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*How Much Is Life Worth In Nigeria?
By Francis Chigozie Moneke.
Insecurity has indeed assumed an epidemic dimension in Nigeria. What with recurring instances of bomb explosions, wanton armed robbery attacks and other mindless acts of violence across the country, there is a tangible feeling of insecurity and profound fear of criminal victimization – hardly a day passes without one horrid and gruesome story or the other of human carnage, invariably with multiple casualties. Human life is worth but little in this atmosphere of perennial bloodbath, so much so that virtually every morning one wakes up to a fresh narration of gory killings of innocent persons in the hands of the now ubiquitous purveyors of violence, and probably also reads or listens to the traditional presidential pledge to bring the perpetrators to justice. But that is usually how far the ritual goes until yet another incident of human butchery.
No doubt the most worrisome security challenge in Nigeria today is the menace of the villainous Boko Haram sect whose terrorist activities have claimed no less than a thousand innocent lives. The sect has effectively defied the feeble efforts being made by the federal government of Nigeria to protect the lives of citizens, thus putting a big question mark to the capacity of the government to live up to its primary responsibility of protecting its own people. It is against this background that the statement recently made by President Goodluck Jonathan to the effect that Nigerian army is inefficient having failed to reign in the dreaded Boko Haram sect is at the same time valid and self-indicting. ( Continues below….. )
Photo Above: People gather to view ThisDay Newspaper Jabi - Abuja office building heavily damaged by Boko Haram suicide bomb attack.
The constitutional guarantee of the right to life has become largely atrophied in this era of absolute insecurity. Section 33 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) provides that “every person has a right to life, and no one shall be deprived intentionally of his life save in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty in Nigeria”. This Constitutional provision guarantees the right to life and intends that human life must not be taken arbitrarily. Article 4 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights is in all fours with this Constitutional safeguard of the right to life. It provides that “human beings are inviolable. Every human being shall be entitled to respect for his life and the integrity of his person. No one may be arbitrarily deprived of this right”. These provisions impose a duty on government not only to ensure respect for the right to life but also to take effective measures towards ensuring that that right is not violated by either State or non-state actors – that is the obligation to protect.
The principle of state obligation to protect human rights especially right to life is rigidly enshrined under international human rights law jurisprudence. That principle was fully highlighted by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in consolidated Communications 48/90, 50/91, 52/92, 89/93 Amnesty International & ors. vs. Sudan wherein the Commission addressing the contention that executions of people in Sudan were not effected by State agents, held that “in addition to the individuals named in the Communications, there were thousands of other executions in Sudan. Even if these were not all the work of forces of the government, the government has a responsibility to protect all people residing under its jurisdiction”. The Commission thus found that the government of Sudan was in violation of the right to life enshrined under Article 4 of the African Charter as a result of its failure to protect the lives of people under its jurisdiction.
The Nigerian Supreme Court has indeed affirmed the principle of duty of government to protect citizens in the case of AG Adamawa vs. AG Federation (2005) 18 NWLR pt. 958 where it held that the citizens of Nigeria have a right to seek protection of their human rights from the government. This is a reverse way of stating that the government of Nigeria has a duty to protect Nigerian citizens, because if the citizens have a right to seek protection from government, it follows that a duty is imposed on government to provide such protection. Also in Nkpa vs. Nkume (2001) 6 NWLR pt. 710 pg.543 the Supreme Court held that every person resident in Nigeria has a right to go about his or her lawful business unmolested or unhampered by anyone else, be it a government functionary or a private individual. Thus, any manifestation of arbitrary power assumed by anyone over the life or the property of another must not be tolerated. ( Continues below..... )
Photo Above: Map of Nigeria showing some major cities, including the Federal capital (Abuja or FCT)
The provisions of Sections 130 (2), 215 (1), 217 (2) (c), 218 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), would suggest that the buck for insecurity in the country stops at the doorstep of the President who is the Chief-Executive and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, because in him is vested the power of control over the security paraphernalia of the Federal Republic, and thus empowered to deploy such security outfits for public safety and order, which primarily contemplates protection of lives and property. Consequently, the President by observing the inefficiency of the military in the face of the Boko Haram insurgency has not succeeded in absolving himself of responsibility in that regard. Fair enough, the President is not bent on abdicating his primary duty as the C-in-C, thus his pledge to seek the assistance of foreign countries in the fight against terrorism in Nigeria.
Seeking assistance from other countries must however be premised on satisfactory answer to two critical questions. First, why have our security agencies failed woefully to bridle the calamitous terrorist activities of the Boko Haram? Second, what is the condition precedent for effective engagement of the assistance of foreign countries in the fight against terrorist bombing and allied activities?
It is often credited to the Nigeria Police and Army that they perform well when sent on foreign combat or peace-keeping missions. But the story is usually different whenever they are saddled with the task of maintaining law and order within the country. It does seem that whenever deployed for foreign peace-keeping mission the few officers to be so deployed are adequately equipped, properly motivated, positively oriented and painstakingly trained. Back home however, everybody is on his own as it were. Resources made available for the capacity building and equipment of security personnel are corruptly commandeered by a few individuals. It is mere folly to expect performance from an ill-equipped police or army – no one gives what he has not, and you can’t place something on nothing and expect it to stand. With what superior intelligence can our security personnel outwit the dare-devil suicide bombers if they are no trained on scientific intelligence gathering and equipped with sophisticated hardware that would enable them pre-empt the terrorists and criminals. Corruption, is the bane of security in Nigeria (as with other public service institutions). Addressing the problem of corruption within the security and law enforcement agencies in Nigeria is therefore the surest way of making progress in the fight against terrorism. ( Continues below….. )
Secondly, the President can seek assistance of foreign countries to rescue this nation from the deadly clutches of the Boko Haram. However to enjoy maximum co-operation from such foreign countries from whom assistance may be solicited, it is important that Nigeria signs up and ratifies the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombing. 1998. Article 10 (1) of the Convention states that State parties shall afford one another the greatest measure of assistance in connection with investigations for criminal or extradition proceedings brought in respect of the offences set forth in Article 2, including assistance in obtaining evidence at their disposal necessary for the proceedings. Article 2 makes it an offence to deliver, place, discharge or detonate explosives or other lethal devices in public places, government facility or other infrastructural facility. It follows that signing up to the said Convention and becoming a member thereof will enormously benefit Nigeria at this challenging time, since it can then enjoy the automatic assistance and support of other member countries, instead of the present untoward situation where the President has in desperation admitted to the world that Nigeria can no longer handle the menace of a small faceless group of terrorists and therefore needs the assistance of any ‘good Samaritan country’ to deal with the problem.
Finally, the President has not shown sufficient political will to deal squarely with the nagging insecurity in the country. Sometime ago the President insinuated that members of the Boko Haram sect had infiltrated his government. Beyond those weighty words of mouth one has not seen a genuine determination to investigate and fish out those bad eggs in his administration and allow the law to take its due course. There is no doubt that the Boko Haram sect enjoys the support and patronage of very powerful and highly placed individuals in the country. Looking away from these financiers and patrons of the Boko Haram is a clear indication of lack of genuine commitment to bring the activities of the group under control. The President must also manifest such genuine commitment by ensuring that victims of terrorist activities and their families are adequately taken care of and duly compensated.
(Francis Moneke holds and LLM degree in International law and Human Rights from the University of London. He is the Executive Director of Human Rights & Empowerment Project; and also the Editor/Founder of Monthly Report of Supreme Court Judgements).
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