All posts by Emmanuel Onwubiko

Welcome to the Republic of Fear, By Emmanuel Onwubiko

Emmanuel Onwubiko

“We must stop playing ethnic or religious cards on matters of counter terrorism campaign”.

Fear in the expert opinion of psychologists is said to be a vital response to physical and emotional danger and they also said that if we don’t feel fear we couldn’t protect ourselves from legitimate threats. This is correct because we grow up to learn the native intelligence that self preservation is the first law of nature.

Aside native intelligence, we also learnt from http://www.psycholgytoday.com/ how we often fear situations that are far from life or death, and thus hang back for no good reason. Fear also triggers trauma and in this same professional dictionary of psychology we also learnt that trauma or bad experiences can trigger a fear response within us that is hard to quell but in their words ‘exposing ourselves to our personal demons is the best way to move past them’.

Speaking about the phenomenon of fear reminds us of the national traumas that most Nigerians are experiencing now as a result of the consequences of the bombing campaign by the armed Islamic insurgents over the past three years. From Maiduguri in Borno state to Umuahia in Abia state, panic and fear of the unknown is spreading like wild fire
no thanks to the diabolical inclination of these terrorists to instil fear and apprehension around the country in their sinister moves to take their brand of Islamic radicalism to a new height. Usman Stanley Ola [not real names] told me that since after the last bombing campaign in Abuja he stopped going to any commercial complex around
town and he avoids the markets like a plague.

Again, Nigerians of all classes and affiliations have come to recognize this ugly fact that fear has become our new national demons even as most persons have begun debating the best methodology to bring about the lasting resolution of the campaign of terrorism across Nigeria.

In Abuja, fear has replaced enthusiasm and the usually boisterous character of the municipality just as majority of the residents are now contending with the uncertainty of where and when these armed insurgents will detonate their weapons of mass destruction next after they succeeded in mid April 2014 in detonating high caliber bombs in
the most centralized and easily the busiest commercial complex in the nation’s capital- Emab Plaza in Wuse two which killed a high number of Nigerians who were simply there to transact their daily businesses.

The latest explosion of bombs in Abuja followed the successful attacks by the armed insurgents in Nyanya commercial bus park parked with thousands of commuters which also resulted in very high casualty rate. Symbolically, what these armed insurgents have succeeded in doing in these rash of bomb explosions in Abuja is that they had
targeted the most populated areas of the nation’s political capital to pass a message that they are on a campaign of mass slaughter and killings of ordinary Nigerians and that the law enforcement agencies are incapacitated and incapable of providing fool proof security to Nigerians.

Understandably, Abuja residents in their thousands are now jittery and fearful of patronizing commercial buildings which has now crippled the economic activities of a dominant sector of the Nigerian society- the
small and medium scale enterprises.

This much has been repeatedly emphasized by prominent Nigerians who have ceaselessly tasked the Federal and state governments to move rapidly to bring to an end the spate of attacks targeted at ordinary Nigerians and to salvage Nigeria from imminent collapse.

The latest high profile personality in Nigeria to add her voice to the widening worries over the terrorism spreading fear across Nigeria is the Chief Justice of Nigeria who delivered a key note address recently at a national judicial event and rightly reminded Nigerians that terrorism is gradually destroying Nigeria.

Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mariam Mukhtar, who spoke in Abuja, said the adverse effect of the seeming unending insurgency in the country has manifested itself generally in such a dastard fashion that it has affected economic activities and thrown spanner in government’s effort in attracting Foreign Direct Investments (FDI).

The CJN also charged judicial officers to brainstorm on ways by which witnesses and victims of terrorist acts could be best protected and supported to give evidence in court against perpetrators of these unwholesome acts.

There is no gainsaying the fact that because of fear of reprisal, most persons who have critical information that will assist in reducing terrorism, are not sufficiently providing those vital information to the public and/or to the security agents. Again, the few suspects arrested and taken to court for terrorism have remained in detention longer than necessary because people are frightened by the danger that may befall them if these terrorists and
their sponsors trace them to their places of abode.

So the charge by the chief justice of Nigeria on the authorities to work out better protective measures for witnesses in cases of terrorism is a welcome development and should indeed be promptly addressed. This is because the delay in bringing decisive justice to suspects accused of carrying out widespread killings of innocent Nigerians has created doubts in the minds of most Nigerians concerning the commitment of government to fight this menace of terrorism. If mass killers are not punished sternly then impunity will take root in the society.

It was in a bid to save Nigeria from sliding into lawlessness and impunity that the chief justice of Nigeria is calling for immediate action. Speaking at the opening ceremony of the national workshop for judicial officers on anti-terrorism, Chief Justice Mukhtar noted that “terrorism poses serious challenges to any nation unfortunate to
experience it as it has the risk of undermining core values of the nation such as the Rule of Law, respect for human rights, protection of civilians, tolerance among the various ethnic groups.”

“Its motivation, financing and support mechanisms, methods of attack and choice of target are constantly evolving, thus adding to the complexity of any effective strategy to combat it”, she lamented.

The CJN said “Terrorism undermines overall economic activities and development, thereby seriously affecting living standard of the poor segment of society. It has driven all investments away – both local and foreign. Terrorist attacks devalue the quality of life and affects the enjoyment of some basic rights like right to life, freedom of
movement, access to possible employment and educational opportunities.”

The CJN said the onus has therefore fallen on the judiciary to contribute its quota to ongoing effort to combat the menace, which has led to several losses of lives in the country since the activities of Boko Haram started.

On this ground, I think the government should set up military tribunals to handle the prosecution of cases of terrorism even as witness protection program must be activated so that more convictions can be obtained.

Prosecution of terrorism related cases must not be treated just like the conventional criminal trial since these
terrorists are the worst kinds of mass murderers who are out to destroy the fabrics of the nation state.

The Nigerian Chief Justice stated as much when she affirmed thus: “Faced with the above scenario, the strengthening of the capacity of the judicial officers on the system adopted to suppress and combat terrorism becomes imperative and a crucial component of a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy. This is because the perpetrators when apprehended must be brought for trial in full compliance with the National and International legal regime against
terrorism and Rule of Law”.

The other issue that has mystified most observers is how fast Nigeria has declined in her ability to protect the citizenry which is the most basic and fundamental duty of every government in contemporary time.

Reports in the media concerning the combat readiness of Nigerian soldiers are frightening. This calls for sober reflection on how the defence and policing sectors of Nigeria has deteriorated due to ineptitude and corruption in the procurement systems in place in those two key security institutions.

While it is imperative to task government to check corruption in the defence and policing sector so as to protect
Nigeria’s sovereignty, it is also timely to generally task Nigerians to stand up to defeat this situation of monumental fear that has enveloped our nation and has made us a republic of fear.

All segments of the Nigerian society must be united with a common purpose of defeating terrorism. We must stop playing ethnic or religious cards on matters of counter terrorism campaign going on by the armed security wing of the current government.

