The Southeast Based Coalition of Human Rights Organizations (SBCHROs) comprising: Anambra State Branch of the Civil Liberties Organization (CLO), Center for Human Rights & Peace Advocacy (CHRPA), Human Rights Club (a project of LRRDC)(HRC), Forum for Justice, Equity & Defense of Human Rights (FJEDHR), Society Advocacy Watch Project (SPAW), Anambra Human Rights Forum (AHRF), Southeast Good Governance Forum (SGGF), International Solidarity for Peace & Human Rights Initiative (ITERSOLIDARITY) and Igbo Ekunie Initiative (pan Igbo rights advocacy group) have joined other Nigerians and the international community in thanking God for sparing the precious life of Nigeria’s President, Gen Muhammadu Buhari and facilitating his quick recovery from a diagnosed ill-health or sickness. Though President Muhammadu Buhari personally and vicariously has no regard for sanctity of human life and dignity of human person, but we are thankful to God for saving his precious life and providing him a divine opportunity to make amends, particularly to end his self inflicted and self invited presidential violence and dictatorship currently on rampage in Nigeria.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s one year old presidency has been marked by turbulence grounded in presidential violence and dictatorship of alarming proportion. Borrowing from Intersociety’s updated grounded statistics, over 4500 innocent and unarmed citizens have been killed since June 2015 following the swearing in of President Muhammadu Buhari as Nigeria’s sixth civil President on 29th of May 2015; out of which over 1300 were killed by the security forces under conditions and manners unknown to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, relevant regional and international rights and humanitarian treaties entered into by Nigeria as well as other key provisions of international law including the basic standards of the international law and the principles and purposes of the United Nations.
Over 3200 others were killed by violent non State actors whose violent activities are condoned, aided and abetted by the Buhari’s Presidency (i.e. Fulani Janjaweed). In all these, the Presidency of Gen Muhammadu Buhari is personally and vicariously culpable, following its refusal, till date, to fish out the perpetrators including its serving security chiefs and bring them to justice. Others who died untimely following harsh economic, governance and security policies of the Buhari administration in the past one year are in their thousands.
Apart from the presidential violence of alarming proportion unleashed on Nigerians, the lives, liberties and self determination endowments of all Nigerians are violently dictated and eroded by the Presidency of Gen Muhammadu Buhari. Over 98% policies of the Buhari administration are utterly vindictive, primordial, selective, discriminatory, sectional and enemy prone. The list of such harsh policies is in-exhaustive; from anti corruption to security policies; federal office appointment and promotion to distribution of federal resources policies; and from citizens protection and welfare (if any) to general governance of the country policies. The Buhari administration is also an arch ethnic hater, hate speech promoter and ethnic cleanser.
In the area of citizens’ liberties and rule of law, the Buhari administration has completely abandoned the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and brought back through the back door the infamous Decree 2 of 1984 and its sister Decree 4 of 1984 with which enemy-citizens and others labeled corrupt, are arrested and detained for long periods frowned at and disallowed by the 1999 Constitution and the African Charter on Human & Peoples Rights, which Nigeria signed, ratified and domesticated in 1983 and judicially cemented per Supreme Court in 2000. The Buhari administration is also gravely guilty of criminal stigmatization and bastardization of criminal justice and its procedures in Nigeria.
Under the above infamy, the Presidency of Gen Muhammadu Buhari has created and sustained an unwritten death code for Nigerian security forces, under which citizens of Nigeria exercising nonviolently and peacefully their natural rights to self determination, existence, identity and development are shot at sight and massacred particularly when they embark on nonviolent and constitutional assemblies. Under the code of infamy, not less than 200 members of the Igbo Ethnic Nationality exercising the natural rights above mentioned, which Nigeria willingly negotiated and entered into regionally and internationally; have been massacred since August 2015, with over 300 others inflicted with various degrees of deadly gunshot injuries. Over 700 members of the Shiite Muslim sect were also massacred in Zaria in December 2015 by Nigerian soldiers.
There also exists in the Buhari’s violent Presidency criminal pretrial detention policy, with which enemy-citizens and others labeled corrupt are hounded in detention periods far above constitutionally stipulated period. Through the re-introduction via back door of Decree 2 of 1984 and its sister Decree 4 of 1984, the relevant provisions of the 1999 Constitution such as Section 35 (right to personal liberty) and Sections 293, 294 and 296 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 are brazenly corrupted and bastardized. The clear and unambiguous definition and categorization of crimes by Nigeria’s Criminal Code Act of 2004 and the Penal Code of 2004 has also been corrupted and bastardized by the Buhari administration.
