Amnesty international has reacted to the seven-count charge of treasonable felony and money laundering against detained activist and Convener of #RevolutionNow protest, Omoyele Sowore by the Federal Government.
Sowore, a presidential candidate in the February 2019 presidential election was charged along with Olawale Bakare, also known as Mandate.
The charges were signed on behalf of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), by Aminu Alilu, a Chief State Counsel in the Department of Public Prosecutions of the Federation, the Federal Ministry of Justice.
In the charges instituted against the defendants, the prosecution accused Sowore and his co-defendant of committing conspiracy to commit treasonable felony in breach of section 516 of the Criminal Code Act by allegedly staging “a revolution campaign on September 5, 2019 aimed at removing the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
The prosecution also accused them of committing the actual offence of reasonable felony in breach of section, 4(1)(c) of the Criminal Code Act, by using the platform of Coalition for Revolution, in August 2019 in Abuja, Lagos and other parts of Nigeria, to stage the #RevolutionNow protest allegedly aimed at removing the President.
It also accused Sowore of cybercrime offences in violation of section 24(1)(b) of the Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention) Act, by “knowingly” sending “messages by means of press interview granted on Arise Television network which you knew to be false for the purpose of causing insult, enmity, hatred and ill-will on the person of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Reacting, Amnesty international in a post on its verified Twitter page condemned the charges.
The global rights human organization described the charges against Sowore “as an attempt by the Nigerian authorities to deprive Sowore of his human rights”
The post read: “Amnesty International condemns the bizarre charges pressed on activist Omoyele Sowore for expressing his views in media interviews.
“The trumped up charges he is facing show an attempt by the Nigerian authorities to deprive him of his human rights; Omoyele Sowore continued incarceration on application of the Terrorism Act for exercising his right to freedom of expression is a misuse of the criminal system to silence dissent.
“We call on the Nigerian authorities to respect and protect human rights of all persons without discrimination and ensure that it does not use its laws to justify violations of Omoyele Sowore human rights.”
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Leader of the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, on Thursday, petitioned the United Nations and its relevant agencies over alleged human rights abuses suffered by its people at the hands of the Nigerian government.
A statement signed by IPOB’s Media and Publicity Director, Comrade Emma Powerful, which was made available to The PUNCH, in Abakaliki, hinted that there was hope that the UN and officials in Geneva, were giving adequate attention to the various human rights abuses allegedly perpetrated against members of the group.
The statement read, “The enigma championing the current restoration quest of Biafra and leader of the indomitable Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, today, the 18th day of September 2019, scored yet another mark as he led a delegation of Biafrans to an all-important series of meetings with various United Nations agencies and its officials in Geneva.
“He demanded urgent action against the numerous rights abuses inflicted daily upon Biafrans and the need to support the undeniable right of Biafrans to self-determination as enshrined in law, statute and various UN conventions. The case of RUGA settlement by stealth was also raised and the august body was left in doubt that Biafrans will never allow Fulani settlements in Biafraland.
“Every issue concerning our people is now before the various arms and agencies of the United Nations. Our case will no longer be ignored.
“‘Every issue concerning our people’ as mentioned by Kanu ranges from the incessant killing of Biafrans in their own land, extortion and killing of Biafran motorcyclists and commercial drivers.
“Exploiting the rights of indigenous people to self-determination as provided by the UN charter 2007, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu in his usual charismatic poise has conscientiously pursued freedom for the oppressed people of Biafra.
“He also raised the issue of the continued illegal detention of Omoleye Sowore, the relentless persecution of the members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria led by Sheikh El-Zakzaky, ongoing tragic ethnic cleansing in the Middle Belt and plight of Christian minorities in core North. From every indication, there is palpable air of assurance that all the years of neglect of Biafra as a global issue requiring serious attention is now a thing of the past.”
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Narrating how the former Head of State died, Al-Mustapha said contrary to insinuations, the sudden collapse of the health system of Abacha started on “Sunday, 7th June, 1998 right from the Abuja International Airport, immediately after one of the white security operatives or personnel who accompanied President Yasser Arafat of Palestine shook hands with him, Abacha.”