It is pathetic and obviously primitive that some state governments especially in the North through their officials have made some vexatious claims in the media alleging that the counter terror fight is being waged against their people. The governor of Adamawa state and a retired Naval Chief in the Nigerian military sector was recently in the news for alleging that the armed Islamic insurgency going on especially in the North was a sinister design by President Jonathan to depopulate Northern Nigeria. Retired Rear Admiral Murtallah Nyako who took part in several military coups in the past which progressively weakened the combat readiness of Nigerian soldiers, went to the
ridiculous extent of alleging genocide against President Jonathan.

This line of argument is puerile and infantile because what we contend with in Nigeria are a bunch of monsters that are well armed and ideologically bent to destroy our basic freedom by planting bombs which go off every now and then killing thousands and inflicting psychological pain and fear in the minds of millions of Nigerians.

Government at every level has the constitutional obligation to protect lives and property of law abiding Nigerians for this is the primary constitutional duty of government. It is dangerous and satanic for someone like the Kano state governor for instance to claim that security forces are targeting Northerners when in actual fact Kano has come under several attacks by terrorists which cost the precious lives of mostly Southerners and even Kano indigenes.

Emmanuel Onwubiko is Head Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria. He blogs at www.huriwa.blogspot.com

Michelle Obama Vs Patience Jonathan: Same Title, Different Styles, By Emmanuel Onwubiko

Emmanuel Onwubiko

While in contemplation on the extensive psychological, social and economic damage caused by the phenomenal rate of sexual violations of minors especially girls by adult sex predators in Nigeria, I was rudely interrupted by a loud broadcast by a local television in Nigeria that is publicly funded whereby the wife of President Goodluck Jonathan was  shown addressing a crowd of people made up mostly of gorgeously dressed women, somewhere in Port Harcourt, the Rivers state Capital.

For some moments, I watched the broadcast of the colourful rally by the wife of the President to see if she could dwell for some minutes on the menace of rape of teenagers by adults in Nigeria, but that was none of her concern.

The glamorous event by the wife of the Nigerian President, which was bankrolled apparently with tax payers’ money, was interpreted by the media as the unofficial kickoff of the 2015 presidential campaign of President Goodluck Jonathan.

President Jonathan, it would be recalled, has not declared his intention to vie for another term in 2015 but his Special Adviser on political matters-the Adamawa state-born lawyer-Mr. Ahmed Gulak has said several times that President Jonathan would contest.

On June 19, 2013, when the wife of the Nigerian President inaugurated what is called the South-South zonal secretariat of the Women for Change and Development Initiative-her pet project, she took plenty of time to ask the women and people of the region to vote for her husband but spent less than fleeting seconds to highlight the need for women to become sources of peace in their homes.

At the palace of the traditional ruler of the Nye-new-eli Rumueme Kingdom, Eze Omunakwe Nsiri, the wife of Nigerian President explicitly showed that her visit was political.

Her words; “I am here to thank and appreciate the role you and my people of River State played in voting for my husband in the 2011 presidential election. Rivers people voted massively for my husband. I am your daughter and my husband is your son. I want you to support him when the time comes. I know you will not disappoint us we, on our part, we will never forget you”.

Remember that the wife of President Jonathan, just like the wives of previous Nigerian rulers, has assumed the unofficial title of the first lady even though most Nigerians now know that the Nigerian presidency spends a fortune to run this unconstitutional office with all the full compliments of an executive office holder.

The “office” of the first lady of Nigeria, I am told, is staffed with some of the best schooled experts in different fields especially in public and media relations.

The title of First Lady, as we all know, originated from the United States of America where till date the holder of that symbolic title, the wife of the President of the United States of American, Mrs. Michelle Obama does not enjoy these monumental executive privileges that the Nigerian President’s wife enjoys. She also does not engage in political battles on behalf of her husband.

From simple research on Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, we are reliably informed that the word first lady is an unofficial title used in the United States of America for the wife of the President.

The concept of first lady originated in the United States where one of the earliest references was applied to Mrs. Martha Washington.

According to historians, in an 1843 newspaper article that appeared in the Boston Courier, the author Mrs. Signorney, discussing how Mrs. Washington had not changed even after her husband George became President, wrote as follows; “The first lady of the nation still preserved the habits of early life. Indulging in no indolence, she left the pillow at dawn, and after breakfast, returned to her chamber for an hour of study of the scriptures and devotion”.

The above is necessarily how a good wife of the President ought to carry herself with humility and devotion knowing that the symbolic title she carries carry no constitutional support or validity. Although I acknowledge the scientific fact that no two people are the same but two persons carrying same unconstitutional title of First Lady ought to respect the laws of the land.

This is not the case in Nigeria whereby the wife of the president has been accused of appropriating official executive functions and the elected members of the people’s National Assembly seem helpless to restore constitutionalism in the way and manner that Nigeria’s President’s wife has gone about as if to say the office is fully recognized by the constitution of the country. A respected national paper in Nigeria recently upbraided Mrs. Patience Jonathan for some of these  ‘high profile official’ functions.

But how does the wife of the United States President go about her unofficial duties of the first lady?

Observers can see that the first lady of the United States has shown the highest charisma in speaking out for educational empowerment of the girl child and she accompanied her husband in the ongoing African visits whereby she was seen in an all girls College in Senegal counseling the girls to say no to rape and to consistently pursue their studies.

This reminds me of the stark reality of high rate of sexual violations of youngsters by adults in Nigeria and the silence of the wife of the Nigerian President to play a role towards ensuring that government fights the menace of the hydra-headed monster of rape.

Although, on paper the offence of rape is seen as grave but the weak enforcement of the law has made it impossible for those sexual violators of young children to face the full weight of the law.

Legal scholars note that both Nigerian criminal codes define rape in similar terms. In southern Nigeria, the Criminal Code defines rape as “unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman or a girl, without her consent.”[88] Unlawful intercourse with a woman’s consent also constitutes rape if the consent is obtained in any of the following ways: by force or threats or intimidation of any kind; by means of false and fraudulent representation as to the nature of the act; or in the case of a married woman, by impersonating her husband.

Similarly, law experts recall that the Penal Code, applicable in northern Nigeria, defines rape in the same manner. However, it provides that “[s]exual intercourse by a man with his own wife is not rape, if she has attained to puberty.”

Both criminal codes impose the same punishment for rape, which is imprisonment for life, with or without caning even as the charge of  attempted rape is punishable by 14 years of imprisonment but not many offenders get punished because of the mode of obtaining evidence to pin down these sexual predators and because the law of evidence in matters of rape makes it impossible for the anonymity of the victims to be concealed because of the stigma attached to rape victims in Nigeria.

