Posted by News Express | 18 August 2017 | 1,386 times
The barrage of attacks and condemnations trailing the constitution and inauguration of Acting President Yemi Osinbajo’s Military Rights Abuse probe panel, which Mr. Acting President called “Independent Judicial Commission of Enquiry”; are not surprising to the leadership of Int’l Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law.
The Acting President’s military rights abuse probe panel in all intents and purposes including its composition, membership and modus operandi, is dead on arrival and can best be described as “a fire- brigade approach and a makeshift probe commission with already written script and predetermined outcome”.
In other words, the real intent behind the setting of the Commission is to confer “an immunity of impunity” to the committers of heinous regional and international human rights crimes; with most of the atrocity personnel drawn from the serving senior members of the Nigerian security forces particularly the Nigerian Army and the Nigeria Police Force.
The “Osinbajo’s Military Rights Abuse Panel” has since its constitution and inauguration on 4th and 15th August 2017 been awash with informed attacks, condemnations and criticisms especially from leading local and international rights groups and major web and social media players and commentators.
Our Organization (Intersociety) had in its 11th August 2017 statement, condemned strongly the way and manner the probe panel was unilaterally set up by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo without recourse to wide and proper consultations especially from the identified victims’ groups and specific rights organizations and issuers of the reports under complaint.
We had also raised a serious question mark concerning the independence and integrity of members of the probe panel; especially owing to the fact that most of them are widely believed to be known unrepentant apologists of the Buhari Administration, or personal friends of the key serving members of the Administration. A good number of the Osinbajo’s probe panel members have also served in the previous makeshift panels which all exonerated and cleared the top security personnel indicted in the rights groups and other research bodies’ reports. The link to our referenced statement is provided here: http://www.intersociety-ng.org/component/k2/item/273-2017-08-11-09-52-45
The Chair of the Panel (Justice Justice Biobele Georgewill of the Port Harcourt division of the Court of Appeal), for instance, is strongly believed to be a close ally of former Governor Rotimi Amechi, who presently is a Minister in Buhari/Osinbajo Administration. He is also said to be a denominational brethren of the Acting President in their Redeemed Xian Church. A case also abounds where members of the previous disgraced probe panels are also made members of the present “Osinbajo’s Military Rights Abuse Panel or Commission”. The eligibility and legitimacy problem of the Osinbajo’s Rights probe Commission is further compounded by the denial of the victims’ groups (Shiites and pro Biafra groups) representative slots, while the Nigerian Army is allowed to be represented in the Commission by Patrick Akem-a serving Major General in the Nigerian Army.
A clear case in point is the inclusion of Mr. Wale Fapohunda as a member of the present panel. He was a member of the disgraced “Nigerian Army’s Special Board of Enquiry”; which had in its watery report of 15th June 2017 claimed that “nobody was killed in the pro Biafra violent protests in Southeast Nigeria”. The likes of Ms Hauwa Ibrahim, Mr. Jibrin Ibrahim and Ms Ifeoma Nwakama as members of the present Osinbajo’s probe panel are also questionable. They are widely believed to be strong allies or apologists of the Buhari/Osinbajo Administration.
Another strong condemnation of the “Osinbajo’s Military Rights Abuse Panel” came from the Human Rights Writers Association (HURIWA), which had in its statement of 15th August 2017 called for immediate disbandment of the said probe panel or commission for lacking credibility and independence. HURIWA’s statement is provided in this link: http://newsexpressngr.com/news/42557-Military-probe-panel-lacks-credibility-says-HURIWA.
Amnesty International had also on 5th August 2017 reacted to the setting up of the Osinbajo Military Rights Abuse Probe Panel with tactical misgivings. The international rights body had in a statement titled: Nigeria: Long Overdue Commission to Probe Human Rights Violations; called on the government to ensure that the commission is independent, impartial and free from any conflict of interest that may affect the integrity of its work. Ensuring that the commission has the resources to carry out its work and making its terms of reference public can bring transparency. AI’s statement is contained here: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2017/08/nigeria-long-overdue-judicial-commission-to-probe-human-rights-violations-is-set-up/
Sadly and shockingly, despite these criticisms, condemnations and attacks, the Acting President who single handedly or unilaterally set up the probe panel is unmoved; likewise members of the Commission who have also refused to resign from the leprous probe panel owing to serious question marks in their integrity and the independence and impartiality of the Commission. The Commission headed by Justice Biobele Georgewill has even gone ahead to issue a statement, calling, among other things, for the “submission of memoranda within two weeks”.
The statement issued by one Haliru Suleiman (Secretary to the Presidential Investigation Panel) further added that “ it will hold its public hearing in Abuja from September 7 to October 6 and that the “affected persons, institutions and interested members of the public should submit their memorandum within two weeks, through the Presidency, Special Services Office, Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, for the attention of the secretary of the panel” and that “ soft copies of the memorandum are to be submitted to email@example.com”.