Al-Mustapha said shortly after the hand shake, he “noticed the change in the countenance of the late Commander-in-Chief and I informed the Aide-de-Camp, Lt. Col. Abdallah, accordingly. He, however, advised that we keep a close watch on the Head of State.” He said, “Later in the evening of 8th June, 1998, around 6p.m; his doctor came around, administered an injection to stabilize him.
He was advised to have a short rest. Happily, enough, by 9p.m; the Head of State was bouncing and receiving visitors until much later when General Jeremiah Timbut Useni, the then Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, came calling. He was fond of the Head of State. They were very good friends. “They stayed and chatted together till about 3.35a.m.
A friend of the house was with me in my office and as he was bidding me farewell, he came back to inform me that the FCT Minister, General Useni was out of the Head of State’s Guest House within the Villa. I then decided to inform the ADC and other security boys that I would be on my way home to prepare for the early morning event at the International Conference Centre. “At about 5a.m; the security guards ran to my quarters to inform me that the Head of State was very unstable. At first, I thought it was a coup attempt. Immediately, I prepared myself fully for any eventuality.
As an intelligence officer and the Chief Security Officer to the Head of State for that matter, I devised a means of diverting the attention of the security boys from my escape route by asking my wife to continue chatting with them at the door – she was in the house while the boys were outside. From there, I got to the Guest House of the Head of State before them.
“When I got to the bedside of the Head of State, he was already gasping. Ordinarily, I could not just touch him. It was not allowed in our job. But under the situation on ground, I knelt close to him and shouted, ‘General Sani Abacha, Sir, please grant me permission to touch and carry you.’ “I again knocked at the stool beside the bed and shouted in the same manner, yet he did not respond. I then realized there was a serious danger. I immediately called the Head of State’s personal physician, Dr. Wali, who arrived the place under eight minutes from his house. He immediately gave Oga – General Abacha –two doses of injection, one at the heart and another close to his neck. “This did not work apparently as the Head of State had turned very cold. He then told me that the Head of State was dead and nothing could be done after all. I there and then asked the personal physician to remain with the dead body while I dashed home to be fully prepared for the problems that might arise from the incident.
“As soon as I informed my wife, she collapsed and burst into tears. I secured my house and then ran back. At that point, the Aide-de-Camp had been contacted by me and we decided that great caution must be taken in handling the grave situation. “Again, I must reiterate that the issue of my boss dying on top of women was a great lie just as the insinuation that General Sani Abacha ate and died of poisoned apples was equally a wicked lie.”
It was at this point that I used our special communication gadgets to diplomatically invite the Service Chiefs, Military Governors and some few elements purportedly to a meeting with the Head of State by 9am. at the Council Chamber.
That completed, I also decided to talk to some former leaders of the nation to inform them that
General Sani Abacha would like to meet them by 9am.
Situation became charged however, when one of the Service Chiefs, Lieutenant Gen. Ishaya Rizi Bamaiyi, who pretended to be with us, suggested he be made the new Head of State after we had quietly informed him of the death of General Sani Abacha. He even suggested we should allow him access to Chief Abiola.
We smelt a rat and other heads of security agencies, on hearing this, advised I move Chief Abiola to a safer destination. I managed to do this in spite of the fact that I had been terribly overwhelmed with the crisis at hand.
But then, when some junior officers over-heard the suggestion of one of the Service Chiefs earlier mentioned, it was suggested to me that we should finish all the members of the Provisional Ruling Council and give the general public an excuse that there was a meeting of the PRC during which a shoot-out occurred between some members of the Provisional Ruling Council and the Body Guards to the Head of State.
When I sensed that we would be contending with far more delicate issues than the one on ground, I talked to Generals Buba Marwa and Ibrahim Sabo who both promptly advised us – the junior officers – against any bloodshed. They advised we contact General Ibrahim Babangida (former Military President) who equally advised against any bloodshed but that we should support the most senior officer in the Provisional Ruling Council (PRC) to be the new Head of State.
