Terrorists: Between Combat And Prosecution
Few days back the country's secret police successfully repatriated back to Nigeria from Sudan a top terrorism mastermind- the Muslim convert Mr. Aminu Sadiq Ogwuche with the kind assistance of the international police department [INTERPOL].
On arrival in Nigeria, this terrorism suspect accused of coordinating one of Nigeria's most deadly bombing attacks in the outskirt of the Nigerian capital in April 2014 reportedly admitted to interrogators that he indeed organized and coordinated the dare devil attack that resulted in multiple casualties running to nearly 200 innocent Nigerians at the packed public park in Nyanya, near Abuja.
He was also said not to have regretted his diabolical action even as he was reportedly quoted in a leaked media report of threatening further attacks should he be left off the hook since he believed that killing non-Moslems was according to him a spiritual assignment. Recall that this character served severally in the Nigerian military Intelligence wing and therefore would have contaminated the sanctity of the nation's military intelligence.
Apart from the deadly bombing attacks allegedly carried out by terrorists coordinated by the now arrested suspect Mr. Ogwuche [who enjoyed the undue privilege of been flown back from his hide out in Sudan in an exotic presidential jet], the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands [ICC] Mrs. Fatou Bensouda had in a well considered report circulated on August 5th 2013 categorically concluded that members of the armed Islamic terrorists in Northern Nigeria have carried out crimes against humanity as prescribed by Article 7 of the Rome statute.
Against the backdrop of this confessional statement by this terrorism suspect which has jolted the consciences of millions of Nigerians who have understandably been traumatized by the seemingly unending cocktail of mass killings by the armed Islamic insurgents, most Nigerians have asked why prosecution of over a hundred suspected top flight terrorists arrested by the Nigerian government have not progressed and that it seemed the Nigerian justice ministry in Abuja is not in a hurry to bring these suspected mass murderers to trial for their alleged heinous crime against humanity.
Nigerians have severally called on the Nigerian Government to come to terms with the increasing demands for the arrested terrorism suspects to be made to face the heavy weight of the Nigerian law in compliance with section 6 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended which confers the judicial powers of the federation on the courts of competent jurisdiction to deal with suspected criminals in view of the fact that Nigeria as a democracy ought to respect the principle of rule of law. But Nigerians should also challenged the National Assembly and the Chief Justice of Nigeria to introduce new legislations and/or practice direction that will make prosecution of terrorists a top national priority because the danger in this undue delay in prosecuting these mass killers is that Nigeria would be seen as a criminal entity that permits impunity.
Many Nigerians can recall with trepidation the ugly reality of the extent of damage done already to the psyche of the nation by the devilish activities of these blood sucking demons in the name of some fanatical Islamic terrorism ideology over the past three years resulting in the killings of almost twelve thousand innocent Nigerians. Thus Nigerians wonder why the judicial system is not being invigorated and radically transformed by the powers- that -be and the national legislature to provide the expeditious ground for the prosecution in the competent courts of law by the office of the Federal Attorney General and offices of the states Attorneys General of these dare devil mass killers so they are made to face the full weight of the law. For many years now several bills have littered the National legislature which if passed before the end of this legislative calendar will address the need to reform the snail speed justice sector in Nigeria.
Some Nigerians have also expressed concern that even the Nigeria's internal security department of the federal Government has not demonstrated enough readiness by way of making readily available the most secured detention facilities for these dangerous terrorists already arrested so they are not allowed to escape the long arm of the law given that majority of the prisons we have today were built over one hundred years back.
Some observers have even raised the weird accusation that the holder of the office of the Federal Attorney General and minister of Justice Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke [SAN] as a Moslem is working to achieve a predetermined plot of ensuring that the hard core alleged terrorists already arrested and detained by the Nigerian security establishment are not prosecuted on time so they can benefit from any future prisoners' exchange agreement should the Federal Government accepts to negotiate a lasting truce with the armed Islamic terrorists with operational bases in the North East.
Already the Minister of Justice himself through the office of his chief press secretary denied this bizarre allegation and stated that he has the highest respect for the constitutional provisions which obliges him to serve only the public interest of corporate Nigeria and not his personal agenda which he does not even have.
