…. *Deplores Lack Of Action By United Nations Mechanisms To Halt Widespread Killings Of Civilians By Security Forces In Nigeria.
A Statement By The Prominent Civil Rights Advocacy Group-: Human Rights Writers Association Of Nigeria (HURIWA) On The Implications Of Involvement Of Publicly Funded Armed Security Forces To Constantly Employ The Use Of Force To Stop Nigerians From Exercising Their Fundamental Human Rights In Contrast With The Essence Of Democracy, The Rule Of Law And The International Best Practices Given The Large Number Of International Treaties, Conventions That Nigeria Signed on to:
The Declaration adopted on 24 September 2012 by the United Nations General Assembly at the High-level Meeting on the Rule of Law at the National and International Levels reaffirmed that “human rights, the rule of law and democracy are interlinked and mutually reinforcing and that they belong to the universal and indivisible core values and principles of the United Nations”.
Indeed, government responsiveness to the interests and needs of the greatest number of citizens is strictly associated with the capacity of democratic institutions and processes to bolster the dimensions of rights, equality and accountability.
As was noted by Agnes Callamard; a United Nations Special Rapporteur for Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions at the end of her visit to Nigeria in September 2019, the absence of accountability and functionality in Nigeria is contributing to human rights violations and crisis in the Country.
Nigeria; a federal republic composed of 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory has seen several attacks by Boko Haram and Armed Fulani Herdsmen that have continued to result in hundreds of deaths, occasioned by Security Forces’ failure to protect civilians.
The Nigeria Police Force is the primary law enforcement agency along with other federal organizations. The Department of State Services is responsible for internal security and nominally reports to the president through the National Security Adviser. The Nigerian Armed Forces, which report to the Ministry of Defense, are responsible for external security but also have some domestic security responsibilities. The current central government has not really maintained effective control over the security services.
As a result, significant human rights issues including unlawful and arbitrary killings, extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, torture, and arbitrary detention, by both government and non-state actors; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions, unlawful infringement on citizens’ privacy rights, criminal libel, violence against and unjustified arrests of journalists, substantial interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association have continued to perpetuate with impunity and possess grave implications on the essence of democracy and rule of law.
Although progress are being made in advocating for accountability for human rights violations and abuses committed by security forces, Boko Haram and the Armed Fulani Herdsmen involved in the herders attacks against farmers, no one has been brought to justice, especially for the killing of the members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) and the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) protesters in different states.
The involvement of publicly funded armed security forces to constantly employ the use of force to stop Nigerians from exercising their fundamental human rights as citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has attracted many international commentaries and on the front burner of both national and international discourse.
Apart from the incessant violent killings occasioned by the Boko Haram Terrorist group and the armed Fulani marauders, scores of clamp downs of freedom of assembly, freedom of association and freedom of expression by the Security Forces abound, which threaten the essence of democracy and rule of law.
First, on the freedom of assembly, in 2019 as reported by Amnesty International, Nigerian Security forces banned lawful assembly in some states, including Lagos and Rivers, and in some cases, they violently disrupted peaceful protests, such as the IMN protests in Abuja.
The Unity Fountain, which serves as the rallying point for most protests in the capital city was heavily guarded by the police throughout the year, to monitor and/or prevent scores of protesters from gathering.
Recall that on 17 July, 2019, the Nigerian Police had made an announcement restricting all protests in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to the Unity Fountain, and in October, the Federal Capital Territory Administration closed the Unity Fountain for three months for rehabilitation and construction of a fence. In July, the Police Command in Plateau state placed a total ban on any form of public procession in the state.
On 5 August 2019, several protesters including journalists were arrested and detained across Nigeria by security officials for participating in the #RevolutionNow protest. This year, while marking the one year anniversary of the protest on August 5th, a similar incident occurred between the protesters and the Nigerian Police.
On 12 November, officials of State Security Service beat up one journalist and fired teargas and live ammunition to disperse activists during a protest to demand for the release of prisoners of conscience; Olawale Bakare and Omoyele Sowore. The Executive Director of Enough is Enough Nigeria; Yemi Adamolekun was also attacked during the protest.
Secondly, the Nigerian Security Forces have been found wanting in brazenly violating and clamping down freedom of association. At least two IMN protesters were killed and more than 60 arrested on 9 July 2019, when their peaceful protest calling for the release of their leader; Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and his wife; Zeenah Ibrahim turned violent after security officials fired live ammunition at the protestors at the National Assembly Complex.