Since the words of our elders are words of wisdom, we agreed to support General Jeremiah Useni. Along the line, General Bamaiyi lampooned me saying, “Can’t you put two and two together to be four? Has it not occurred to you that General Useni who was the last man with the Head of State might have poisoned him, knowing full well that he was the most senior officer in the PRC?”
Naturally, I became furious with General Useni since General Abacha’s family had earlier on complained severally about the closeness of the two Generals; at that, a decision was taken to storm General Useni’s house with almost a battalion of soldiers to effect his arrest. Again, some heads of security units and agencies, including my wife, advised against the move.
The next most senior person and officer in government was General Abdulsalami Abubakar, who was then the Chief of Defence Staff. We rejected the other Service Chief, who, we believed, was too ambitious and destructive. We settled for General Abubakar and about six of us called him inside a room in the Head of State’s residence to break the news of the death of General Abacha to him.
As a General with vast experience, Abdulsalami Abubakar humbly requested to see and pray for the soul of General Abacha which we allowed.
Do we consider this a mistake?
Because right there, he – Abubakar – went and sat on the seat of the late Head of State. Again, I was very furious. Like I said at the Oputa Panel, if caution was not applied, I would have gunned him down.
The revolution the boys were yearning for would have started right there. The assumption that we could not have succeeded in the revolution was a blatant lie. We were in full control of the State
House and the Brigade of Guards. We had loyal troops in Keffi and in some other areas surrounding the seat of government – Abuja. But I allowed peace to reign because we believed it would create further crises in the country.
We followed the advice of General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida and the wise counsel of some loyal senior officers and jointly agreed that General Abdulsalami Abubakar be installed Head of State, Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces immediately after the burial of General Sani Abacha in Kano.
It is an irony of history that the same Service Chief who wanted to be Head of State through bloodshed, later instigated the new members of the Provisional Ruling Council against us and branded us killers, termites and all sorts of hopeless names. They planned, arranged our arrest, intimidation and subsequent jungle trial in 1998 and 1999.
These, of course, led to our terrible condition in several prisons and places of confinement.
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As the only journalist who dispatched the first ever report on late Muhammad Yusuf’s activities in Maiduguri, on the 23rd of July 2006, at a time when the sect was relatively unknown to many Nigerians, I should be able to give an insight into the Boko Haram saga.
I have closely followed the activities of the Boko Haram sect. In fact, I was invited by the late Yusuf at that period to establish and head an Al-mizzan styled newspaper for him. However, in the course of our deliberations, I tabled the following issues that set us apart: I wanted to be partner in the project, I wanted editorial freedom to edit out anything I may find to incite the public in the publication and I wanted to introduce a regular column that totally disagrees with his ideology.
I think, my conditions, at a time when I hadn’t any gainful employment, shocked the prospective investor who thought any budding journalist would rush at the opportunity to become an editor-in-chief especially of a promising paper, on account of the large followership and the group’s loyalty to their Imam.
However, my relationship with late Mohammed Yusuf continued as he visited me when I lost my 8 months old son that died of malaria. Perhaps, he saw me partially as one of his students and partially as a dissenter due to my independent disposition. But, to be fair to him, I admire his depth of knowledge, oratorical prowess and apparent willingness to emulate Prophet Muhammad (SAW).
In early 2002, Yusuf was seen by many as a likely heir to the renowned late Sheik Ja’afar Mahmud Adam in Maiduguri on account of his brilliance and closeness to the late renowned scholar. But all that changed shortly when one late Mohammed Alli approached late Yusuf with reasons to boycott democracy, civil service and western oriented schools. Late Yusuf then disengaged his service with the Yobe state government.
Then, in a 2006 press release signed by the sect’s Shura (Consultative) Council, they stated that, Islam permits them to subsist under a modern government like Nigeria but has explicitly prohibited them from joining or supporting such governments in so far as their systems, structures and institutions contain elements contradictory to core Islamic principles and beliefs.
