THE ARBITRARY DEPRIVATION OF THE RIGHT TO LIFE BY NIGERIA GOVERNMENT.
A PAPER PRESENTED (PRIVATE SESSION) BY NASIRU JAGABA NOUAKCHOTT, ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF MAURITANIA 28 APRIL, 2018 AT THE 62ND SESSION OF ACHPR.
In the effort towards the protection of human rights, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on the 10th December 1948. This declaration was later stepped down at the continental level when the African Charter on Human and Peoples Right came into force in October 1986. The aim is to restrain the excess of power of States in their relationship with their subject.
Kofi Annan, resolves that “Human Rights are what makes us human. They are the principles by which we create the sacred home for human dignity”.
THE AFRICAN CHARTER ON HUMAN AND PEOPLE’S RIGHTS: THE RIGHT TO LIFE (ARTICLE 4)
The jurisprudence of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights has widely recognized the “right to life” as fundamental right and fulcrum of all other rights. Without the right to life, other rights cannot be implemented. The commission, in article 4 of the charter, imposes on States the responsibility to prevent “arbitrary deprivations of life” caused by it own agents, and to protect individuals and groups from such deprivations at the hands of others. It also impose responsibility to investigate any killing that take place, and to hold the perpetrators accountable. This intersects with general duty, recognized in the Charter, of all individuals to exercise their rights and freedom with due regard to the rights of others.
THE NATURE OF THE RIGHT AND THE OBLIGATIONS OF THE NIGERIAN GOVERNMENT IN RESPECT OF THE RIGHT TO LIFE
The right to life requires the realization of all human rights recognized in the Charter, including civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights and peoples’ rights, particularly the right to peace. The Charter envisages the responsibility of State in the protection of life in a broader sense, but for convenience, I will pick few to explain the arbitrarily deprivation of life of Nigerians by government, especially in Southern Kaduna, Benue, Middle Belt region, Zamfara, North East Nigeria and some part of Eastern part of Nigeria, where human have no value of wasted paper.
The pattern is the same. killings with impunity. The level of barbarity was such that pregnant women got their wombs blown out and massacred before their children. And these innocent children were not spared either. This level of viciousness was never witnessed eve in Rwanda or Hitler’s Concentration Camp.
The right to life is contained in the Nigerian constitution. The legal system criminalize murder, and arbitrary killings committed or tolerated by State are a matter of gravity.
As part of their broader duty to secure the conditions for dignified life, State have a responsibility to protect the human rights, including the right to life, of individuals or groups who are frequently targeted or at risk, including on the grounds listed in Article 2 of the Charter and those highlighted in resolutions of the commission.
The Nigerian government has failed in her responsibility under the Charter and her constitution to develop and implement a legal and practical framework to respect, protect, promote and fulfill the right to life. Instead of taking steps both to prevent arbitrary deprivations of life and to conduct prompt, impartial, thorough, and transparent investigations into any such deprivation that may have occurred, holding those responsible to account and providing for an effective remedy and reparation for the victims, including where appropriate, their immediate family and dependants. But end up framing the victims as culprit which clearly display the violation of this right by Nigerian government and all its organ and other public or governmental authorities, at all level.
Under the Charter, a State can be held responsible for killings by non-State actors if it approves, supports, or acquiesces in those acts or if it fails to exercise due diligence to prevent this killings or to ensure proper investigation and accountability.
The failure of the Nigerian government to transparently take necessary measures to investigate suspicious deaths and all the killings by State agents and to identify and hold accountable individuals or groups responsible for violations of the right to life constitutes in itself a violation by government of that right.
THE NIGERIAN LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES AND THE VIOLATION OF THE RIGHT TO LIFE
The law enforcement official have compromised their primary duty to protect the safety of the public. In many cases the security agencies are cut in either direct or indirect perpetrating the crimes of this right to violation. Thereafter, they arrest defenseless victims, torture them into confessing crimes they didn’t commit or to implicate choice individuals that are not speaking along the interest of state actors. The fundamental right to protest is a mere draft that State actors have tripped off its spiritual and legal bearing in order to silenced oppositions. Lives are being wasted in the place of protest.
Illegal detention is the most simple thing that happen in my domain. Government are using state apparatus to insult, denigrate, intimidate, arrest and put in prison all voices of reason who dare to challenge them. Among those that have fallen victims of his tyranny are: traditional rulers, journalists, youths, political leaders, academicians, while threatening Religious and Unions Leaders with arrest for daring to speak out against the genocide. Nigerian security deliberately refused to take all reasonable precautionary steps to protect life.
In December 2015, over 345 citizens including women and children were massacred by the Nigerian Army in Zaria, Kaduna-Nigeria. The killings involved the demolition of choice properties. The people killed were Shiites, members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria. Protests to release their spiritual leader who has been unlawfully after the incidence till date.
An Internally Displaced Persons Camp in Rann Borno state was bombed by the Nigeria Airforce in what was termed as an ‘accident’ which brought about the death of over 200 persons displaced by the Boko Haram in the North East.
In a claim by the Nigeria Air Force to maintain a ‘line of peace’ between the armed herdsmen militia and the defenseless locals, air raids were carried out by NAF in the Numan area bringing about the loss of not less than 59 of the locals in Adamawa mostly children. About 7 communities in these areas have suffered similar fate under the firepower of the military’s air strikes even while banditry attacks were ongoing against their communities. SNEP pods and rockets with high explosive warheads were later found by members of the community after the air strike, undetonated.
While the government in Nigeria admits that these bloodthirsty killers are foreign agents of terrorism, trained army from the obstructed government of Libya under the Late Muammar Gaddafi, the killings of innocent peasant farmers, women and children and sacking of rural communities have continued to go unabated. The protests on these incessant killings in Southern Kaduna, Zamfara, Benue, Taraba, Niger and several other states in Nigeria have fallen on deaf ears especially the nation’s legislature at all levels.
