Access to Justice and eight other civil society organisations have filed a suit against President Goodluck Jonathan at a Federal High Court in Abuja seeking an order compelling the president to conduct a “thorough, prompt, and impartial investigation” into the alleged extrajudicial killing of suspected Boko Haram militants by soldiers and members of the pro-government militia, Civilian JTF, revealed by Amnesty International, AI.
On August 5 2014, AI in a report alleged that officers of the Nigerian Army and alleged members of the Civilian JTF participated in the extra-judicial killings of suspected members of the Boko Haram.
The report was accompanied with a video footage that showed men dressed in military camouflage, assisted by suspected members of Civilian JTF, cutting the throats of their captives in cold-blood and dumping them into a mass grave.
The footage depicted 16 young men seated before they were ordered one after the other to the edge of the mass grave where their throats were slit and their bodies dumped into the grave. Five of the young men were killed in this manner before the footage ran out.
After the revelation, the Nigerian military denied that the men showed in the video were soldiers. It, however, promised to investigate the matter.
AI said the alleged horrific and barbaric slaughter is tantamount to war crime.
Nothing has been heard about the investigation since then. The Nigerian army has a long
history of not punishing or prosecuting persons alleged to have engaged in extra judicial killings and human rights abuses by soldiers even in the face of what may seem unimpeachable evidence.
The suit filed by the civil society organisations would come up for hearing on December 3 and the Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke, was included as a co-defendant.
In a statement, the applicants said they were moved to file the suit because of their commitment to end impunity and to promote the rule of law among Nigerian security forces.
“Access to Justice and its partners in this action are committed to fighting impunity and lawlessness in the delivery of security services, and ensuring that security operatives carry out their duties professionally, within the constitutional rule of law framework, and with respect for the rights of Nigerians, particularly those who are especially at risk of being stereotyped, or branded as “terrorists”, within the context of the war on terrorism in Nigeria.”
The applicants argued that though they were not personally harmed by the incident, they have a right to file for the order due to the virtue of their constitutions which mandate them to safeguard the fundamental rights guaranteed by the 1999 constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.
“If the Applicants turn a blind eye to grave and massive violations of human rights and refuse or neglect to take action to defend, safeguard, achieve or fulfil them or refuse/neglect to take action to
remedy, redress or assuage them when violated, then the Applicants would not be fulfilling the purpose for which the Federal Republic of Nigeria has incorporated them, and for which they have been conferred a special incorporation status with peculiar rights and duties; therefore, the reason for and basis of, their incorporation having failed or been defeated, the government may, following this failure, request their winding up.”
Apart from Access to Justice, the eight other civil society groups listed as applicants in the suit are One Voice Coalition for Sustainable Development in Nigeria, One VOICE, Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre, WARDC, Human Rights Law Services, HURILAWS, and Social Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP.
Others include Network on Police Reform in Nigeria Foundation, NOPRIN, Nigerian Automobile Technicians Association, NATA, Centre for Constitutional Governance, CCG, and Centre for Constitutionalism and Demilitarization, CENCOD.