However, the late Alli argued that the sect must embark on Hijra (migration), but late Yusuf declined and Alli proceeded to Kanamma in Yobe with his faction, and one thing led to another, the group launched an insurgent attack on the Police that resulted in the loss of many lives and property in Kanamma and later in Gwoza in Borno state. Although the insurgents, a renegade group that called itself “Taliban,” led by Alli, fiercely disagreed with late Yusuf and many of the escapees later returned to Yusuf.
Unlike Alli, Yusuf went on undeterred, though he was prevented from preaching in several mosques and was denied TV/Radio appearances in the state. But he setup a preaching outlet in the front of his house at the railway quarters and at Angwan Doki, millionaires’ quarters among others. The demand for his tapes increased by the day all over the north and the proceeds there from increased tremendously. He, then asked his landlord and in-law, late Baba Fugu Mohammed to allow him to build a mosque whom he named Ibn Taimiyya Masjid.
It was in Ibn Taimiyya Masjid that late Yusuf together with his hard-line top lieutenant Abubakar Shekau alias `Darul Tauhid,’ began to build an imaginary state within a state. Together they setup Laginas (departments), they had a cabinet, the Shura, the Hisbah, the brigade of guards, a military wing, a large farm, an effective micro finance scheme, and late Yusuf played the role of a judge in settling disputes, each State had an Amir (leader) including amirs in Chad and Niger that gave accounts of their stewardship to Yusuf directly.
The sect, led by Yusuf took advantage of the poor quality of our educational system, the incessant strikes, cult activities, widespread malpractices and prostitutions that is made worse with no offer of jobs after graduation to wheedle many youth to abandon school and embrace Yusuf’s new and emerging state that promises to offer them a better alternative.
Late Yusuf also took advantage of the irresponsible leadership at all levels of governmentas unemployment, poverty, corruption and insecurity become the order of the day. And, as he points out such failures, citing verses of the Qur’an and the sayings of the Prophet, the youth see him as the leader that will indeed deliver them from malevolence to the promised land.
In my write-up of February 28, 2009 in the Sunday Trust I wrote about the sect, where I alerted the general public about the sect’s total disregard for civil obedience. The report in question warned that to disregard the simmering cauldron “smells like rebellion…and it will be irresponsible of any authority to wait for the occurrence of violence before it acts in the face of impending threat to law and order,” in subsequent reports and during my interactions with senior security agents, I did not only predict the crisis but hinted on the strategy of the sect. But, typical of investigative journalism, instead of these revelations to catch the attention of the relevant agencies, their attention was shifted on how to frame me. Apparently, the plan was never to prevent a crisis but to allow it to occur.
However, in fairness to the government of Borno state that is living witnesses to the unruly behaviour of the sect and its extreme dislike for government institutions, the state government like other governments in northern Nigeria saw the need to halt this nuisance in their states; they were alarmed that the sect that started with a handful of people is hitting the 7-digit mark and one day (if not very soon) the likelihood that the sect may determine the politics of the land cannot be dismissed.
According to Isa Yuguda, the Governor of Bauch state in a recent interview with a weekly newspaper, “When the Boko Haram issue came, I sat down and scientifically organised a Commando raid on their stronghold. We identified them over a period of time and made sure the Ulamas came and preached against them for two weeks and they in return issued fatwa against the Imams that are preaching against them. We had to attach policemen to the Imams because the Boko Haram people threatened to slaughter them. We planned for them.
“We cordoned off their area around 3a.m. in the morning and phoned my neighbours in Borno and Yobe states about the operation I was going to carry out because their leader was there at that time. After exchanging gunshots for some time, we smoked them out of their houses. They were fully armed with grenades, machine guns and rocket launchers,” said Yuguda.
Having kept track of political activities in the state, I knew very well that Ali Sheriff, unlike Yuguda, could not afford to strike first, Borno could take anything from him but not an attack on Muslims. However, the government in Borno setup a joint security patrol nicknamed, `operation flush’ in order to serve as a constant check on the sect.
