chief of Army Staff) decided to resort to self-help.
“In utter violation of Section 217 of the Constitution, Rules of Engagement for the Nigerian Military and the Geneva Convention, he ordered armed troops from the 1st Division of the Nigerian Army to levy war on the worshipers. “In the process, hundreds of people were reportedly killed in cold blood. “Two days later, the leader of the Movement, Sheik Ibraheem Zakzaky, who was not at the venue of the convention was attacked vi et armis in his private house by the soldiers,” Falana recalled. The attack, he narrated, claimed the lives of members Zakzaky’s family, including his wife and children, were shot at close range. “Three3 of his children were killed in his presence while his house was set ablaze by the rampaging soldiers.
“Without a court order the Kaduna state government teamed up with the vandals by demolishing the house of Sheik Zakzaky and other properties of the Movement, ” he said.
He accused the Kaduna State government of assisting the army in the secret burial of 347 dead bodies of Zakzaky’s followers in a mass grave in the state.
“While those who massacred the 347 Nigerian citizens are walking free, not less than 182 members of the Movement have been charged to court with conspiracy and culpable homicide by the Kaduna State government for allegedly killing a soldier.
‘Meanwhile, the leaders of the Movement are being held in prison custody and the detention centre of the State Security Service.
‘Thus, they have been prevented from testifying before the Judicial Commission of Enquiry set up by the Kaduna State government to investigate the civil disturbances,” he said. This, he explained, currently makes the commission to be taking evidence from the aggressors and others who have an axe to grind with the Movement.
Falana also recalled scores of young people killed in the Eastern part of the country by the combined team of the army and police for agitating for the state of Biafra. He similarly called attention to the announcement, a fortnight ago, by the State Security Service, which it found 55 shallow graves in Umuahia, Abia State. These, he said, the SSS claimed that some of the graves contained the bodies of five Fulani herdsmen resident in the state. “Although the security agency pointedly accused the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra of “gradually showing its true colour” by attempting to ignite terrorism and mistrust, it turned round to assure the public that it would investigate the incident and, ‘ensure that the sponsors and perpetrators of this action are apprehended and persecuted for their crime’.
“It is clear from its own press statement that the SSS reached the hasty conclusion of holding the agitators for the Republic of Biafra responsible for the killings when it had not carried out any investigation into the shallow graves,” observed the lawyer.
Falana also called attention to the country’s latest scourge -the Fulani herdsmen, who in many parts of the country, have killed a large number of farmers. In Benue and Taraba states, he said, not less than 500 farmers were recently killed by armed herdsmen due to negligence on the part of security forces.
He added that apart from the visit of the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase, to the scene of the killings, the culprits have not been brought to book.
“In Dorcas Afolalu v the Federal Republic of Nigeria (unreported Suit No ECW/CCJ/APP/O4/2012, the Ecowas Court held that the government is under a legal obligation to protect the life of every citizen,” he said.
The government’s failure to fulfill this obligation, he reckoned, has made some take advantage of the growing culture of official impunity.