Nigerian criminal law addresses a number of sexual offenses, so says law scholars. The Penal Code imposes strict penalties for such crimes as “procuration” of a minor girl; importation of a girl from a foreign country with the intent that she may be “forced or seduced to illicit intercourse” with another person, and employment of a minor for prostitution. Nigeria also has the anti-human trafficking law and also an agency to combat human trafficking. These mechanisms are not effectively monitored to ensure that rape offenders are punished.

In addition, the Criminal Code provides for life imprisonment for any person who has unlawful “carnal knowledge” of a girl under the age of 13 but most Nigerians are aware early marriages is a notorious practice in a part of the country and these sex predators are left to repeatedly rape these young girls in the name of marriage.

A national voice like that of the wife of the President of Nigeria might influence officials of government to more seriously take their jobs and to seriously fight and minimize the damage unleashed by sex predators on youngsters.

If the Nigerian first lady can devote one third of all her public speeches and events to advocating an end to the phenomenal rise in rape, then the necessary mechanism for effectively enforcing strong law against rape would be activated.

The sordid fact is that scientists and researchers have stumbled on shocking statistics regarding rape of teenagers in Nigeria.

From www.ageofconsent.com, the following facts emerged; “7 out of every 10 males and 5 out of every 10 females attending secondary school in Nigeria are sexually active or have had sexual relations at least, once.

The researchers recalled that a study in Benin City showed that 55% of the secondary school girls had sexual intercourse before age 16. A more recent study showed that the mean age of initiation of sexual intercourse is 13 years”.

Another finding is that;“Two out of every 5 secondary school girls interviewed admitted to at least one previous pregnancy. Over 900,000 births to adolescents occur annually and 150 out of every 1000 women who give birth in Nigeria are 19 years old and under”.

Also discovered is that “Eighty percent of patients at Nigerian Hospitals with abortion-related complications are adolescent girls. These complications include hemorrhage, septicemia, perforated uterus, secondary sterility and in many cases, death. Illegally induced abortion is described as a school girls’ problem in Nigeria”.

But from far away Senegal, the American first lady gave us a good lesson on how to play a good role model for the younger girls when she visited them in their secondary school, interacted with them meaningfully and offered words of encouragement.

The Voice of America, a state radio listened to by about 60 million rural Africans, reported yesterday that hundreds of students at the all-girls Martin Luther King high school danced and sang to welcome Michelle Obama.

Mrs. Obama praised the students for their academic achievements and urged them to stick with it, even though she said she knows it is hard for some families to afford to send their daughters to school.

“I know that it can take real courage to pursue your dreams, to come to this school, to pour yourself into your education, to envision possibilities for yourselves that no one could ever imagine,” she said. “But don’t ever forget that by investing in your education, you are doing the very best thing you can do – not just for yourselves, but for your children and your grandchildren. And you’re also doing the very best thing you can do for your country.”

UNESCO reports that just 27 percent of students in Senegal’s secondary schools are girls. Many girls, particularly those in rural areas, are forced to drop out to care for their siblings and help with housework.

Mrs. Obama said she knows about sacrifice. Her father struggled to pay for her education.

“That’s why, day after day, I made sure I did everything in my power to make him proud,” she said. “So I got up early to study. I stayed up late doing my homework.  And despite my efforts, there were still plenty of people who doubted whether a girl from my humble background had what it took to succeed.”

Student Safietou Mboup said she and her friends were very happy to hear Mrs. Obama speak. She said they really understood Mrs. Obama’s message and that all the girls would continue to work hard.

Mrs. Obama shook the girl’s hands and hugged many of them as she left.

The Port Harcourt ‘near-invasion’ of Nigeria’s first lady and the Senegal’s friendly visit by the United States President’s wife, show us that though the two ladies share same title, but both operate different styles and ironically both are black women.

*Onwubiko, Head, HUMAN Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria, blogs at blogs@www.huriwa.blogspot.com.

 

 

Institutional Inequities Against The Nigerian Child, By Emmanuel Onwubiko

Emmanuel Onwubiko

Nigeria will on Monday, May 27 2013 mark with the usual make- belief and heavily contrived fanfare in governmental quarters, the Children and Youth Day during which the Nigerian Child is  celebrated. And in much of the sermons that will characterize the event, children and the youth will be admonished by government officials, made up essentially of the same old people that have presided over such events in the last five decades, to be of good behaviour and imbibe the essential leadership qualities of honesty, loyalty to fatherland, patriotism, fear of God and respect for constituted authority, including their parents and guardians.

It must be noted however that majority of the political leaders today are deficient in those virtues of good leadership which they will inevitably mouth tomorrow at the various children and youth parades all over Nigeria.

In some instances, Children in colourful school uniforms will be conscripted by their school authorities and made to stage carefully choreographed matches during which the political administrators of the various levels of government will take the salute. The private and public television stations will also host series of children programmes aimed at entertaining the large number of children that will be in very convivial mood in the spirit of the Children’s Day celebration. These same broadcasting stations have in all honesty failed to play their social corporate role of naming and shaming serial abusers of the rights of the Nigerian child.

At the level of state governments, it is expected that the 36 state governors will be in frenzy mood to outshine each other in rendering some flowery speeches pouring unrestrained encomiums on themselves and their wives [known in Nigeria as First Ladies] for implementing what they will cleverly but deceitfully call children friendly projects and programs. Some of these so-called first ladies in the 36 states of the Federation are already used to running very expensive pet programs some of which claim to be championing the human rights of the children of their beloved states but most people in the states know that these first ladies are only serving their selfish pecuniary interests by using the influence of their husbands’ offices to extort money hugely from contractors and other dubious business entrepreneurs who do regular business with these state governments.

One of the states in the SouthWest has even gone to the media market to run series of paid advertisements inviting the whole nation to attend one of its kind Children and Youth Day in the state capital of this state that recently adopted its own flag and anthem. This particular state has invited over ten dozen traditional rulers to grace this Children Day in what is seen as another spending spree. An interesting dimension about the politics going on in this particular South West Nigerian state aforementioned is that the state governor, who does not like being addressed as His Excellency as other governors would, recently introduced a feeding program for the school children in the public primary schools. The troubling development about this feeding program is that already the bureaucrats in this state are already brandishing some auditing claims which goes to show that several billions of Naira has already been spent feeding these school children but all of us know that these bureaucrats will capitalize on this feeding program to feed their pockets and fleece the state government of the scarce financial resources that ought to be used to maintain good and qualitative education for these children.  Besides, the state governor will also launch an information technology program targeted at empowering all the school children with designer laptop computers each.

While craving your indulgence dear readers to pardon my necessary digression from the body of the story, I will however state that Nigeria as a nation and the political leadership over the last 50 or so years since Nigeria became an independent political entity from Britain, have not being fair to the Nigerian child because there are so many institutional inequities that exist in the body politic that severely affect the enjoyment by the Children of their fundamental human rights and these institutional inequities will not be addressed or redressed by simply organizing colorful parades as will be witnessed on May 27th 2013 to mark the Children and Youth Day.