As the crisis started in Maiduguri, reporters did the obvious; live and tell the story' and they stayed mostly in the Government House (GH) and most of them contacted me directly or indirectly to get briefed because I chose to do theunexpected’, which is to `risk my life to tell the story.’ Indeed, I took undue risk which exposed me to the unimaginable that would form the subject of a book I am now writing.
On Tuesday 29th July 2009 when I made a stop at the Borno state Government House, a staff of the GH, one Yusuf dragged me into the office of the Chief Security Officer to the Governor, insisting that the governor’s aide wanted to see my face for the first time. The aide wanted to know from me why I did not shave my beards and lower my trousers below the ankle to avoid the wrath (Alas! bullets) of the security agents.
I, then, told him that it is wrong for security agents to brand innocent people that wear beards as Boko Haram and even killed them based on that. In fact, to keep beards, to wear turbans and nisfusaak (trousers above the ankle) are part of the prophet’s Sirah, which is recommended to every Muslim over 1400 years ago, and it is seen as a deeply spiritual task by many Muslims all over the world.
He, also, asked me whether or not I was abducted by the sect members for a while and released. I put the record straight that, I only ran into a mob and thereafter I was left off the hook when they were convinced that the brown apron I was wearing carried an inscription of Daily Trust had nothing to show that I was a government official.
Sadly for me, the CSO did not like my guts and the fact that I reported the two sides that clearly exposed the Achilles’ heel of his boss, he ordered for my arrest, calling my crime `counter intelligence.’ At the GH I was assaulted by the mobile police (at the quarter guard post). There, a Police Constable Sani Abubakar, held my beards and pulled me to the ground, he kicked my legs to forcefully remove my loafers.
I was made to lie down with my face down instantly I urinated in my pants when two mobile police men contemplated who was going to pull the trigger, whether that was a joke or an attempt to scare me. Thank God I am alive as yet, maybe the powers that be are aware of the event that would follow the execution of a media man within the GH or as the government claimed, I was held in protective custody for my safety.
I was then driven to the police headquarters in the state where I was kept in a cell with 58 others. After spending 30 hours in the cell and about 48 hours without food or water (because, I couldn’t break the fast I was observing upon my arrest), I was then allowed to wash up the urine that had dried up on my pants and relieved myself of the running stomach that became the audible music in our cell as everyone witnessed how cell mates were being called out and executed, everyone was waiting for his turn.
Surprisingly, none of my colleagues investigated and reported the assault meted against me, even when some of them searched for me in the crowded cell as I sat without shoes on the floor. Instead, speculations were rife amongst them that indeed I was a Boko Haram member, on account of the following baseless talk: That I wear beards and trousers above my ankle and yet I came from a Christian background and this to many of them makes me an extremist.
That I was doing fairly well as a journalist in the last ten years with a mere primary school certificate and that makes me a Boko Haram too. That, my fair complexioned spouse was a Shuwa Arab and given out to me in marriage by late Yusuf and finally, they said late Yusuf had contacted some members of the media on two occasions through me in the past.
Now that I no longer carry my youthful goatee and halfway trousers to avoid being branded a terrorist meets your requirements however I want to state here that I am proud of my Christian background as a Muslim because it has afforded me a unique sense of tolerance and impartial view for the need for dialogue that many born Christians and Muslims lack, leading to the kind of mistrusts we see today.
My wife is a very proud Tarok, from Langtang LGA in Plateau state, I met and married her in Abuja in 2002 and never saw Yusuf in her life. Yes, I was perhaps the only journalist known to late Yusuf on account of what I mentioned earlier on. But, when has it become illegal to know a public figure who later became a criminal?
I started a career in journalism as a staff reporter with Insider Weekly Magazine, from 2001 to 2002. Thereafter, I had a stint with Crystal Magazine as a Special Projects Editor and later a founding staff with New Sentinel and freelanced for several mediums. Currently, I work as a reporter with the Media Trust Limited. I do not posses any formal educational qualification beyond primary school; however I was self educated through years of extensive reading of books.