The above Codes clearly categorized crimes in Nigeria into felonies, misdemeanors and simple offenses. While felonies such as treason, terrorism, murder, armed robbery, abduction, rape, arson, burglary and aggravated assault, etc, attract on conviction three years to life imprisonment or death; misdemeanors such as fraud, embezzlement of public funds, money laundering, assault, etc, attract on conviction one year to three years imprisonment. Simple offenses such as statutory and strict liability offenses (i.e. traffic and sanitary offenses) attract on conviction less than one year imprisonment.
Procedurally, Section 35 (4) of the 1999 Constitution clearly sets constitutional limits within which citizens can be legally held before being charged to court or tried. The Constitution even leniently gives the criminal investigators long periods of detention of their suspects accused of committing capital offenses (i.e. offenses carrying death penalty or life jail on conviction) such as terrorism, armed robbery, abduction, murder and treason by providing them with up to three months detention before charge or trial, to be strictly terminated after three months if such detained citizens are not granted and released on bail or tried in courts of competent jurisdictions.
Those detained over corruption or bureaucratic crimes charges, which are strictly misdemeanor in nature; are not supposed to be detained beyond 48 hours without charge. This is on account of the fact that no much mental interrogation and mental evidence sourcing is required. Pieces of evidence required to charge and prosecute bureaucratic or corruption accused citizens are paper or bureaucratic based. It is on account of the foregoing that Sections 293, 294 and 296 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act of 2015 are provided; setting legal limits within which citizens can be detained without charge; situated in the minimum of 28 days and maximum of 42 days, strictly under a magistrate court remand. Section 296 specifically assumed that failure to bring detained citizens to trial after 28days or 42days of pretrial detention; unambiguously means that such detained citizens have no case to answer, which is why the same Section expressly directs for discharge and acquittal of such unlawfully detained citizens if their captors failed to charge them within the stipulated periods and that no such charges shall be brought against such citizens again in any court in Nigeria.
Sadly, these sacred and unambiguous constitutional and legal provisions have been observed in grave and gross breach by the dictatorial presidency of Gen Muhammadu Buhari. While the sacred provisions above mentioned see penalties for crimes in Nigeria as reformative, transformative and rehabilitative, the Buhari administration sees it as crude punishment and pursuit of vendetta and enmity. Dozens of Nigerians have been arrested and detained far beyond constitutionally stipulated periods over charges mostly bordering on crimes of misdemeanor (corruption), which on conviction, attract maximum of three years imprisonment. Such crimes are also easily and administratively bailable.
Shockingly, the Presidency of Gen Muhaamadu Buhari has observed these in gross breach by obtaining kangaroo magistrate court detention orders from compromised magistrates, detaining the detained citizens as much as 90 days or more, contrary to the 1999 Constitution and its ACJ Act of 2015, Criminal Code Act of 2004 and Penal Code of 2004. Detained citizens with phantom accusation of treason and terrorism, etc, have also been held in detention for over six months since their arrest. Strong evidence abounds showing gross presidential interference in their bail applications and proceedings. Those of them granted bail by courts have never been released from detention and the Federal Government has kept on trampling on their fundamental human rights with reckless abandon till date.
Instances abound. Mr. Azibaola Roberts and his wife, Stella, were arrested by EFCC on 23rd of March 2016. While his wife was granted administrative bail by the EFCC, Mr. Azibaola Roberts was detained for over 80days before being charged on 7th of June 2016. They are accused of a $40million money laundering fraud and were given harsh bail conditions of N500million each, which are yet to be met till date. Col Nicholas Achinze is a former ADC to Col Sambo Dasuki. He was arrested by the Nigerian Army and the EFCC on 23rd of December 2015 and detained for 13 weeks or 3 months and seven days without charge or under any specified criminal allegation. He spent five weeks in army custody from where he was transferred to the EFCC custody where he was further detained for eight weeks or two months without charge before he was released under duress by his captors in late March 2016. Barr Femi Fani-Kayode has been in criminal detention of the EFCC for 41 days or a month and eleven days over an allegation of monetary fraud. He was arrested on 9th of May 2016. He is one of the leading critics of the Buhari administration.
Retired Col Sambo Dasuki has been in detention since 1st of December 2015; a period of over seven months. He was arrested in connection with an allegation of $2.1billion military equipment procurement scandal. Despite several court bails and orders for his release on bail and despite meeting the bail conditions, the Buhari administration has adamantly refused to obey or comply with such judicial pronouncements till date and he has remained in perpetual confinement. Citizen Nnamdi Kanu (POC) has been in unjust detention since 14th of October 2015; a period of over eight months or over 240 days. Till date, his trial over phantom treason allegation is yet to be fully commenced and all the bails granted to him by courts have been disobeyed by the administration of Gen Muhammadu Buhari. The President, himself, has publicly vowed to “rot the duo of Sambo Dasuki and Nnamdi Kanu in jail” at all costs, using brazen executive interference in their court processes and proceedings.