Also worried by these sad tales of apparent inaction of the relevant Federal authorities to do the needful to bring these terrorists to speedy trial, I made effort to research and find out what has so far been done by the office of the Federal Attorney General and minister of justice to address this national outrage of the slow justice dispensation mechanism vis-à-vis the increasing threats posed to the lives and property of Nigerians by the armed insurgents.
The Justice Minister in denying the allegation that his office seems not to be in a hurry to prosecute terrorists said that:"There is no doubt that any society, which desires to bring about social justice, and development will ultimately address the functionality and centrality of law. In my respectful view, social justice and a developmental perspective to nations legal system requires that the rule of law must be sacrosanct".
The justice minister had similarly declared at the opening ceremony of an international seminar on the observance of human rights and international humanitarian laws held recently in Abuja that his office has so far successfully prosecuted and got convictions of 40 hard core terrorists under the terrorism prevention Act of 2011 as amended in 2013.
The nation's chief law officer said that in a constitutional democracy like Nigeria, the rule of law connotes not only that the judiciary is independent but that judicial orders and judgments of courts are obeyed and enforced.
Adoke said that the aforementioned position is more so imperative when only the courts of law are mandated to state with finality the position of the law as it governs the affairs of the society and the nation.
His words: "in the course of evolving sustainable constitutional principles for our democracy and in the face of security challenges, the courts have dispensed justice according to the law and our constitutional evolution has benefitted immensely from their interventions". Majority of Nigerians do not agree because they know that dispensation of justice by the Nigerian court system is too slow compared to other democracies around the globe such as the United Kingdom or the USA. Mind you, we copied our presidential system from the United States and also we were colonized and granted independence over five decades ago by the British so we are expected to emulate the good aspect of their speedy and professional dispensation of justice.
But the Nigerian minister of justice is of the opinion that in Nigeria, the challenges of nationhood are more pronounced in the areas of security, fostering of national unity and democratic consolidation.
The threat of global terrorism hitherto considered an alien phenomenon, in his estimation, has unfortunately found a place in our nation.
In his direct response to the groundswell of allegations that his office has not adopted quick win process of bringing the arrested terrorists to trial, the Nigerian Attorney General said thus; "Media reports of terrorists attacks on innocent citizens, members of the armed forces and police and our critical infrastructure have continued to weigh heavily on the cost of governance and the ability of the citizenry to carry out their social and economic activities with grave consequences for the nation".
My deduction from the seeming groundswell of dissatisfaction on the slow pace of prosecution of suspected terrorists who have carried out gruesome killings of over twelve thousand innocent Nigerians is that Nigerians are yearning for an effective and professionally minded prosecution to be coordinated by the office of the Federal Attorney General who should make use of thoroughbred professional criminal litigation lawyers who know their onions in order to get quicker dispensation of justice.
Nigerians do not want a situation whereby the sensitive issue of prosecuting terrorism masterminds are left in the hands of police prosecutors who are thoroughly incompetent and ready to compromise national security through their lackadaisical approach to duty and their penchant to seek for selfish pecuniary gains at the expense of national security.
Nigerians are asking that the office of the Federal Attorney General should set up vibrant team of senior litigation lawyers with the highest manifestation of patriotic zeal and professional competence to handle these sensitive prosecution of the many terrorists that are currently being detained in the various detention facilities scattered across Nigeria. From what the minister of justice has repeatedly stated in the public domain I am sure that he is very much aware of the demands for speedy and professionally competent prosecution of these terrorists that have carried out these spate of genocidal killings of Nigerians of all affiliations.
The minister knows that posterity will judge his performance as minister in the way and manner that these high profile armed insurgents in detention for these grave crimes against humanity and so he will consciously discharge his constitutional duty with the love of the Fatherland behind his every action. Let us give him the benefit of the doubt because from the benefit of hindsight the justice minister as a good citizen also wants a peaceful Nigeria for all our children and generations yet unborn.
Emmanuel Onwubiko, Head; Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria and [email protected]; www.huriwa.org.