Killing Of Peaceful Pro-Biafra Protesters In Aba Is Genocide—HURIWA Tells Army Chief; Amnesty International

By Emmanuel Onwubiko

The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA ) has written to the Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai and the global office of Amnesty International to call their attention to the genocide by Nigerian security forces that occurred few days back in Aba, Abia State when nearly a dozen peaceful would-be pro-Biafra protesters were killed during a pre-rally prayer session.

HURIWA which recently visited the Army Chief to work out possible areas of collaborative partnership to promote and protect human rights of Nigerians told the top military commander that it was imperative that soldiers and/or police operative who shot and killed those unarmed protesters in Aba Abia State are identified, arrested, prosecuted and punished for these dastardly crimes against humanity.

The Rights group told the Army Chief that since he gave the civil society community the assurances that his leadership wouldn't tolerate impunity and extrajudicial killings he must see this particular case as a litmus test to prove to the World that he meant business when he promised to maintain respect for human rights and that his operatives will stick to the Rules of engagement and best global practices in all internal security operations. HURIWA reminded the Army Chief that Nigeria Military is already contending with adverse human rights image internationally and it would do the military institution a lot of good if culprits are sanctioned for human rights violations.

Turning to the Amnesty International, HURIWA has also written a separate letter which it despatched to the United Kingdom global office of Amnesty International in which it accused the Nigerian office of Amnesty International of paying advocacy focus only to the plight of suspected Boko Haram terrorists but looking the other way whilst unarmed pro-Biafra supporters are massacred through state sponsored terrorism.

HURIWA said it was a case of genocide that civilians are gunned down even whilst praying just because of their support for the release from prolonged incarceration of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) Mr Nnamdi Kanu. HURIWA accused the Mr Bem Angwe led Nigeria National Human Rights Commission of bias for keeping undignified silence whilst federal security forces turned their deadly weapons on unarmed Igbo protesters.

The Rights group had also appealed for quick dispensation of justice or freedom for the detained erstwhile Military Assistant to erstwhile National Security Adviser Colonel Nicholas Ashinze who has now been transferred to a military facility in ASOKORO Abuja from the EFCC after eight weeks of detention withouttrial. The letter is as follows:

13th February, 2016.
The Chief of Army Staff
Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai NAM GSS PSC (+) ndc (BD) BA(HONS) MA Mphil

Army Headquarters
Garki Area 8,
Abuja, Nigeria.
Dear Sir,

We write to officially commend you for throwing your doors open to us in the Civil/Human Rights Community to interface with your good offices to seek for ways of mainstreaming respect for the fundamental Human Rights of Nigerians in the Internal Military Operations of your operatives.

If you recall, during our last visit to your office we promised to always constructively interface with your good offices to seek for quick investigations of alleged Human Rights breaches that may occur in internal security operations of your operatives.

We hereby write to call your attention to the recent unprovoked killing of unarmed civilian protesters by some military operatives in Aba, Abia State because they ( armed security forces) suspected that the civilian peaceful protesters were agitating for the Biafra self rule as preached by the indigenous people of Biafra- an organization whose directed (half British/half Nigerian) Mr. NNAMDI KANU was arrested and detained for over three months and is currently undergoing prosecution in Abuja.

We hereby state without any shadow of doubt that these killings of scores of civilians in Aba, Abia State by security forces/military only because they were intending to participate in a Pro-Biafra Rally, is totally unlawful and unconstitutional because chapter four of the Nigerian constitution gives the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression to all citizens. These extralegal killing must be investigated and the culprits charged to appropriate legal forum for these crime against humanity.

The second matters is the prolonged detention without trial of a serving colonel NICHOLAS ASHINZE who was picked up by EFCC kept in detention without trial for seven weeks and was reported released to the military high command and is said to be under arrest at a military facility.

We urge you to kindly look into this issue because Nigeria’s image is at stake if citizens are unduly detained without proper charges filed and without them be granted administrative bail

We have taken our time as human rights defenders to write your good offices to use your powers to ensure that the fundamental human rights of this Nigerian –Colonel Nicholas Ashinze is not unduly violated. We hereby present to you legal reason why the prolonged detention without trial is unconstitutional.

The Nigerian Constitution provides that where a person is charged with a crime, he is to be presented within 48 hours before a court to face charges. Anything contrary to this amounts to a breach of the person’s fundamental human rights.