As a primary school pupil in the early 80’s, when late Yusuf was a little kid himself, I would choose to climb a tree and read a story book while my mates were in school. Somehow I managed to complete my primary school but my disdain to learn under the four square walls of a classroom continued during my Secondary School and my father decided to discontinue funding my education. Although, I was visible in the University of Maiduguri, not as a student but sadly, as a commercial final year project writer to nearly a hundred undergraduates and a handful of master’s degree thesis as well, anyway this is a story for another day.
Although there was a extraordinary effort by the correspondents chapel and the Nigerian Union of Journalist in the area to secure my release but as my wife who is yet to recover from the trauma of that crisis argued, the NUJ should have demanded for my release and out rightly condemn my arrest but instead, they pleaded and pleaded until I was released; this is an admittance that indeed one of their own is guilty as alleged and as my wife always said, this allegation will hang over my head for the rest of my life.
Recently, when Al-jazeera showed video footage of extra-judicial killings the world became aware of some of our experiences in Maiduguri, and typical of Nigerians, we heard calls for probe. The most disturbing call for probe is the one by the very government that ordered the summary executions in the first place. Can a military or police officer go to town and harvest corpses without an order from above? If this is possible, then it should not be a probe of extra-judicial killings instead, government should probe insubordination and total breakdown of law and order amongst security agents leading to numerous deaths. And, let us not forget, what happened to the previous probes setup by the federal government? I have a disturbing video that confirmed what security agents told me during my arrest. “No prison for Boko Haram members, we want them all death.” Is it the governor of Borno state that gave such an order or Mr President that has absolute control over the police and military under the constitution? Oh, ours is a country where the constitution is always disregarded.
Why did they execute Yusuf together with Baba Fugu Mohammed and Bugi Foi before any trial? Was it to cover the dirty tracks of under cover agents that worked for years with late Yusuf, leaving the impression that these two (that are the richest people close to late Yusuf) funded the uprising? Why are the sophisticated guns of Boko Haram that was used to keep Nigeria’s defence forces away from their enclave for three days not displayed to the public along side corpses? What we saw was mostly bow and arrows.
Where is Abubakar Shekau? The police said he died from injuries he sustained during the crisis. Can we believe them after all? They said late Yusuf died in a shootout when in fact over 50 mobile police men shot him behind my detention room, at the armoury right inside the police headquarters. In my opinion, Abubakar Shekau, the second in command of late Yusuf may be alive.
Over the years, the failure of security agents to prevent crisis that often times leads to loss of lives and property worth billions of naira goes unpunished. We never hear any apology or resignation from political leaders or heads of security agents. The only punishment is, erring commissioners of Police are transferred to an obscure department of special duties at the Force Headquarters’ in Abuja, as was the case with the commissioners during Boko Haram and the recent Jos crisis.
Were it not for a country like Nigeria, where government have failed to provide basic life support for its citizens, late Yusuf may have never thrived. A functional environment with opportunities for all, equal justice for all, fairness to all and governed by leaders that are responsible for their people, the rude and retrogressive teachings of late Yusuf would have not received the attention of about a million followers all over the north. Indeed, late Yusuf’s teaching was an abuse to Algebra, reproductive health and the science of astronomy that has its roots in Islam, if indeed it is true that he said boko is haram.
From my interaction with him, he never said boko is haram plainly; in fact the name Boko Haram came to being during the crisis. What he always said was, as long as anything that contradicts the teachings of Islam (in his own view) exists in the educational system then it is haram to go to that school unless such things ceased to exist. As members of the sect realised, they cannot ensure such change, especially in a secular state like ours; they withdrew from schools completely. But I am aware that late Yusuf had plans to set up a school, a hospital and a market in the future to complement the sect’s micro finance scheme and other Laginas.
Unfortunately, late Yusuf’s teachings that caused crisis and death of hundreds of our gallant security agents and made it inhuman for people like Yusuf to survive, contradicts not only Islam which he claims to be preaching to his followers but his very existence. I saw when members of the sect slaughtered a police sergeant, L. Adamu. He pleaded with them that he was never against them and said he was a fellow Muslim but yet they slaughtered him like a goat. Was this the reason why the police and military summarily executed the suspected sect members in the same manner the sect did to their colleagues?
