(Onitsha Nigeria, 24th of June 2016)-The International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Intersociety) is shocked and alarmed over the unrefined and Yorean utterances of President Muhammadu Buhari concerning sensitive national issues particularly the collective security of Nigeria and its Peoples. The President has since his swearing in on 29th of May 2015 governed Nigeria as an animal kingdom where few with political might, power and authority perpetually enslave the remaining majority with reckless abandon. The Presidency of Gen Muhammadu Buhari has continuously seen Nigeria and treated same as a jungle governed by no laws except personal whimsical and capricious might and initiatives. Nigeria under Muhammadu Buhari’s Presidency is akin to herders versus cows; where cows’ survival and welfare is dependent on their herders.
The most provocative and crudest of it all is President Muhammadu Buhari’s constant and crude reference to civil war years in Nigeria where he, in conspiracy with others, had the violent and hate opportunity to supervise genocidal massacre and starvation of hundreds of thousands of Nigerians of Old Eastern Region extraction or over 1.3 million of them between May 1967 and January 1970; hiding under the canopy of civil war. The President must be reminded that while there are restricted and tolerable excuses to kill citizens particularly the combatants during internal or international armed conflicts under the Geneva Conventions of the 1949 and other humanitarian treaties; there are no excuses or defense whatsoever to kill innocent, unarmed and nonviolent citizens in peacetime for exercising democratic free speeches and rights to nonviolent assemblies. It must be stated too, that to save the life of one innocent soul, lives of ten soldiers or security officers can be excusably lost. It is therefore far much abominable to kill in peacetime than to kill in wartime.
By making such painful and violent public statement, President Muhammadu Buhari not only celebrates and justifies his ignoble roles in butchering and starving his fellow Nigerians and human beings to death; but also exposes his unrepentant hatred of the Peoples of the Southeast and the South-south Nigeria. By his violent presidential statement, too, he is mocking the peoples of the two regions in literal reference of them as spineless men, capable of being perpetually enslaved by Hausa-Fulani violent oligarchy.
We are totally disappointed at the character, personality and integrity of the President who ought to be the father of the country and its Peoples. Though it appears that President Muhammadu Buhari is not in touch with present social, political and legal realities nationally, regionally and internationally, warranting his gross ignorance and unrefined utterances under reference; having failed to be upgraded since 1985, but it is not enough excuse for him to engage in such brazen and provocative hate and genocidal speech. Such speech is unbecoming of the electoral President of the Federation of Nigeria.
Another shocking dimension is the gross failure of the President to distinguish between policies and conducts including security policies and conducts guiding peacetime and wartime. Equating peacetime genocidal massacreswith acts perpetrated during wartime, is another national embarrassment and emergency requiring urgent intervention by key advisers and aides of the President. The Buhari’s Presidency is in dire need of tutorials on issues of modern constitutionalism, multi-ethnic secularity, political pluralism and tolerance, rule of law, citizens’ security and welfare, human rights and civil liberties, regional and international obligations, promotion and advancement of regional and international peace and security, consensus/citizens’ sovereignty, modern international criminal and humanitarian law practices and the principles and purposes of the United Nations.
To the extent that the President of Nigeria and his retinue of aides and advisers do not know a primary difference between wartime and peacetime and rules guiding them; is highest national embarrassment. Just the other day, the Nigerian Army, following its genocidal massacre on 30th of May 2016 of as much as 140 (updated figures) unarmed and nonviolent Nigerian citizens of Southeast and South-south extractions in Onitsha, Nkpor and Asaba within six hours; issued a statement, falsely claiming that it acted within the ambits of rules of engagement, self defense and use of force.
In its December 12th and 13th 2015 massacre of over 700 Shiite Muslim faithful in Zaria during their nonviolent rallies at a certain public arena, the Nigerian Army made the same false claims. The false claims of the Nigerian Army under reference were built on its November 2015 corrupted and bastardized rules of engagement, which it violently and unconstitutionally adopted in response to peaceful and nonviolent assemblies organized by aggrieved Nigerians of Southeast and South-south extractions against unaddressed structural and personal violent attacks directed at them for decades by the State.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s dilemma is further complicated and compounded by supporting naivety and lame duck advice offered him by his leading aides and advisers including his security, defense and intelligence advisers. Despite parading Nigeria’s securitization and legal better brains like Retired Gen Abdulrahman Danbazzu, PhD, the quality of President Muhammadu Buhari’s securitization, intelligence, defense and legal handling styles is comparable, if not worse than that of late Idi Amin of Uganda. Some activist lawyers of yesterday who have abandoned the masses and crossed over to become establishment activists and profiteers of Lagos virus democracy; now holding sway in Aso Rock; are not helping matters too. Today, their warped interpretation of the Constitution and its auxiliaries; have emboldened the administration of Muhammadu Buhari in its basket-load of regime atrocities.