First, the Nigerian Children who are caught up in areas whereby terrorism and civil unrests have flared up over the years are usually the worst affected victims of these violence even as most of these children in these troubled spots and flash-points of terrorists attacks like the North-East Nigeria are denied their fundamental right to good and quality education in addition to the fact that their parents and/or bread winners are put out of job because of the violence or are even killed in the line of fire thereby exposing these children to the vagaries of growing up in very harsh and hazardous social environment.

In other parts of the country where there is relative peace and quiet, most of the children are faced with excruciating poverty because most parents of these children are either out of work or are too poor to enroll these children in good and qualitative educational institutions, they are therefore left with the devil’s alternative of either hawking bread, pure and unhygienic water and other variety of wares for their parents or guardians to make a living or they are compelled by circumstances of hunger to loiter around in bus stops to beg for alms. Two things normally  happen to these category of children of the poor and the disadvantaged who find themselves on the harsh streets of most state capitals and the commercial and political capitals of Lagos and Abuja hawking and roaming about begging for a living. These two things are either that the children are sexually violated by adult predators and serial violent sex offenders or are indoctrinated/recruited into the world of crime and criminality and used by adults to perpetuate evil and other manifestations of crime in the society.

A major institutional inequity in all of these atrocities committed against the innocent Nigerian child born into poor and disadvantaged homes is that the state governments and the federal government have no effective remedy in the event that they suffer such monumental crimes against humanity such as violent rape and other violations such as initiating or recruiting them into the world of crime and by so doing destroy their livelihood forever.

The courts of competent jurisdiction as provided for in section 6 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria ought to be charged with the sacred duty of redressing any of such violent sexual violations of the Nigerian Children but the administration of criminal justice in Nigeria is afflicted by the evil of compromise, corruption and serious systemic failure even as the institutions of law enforcement made up essentially of the Nigerian Police Force have shown total disregard and lack of interest and patriotic commitment to protect innocent children who fall prey to these sexual predatory animals who roam the streets of Nigeria as adult members of the communities whereby these children are born and bred.

The Nigerian Police Force is so notorious for lacking professional excellence and proficiency in effectively and efficiently prosecuting rapists of all dimensions because of a number of factors which include corruption, bribery and the lack of skills to carry through the constitutional job of ensuring that the Nigerian child are protected from sex offenders and indeed are allowed unfettered opportunities to enjoy their fundamental human rights as enshrined in chapter four of the constitution of Nigeria.

The lack of professionalism and the overwhelming presence of corruption and indiscipline among the operatives and officers of the Nigerian Police Force have all but contributed to the high rate of  rape of the Nigerian Child by adults and majority of these cases are either thrown out in the courts for want of diligent prosecution by the Police or the sex offenders escape with very lenient punishment that is not commensurate to the gravity of such crime of primitive sexual violations of the innocent Children. In some instances, the police close investigation of rape cases if there are accord on the parts of the parents and the relations of the sex offenders and the innocent children are denied justice and left with the scar of being sexually violated and maimed forever.

But why is there no institution created apart from the notoriously incompetent Police Service Commission to monitor the performance of the operatives of the Nigerian Police Force and to ensure that Nigeria establishes a national crime data bank whereby all sex offenders are captured and clearly identified in the media to stop them from reoffending especially against the Nigerian Children? Why is the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and social development which oversees child welfare issues not clearly led by skilled persons who could monitor closely the performance of police prosecutors that handle rape cases involving the Nigerian Children? Why is there no child welfare centres all around Nigeria and why has the National Human Rights Commission yet to open functional desks across the country for the purposes of monitoring the prosecution of sex offenders accused of violating Nigerian Children? Why is it that since the year 2003 that the Nigerian Child Rights Act was promulgated by the National Assembly only a few states across the federation have domesticated this very strategic body of law that ought to protect the human rights of the Nigerian Child? Why has the Senator  from Zamfara State  [Mr.SANI YERIMA] who blatantly violated relevant sections of the Child Rights Act by illegally marrying an alleged 13-year-old Egyptian girl child not prosecuted even when groups of civil society organizations including the Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria cried out louder to the Federal Attorney General and the National anti-human trafficking agency [NAPTIP] to initiate the prosecution of this Senator?  Why did the anti-human trafficking agency give this Senator a clean bill of health even when allegations were widespread that he indeed married an alleged 13 year old Egyptian girl child? These are some of the deeply entrenched institutional inequities against the Nigerian child.

What makes the situation so compelling and sad is that the holder of the office of the Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development in today’s Nigeria- Mrs. Zainab Maina seems to have resigned to the unfortunate fate that the Federal Government is too weak to compel the state governments to domesticate the Nigerian Child Rights Act of 2003.

In The Guardian of Sunday May 26th 2013, the minister of women affairs and social development was quoted as saying that the Nigerian child have been denied the full enjoyment of their rights in their states because the state houses of assembly have failed to pass the Nigerian Child Rights Act even as she stated that the Child Rights Act was introduced because Nigeria’s national government felt the need to give a legal backing to the commitment made by Nigeria under the United Nations convention on the Rights and welfare of the Nigerian Child. Why have these state governments failed to domesticate the Child Rights Act to fulfill Nigeria’s obligation to the International humanitarian laws or are these components of the Nigerian federation not part of the whole federation?

Again, since the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and social development is so weak to wage advocacy programs in the 36 states of the Federation to successfully convince and persuade them to pass the Nigerian Child Rights Law in their respective States to benefit their children, why do we still waste so much tax payers money running the office of the Federal Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development? What is the relevance of this ministry when Nigeria does not have functional social welfare departments all across the Federation thereby allowing all criminal syndicates and charlatans to invade the sacred responsibility of running motherless homes and other child welfare schemes as business enterprises and most of these private children home owners are now in the illegal business of turning these homes into babies factories whereby couples with issues of childlessness can pay huge price for their choice babies? Why do we sell and buy little babies in this modern age even with the abolition of slave trade?

Government at both the Federal and State levels have spectacularly disappointed the Nigerian Child and unfortunately, these government officials are getting ready to dish out some lies as speeches during these public events to mark the Children and Youth Day on May 27th 2013 all across Nigeria.

The state Governors that have failed to persuade their state houses of assembly to pass the state version of the Nigerian Child Rights Act should ask themselves the soul searching question of why they are deceiving their people by staging Children and youth Day parade when deep inside their hearts they hate these children? To show how hypocritical these state governors are, one only need to know that their children are all schooling in Europe or America whereby these nations have long promulgated and are enforcing strict child rights laws but yet they have failed to give the children of the poor this opportunity of enjoying their human rights just like their children that they have taken abroad for the best things that money can buy.