The worst and inexplicable of it all is continuing solitary and incommunicado detention of the leader of the Shiite Muslim sect in Nigeria; Malam Ibrahim Zaky el-Zaky since December 2015; a period of over seven months. Till date, Malam Zaky el-Zaky is not facing any trial known to the 1999 Constitution and its criminal laws. Despite having body shattered and lacerated by soldiers in the violent entourage of COAS, Lt Gen Turkur Buratai, with live bullets during the last December massacre of over 700 of his followers, the Buhari administration has continued to detain him dead or alive, outside any known and written law in Nigeria and without any form of criminal charge.
Pieces of strong evidence also abound, showing and exposing the Buhari administration’s contempt to dissent voices, free speeches and political tolerance and pluralism. Selective arrest, detention and prosecution of citizens accused of committing the so called “corruption crimes”, is a clear case in point. While Nigeria’s mainstream CSOs and their leaders, dominant in Lagos State and the Southwest region of Nigeria, have been bottled or coerced by the Buhari administration into “pro-establishment activists”; those who are still courageous enough to challenge and speak against the excesses of the administration, are threatened and marked out as enemy-citizens. In this category includes Deputy Senate President, Barr Ike Ekweremadu, Citizen Nnamdi Kanu’s lawyer, Barr Ifeanyi Ejiofor, and Barr Nnamdi Nwokocha, who is in court, seeking to compel President Muhammadu Buhari and WAEC to clear controversies surrounding the former’s West African Senior Secondary School Certificate or WAEC.
Barr Ifeanyi Ejiofor, on his part, is facing persecution of the Buhari administration from right, left and center over his conscientious insistence not to compromise and betray the trust and confidence of his client; Citizen Nnamdi Kanu, which the Buhari administration is forcing him to do. Petitions from the Federal Government to his professional constituency and other quarters are flying from right, left and center. Apart from government sponsored hostile media onslaughts against Barr Nnamdi Nwokocha, over his suit against the existence or otherwise of President Muhammadu Buhari’s WAEC Certificate, he has also been presidentially threatened with a law suit, for “declaring Mr. President guilty on the pages of the newspaper”. Some activist lawyers of yesterday now bottled by the Buhari administration, have abandoned the masses and taken up professional briefs in defense of the President in his WAEC controversies.
The Deputy Senate President, on his part, is also not spared. While there are mountainous cases of uninvestigated and un-prosecuted individual and group homicides and other high profile regime atrocities in Nigeria, the Nigeria Police Force and the Office of the Attorney of the Federation are busy wasting public resources and energies on mere legislative rules and regulations (National Assembly rules), which are largely unknown to Nigeria’s criminal justice administration and the Constitution. Till date, most, if not all the culprits in the Nimbo and Agatu massacres are still on the prowl; likewise the perpetrators of the Zaria Shiites Massacre and the pro Biafran massacres of 2015 and 2016 in Onitsha, Aba and Asaba. Yet, the like of Deputy Senate President, who has strongly condemned the massacres, is being targeted for political humiliation and persecution, using the so called “Senate Rules Forgery”, which adds little or no value to the growth and advancement of Nigeria’s criminal justice administration.
It is therefore our position that the divine recovery from recent ill-health by President Muhammadu Buhari is a divine and possibly the last opportunity of the President to make amends and end his presidential violence and dictatorship in Nigeria. The President is hereby called upon to truly dedicate his speedy recovery to God and people of Nigeria and change from his administration’s violent and dictatorial approaches to democratic governance. It will be too dicey for President Muhammadu Buhari to continue in his old and crude governance way and he may most likely not have this type of opportunity again. One way to achieve these is for the Buhari administration to embark on holistic policy reversal and take a total recourse to citizen-governance and sovereignty as a responsibility. The sanctity of the pluralistic and secular composition of Nigeria must be respected and upheld at all times.
For: Southeast Based Coalition of Human Rights Organizations (SBCHROs)
Emeka Umeagbalasi, Leader SBCHROs & Board Chair, Intersociety
Mobile Line: +2348174090052
Comrade Aloysius Attah, Chair, Anambra CLO & Head, Publicity, SBCHROs
Mobile Line: +2348035090548
Jerry Chukwuokoro, PhD, Head, Research & Strategy, SBCHROs
Mobile Line: +2348035372962