A suspect /Nigerian citizen detained has time limits which is contained in part 30 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 under section 294; states that (1) where the Court, after examining the reason for the request for remand in accordance with the provisions of sections 293 of this Act, is satisfied that there is probable cause to remand the suspect pending the receipt of a copy of the legal advice from the Attorney -General of the Federation and arraignment of the suspect before the appropriate court, as the case may be, may remand the suspect in custody.

(2) In considering whether the remand of a suspect pursuant to subsection (1) of the ACJA, the court may take into consideration the following:

(a) The nature and seriousness of the alleged offence.

(b) Reasonable grounds to suspect the suspect has been involved in the commission of the alleged offence.

(c) Reasonable grounds for believing that the suspect may abscond or commit further offence where he is not committed to custody; and

(d) Any other circumstances of the case that justifies the request for remand.

In section 295 of ACJA, the Court may, in considering an application for remand brought, grant bail to the suspect before it. The order of remand of the suspect shall be for a period not exceeding fourteen days, in the first instance.

Also where, on application in writing, good cause is shown why there should be an extension if the Tenancy period, the Court may make an order for further remand of the suspect not exceeding fourteen days.

Again, where at the end of the expiration of the period of remand, the court may on application of the suspect grant bail in accordance with Sections 158& 188 of ACJA.

Also note that at the expiration of the remand, with his trial not commenced yet, or charge having not been filed at the relevant court having jurisdiction, the Court shall issue a hearing notice on

(a) The Inspector General of Police and the Attorney -General of the Federation; or

(b) The Commissioner of Police of the state, or the FCT or the Attorney-General of the Federation.

Furthermore, where good cause is not shown for the continued remand of the suspect, the Court shall with or without application to the effect, discharge the suspect and he released from custody immediately. Note that, no further application for remand shall be entertained.

With increased interest in International Human Rights, the United Nations International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), under Article 14.3 stipulates that those tried on a criminal charge are entitled to a trial without undue delay. Requiring a speedy trial minimizes the period of pre-trial detention. In addition, accused persons may only be detained before trial where there is reasonable suspicion that they have committed an offence and where the authorities have substantial reasons to believe that if released, they would abscond or commit a more serious offence or interfere with the course of justice. The criminal justice system should resort to pre-trial detention only when alternative measures are unable to address the concerns that justify the use of such detention.

In Bayo Johnson vs. A.G of Lagos State (1997) Suit No. CA/L/334M/97 the Court of Appeal held unequivocally that Section 236(3) of the Lagos State Criminal Procedure Law, which permitted the use of remand order was unconstitutional.

In laying down the law, the court made the following monumental statement:

“Before an accused is brought before the court, it should be assumed that the case is ripe for hearing, not for further investigation. He must not be there on mere suspicion which cannot be regarded as reasonable suspicion under section 35 of the Constitution.”

It becomes quite clear that there is no constitutional basis for this practice and hence it can and should be avoided.

The audit of the Human Rights Commission on Nigerian prisons indicated that in the South East zone, 2526 were on holding charge with Owerri prison holding 1,179 of this category of detainees. Furthermore, in North East Zone, about 465 detainees were on holding charge. 300 of this category of detainees were found in Bauchi Prison. In the South West zone, they were 1154 with 330 found in Medium prison Akure; 4,914 were found in the South South zone, with 2543, 811,469 in Port Harcourt, MSP Oko, and Ugwashi-Uku respectively. Similarly, in the North West zone, they were 1600, with 795 found in Kano prison; while in the North Central, they were 368 detainees on holding charge. This is despite the fact that there is no provision of any law to support this action.

Olisa Agbakoba lamenting on the situation of Nigerian prisoners engaged in a recital of rhetoric:

Our objectives are;
v To deploy the members’ creative talents as writers to promote, protect and project the human rights of all Nigerians and other law abiding citizens resident within Nigeria;

v To organize periodic seminars and training workshops locally for human capital development specifically on the tenets and ideals of Human Rights and the rule of Law;

v To attend International Workshops and Seminars targeted at the promotion and protection of human rights;

v To conduct periodic studies on ways, means and strategies for promoting and protecting human rights of law abiding citizens;

v To highlight human rights challenges confronting the persons in conflict with the law and seek for constructive modalities for redressing such violations; and

v To recognize excellence and good governance standards in the polity through yearly award ceremonies for exceptionally good, tested and trusted leaders in both the corporate and public sectors. The process of selection would be by transparent mass participation strategies.

Be assured of our highest esteem and consideration.

Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko
National Coordinator