In the North, the state governors sometimes argue on the basis of religion for not promulgating the Child Rights Act and I ask is any component part of Nigeria practicing any religion as state religion even when section 10 prohibits such illegality, absolutely? Why will the Northern state governors not permit the child rights law that prohibits early marriage but can not come to terms with the fact that early marriages inflict grave health problems such as [Virginal deformity] VVF and other severe diseases that results from early marriages especially given the fact that these children are given away in marriages to men that are twice older than their biological fathers and are forced to give birth to babies that they can barely carry since they themselves are still little children?

In the South-East, the children of the poor are all out of school because the state governors have diverted the Universal Basic Education fund which ought to be used to provide free, compulsory and quality primary and junior secondary educational opportunities fro the children of the poor. The rate of boys drop out of school in the South East is a major national catastrophe which must be institutionally addressed and redressed fundamentally before we produce a generation of youth that are half baked educationally and therefore can not drive the process of information technology and industrialization that will see Nigeria through in an increasingly competitive World.

Interestingly, Mr. Vijay Mahajan, in his intellectually nice book titled ‘Africa Rising’, argued persuasively that in Africa there is a huge population of the youth who if well groomed can drive the process of development.  His words; ” Africa is one of the youngest markets in the World, with 41 percent of its population under the age of 15, according to the population reference Bureau’s 2007 World Population Data sheet. This can be compared with 33 percent for India, 28 percent for Brazil, and 20 percent for China”.

But I ask, how can Nigeria benefit from the strength of her large army of children when the majority of these children are born into poor homes and brought up in such a way that they are denied the educational opportunities that children of the rich get on a platter of gold? No nation will make it in our contemporary times if it fails willfully to educate its people and empower the children with the requisite skills to competently compete with their peers around the globe. We must make hay while the sun shines or we will forever regret this institutional inequities that we have criminally failed to dismantled so our children can have the best things that money derived from our rich natural resources can afford.

Let us stop stealing our national treasury but invest wisely in the educational and skill empowerment of our children.

+Emmanuel Onwubiko is Head, Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria and blogs @ www.huriwa.blogspot.com; http://www.huriwa.org/.

Imprisoning the mentally-ill and the poor state of the Nigerian prison system, By Emmanuel Onwubiko

Emmanuel Onwubiko

The mentally-ill makes up a significant number of inmates in Nigerian prisons.

Uju Agomoh, the executive Director of one of Nigeria’s best known credible civil society organizations – Prisoners Rehabilitation and Welfare Action, PRAWA, has done a lot of advocacy activities around the issues of the illegality of prolonged detention of mentally challenged persons in the heavily dilapidated, derelict and decrepit archaic infrastructure we today call Nigerian Prisons.

In several speaking events around Nigeria, Mrs. Agomoh who has travelled vastly globally, has canvassed an end to the unconstitutional practice of detaining persons who are mentally challenged in the antiquated prison facilities in Nigeria that are lacking in medical and/or psychiatric facilities. Sadly, the political administrators heading the highly incompetent Ministry of Interior don’t give a damn about what to do to change this evil status quo.

Many years after Mrs. Agomoh kick-started her campaign to end the impunity of detention without medicare of persons afflicted with mental retardation, she may have finally got the institutional support of the Federal Government because a recently released 2012 prison audit report by the National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria which was publicly validated by the National Assembly of Nigeria and other leading human rights stakeholders, disclosed that there are many persons that are mentally challenged who are detained in prisons across the country who ought not to be there in the first place.

With the 2012 Prison Audit report publicly presented on Thursday, May 16 in Abuja, it is believed within certain key circles, that the President Goodluck Jonathan-led administration will activate effective mechanism to release these persons with mental illness in Nigerian prisons to be treated in psychiatric hospitals spread across Nigeria.

Conversely, it is also expected that since most of the mentally-ill in Nigerian prisons were sent to those facilities by the justice ministries and prosecutorial institutions working for the various state governments, these state governments must take immediate action to release and medically rehabilitate these category of hapless inmates.

The National and State Houses of Assembly must also introduce an effective legal frame work to make it almost impossible for mentally-ill persons to ever be sent to a prison in lieu of a psychiatric/ medical facility for attention. As it is, the current crop of politicians at the state levels are not in the right frame of mind to effectively carry out this revolutionary project of ensuring that the mentally-ill are taken to the appropriate psychiatric facilities for proper treatment and rehabilitation and not locked up in the prisons to die.

According to the 2012 Prison Audit Report, in the North East Zone, 4 out of 37 prisons had 20 mentally ill inmates in prison; North West – 50; South South – 79; South West- 121 and South East – 289 with Enugu having 136.

There are other sad tales from the Prison Audit Report just issued which importantly stated that sanitation of those prison facilities have become so bad and deteriorated thereby exposing many of the inmates to unfathomable health predicaments.

On the state of sanitation of Nigerian prisons, the report stated, “Though there is every effort by the inmates to keep the cells clean and tidy, the age of the infrastructure (some of these prisons were built in 1925) and overcrowding in some cells frustrated the effort. In most of the prisons, the water cistern toilets were broken and there was no water to flush after use in some instances.

“In some (prisons), they used the bucket system and that created a lot of stench in the cells. Some of the prisons where the bucket system of toilet is still in use are Gassol and Serti prisons in Taraba State, and Misua prison in Bauchi State; Otukpo in Benue State, Pankshin in Plateau State and Ilorin in Kwara State. In some other instance were there exist sewage systems, the systems were either broken or filled up. The prisons also lacked basic toiletries like soap or disinfectants.”

The report which rightly criticized the bad state of sanitation of these prisons, reminded the Nigerian authority thus, “The UN Standard Minimum Rules on the treatment of prisoners and other international, regional or national laws have set a benchmark for the treatment of prisoners. In each of these human rights instruments, it is stated that prisoners are to be accorded with dignity as human beings shall not be treated in a dehumanizing manner, even when his/her freedom to liberty has be taken away by the instrument of law.”

Writing specifically with reference to what they observed, the report is of the opinion that; “The standard of facilities in the Nigerian prisons are appalling, to say the least. Most of the prisons audited lacked facilities that would aid the wellbeing of the inmates as well as the reintegration of inmates back in the society after their release from prison”.

The report also observed that most prison facilities in Nigeria are deficient in vocational, recreational, health, educational and transport facilities.

Substantially, the findings of the investigators who visited the 173 prison facilities all across Nigeria, show that Nigeria has failed to respect international humanitarian and human rights laws in the administration of these facilities.

The report passed a vote of no confidence on Nigerian prisons.

Nigerians are also aware that of late, a lot of prison wardens have lost their lives to the violence viciously launched by armed terrorists who have successfully organized jailbreaks to free their detained members and the Federal Government has made no concrete effort to build better protected prisons. This criminal neglect on the part of the government is a grave crime against humanity. The plan by the National Assembly’s Constitution Review Committee to transfer prison from the exclusive legislative list to the concurrent is not the best way out as most state governments are too poor to run good prisons.

