NHRC: Investigation Of State-Sponsored Killings Begins
CHIDI ODINKALU n BEVERLY HILLS, February 13, (THEWILL) - Following series of allegations of extra-judicial as well as other state-sponsored killings in the country, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Thursday said it is set to open a probe into state-sponsored killings dating back to the military era with the hope that perpetrators will soon be brought to book.
The chairman of the Governing Council of the Commission, Dr.
Chidi Odinkalu, who disclosed this said public investigation would be conducted to look at the complaints received so far by NHRC "bordering on allegations of state-sponsored killings or assassinations.
" Odinkalu, who disclosed that the inquiry would cover the period from November 1995, when Nigeria was under military rule, to the present day civilian administration, said the probe was informed by the letter written by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in which he accused President Goodluck Jonathan of training a private army to carry out political "hits".
Though President Jonathan had denied the charge, Odinkalu said the claims would have to be submitted for consideration within three weeks and hearings would be held on a date to be fixed.
He however assured that the probe was not meant to witch-hunt but designed to deliver justice for those affected by alleged abuses.
"Let's get the issue straight.
The investigation is not about individuals.
This is a story of victims that don't have remedies.
It's about institutions that may have committed rights abuses," he said.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International has hailed the move as a "good initiative" while Human Rights Watch described it as "an important step in ensuring accountability for the many unresolved killings in Nigeria since 1995.
" The two organisations said they had documented a number of cases of extra-judicial and politically motivated killings in the country over the years, especially whenever elections are approaching.
"We hope that the National Human Rights Commission will be given unhindered support to carry out its investigation adequately and independently, " Amnesty's West Africa Researcher, Makmid Kamara, said.
"We trust that the people who are in charge will be given the scope to execute their functions," he added .
The two organisations also said they hoped that any eventual recommendations would lead to concrete action, unlike in previous attempts when similar investigations did not achieve anything concrete.
Recall that under the Obasanjo administration, a probe panel was constituted to investigate cases of rights abuses and violations, including politically motivated murders under previous regimes.
But the inquiry's report was never made public.
And in December 2001, the Justice Minister, Chief Bola Ige, was murdered at his home in Ibadan, , while a key opposition figure, Harry Marshall, was murdered in his home in Abuja.
The killings continued under the regime of General Sani Abacha as the wife of Moshood Abiola, the presumed winner of the 1993 presidential election annulled by the military, was killed in broad daylight in Lagos.
Several pro-democracy activists and opponents of the Abacha regime were also killed at the time.
And barely a month after Abacha's death in June 1998, Abiola died in custody while negotiations for his release were ongoing.
HRW said it hoped the findings of the NHRC inquiry "will inform concrete action that will send the right signals particularly on the imperatives of violence-free elections".
According to Kamara, "We hope it (the probe) will send a message to politicians and political parties that there is no place for extra-judicial killing of opponents in the democratic dispensation of the country.