Lapai: For Chief Servant's Ears Only
On Monday July 21st 2014 as I prepare to put pen to paper for my weekly column in Leadership Newspapers called Rightswatch, my attention was invited to a mail dropped at our office by a coalition of civil society groups based in Kaduna, North West Nigeria regarding a developing story that concerns a certain Moslem community based in Lapai, the University town of Niger state, a state headed by a scholar who prefers to be called the Chief Servant of Niger state Dr. Babangida Aliyu.
Based on my knowledge of the leader of these groups Comrade Umar Farouk I then decided to run the excerpts of this position paper addressed to the governor of Niger State hoping that as a responsive and receptive Chief Servant, the Niger state chief executive will direct the appropriate authority to redress the alleged infractions.
The letter goes thus; "We write as civil society, pro-democracy transparency Non-State actors concerned with zero tolerance for arbitrariness and human rights violation in every part our dear country Nigeria".
The letter which was addressed to the office of the Niger state Attorney General had stated thus; "It has come to our notice that Abuja Human Rights Community among others, have written a formal letter to Chief Servant Governor of Niger State Dr. Mua'azu Babangida Aliyu (Talba Minna) to lodge a complaint on the recent unacceptable campaign of calumny, assault and alleged violations of the Fundmental Human Rights of members of Madinatu Muhaeenu Hamdallah Islamic Centre Lapai, Niger State by thugs sponsored allegedly".
"It has come to our notice that series of allegations labeled against law abiding members of the group were concocted to give dog a bad name in other to hang it. The entire exercise was thus frame up and a ploy to forcefully take over their land legally acquired... We strongly believe that neither your good self, security agencies and the Chief Servant is aware of this fact. All of you were simply hoodwinked, deceived and misled by an oppressor".
This incident, according to these groups, was undoubtedly a clear case of Human Rights violation as enshrined in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, United Nations' Universal Declarations of Human Rights; and African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights all ratified of by Nigeria.
The coalition argued that the rights of these persons to protection from cruel and inhuman treatment was violated when they were unlawfully ejected and denied access to legally acquired land, their properties destroyed means of livelihood destroyed, cows allegedly stolen.
On further inquiry I was told that these persons were accused of staying in a secluded community and may be plotting to stage sectarian violence against the Nigerian state but on a closer and indeed an introspective look, I could decipher that one of their leaders was among those officials appointed into the state controlled religious agency and therefore I started asking why a state government could have offered such a high profile assignment to that man if indeed the community in which he lives in Lapai is accused of plotting such a dastardly plot against the nation?
Another important point to note is that this allegation against this group has surfaced at this perilous time when the North East based armed Islamic insurgents- Boko Haram is waging relentless sectarian violence and widespread terrorism against the Nigerian people and the state. My suspicion is that the apprehension about the future game plan of this Islamic community hitherto located in Lapai Niger state may have been generated out of the national hysteria and panic which the deadly activities of Boko Haram have spread among the populace in Nigeria.
It is therefore imperative that the Niger state government and the Nigerian National Human Rights Commission should step into these damaging allegations of human rights violations as made by this Lapai Niger state based Moslem group with a view to ascertaining the veracity or otherwise of their claims so that the state government will ensure that justice is not just done but must be seen to have been substantially done. Insofar as any group of Nigerians have willingly agreed to abide by the provisions of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and submit themselves to the legitimate control of the constitutionally recognized civil and military authorities in Nigeria, they must be accorded al the rights and privileges as encompassed in the supreme body of laws governing the federal republic of Nigeria particularly with regards to the provisions of chapter four of the constitution.
Emmanuel Onwubiko; Heads Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria and [email protected]; www.huriwa.org.