With the above background in mind, it is therefore inexplicable that the Federal Government rushed into lobbying the National Assembly to amend the Prison Act without introducing bold, positive and revolutionary ideas that will change the face of the prisons and improve the security and welfare of the inmates and officials. This government has succeeded in signing an agreement with Britain that will allow for the prisoners’ exchange partnership with the government of United Kingdom to make it easier for Britain to transfer Nigerian-born but United Kingdom-based persons convicted for sundry crime in the United Kingdom back to Nigeria to serve out their prison terms.

The question to be asked is why the rush to accept heavy indirect financial bribe from the government of Britain just so that Nigeria can accede to the prisoners exchange programme aimed at decongesting the British prisons that are built with modern and functional infrastructural facilities when Nigerian prisons are in very bad shape and overstretched?

Even going by the recent audit report, Nigerian prisons are over-populated even as majority of the inmates are awaiting trial persons.

“Across the prisons the number of ‘awaiting trial’ inmates was far above that of convicts. In the 173 prisons audited, out of 50,645 lockups, the number of convicts was 13,901 compared to awaiting trial inmates of 35,889. Besides the awaiting trial inmates, Ikom prison in Cross River State had 5 lodgers, Ahoada Prison in Rivers State and Benin prison in Edo State, had 2 and 1 lodgers respectively; (lodgers are persons kept in prison without an order of court detaining them. There are no records of such inmates in the prison records).”

I therefore ask, are these derelict prison facilities in Nigeria the places whereby these repatriated British based prisoners be transferred into?

It would be recalled that when this sinister move by government to sign the controversial prisoners exchange treaty with the United Kingdom was exposed, most critical stakeholders opposed it and raised suspicions that the then federal government headed by late Umaru Musa Yar’adua only wanted to rush the agreement so as to find a way to bring back the incarcerated former Delta State governor James Ibori (Yar’adua’s political friend) who was jailed in Britain for sundry offences bordering on theft of Delta State fund.

With these sad tales emanating from the Nigerian prisons, it is therefore inconceivable that any British based Nigerian prisoner could voluntarily accept to be repatriated to serve term in prisons facilities in Nigeria that are absolutely sub-human and filthy.

* Emmanuel Onwubiko is the Head of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria;blogs@www.huriwa.blogspot.com; www.huriwa.org.

Jonathan’s Fangs On Amaechi And Verdict Of History, By Emmanuel Onwubiko

Emmanuel Onwubiko

Few hours back, I stumbled on a publication by a very respected online medium [Premium Times] containing excerpts of what is said to be Nigerian government’s White Paper on the origin of the ongoing deadly terrorism spearheaded by the armed Islamic extremists known in popular Hausa parlance as Boko Haram which when translated means that education is sinful.

From what I read, it is the thinking of the current Federal Government, which set up a presidential panel made up of local experts who investigated the upsurge in the deadly attacks of the armed insurgents, that politicians were the masterminds of the armed bandits that are now ravaging most parts of Northern Nigeria in the guise of waging war against selected government institutions, the Nigerian security agencies, Christians and some moderate Muslims. At the last count, over 5000 persons have been slaughtered by these murderous gangs of Islamic religious extremists.

In the government’s White Paper sighted by the online medium, the Nigerian government blamed some powerful politicians in the North East for setting up well -armed and fortified gangs of political thugs whom they used to rig the 2003 and 2007 governorship and national elections in their respective states but soon abandoned these armed gangs with their guns and other sophisticated weapons intact which led them to align themselves with the then radical Islamic preacher, Sheikh Mohammed Yusuf, whose sermons opposed the validity of the secular constitution operational in Nigeria.

These armed youth later metamorphosed into hardline terrorists after undergoing unspecified foreign terrorism trainings in Chad. The government’s White Paper, now gazetted, was said to be silent on how to deal decisively with these identified political kingpins who set up these armed political thugs that now transformed into the biggest terrorists organization in the West African region.

The White Paper on the Boko Haram insurgency in my thinking is severely deficient in the sense that it never mentioned the widely held suspicion which was even leaked by the immediate past National Security Adviser to President Jonathan, General Patrick Azazi, that the internal crisis within the ruling Peoples Democratic Party [PDP] on the insistence of the current President to run for election in the 2011 Presidential election rather than allow a Northerner complete the second term of the late Alhaji Umar Musa Yar’adua two-terms in accordance with the so-called zoning arrangement, was instrumental to the upsurge in the terror attacks by the armed insurgents.

The above narratives bring us to the all-important question of why the contemporary Nigerian politicians never learn from mistakes of their predecessors which is the fundamental cause of the seemingly unprogressive and stunted growth of Nigeria’s democracy.

Just before President Olusegun Obasanjo was forced to quit after he completed his constitutionally protected two terms of four years each as the elected President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, he made surreptitious attempts using some surrogates in the National Assembly to undermine the constitution by plotting to change the constitutional term limit to allow him continue perpetually in office. But for the vigilance of most Senators who later saw reason with Nigerians who vehemently opposed the undemocratic plot, Obasanjo would have succeeded in foisting a one-party state on Nigeria.

 President Jonathan who succeeded his late boss- Umaru Musa Yar’adua has also not fared better in the area of respect for dissenting voices especially as it concerns his rumored interest to run for another term of four years  in 2015 after serving out the last two years of the late Umaru Musa Yar’adua’s Presidency and his four year tenure.

With clear two years to the 2015 general elections considered as one of the most critical elections in Nigeria’s political history, the current President who has not openly declared his interest to run has however displayed some body languages that point to the direction that he will surely contest and that indeed he might not be favorably disposed to any intra-party contest by way of party Presidential primary which is an essential component of democracy and constitutionalism.

While his foot -soldiers outside of the highly partisan executive council of the federation are positioning themselves to ensure that the current President, who might face one of the toughest opposition from Northern Politicians, gets soft-landing in the contest for who would fly the Peoples Democratic Party’s flag for the 2015 Presidential election, his supporters, who are holding some of the juiciest offices in the Federal Cabinet, are busy exercising arbitrary powers aimed at undermining the lawful activities of some persons in government at the state levels considered as rivals to the President’s 2015 Presidential ambition.

It is strongly rumored that the River state Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, who is serving out his second four-year tenure, is interested in running for the prestigious office of the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and that he will run with a Northern candidate who will likely be the Niger State Governor. Aliyu Babangida [PhD] or Sule Lamido of Jigawa state.

And since this rumor has refused to die even with several denials by the Rivers State Governor, the President, whose position in 2015 may be challenged if this widely held political rumour turns out realistic, has started a well -coordinated hostile activities aimed at undermining the authority of the Rivers state governor.