Suffice it to say here that government should investigate why the sect took up arms against it. What were the issues that led to the armed struggle? And what are the chances of recurrence of violence. Government must as a matter of urgency police our porous border because Shekau may be living close by. Government through religious and traditional leaders must dialogue with the displaced family members of Boko Haram and ensure that their children all go back to school.
Government must begin to locate them and assure them of a fair trial at home in order not for them to easily fall as fodders to any al-Qaeda advances. Religious institutions like the one headed by the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III should be empowered to independent and be able to effectively regulate and censor religious activities in the country.
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The Nigeria elections in 2019 that gave President Muhammadu Buhari a second term were marred by political violence, Human Rights Watch has said.
The report issued by the organisation on Monday said some cases of the violence were carried out by soldiers and police officers.
“Buhari should take concrete steps to address the widespread political violence, and to ensure accountability for human rights abuses by soldiers and police as he begins his second term,” the report said.
“The election period included persistent attacks by factions of the insurgent group Boko Haram in the northeast; increased communal violence between nomadic herdsmen and farmers spreading southward from north-central states; and a dramatic uptick in banditry, kidnapping, and killings in the northwestern states of Kaduna, Katsina, and Zamfara.
“Security forces have failed to respond effectively to threats to people’s lives and security.”
The report quoted Anietie Ewang, Nigerian researcher at Human Rights Watch, as saying that, “The lack of meaningful progress in addressing the prevalent political violence, as well as lack of accountability for rights abuses, marked Buhari’s first term in office.
“He should put these issues at the front and centre of his second term agenda and urgently take concrete steps to improve respect for human rights.”
The statement said that Human Rights Watch interviewed 32 people, including voters, journalists, election observers, activists, and Independent National Electoral Commission officials in Rivers and Kano states, and documented 11 deaths specifically related to violent interference in the election process during the February 23 federal elections and subsequent state elections.
It said the elections contributed to the general insecurity across the country, even as politically related violence were reported in many states in contrast to the relatively peaceful 2015 elections that brought Buhari into his first term in office.
Citing a report by SBM Intelligence, which monitors sociopolitical and economic developments in Nigeria, the statement said 626 people were killed during the 2019 election cycle, starting with campaigns in 2018.
“Kano state, in northwestern Nigeria, has the highest number of registered voters in the country. Rivers state, in the Niger Delta, receives the largest share of crude-oil-based national revenue, representing significant electoral value to any political party,” the report said.
“The history of elections in both states is replete with violence by state security agencies and criminal elements.”
The report noted that despite police claims of increased security measures to ensure peaceful voting, HRW found that there seemed to have been little or no police response to reports of threats and acts of violence by hired political thugs and soldiers against voters and election officials.
“Voters and election officials said that policemen either fled or stood idly by, fueling allegations of complicity, as perpetrators stole election materials, disrupted voting, and harassed voters,” said the report.
“Witnesses said that the police also shot live rounds of ammunition and used teargas to disperse people protesting voting disruptions. “Witnesses said that after a soldier was killed in the town of Abonnema, in Rivers state, on election day, soldiers shot at residents, killing an unknown number of people.”
HRW said soldiers also carried out sweeping arrests and arbitrarily detained several people. The report also cited a 37-year old man who witnessed the incident.
He said, “The soldiers were on a rampage, shooting at anyone around. As I made my way to flee, I saw people dive into the river, many with gunshot wounds. The next day I saw three dead bodies riddled with bullets floating in the water… I heard many more bodies were later recovered from that river.”
The army, HRW reported, said in a statement that on election day, unidentified people attacked soldiers, killing one, and that the soldiers killed six of the attackers in response.
“On March 15, the spokesperson for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Festus Okoye, accused soldiers of intimidation and unlawful arrest of election officials in the state,” the report further noted.
“The Nigerian Army on the same day announced the creation of a committee to investigate allegations of misconduct against its personnel during the elections. The committee was given two weeks to produce its findings, but it has not published its report.”
