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*Before Dr. Odinkalu, Chair, Nigeria's NHRC Is Felled By State Bullets
Before Dr. Chidi Odinkalu, Board Chair, Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission Goes The Way Of Others Felled By State Bullets Or Killer-Gas Substances
(Onitsha-Nigeria, Sunday, 15th day of April, 2012)-The leadership of International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law strongly believes that the Chairman, Board of Governing Council of the National Human Rights Commission, Dr. Chidi Odinkalu, one of the few young Nigeria’s “legist” scholars, may go the way of other Nigeria’s “social engineers” felled by State bullets or killer-gas substances, unless sustained local and international campaigns are initiated to ward off such possible reality.
Having critically x-rayed the circumstances surrounding the 11th day of April 2012’s open criminal invitation extended to the NHRC’s chair by the Acting IGP, Mohammed Dikko Abubakar, through his DIG, Force Criminal Investigations Department in Abuja, who delegated it to one Dan Bature, a Deputy Commissioner of Police, we fear that Dr. Chidi Odinkalu may have become a “ candidate of formal and informal police criminal invitations”, with the latter likely to be “he has gone to Abuja”, a euphemism for State murder and extra-judicial execution of targeted citizens.
Dr. Chidi Odinkalu was issued with non-adjudicative criminal summons over his legitimate assertion on March 5, 2012 at a public function, to the effect that the Nigeria Police Force,” by estimates, carries out more than 2,500 extra-judicial execution of detainees yearly”, as a result of which the Acting IGP claimed that it was “vexatious”. We wish to state, expressly, that the criminal invitation extended to Dr. Chidi Odinkalu by the NPF amounts to gross abuse of office, executive irresponsibility and recklessness. It is also tantamount to inviting a judge, criminally, to explain his or her reasons for delivering a judgment, whether substantive or orbiter dictum (or dicta). It saddens our heart that the Acting IGP and his Force Headquarters does not seem to understand the basic provisions of the law of the land, yet they claim to be “ officers of the law”.
For records, Dr. Chidi Odinkalu, by virtue of his position as the Chairman of the Board of Governing Council of the NHRC have rights, privileges and immunities of a High Court Judge, whether formal or informal. This is expressly in accordance with the NHRC’s Amended Act, signed into law by President Goodluck Jonathan on 26th day of February 2011. The new amended Act confers on the Commission the powers of a High Court in its core areas of jurisdiction such as summons, investigations of complaints, their findings and actions. Funny enough, it is the NHRC that is legally empowered to summon any Nigerian including the IGP, and not the other way round. The express meaning of the new “high court” powers of the NHRC is that if any Nigerian including the IGP, whether acting or substantive, feels aggrieved by the Commission’s summons, investigations, findings and actions, he or she deserves a right under the law to go to the Court of Appeal to challenge them, and certainly, not a high court. When clearly compared with the summoning powers of the Police, which are strictly restricted to criminal matters, the former’s are superior to the latter’s. The forgoing simply means that the NHRC is now in the same jurisdictional league with the National Industrial Court, Election Tribunals and Judicial Commissions of Enquiry. The question now is: can the NPF criminally summon heads of the Election Tribunals, the National Industrial Courts and the Judicial Commissions of Enquiry? The express answer to this question is that the NPF is legally incompetent to do so.