The first major move was the factionalization of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum headed by the Rivers state governor through the setting up of a parallel Peoples Democratic Party’s Governors’ Forum headed by a hand-picked chairman- the governor of Akwa Ibom state, Mr. Godswill Akpabio.

The election into the Chairmanship position of the Nigerian Governors forum is scheduled to take place next month and the rumor mills are aflame that the Presidency has single- handedly decided to sponsor the Katsina State governor, Mr. Ibrahim Shema, to run as the sole candidate for the plum position of the Chairman of the governors forum even when the constitution of the Nigerian Governors Forum allows the incumbent to seek a second final term of two years.

A member of the Federal cabinet and the Minister of State for Education, Mr. Nyeson Wike, who incidentally was brought into the political fray by the current Rivers state governor, who made him his Chief of Staff during his first four years, is said to be funding a faction of the Rivers State Peoples Democratic Party that somehow managed to win a pyrrhic victory in the Abuja High court presided over by the discredited Judge Mohammed Talba who ruled that the hierarchy of the Rivers State Peoples Democratic Party which has been there since the last election was no longer the valid winners even as the judge replaced them with the faction purportedly  sponsored by the minister of state for education who is said to be eyeing the Rivers state government house in 2015 and is now perfectly being used by the Presidency to get even with Governor Rotimi Amaechi now regarded as the arrow head of those positioning to replace President Good luck Jonathan in 2015.

As if these series of surreptitious attacks against the person and office of the Rivers state governor were not sufficient enough to satisfy the sycophants who surrounds President Jonathan, the Aviation authority headed by a lady who actively coordinated the 2011 Presidential campaign of President Jonathan- Stella Oduah has taken political rivalry to a new absurd level by ordering the grounding of the private jet, a Bombardier -BD 700-1A11 [Global Express] owned by the River State Government on the puerile and illogical reason that it was flying illegally in Nigeria since it has no proper Customs documentation.

The Director of Airworthiness Standards of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority Mr. Benedict Adeyileke was quoted by the Nigerian Media as stating thus; “The controversial aircraft on the service of Governor Rotimi Amaechi is operating illegally in the country, as it lacks documentation to enable it operate here”.

This latest drama played up barely twenty four hours after the same aviation authority stopped the aircraft from leaving the Akure Airport after it conveyed the River state Governor and the Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives Aminu Waziri Tambuwal from Owerri, Imo state, where the duo attended the funeral of the late sister of the Deputy Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives, Mr. Emeka Ihedioha.

The aircraft was only let off the hook in Akure Airport after the aviation authority discovered the stupidity of not allowing the Speaker of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, who is number four in the order of national protocol, from flying out of Akure with the same aircraft that brought them in the first instance.

The aviation officials had initially claimed that the pilot of the aircraft failed to pay the landing cost at the Akure airport. These claims concerning the aircraft in question have been debunked and dismissed as tissues of lies by the Rivers state Governor’s spokesman, Mr. David Iyofor, who issued a detailed statement where he professionally reeled out the facts about the authentic validity of the aircraft to fly in Nigeria having satisfied all requirements and having been flying long before this emerging scenario from the presidency.

The grounding of the aircraft belonging to the Rivers state government, which is primarily targeted at scuttling the movement of Governor Rotimi Amaechi, first as a citizen of Nigeria and then as the governor of Rivers state and the chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, is not only illegal but unconstitutional just as this is perhaps the lowest any sane government can get in displaying crude and primitive arbitrary power.

In the seventh schedule of the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria of 1999[as amended] which contains the oath of office of the office of President, the holder of the highly exalted office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is constitutionally obliged not to take official action that will be clouded by his selfish interest.

A significant body of the oath of office which is inviolable and sacrosanct stated as follows; “…I will do right to all manner of people, according to law, without fear or favor, affection or ILL-WILL….”

The decision by President Jonathan to order the grounding of the aircraft of the Rivers state government just because he does not like the face of the current governor directly breaches the relevant section of this seventh schedule of the Nigerian constitution aforementioned.

The Presidency must desist from undermining the sanctity of democracy which allows for freedom of political choices and he must also stop forthwith all actions directly or indirectly that infringes on the constitutional oath of office he swore before he assumed office soon after the 2011 Presidential election. It is unethical for the Presidency to be seen promoting those tendencies that will bring about the proliferation of politically motivated crises all across the country. Several political scholars have warned of the danger of stifling opposition voices and the disaster such fascist tendencies foist on any democracy.

Gregory Fox and Brad Roth in their book “DEMOCRATIC GOVERNANCE AND INTERNATIONAL LAW” had warned political leaders to stop promoting those practices that create undue tension and divisions in the polity but should allow for all voices to be heard even if they are opposed to the leader’s political position or ideology.

They wrote thus; “In the World that emerged after the collapse of the fascist and communist ideologies, the principal cause of war has become unfairness and anomie. How the means of a good life are distributed among peoples and persons and whether people and persons are adequately consulted in the decisions that determines their life-prospects: these are the principal determinants of war and peace”.

The decision by the Presidency, through the aviation minister to ground the aircraft belonging to Rivers state government so as to frustrate and undermine the authority of the governor of Rivers state is both unfair and is an act of anomie and/or lawlessness and must be reversed forthwith.

The judgment of history on the Jonathan administration will be harsh if it continues to promote unfair policies and anomie which are responsible for the spate of unrests that have resulted in the killing of scores of Nigerians by armed non-state actors.

The verdict of history will also be very harsh on Jonathan if on one hand he claims to be a democrat but at the same time using his presidential might wrongly to witch-hunt his perceived political opponents just because of his ambition to run for another term in office come 2015. He must therefore rein in all those reactionary elements that are masquerading about as his foot-soldiers and desecrating democratic ethos in the guise of pursuing Jonathan’s 2015 political goal. Nigeria is bigger than any one man’s ambition no matter how highly placed.

Emmanuel Onwubiko, Head, Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria, blogs @www,huriwa.blogspot.com

MASSOB And Nigeria’s Judicial Anarchy, By Emmanuel Onwubiko

Emmanuel Onwubiko

Nigeria, an amalgam of several hundreds ethnic nationalities with diverse cultural, religious and cultural affinities is indeed an interesting irony.

Political historians often ascribe three dominant ethnic nationalities as the foremost among the hundreds of others just as the three are listed as Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo.

Of the three so-called dominant ethnic nationalities, the Igbo speaking people are easily identified as one group that perhaps has witnessed more than a fair share of political misfortune because of the three-year fratricidal civil war that was fought between 1967 to early 1970 as a result of the inability of the then federal regime to protect the Igbo of South East Nigeria from the organized pogrom and genocidal killings that took place across Northern Nigeria soon after the first military overthrow of government in which the political leader of the Northern Nigerian region Sir. Ahmadu Bello and the first and only Prime Minister of post- independence Nigeria- the Bauchi state-born Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Belewa was unfortunately slaughtered by elements from the then Nigerian Army which actively took control of government.