As we repeatedly said in our recent publications, Nigeria is a multi ethnic, religious and political territory of 250 sub-entities, governed democratically under circumstances and manners clearly spelt out in its Constitution of 1999, updated from the 1960 Independence Constitution. Nigeria is also not an island of itself, which is why it is a member of the West African sub-region or ECOWAS; African region or AU and the United Nations System or UNO.
In all these, Nigeria willingly negotiated and entered into strategic sub-regional, regional and international treaties and willingly accepted to be bound legally and morally by their obligations. Nigeria also inviolably subscribes to the customary international laws as well as the international humanitarian laws. As a prominent member of UN, Nigeria is under compulsory obligation not to breach the Principles and Purposes of the United Nations particularly the promotion and advancement of international Peace and Security. As a prominent Member-State of the United Nations, Nigeria is mandatorily governed by all the rules and regulations of the United Nations including the Four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and its three Protocols of 1977.
In conducting its internal conflict, it is mandatorily guided by the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 or Protection of Civilian Persons in time of War. Nigeria is also prohibited from destroying or targeting civilian properties or places of worship or others that are clearly outside military necessity. Combatants wounded in the war or who surrendered as well as the Prisoners of War and all their rights to life and medical treatments and freedoms from torture, rape, starvation, etc, are also protected by the Second and Third Geneva Conventions of 1949. Non victims of internal conflict are further protected by the Protocol 11 of the Geneva Conventions of 1949. Totality of these constitutes“international humanitarian laws under UN System”. And their gross breaches by the State or opposing armed groups are referred to as “War Crimes”.
Other key elements of the Geneva Conventions are doctrines of Rules of Engagement, Use of Force, Proportionality of Force and Self Defense. These key elements and their mother Geneva Conventions, in turn, originated from thethree warfare doctrines of Jus Ad Bellum (justification and ground for going to war); Jus In Bellum (ethical rules of conduct during war, such as ethical standards expected of soldiers in wartime or rules of engagement); and Jus Post Bellum (regulations on how wars are ended and facilitation of transition from war to peace).
Wartime conducts, whether internal or international armed conflicts, when separated from the atrocious conducts of the State committed during peacetime or non war situations are called or referred to as “regime atrocities”,culminating in “crimes against humanity”. Exceptionally inexcusable is the use of force by the State when policing nonviolent and peaceful assemblies. Even if the host State tags such nonviolent assemblies as “unlawful”, use of force is still out-rightly forbidden by UN. This is clearly provided in the Ten Basic Standards of the International Law;specifically in its Fourth Commandment.
Where violent assemblies are organized such as riots, State is mandated by UN to “use force only to minimum extent necessary”. The 9th Commandment of the Basic Standards of the International Law, inviolably binding on Nigerian State; forbids its security forces and their commanders from “carrying out any executive order, or cover up extra judicial executions, or disappearances and refuse to obey such order to do so”. Under all these, there are no immunities or excuses for impunities. Use of force and proportionality of force as well as self defense are clearly spelt out in relevant regional and international legal instruments including human rights and humanitarian treaties and conventions.
For instance, a violent person bearing automatic weapon loaded with live bullets and corked cannot be shot deadly or terminally by a security officer in a bid to disarm him or her except if he or she points it in the direction of the security officer with intent to shoot and kill him or her. But if he or she points his or her gun on earth or in the air and the security officer shoots him or her dead, the security officer is expressly culpable. This is called “excess or deadly or maximum use of force”.
This is no to talk of situations during IPOB and Shiite Muslim Sect nonviolent and unarmed rallies under reference during which Buhari’s security forces, led by Lt Gen Turkur Buratai and ex IGP Solomon Arase opened fire on those that gathered unarmed; encircled in rings, singing and clapping; sleeping in the Church Primary School; running away for safety from hell of fired live bullets; and lying in their hospital beds, receiving emergency medical attentions. Most of them were killed after being shot at their waists, chests, backs, foreheads, stomachs, necks, private parts, eyes, heads, etc, while dozens more miraculously survived after they were shot and wounded at their terminal regions. Some are crippled for life. Totality of these is gross breach of the principles of use of force and the proportionality of force; punishable locally as murder and attempted murder and regionally and internationally as crimes against humanity.