Other than the powers of a High Court status of the NHRC, it is also deified internationally in line with various international rights instruments assented to by Nigeria. Reckless conducts by State security establishments such as the one under discussion, brought about the establishment of State Human Rights Commissions by the member-states of the UNO, after the 1990s’ plan of action on human rights so as, among other things, narrow the gap between the independent rights NGOs and the State, which perpetually sees rights issues and their campaigners as a threat and coupist As crude and homicidal as the Sani Mohammed Abacha’ s military regime was, it still created the present NHRC, though with a leprous decree in 1995. This is the same Commission (now with widened responsibilities) that the supposedly democratic Nigeria Police Force is bent on defiling with utter impunity. Also, Dr. Chidi Odinkalu is an appointee of the Presidency with a tenure, whose appointment was duly confirmed by the Nigeria’s Senate. If the NHRC Boss is credibly seen as a threat to national security or grievous violator of the law, which he is not presently, the NHRC Amended Act of the Federation 2011 empowers the President and the Senate, and not the NPF to handle same legally. In the event of sanction or removal from office for possible gross misconduct, the Amended NHRC Act empowers the President to request for the removal of the NHRC Boss from the Senate, which, in turn, will effect his or her removal via a simple majority vote. The best the NPF top headship could do, under the law and present circumstance, is to report him to his appointing authority, the President, with incontrovertible pieces of evidence pertaining to his or her alleged gross misconduct. By virtue of the said Act, the NHRC Boss takes no directives from any government agency including the President, except where he or she engages in gross misconduct. It is obvious that the top leadership of the NPF is crudely ignorant of these basic legal provisions that prompted it to act professionally illiterately. The Force, therefore, acted irresponsibly, abashedly, absurdly, abusively, recklessly and shamelessly.
Furthermore, what the NHRC Boss has said is less than 0.1 percent of the current realities with respect to police corruptive and homicidal activities in Nigeria. Apart from the “Criminal Force” Report of 2010 by NOPRIN & OSIWA, from which the NHRC Boss derived his assertion, there are other newer and older similar reports by leading and respected local and international rights groups such as the Intersociety’s twin reports of December 2011(Police Corruption As Human Rights (roadblock extortion & related issues) & How 54,000 Nigerians Died Outside The Law Since 1999). There are also others like: “Killing At Will (AI-UK)”, “Rest in Pieces”(HRW-USA), “Everyone’s in the Game”(HRW-USA) and the Nigeria’s State of Human Rights Report of 2009 by the US Department of State, etc, all documenting heinous homicidal activities of the NPF as well as other police-bred killings in Nigeria since 1999.
Therefore, the criminal invitation extended to the immunity-bearing NHRC Boss by the NPF is criminally, harmfully and homicidally intended. The sheer ignorance of the law of the land in this respect, by the top leadership of the NPF led by Mohammed Dikko Abubakar, is also shocking and saddening. Instead of this clear witch-hunting of an innocent and conscientious top public citizen by the NPF, the clarification invitations, not criminal summons, should be holistically extended to the leaderships of the Access to Justice, CLEEN Foundation, International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law, Network on Police Reforms in Nigeria & Open Society Institute for West Africa & its founder (George Soros); Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Madam Hillary Clinton & her US Department of State as well as members of the NBA who have instituted civil cases seeking for compensatory justice over the extra judicial activities including unlawful killings of their clients’ relatives by the personnel of the NPF, being some of the respected bodies that have documented and issued various reports of police atrocities in Nigeria, if the Force is truly desirous of unearthing the alleged unjustifiable homicidal activities of its personnel including pretrial executions.
We, hereby, call on the President & Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and Chairman, Nigeria Police Council, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, to direct the Secretary to the Federal Government to conclusively and satisfactorily investigate this height of abuse of office and professional misconduct by the top leadership of the NPF, with a view to sanctioning those involved, apologizing to the NHRC Boss, saving his dear life, effectively protecting his revered office and saving the Federal Republic of Nigeria of this unpardonable embarrassment and more to come. The Acting IGP and his personnel must be stopped by the President from further harassing and intimidating the respected NHRC Boss. Mr. Mohammed Dikko Abubakar’s confirmation as the Nigeria’s substantive IGP should be tied to his culpability or otherwise in this horrible national and international embarrassment of the Government and Great People of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
While commending the NHRC Boss, Dr. Chidi Odinkalu, for his courage and sagacity, we wish to call on other reputable civil society organizations local and internationally to rise in fierce defense of the NHRC and its boss by ensuring that its independent status and activities are not stifled by any State coercive agencies particularly the NPF. Efforts must also be ensured and intensified to ensure that Dr. Chidi Odinkalu does not go the way of other irreplaceable social engineers in Nigeria, felled by State bullets and killer-gas substances such as Alhaja Kudiratu Abiola.
Comrade Justus Ijeoma, Head, Publicity Desk
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