There was this irrational and fallacious conclusion that since greater percentage of the top military elites came from the South East so the first overthrow of government was carried out to favour the South East. This illiterate perception fuelled the pogrom of Igbo people in the North without the Federal military government, then headed by the Plateau state-born General Yakubu Gowon, doing anything to put a stop to this genocide. This impunity gave rise to the civl war.

But when the military cum political authority in the then South East Nigeria felt rightly that the Federal regime did very little to protect the lives and property of the persons of South East extraction living in the North, it decided in consultation with the respected civil society leaders to seek for self government which resulted in the declaration of full blown civil war that lasted three years before the South Eastern region of Nigeria was forced back to the artificial amalgam called Nigeria.

Sadly, after nearly five decades since after the civil war, the South East Nigeria shows abundant evidence of a part of a country that is clearly neglected and overrun because the Federal regime under General Yakubu Gowon never bothered to rebuild the infrastructure that were severely destroyed when the South East was pummeled by the overwhelming Federal military might with the active connivance and assistance of the government of the United Kingdom among numerous others.

Coupled with the fact that the states that make up the South Eastern Nigeria have been so unfortunate to always have elected or appointed political leadership that lacks commitment to utilize the resources of the people to implement and effectively build enduring public utilities and infrastructure but always pocket the public fund, the marginalization of these South Eastern states have become even more pathetic.

The deliberate sabotage by the federal regimes of successive administrations against the South East Nigeria invariably means that there is total absence of federal presence in the entire area which effectively denies the region of any significant presence of industries and sources of employment generation. The only federal presence in the south east are the decrepit federal prison facilities and the equally derelict Nigeria Police stations and military formations making the South East look like a place under military occupation.

The youth that have grown up to experience the crushing poverty occasioned by the total lack of industries and other modern infrastructure which are in large quantity in other places like Lagos and Abuja, have now believed that the South East is still being punished for the collective decision made by our forebears to save the Igbo population from the coordinated pogrom and genocide in the streets of Northern Nigeria which ultimately resulted in the declaration of war by the then military tyrant -General Gowon in which over three million people made p of civilians-old men/women and children were massacred by the Federal forces.

This heavy casualties suffered by he South East during the thirty months war was caused essentially by the policy actively implemented by the then war-time General Gowon’s dictatorship which denied the civil populace access to relief materials from the international community.

Under this atmosphere of suspicion by the youth that the South East is being systematically marginalized, many of them rallied round Chief Ralph Uwazurike-led non-violent Igbo Ethnic self-government crusading movement for the sovereign state of Biafra [MASSOB] to press home a peaceful and constructive agitation for the South East to be given political independence.

MASSOB’s peaceful agitation for self determination is supported by all globally acclaimed international humanitarian laws including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [ICCPR] under part one article one which recognizes the right of all peoples to self government/determination including the right to freely determine their political status.

This important aspect of the International Bill of Rights known as the International Covenant of civil and Political Rights is a multilateral treaty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 16th 1976. This important global statute commits its parties including Nigeria among one hundred and sixty six others and the 74 signatories to respect the civil and political rights of individuals including the right to life; freedom of religion, freedom of assembly and speech and right to due process and fair trial.

But the resolve of some of these youth of South East extraction to peacefully agitate for self government has being consistently resisted by the federal government even as the same federal government sees nothing wrong with other self determination groups in the North and the South West.

During the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo-led so-called civilian government, the double standard of always arresting members of the Movement for the sovereign State of Biafra for persecution increased even as groups like the Odua Peoples Congress [OPC] and Arewa Peoples Congress [APC] which preach self determination are never harassed by the Nigerian state. Majority of South East people see Obasanjo as an Igbo hater.

Obasanjo’s pseudo-dictatorship it was that arrested Chief Uwazurike and key members of MASSOB and clamped them into detention with frivolous charges of treason and belonging to unlawful association.

But aware of their legal rights as protected by the extant international humanitarian laws, the key leadership of the group challenged this legal charade but because of some reasons unconnected with inexplicable suspicion of the Igbo speaking people, the judicial institution in Nigeria has not appreciated the need to throw out these unsustainable charges which offend all known international laws which Nigeria is a signatory.

Few months after the MASSOB hierarchy challenged their persecution by the Nigerian state, the administration that succeeded the Obasanjo-led federal administration negotiated with a well armed group in the oil rich Niger Delta States to drop their arms and desist from waging war against the Nigerian state even as numerous financial inducements were awarded to these formerly well armed Niger Delta militants. The repentant militants from the Niger Delta have undergone series of overseas training to build their capacity to obtain gainful employment opportunities.

The Umaru Musa Yar’adua-led federal administration never saw reason to terminate the legal persecution of MASSOB whose members are non-violent even when the same Federal Government negotiated with those armed militants that waged war against the Nigerian state for deliberately marginalizing these crude oil rich Niger Delta communities. After President Yar’adua died in office and was succeeded by Goodluck Jonathan, this legal persecution of MASSOB has continued. Ironically, Jonathan received the highest percentage of votes from the South East in he 2011 election but yet his administration has not seen reason to end this legal anarchy against MASSOB leadership whose members are non-violent. Does this mean too that Jonathan is also an Igbo hater?

But under the watch of the current federal administration has risen a more viciously armed Boko Haram extremist group that has clearly declared war against the Nigerian state and for two years now. Over 5000 persons have lost their precious lives to the dare devil activities of this terrorist group without the current Jonathan administration finding any practicable panacea to this disturbing attacks.

With billions of tax payers money down the drain as defence budget the Federal administration has yet to find better and effective solution to the war declared against the Nigerian state by this Northern-based terrorist organization.

The current Federal government which has continued with the prosecution of the unarmed MASSOB members for treason is currently negotiating with the well armed Islamic terrorists to grant them amnesty even when it is known that their terrorism have resulted in the highest percentage of civilian casualties in peace time Nigeria.

Out of the blues, the Nigerian Supreme Court  which gave judgment on a pending appeal by MASSOB has okayed the trial of these unarmed MASSOB members for treason even when it is clear that they were well within their democratic right to seek self determination peacefully. This is a clear case of double standard for the nation’s highest court to fail to do justice to this matter by dismissing it as frivolous charges.

Curiously, the main question that arise from this double standard is why the federal Government is bent on going ahead with this judicial anarchy of putting peaceful agitators to trial while at the same time negotiating with well armed rebel group to accept amnesty?

President Jonathan must order his Federal Attorney General to end this needless persecution of MASSOB hierarchy except this government wants to perpetuate the thinking that it pays more dividends to take up arms as the best way the Government can negotiate with the group rather than encourage constructive democratic agitations supported by international humanitarian laws as currently spearheaded by MASSOB.

Emmanuel Onwubiko, is head, HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS’ ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA and blogs @www.huriwa.blogspot.com.