It is needful to say that today, the citizens in Nigeria do not know where the loyalty of the armed forces lie, whether to state or individuals.
People who have had the effrontery to raise these issues, report same even as journalist have suffered a high level of unlawful intimidation, detention, arrests and forms of deprivations by the state actors. The government in Nigeria at all levels continue to show total disregard for court orders, injunctions and rulings. We have a case of more political prisoners in Nigeria today. Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd) is still in detention since the year 2016 despite being granted bail a competent court and the ECOWAS Court.
THE SITUATION OF DEMOCRACY IN NIGERIA
The citizens of Nigeria have keep faith alive on civil rule against all odds. Democracy today in its nineteenth year now in Nigeria, and it enjoys the much support from the citizens. We have survived more turbulence in this 19 years and are yet determined to make democracy work in Nigeria as people.
This journey have taken us through a series of conventions to ratify, review and make legislations with hope that the nation will eventually become a state for all of her citizens. Like everywhere else democracy in Nigeria is a journey.
It is fundamental at this point to thank the commitments by the global community in aiding my country towards this fast growth and the structures now in place to aid the sustainability of democracy in Nigeria. The commitments from such communities have contributed immensely to peaceful transitions, the liberalization of political institutions, the existing framework to combat [especially] corruption, public services delivery and so much more. I must thank International Partners, here present, the Amnesty International, the International community of Red Cross, the Representatives of UN Human Rights Council, and Non-Governmental Organizations, Civil Societies and Activists. I’m happy that you are here listening.
Our democracy is however still below scale, certain rights and liberties are not still guaranteed, and the role of citizens is a frontier that is being highly micromanaged in Nigeria. The nation have tried all of the character type of leadership it could citizens thought best as having the character required for leadership of the State at both national and sub-national levels, but that have also failed to deal with the problems bothering citizens, capping the nations human resources by the denial of the social structures for self-actualization. At the centre of all these is the nation’s popular narrative: corruption, nepotism ….
Our understanding however as concerned citizens of the Nigerian State is that democracy have taken Nigeria unawares. Collectively as citizens we fail Nigeria by the level of ignorance we have about democracy. Our elections are largely unreflective of our patriotism to country other than ethnicity, creed or religion. Our perspective in grasping issues of national and relatively global importance is governed by same. The populace have abdicated the defence of state for regionalism over the years when the choice of leadership was not on the basis of popular choice. This culture have tarried with us to the present time.
For a robust democracy and the realization of Nigeria’s place in the global community, the ‘citizen’ must be the focus of government and governance. Until citizens and citizenship becomes prioritized by the Nigeria, only little can be achieved. As citizens access public offices, they susceptibility to fail remains largely due to low education on government and governance in a democracy. The Open Government Partnership that the nation have signed into today is key. The worry however is its implementation and the need for a legal framework for its operationalization.
As the elections approach quite much needs to be done especially by the Nigeria’s electoral umpire INEC, ensure that the exercise of voting rights is unhindered. The institutions has however in a dramatic twist, turned insular and indifferent to citizen’s plight of access to the ballot. The number of displaced people in Nigeria keeps rising consequently impacting in demographic redistribution a matter Nigeria’s unprivileged are still grappling with today.
The cost at which most citizens have to pay now to get registered as voters stands at about $10 per person.
RESTRICTIVE LEGISLATIVE FRAMEWORK
The Nigerian legislature have some degree of independent both in structures and finances. There is a provision for its own budget free from executive dictation or interference. The exercise of all their constitutional rights is without restrictions from the executive and judiciary except the toga of partisanship and regionalism which is still taking more than a pound on the nation’s public governance structures at all levels.
The legislative arm of government is the only new arm of governance at the country’s return to democratic rule. The understanding that this arm of government is more responsible for the amplification of the voices of the non-vocal majority.
The legislative arms are was founded upon the primordial injustices that have made the legislature characteristic of the following:
1. The legislative framework was founded upon the colonial unjust social order and the imbalanced political structures;
2. The parliamentarians are mostly tribal politicians who are groomed to take-over and protect regional interests.
3. Legislative corruption. There is a deliberate delays in passing Bills that can change a course and improved life of common man. Bill that flows within a short time without any truncation are usually accompanied by money or higher interest. This bill may have little or no impact to the common man. Eg. PIB bill sleeping in Parliamentary shelf for 5 years now.
4. Ethno-regional politics which was characterized by the blatant misuse of States resources and power, nepotism, tribalism domination, fears, rivalry, aggressiveness, greed, manipulation, corruption, etc.
5. Unacceptable revenue allocation formula and the distribution of resources and their politicization which led to uneven distribution of resources.
6. There is denial of democratic process of government in terms of equal representation and participation in government.
These social values and many more are heritages of colonial social order that become the motivating political factors and values for the Nigerian legislatures.
These legislatures failed at any substantial restructuring unjust social order and negative values but because they are controlled and dominated by their subnational and parochial values which stood against national unity and integration.
In Nigeria citizens are not empowered to combat corruption. The buck ends with the public sector. Even when corruption can be investigated and reported, the guarantee for prosecution is largely with the Attorney General-an appointee-under the Executive arm of government. This structure have provided a safe haven that the legislative and citizens are left to mostly protest with little results.
What has threatened Democracy in Nigeria and the inculcation of democratic culture is the conspired criminality of depriving the Nigeria’s people their third tier of government which is now being micromanaged by state actors against the provisions of the Nigeria’s constitution to under-develop communities and loot funds appropriated to that tier of government. Even worse is the absence of any penalty whatsoever for this perpetrators of crime against the Nigerian people.
Thank you for listening.