A Lagos-based lawyer, Femi Falana, has called on the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to investigate attorney-generals of states who refused to prosecute suspected murderers in their jurisdictions.
Mr. Falana made the call in a letter sent to the NBA President, AB Mahmud, a copy of which was made available to PREMIUM TIMES on Sunday.
In the letter dated 16 December 2017, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria argued that unless the NBA is prepared to sanction state attorney-generals who refuse to prosecute masterminds of murders, their heinous activities will go unchecked.
Mr. Falana in the letter said it is disturbing that the NBA has failed to monitor the prosecution of murder suspects arrested by the police or indicted by the judicial and administrative panels of inquiry set up by the federal and state governments to probe violent civil disturbances across Nigeria.
The letter reads inter alia: “We have confirmed that the rate of killings in the country has been on the ascendancy due to the refusal of several state attorney-generals to prosecute murder suspects due to political pressure or sheer negligence of duty.”
Between 1999 and 2007, Mr. Falana said, an official squad was fingered in the murder of 70 people in Gombe State.
According to him, the murder charges filed against the suspects by the Police, were dismissed by the courts at the instance of the home state government.
He added that the “late Ibrahim Hassan, who demanded for the prosecution of the culprits, was charged with giving false information to the Police by the State government.”
In Ekiti, he continued, members of an official squad, which allegedly killed some politicians and students in Ekiti State between 2003 and 2006, were arrested by the Police and charged with murder before a High Court sitting at Ado Ekiti.
But while a retired army captain and his police orderly who killed the students, Mr. Falana claimed, were convicted and jailed, both convicts were pardoned by the state governor in 2009.
“As if that was not enough, the murder charges pending against the other murder suspects were struck out by the trial court in 2014 for want of diligent prosecution on the part of the state government,” he explained.
The letter stated that the Ahmed Lemu Presidential Panel, which investigated the 2011 post-election violence in 12 northern states and Akwa Ibom State, found that 856 people were killed by armed thugs.
In the White Paper issued on the report, the Federal Government directed that the culprits be prosecuted, he said, but the directive was not carried out by the states where the killings took place.
In addition, he noted that the National Human Rights Commission under the leadership of Chidi Odinkalu, a professor, found that 55 people were killed in the 2015 pre-election violence in Rivers State.
The culprits were never prosecuted by the state government and the failure to prosecute them resulted in the killing of over 100 other citizens by armed gangs and militants, the letter stated.
The lawyer also cited the case of the Justice Mohammed Lawal Garba Commission of Inquiry, which investigated the December 2015 violent attack on the Shiites by the Nigerian Army, which found that 347 people were killed and secretly buried in a shallow graves.
According to him, the White Paper issued on the report of the commission the state government directed that the suspects be prosecuted, but the Attorney General of Kaduna state “has refused to prosecute the murder suspects.”
Other cases cited by the lawyer include the killing of 204 people in Southern Kaduna, as confirmed by National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA; the numerous suspects arrested and charged with murder for the September 2017 killing of hundreds of Fulani people in reprisal attacks in Sardauna Local Government Area, among others.
The murder suspects, Mr. Falana said, have since been freed by the state government which terminated the criminal proceedings. He added that the ‘Fulani’ herdsmen arrested for killing scores of unarmed farmers were not prosecuted.
He also mentioned the recent killing of thousands of people, including security personnel in Nasarawa, Plateau and Zamfara states, saying that the suspects arrested by the Police and the Army have not been prosecuted by the governments of the affected states.
He urged the NBA leadership to investigate the issues and “the affected Attorney-Generals.”
“Having failed to prosecute the murder suspects, the Chief Law Officers of the states have breached their oaths of office and subverted the rule of law,” he said.