Apart from the “Osinbajo’s Military Rights Abuse Probe Panel” being dead on arrival, it has also been red carded by Nigerians especially by most, if not all the victims’ groups and other critical stakeholders including issuers of the rights abuse reports. Investigations carried out by our organization following the inauguration of the so called “Independent Judicial Commission of Enquiry” showed that the Panel is totally red carded by critical victims’ groups such as IPOB/MASSOB and most families of their slain, tortured, maimed and disappeared members. Shiite Muslims or IMN who lost over 1000 members have also expressed serious misgivings over the Panel’s composition, independence and integrity.
To the extent that the Commission sits in the comfort of its air-conditioned office in Abuja and dishes out orders to victims’ families that have been brutally impoverished, depressed, degraded, humiliated, oppressed, suppressed, defiled, assaulted and morally deformed by the criminal and atrocious State actors; by commanding them to “come and submit their memoranda within two weeks”, is a clear case of heartlessness, complicity and proxy crimes against humanity. It also depicts a handiwork of scripted probe panel determined and desperate to carry out its presidentially written scrip or conferment of “immunity of impunity” to the regime criminals and their heinous crimes or atrocities.
A humane, considerate and conscientious (heinous) human rights violations panel or commission does not need to be reminded that the victims’ families have lost fathers/ breadwinners, children, mothers, cousins, nephews, grandparents, etc; all on account of the killing, disappearance, torture and wounding of their loved ones. Many of their children have dropped out of schools; with some of their wives resorted to war-era like prostitution or corporate prostitution in order to survive while some others have virtually become beggars. Some parents and wives of these slain and disappeared have also died as a result of shocks following the death and disappearance of their loved ones in the hands of the Nigerian security forces.
We, therefore, wonder where on earth the Osinbajo’s Military Rights Abuse Panel or Commission expect these victims’ families to get huge resources required for them to “compile in writing all information regarding the killing, torture, wounding or disappearance of their loved ones; in addition to videos and photos and duplicate them into ten pairs with their manual and electronic submission mandatorily expected within two weeks”.
The Panel must also tell Nigerians including the victims’ relatives or survivors where they (victims’ relatives or survivors) are expected to get millions of naira each to hire a lawyer or a team of lawyers to appear before the Commission for the purpose of defending them and handling the technical aspects of their cases. Where will the victims’ relatives or survivors further get millions of naira to pay for the transport fares, hotel and feeding bills of their lawyers and themselves in very expensive hotels and high cost of living in Abuja?
For instance, for each victim’s representative or survivor and two of his or her associates especially from Southeast Nigeria; excluding his or her lawyer, to fully participate in the proceedings of the Commission in Abuja, during its 30 days public hearing session, he or she will spend at least 2million. These include hotel bills for the victim’s relative or survivor with his or her two associates, totaling not less than N900,000 for 30 days, on N10,000 per day; N540,000 for the trio’s feeding on N6,000 per day/person average; N60, 000 for a round road trip of the trio from the East and the remaining N500,000 for local transport, etc. This conservative calculation is based on assumption that the victim’s relative or survivor and his or her two associates decide to travel once to Abuja in September for the case and stay till second week of October. The N2million conservative cost does not include lawyers’ fees.
If Acting President Yemi Osinbajo and his unilaterally constituted Military Rights Abuse Probe Panel or Commission had meant well, the Commission should have been structured in such a way as to make it readily accessible and close to the victims’ relatives, survivors and their lawyers or technical guardians. The Commission should have also been totally devoid of armchair syndrome and strategically identified and captured the victims’ families, survivors and locations as well as their lawyers/technical guardians.
That is to say that the modus operandi of the Commission should have been structured in such a way that it can easily move to Awka or Onitsha (for the victims’ relatives and survivors of 2nd and 17th December 2015 army killing of pro Biafra campaigners and 29th and 30th May 2016 massacre of same in Nkpor, Onitsha and Asaba); Aba or Umuahia (for 18th January, 29th January and 9th February 2016 massacre of same in Aba); Port Harcourt (for 20th January 2017 pro Trump rally killing of same); Zaria (for 12th-14th December 2015 massacre by the Army of the Shiite Muslims); and Maiduguri or nearby safer city (for 17th January 2017 Rann IDP Camp bombing that killed 236 civilians as well as other conflict zone war crimes in the Northeast as contained in the AI and the HRW reports).
We hereby join the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) in calling for immediate disbandment of the “Osinbajo’s Military Rights Abuse Panel or Commission” and setting up of proper and all inclusive Federal Judicial Commission of Enquiry into gross human rights violations in Nigeria; to be ratified by the Federal Executive Council. The FEC should also direct the Attorney General of the Federation to set up for its ratification the Special Criminal Investigation Board of the Federal Government of Nigeria to criminally investigate all the State actors fingered in the named dastardly killings.
•Statement issued on Friday in Onitsha by the For: Int’l Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law (Intersociety). It was signed by Board Chair Emeka Umeagbalasi; Head, Campaign and Publicity Department, Miss Chinenye F. Akubuilo; and Head, Civil Liberties and Rule of Law Programme, Miss Obianuju Joy Igboeli.
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