HRW also reported the rising cases of Banditry and the recurring cycles of deadly violence between herdsmen and farmers, which it said had taken the lives of thousands. Citing a civil society report, HRW said over 3,641 people have died from deadly clashes between herdsmen and farmers since 2015 and at least 262 people have been killed by bandits since the beginning of 2019 in Zamfara State alone.
“The government deployed 1,000 military troops to the state in response, but few of those responsible for the violence have been arrested or held to account,” it said. On the activities of Boko Haram, HRW noted that in recent months, renewed fighting between Nigerian government forces and a faction of Boko Haram, known as Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP), has led to secondary displacement of civilians.
“Security forces have been implicated in serious abuses, including arbitrary arrests, prolonged detention without trial, torture, extrajudicial killings, rape and sexual violence against women and girls in camps for displaced people,” the report further documented. It also cited the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which stated that more than 27,000 civilians have died and about 1.8 million people have been displaced since the beginning of the conflict in 2009.
“Authorities have also failed to address impunity for killings by security forces elsewhere in the country. The authorities have yet to publish the report of the Presidential Judicial Panel set up in August 2017 to investigate the military’s compliance with human rights obligations, allegations of war crimes, and other abuses by the military,” it said.
The report also quoted Mr Ewang as saying that Nigerian voters had entrusted Buhari with another opportunity to address the nation’s serious human rights problems, including political violence.
“He should start by reforming the security forces to ensure strict compliance with human rights standards, and prompt investigation and prosecution of those credibly implicated in abuses,” he said.
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The Alaigbo Development Forum (ADF) has called that a befitting memorial me built in Asaba in memory of the slain Igbo civilians of Asaba massacred by Nigerian soldiers on October 7, 1967.
The leader of the ADF, Prof. Uzodinma Nwala made the call in the address of the group he presented at the 50thanniversary of the genocide led by Murtala Mohammed during the civil war.
In the message, ADF said: “We will like to be associated with the project of a befitting Memorial, possibly a War Museum in Asaba in Memory of the victims of the Asaba Genocide.
We can’t be done without paying glowing tribute to our father and historical icon, a man of immense global stature who has done a lot for the cause ofAlaigbo, whose Igbo-ness compelled him to take a wife from the other side of Alaigbo – what else could be a stronger show of Hand-Shake Across the Niger in warm embrace of Igbo sons and daughters. We mean none other than Chief (Dr.) Sonny IwedikeOdogwu, the Ide Ahaba.
We salute the memory of Chief Dennis Osadebay, the first civilian governor of the Midwest Region and Secretary of Igbo State Union. So we do salute the memory of Ambassador Ralph Uwechue, the former President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo.
Indeed, the gruesome cold-blooded killings of innocent civilians by troops of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, culminating in the “Dance of Death” at Ogbeosewah in Asaba on October 7, 1967, where hundreds of helpless civilians were mowed down and buried dead or alive in a mass grave, is the darkest chapter in our history which we must continue to recall for the benefit of our children including those yet unborn.
The Alaigbo Development Foundation (ADF) salutes the courage of those who have continued to provide us with the records of the event as well as the opportunity to honour the memory of our people who were victims of this sad and unforgettable event.
We salute the courage of the Asaba people and their noble spirit. We salute the courage of people like Professors Elizabeth Byrd and Frazier Ottonelly who have sustained the records for the sake of history. We also salute our brother Emma Okocha, author of the immortal work – The Blood on the Niger – a book that will perpetually challenge the conscience of men and women of good conscience throughout the ages.
“We salute the courage of our brother, Ifeanyi Uriah and other survivors of that genocide. Ify was with us at the International Colloquium on
the Igbo Question in Nigeria. The Asaba Massacre featured strongly at that event in our search for the roots of Igbo predicament in Nigeria.
His eye-witness account of that massacre presented on that occasion is captioned Ogbeosowah: The Rise from the Dead. An Eyewitness
Account. It is published in the two-volume publication that came out of that Colloquium with the title IGBO NATION: History and Challenges of Rebirth and Development.” (The Sun)