It is therefore shocking and utterly provocative observing the Nigerian authorities led by President Muhammadu Buhari crudely mixing up their clear regime atrocities committed outside no group violence of any form and labelling same an “act of war or insurrection”, for the purpose of escaping criminal responsibilities. Further shocking and saddening is comparison of Nigeria’s nonviolent and unarmed civil agitation bodies like IPOB with armed Niger Delta militant groups that have taken up arms against the Federal Government of Nigeria. The two are fundamentally, legally and politically incomparable; likewise rules guiding their conducts regionally and internationally. Till date, the Federal Government of Nigeria has failed woefully to provide credible evidence of the Shiite Muslim sect and the Pro Biafra agitators taking up arms against the Government of Nigeria. Not even a single soul linked with or traced to Shiite Muslim sect or Pro Biafra agitation group like IPOB, has been caught by the Buhari administration bearing any illicit automatic weapon till date; not to talk of showing any credible evidence of warfare combats between the Nigerian security forces and the Shiite Muslim sect or Pro Biafra agitators in Nigeria or any part thereof.
In the Zaria Shiite massacre of over 700 unarmed citizens in December 2015, no single soldier was killed. In Aba IPOB massacre of 9th of February 2016, no single security officer was killed. In Onitsha IPOB massacre of 17th of December 2015, no single soldier was injured or killed. And in Onitsha and Nkpor Biafra/Igbo Heroes Day genocidal massacre of over 140 unarmed citizens on 30th of May 2016, no single soldier was killed, except in the Asaba spill- over massacre of same day during which a provoked crowd swooped on three killer police officers, disarming and injuring them, leading to death arising from injuries so sustained.
The stark truth remains that the Buhari administration is violent and war mongering. The resurgence of militancy in the Creeks of the Niger Delta was solely caused by the Buhari’s Presidency. Less than two weeks into its Presidency, the Buhari administration opted for military confrontation in the Niger Delta by launching military attacks in the area; leading to the breakdown of the existing ceasefire and amnesty program. As if that was not enough, he issued an “unwritten death code” against Pro Biafra agitators. In November 2015, the Nigerian Armed Forces renamed the unwritten death code as “the New Rules of Engagement of the Nigerian Armed Forces”. Since then, over 200 unarmed and nonviolent citizens of Igbo Ethnic Nationality have been killed and over 300 deadly injured by the Buhari’s security forces.
We, hereby, submit that Buhari’s Presidency has violently and immorally taken Nigeria over fifty years backward and the level of ethnic and religious divisions inflicted on Nigerians on account of same is generationally un-healing. Political Sovereignty has never been sustained or kept together through barrel of guns or State violence. The Presidency of Gen Muhammadu Buhari is running Nigeria in pieces and unless the President retraces his administration’s deadly divisive and violent steps, otherwise, he may most likely wake up one morning and finds himself as President of the non-existing Federal Republic of Nigeria. Gorbachev’s Presidency in the then Union of Soviet Socialist Republic is a clear case in point. He was later declared by the then President of the Russian sub-Federation as “President of the non existing State”; leading to disintegration of Soviet Union into fifteen republics.
The Buhari administration must learn from the United Kingdom, whose citizens just registered no voice and thumbprint votes to back out of the membership of the European Union, forcing the parliamentary government of David Cameron to throw in the towel. The UK, in turn, has not unleashed its coercive armouries on Scotland, following the latter’s civilized quest to hold a referendum to decide whether to remain part of or opt of the United Kingdom arrangement. The United States, too, has not crushed some of its States clamouring for same. Puerto Rico is the only unincorporated territory in the “United States”; seeking via a referendum to be so incorporated. Even the Republic of China has come to its senses with respect to some of its Provinces agitating for independent homelands. Instances abound to mention but few. Through good governance, virile democratic free speeches, constitutional assemblies and referenda, political territories voluntarily decide to live together as strong and united countries or to live apart in peace and peaceful coexistence.
For: International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law
Emeka Umeagbalasi, Board Chairman
Mobile Line: +2348174090052
Barr Obianuju Igboeli, Head, Civil Liberties & Rule of Law Program
Mobile Line: +2348034186332
Barr Chinwe Umeche, Head, Democracy & Good Governance Program
Mobile Line: +2347013238673