Posted by The Punch on
The Civil Liberties Organization, CLO, disclosed recently in Lagos that about 20, 000 people, including women and children, have been killed in brutal extra judicial circumstances since May 1999, when the present administration came to power.
The Civil Liberties Organization, CLO, disclosed recently in Lagos that about 20, 000 people, including women and children, have been killed in brutal extra judicial circumstances since May 1999, when the present administration came to power. At a press conference rightly captioned: “I can kill you and nothing will happen,” the civil rights organization indicated that the victims included the over 2,300 people killed in Odi in 1999 and about 250 deaths recorded during the army invasion of Zaki Biam, Vaase and other villages in Benue State in 2001.
One of the greatest challenges faced by the Federal Government when it came to power in 1999 was how to contend with the killing of some policemen by some reckless Niger Delta militiamen in Odi, Bayelsa State, late 1999. The failure of the community to produce the unruly militiamen resulted in the levelling of the entire Odi community. Likewise, the killing by militiamen in Benue State, of some soldiers on a peacekeeping mission following the border crises between Benue and Taraba states, resulted in the summary execution of over 200 unarmed civilians between October 22 and 24, 2001 by soldiers.
Ethno-religious violence has also taken its toll. Hundreds of Nigerians, for instance, were killed in Yelwa-Shendam, Plateau State, last year, sequel to a major religious violence that culminated in the declaration of a state of emergency in the state. This was followed by a revenge attack in Kano, which claimed more lives. Elsewhere, the Police allegedly buried about 19 corpses of arrested participants in the strike organized by the Nigeria Labour Congress in October 2004 to protest fuel price hike, at the Bachama Road Cemetery, Kaduna. Reports said the Police claimed the slain protesters were suspected criminals in their custody.
That same allegation of armed robbery recently came handy for the Police when they summarily executed five traders and a female companion in Abuja. The usual trademark of Police brutality and arbitrary killing was so visible on the gruesome murder of the Apo Six, that a UN Human Rights Rapporteur recently noted that, “all the ingredients, from the killings of the alleged robbers, to the fraudulent placement of weapons, to the failure to undertake proper postmortem procedures, to the denial of wrongdoing, and to the flight of a senior police officer, have been repeated several times over in relation to the cases (of extra judicial killings) brought to my notice.”
As part of the embarrassing human rights record, the government has not been able to bring to justice those who killed a serving Minister of Justice, Chief Bola Ige; Dr. Marshal Harry, a National Vice Chairman of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party; and his successor, Chief A. K. Dikibo, and several other victims of suspected politically motivated killings.
Unfortunately, this growing list of unresolved murder cases is about to tarnish the nation’s commendable regional peacekeeping image under President Obasanjo. There are reports, for instance, that some human rights groups in London are vehemently kicking against the well-deserved nomination of President Obasanjo for the Chatham House Prize, an international award that has been described as the equivalent of Sweden’s Nobel Peace Prize.
The brutal climate of impunity that has encouraged summary executions and political assassinations must be tamed, if the nation intends to be fully integrated into the comity of civilized nations. In doing so, the nation’s Police should be reorganised and retrained to appreciate the fact that they are paid to protect life, not to take it. Above all, the nation’s democratic institutions must be strengthened to protect the rights of all citizens to life.
The Punch, Wednesday July 13, 2005
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