More worrisome is that most of those arrested have continued to be held incommunicado in detention facilities in the Federal Capital Territory, Kaduna and Niger States while armed Fulani killers continue to walk freely and Boko Haram Terrorists are given amnesty and re-integrated back into the society.
On 22 July 2019, 11 protestors, a Deputy Commissioner of Police and a reporter for Channels Television were killed when police opened fire on IMN protesters during their procession in Abuja. Scores were injured and many arrested when officials from the Nigeria Police violently disrupted the protest, which was largely peaceful.
Relatedly, since August 2015, there has been a series of protests, marches and gatherings by members and supporters of IPOB (Indigenous People of Biafra) who have been seeking the creation of a Biafran state.
According to Amnesty International the largest number of pro-Biafra activists were killed on Biafra Remembrance Day on 30 May 2016 when an estimated 1,000 IPOB members and supporters gathered for a rally in Onitsha, Anambra State. The night before the rally, the security forces had raided homes and a church where IPOB members were sleeping.
Reportedly, on Remembrance Day itself, the security forces shot people in several locations. Amnesty International has not been able to verify the exact number of extrajudicial executions, but estimates that at least 60 people were killed and 70 injured in these two days. The real number is likely to be higher.
In 2019 alone, security forces arbitrarily arrested at least 200 and killed at least 10 members and supporters of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) at different times.
Most recently is the clash between Nigerian Security Forces and members of IPOB in the city of Enugu on August 23, 2020, wherein at least two officers and up to 21 civilians were reportedly killed, While the final number of casualties and wounded has not yet been confirmed.
Thirdly, the right to freedom of expression remained increasingly restricted as Journalists, bloggers and media activists who ask federal and state authorities probing questions are variously charged with cybercrime and terrorism under the Cybercrime Act of 2015 and Terrorism (Prevention) (Amendment) Act of 2013. Amnesty International documented 19 cases of assault, arbitrary arrests, and detention of journalists.
How come the security forces that are paid from public coffers are the same that the Federal Government has continuously deployed to employ full lethal force against civilians who are totally unarmed?
Our Position And Demands:
It is clear that the Nigerian government has serially failed to uphold its constitutional mandate of protection of human rights in the country. The right to life of Nigerian citizens has been violated with alarming frequency and without any justification or accountability. State parties are also obligated to act and prevent loss of life, investigate and punish wrongful actions resulting in deaths.
We are by this statement demanding from the United Nations Secretary-General an explanation for Nigerians why the UN has not implemented any measures to caution President Muhammadu Buhari against the use of armed security forces against civilians whether they are demonstrating or just holding peaceful meetings.
Equally, we ask the UN to tell Nigerians why despite the presence of two Nigerians in the bureaucracy of the UN, yet Nigeria is being overlooked by the UN whilst it slides into state sponsored anarchy and the civilian populations are turned into items of decimation and extralegal execution by armed security forces that ought to defend and protect them.
Is it that the two Nigerians; Amina Mohammed who served Buhari as Environment Minister and was later made UN Deputy Secretary-General by the UN Secretary-General, and the President of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA); Tijjani Muhammad-Bande are not briefing the UN about the true state of affairs in Nigeria?
Or probably because they are both Fulani, same as President Muhammadu Buhari and same as majority of the suspected armed Fulani herdsmen and terrorists unleashing violence on Nigerians? More so, whether these two UN officials recommended by President Muhammadu Buhari are simply protecting the Buhari-led administration from international scrutiny.
Observably, since they are not even bringing up the issues affecting Nigerian citizens, what is the moral obligation behind them still working for the UN? Hence we call for their dismissal forthwith unless they are simply working for themselves and not on behalf of the people of Nigeria and Africa at large.
This is because, if they are working for the interests of Nigerians and Africa, why the silence from them since five years now whilst thousands of Nigerians are mindlessly murdered by security forces and armed Fulani herdsmen and terrorists?
Furthermore we wish to remind the President, His Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR) that these infractions of using publicly funded armed Security Forces to constantly employ the use of force to stop Nigerians from exercising their fundamental human rights as citizens of the federal republic of Nigeria is an aberration on the essence of democracy, the rule of law and the international best practices, given the large number of international treaties, conventions that Nigeria signed on to including The African Charter, The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, just to mention but a few.
These violations must be halted or the violators charged to court for crimes against humanity locally or inevitably they will be dragged to the International Criminal court in The Hague NETHERLANDS and the ICJ for prosecute in due time since this administration tolerates impunity.
*Miss. Zainab Yusuf:
Director, National Media Affairs.
For: HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA).
27th August 2020.