It’s no longer news that in the past one week the military in Nigeria have moved in with great might into the south eastern part of Nigeria. This is informed by the agitation of predominantly the Igbo extraction of the country for the sovereign state of Biafra. This struggle is currently championed by the Indigenous People Of Biafra (IPOB) led by Namadi Kanu. The said leader of the group is standing trial for treason and had since been released on bail by the federal government of Nigeria. It is alleged that Kanu had repeatedly made unguarded statements to incite and inflame possible violence which the federal government found intolerably repulsive.
However, the government recently ordered the army on what she tagged the operation Python Dance who invaded some of the agitators and caused them to lay in the mud while forcing them to drink conterminated water thereby subjecting them to inhuman and degrading treatment in contravention to sections 34 (1) of the 1999 constitution as amended which states that:
” Every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person, and accordingly –
(a) no person shall be subject to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment”
In addition to this, the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015, as a way of addressing the problem of torture, provides in Section 8(1) that suspects must be accorded humane treatment, having regard to the dignity of the person, and must not be subjected to any torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. The soldiers jettisoned these provisions of the law, threw caution to the wind and unleashed untold mayhem on armless Nigerians.
Article 5 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, states that “Every individual shall have the right to the respect of dignity inherent in a human being that all forms of exploitation and degradation of man particularly torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment and
treatment, shall be prohibited.” Despite this international prohibition,Nigeria soldiers went ahead to brutalised her citizens who are dissatisfied with the operations of government and the directives of state policies.
Perhaps, it will also intrest you to note that the army usurped the powers of the police force in this struggle. Internal crisis of this kind solely falls within the confines of the jurisdiction of the of the police service and not the army. The actions of the army has led to the lost of many lives as they keep toturing and shooting the agitators on sight. The apart that worsen this whole theatre of illegality is the current proscription of IPOB as a terrorist organisation. This also is premised on illegality or perhaps a lack of understanding of the existing laws on terrorism by the army. By the terrorism Act 2011 as amended in 2013 the security agencies are given the wide powers to search based on reasonable suspicion but they don’t have the powers to proscribe any group as terrorist. The Act provides as follows:
(4) Further to subsection (3), the law enforcement agencies shall have powers to-
(a) enforce all laws and regulations on counter – terrorism in Nigeria;
(b) adopt measures to prevent and combat acts of terrorism in Nigeria;
(c) facilitate the detection and investigation of acts of terrorism in Nigeria;
(d) establish, maintain and secure communications, both domestic and international, to facilitate the rapid exchange of information concerning acts that constitute terrorism;
(e) conduct research with the aim of improving preventive measures to efficiently and effectively combat terrorism in Nigeria;
(f) partner with Civil Society Organizations and the Nigerian public to provide necessary education,support, information, awareness and sensitization towards the prevention and elimination of acts of terrorism;
(5) Subject to the provisions of this Act, the law enforcement agencies shall have powers to –
(a) investigate whether any person or entity has directly orindirectly committed an act of terrorism, is about to commit an act of terrorism or has been involved in an act of terrorism under this Act or under any other law;
(b) execute search warrants as granted by the courts authorizingits officers or any other law enforcement officer to enter into any premises, property or conveyance for the purpose of conducting searches in furtherance of its functions under this Act or under any other law;
(c)investigate, arrest and provide evidence for the prosecution of offenders under this Act or any other law on terrorism in Nigeria;
(d) seize. freeze or maintain custody over terrorist property or fund for the purpose of investigation, prosecution or recovery of any property or fund which the law enforcement andsecurity agencies reasonably believe to have been involved in or used in the perpetration of terrorist activities in Nigeria or outside Nigeria;
(e) seal up premises upon reasonable suspicion of such premises being involved with or being used in connection with acts of terrorism;
(f) adopt measures to identify, trace, freeze, seize terrorist properties as required by the law and seek for the confiscation of proceeds derived from terrorist activities whether situated within or outside Nigeria;
(g) under the authority of the Attorney – General of the Federation, enter into co-operation agreements or arrangements with any national or international body, other intelligence, enforcement or security agencies or organizations which, in its opinion, will facilitate the discharge of its functions under this Act;
(h) request or demand for, and obtain from any person, agency or organization, information, including any report or data that may be relevant to its functions; and(i) appoint experts or professionals, where necessary, to execute the powers required in furtherance of its functions under this Act.
There’s no where in the above law that it is given that the security agencies shall have the powers by law to declare any group as terrorist.The said law on terrorism known as Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2011 (as amended in 2013) provides the procedures for declaring an entity a terrorist and proscribed organization. Section 2 of the Act, states as follows : “(1). Where two or more persons associate for the purpose of or where an organization engages in— (a) Participating or collaborating in an act of terrorism;
(b) promoting, encouraging or exhorting others to commit an act of terrorism; or
(c) setting up or pursuing acts of terrorism, the judge in Chambers may on an application made by the Attorney General, National Security Adviser or Inspector General of Police on the approval of the President; declare any entity to be a proscribed organization and the notice should be published in official gazette.
(2) An order made under sub-section (1) of this section shall be published in the official gazette, in two National newspapers and at such other places as the judge in Chambers may determine”.
By way of contradistinction, a look at the international implication of the act of the military in Nigera with respect to their current operations is imperative at this juncture. The Statute of Rome which was adopted at a Diplomatic Conference held in Rome in July 1999 under the auspices of the United Nations which Nigeria adopted and ratified on the 20th of April , 2002 has made copious provisions on crimes against humanity. Article 126 of the Statute of Rome establishes the International Criminal Court which is binding on International law. Article 151 of the law provides that the doctrine of state or sovereign immunity does not apply under the statute. It is no relevant whether the accused committed the offence in his official capacity as a head of state, he is personally responsible for the crime. This is instructive and the military should equally note that article 152 of the Status of Rome provides that ” a military commander shall be criminally and personally liable for crimes committed by force under his control or effective authority provided:
(a) he knew or ought to have known that the forces were committing or were about to commit such crimes;
(b) he failed to take all necessary measures to prevent the commission of the crime.
Article 154 of the statute provide the offences prohibited are the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crimes of aggression. Genocide in the context of this law means the killing of members of a group especially where it appears they are unarmed and helpless.
We must draw from these laws and take caution. Our army must be guided as it appears they are in breach of some of the provisions of the Laws cited. We must stop the killings before our action begin to draw international attention. Let us play by the rules of engagement and create a better country for ourselves and our children.
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