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Independence Day: What about fundamental human rights?

By   /  October 2, 2016  /  No Comments

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Abdulmumin Giwa

I read the speech delivered by President Muhammadu Buhari in commemoration of the 56th Independence Day Anniversary waiting in suspense to see his response on fundamental human rights but no mention of that was made.

I expected the President to have addressed the issue most especially as reputable international human rights organizations have condemned his administration for total disregard to fundamental human rights.

Even a day before the Independence Day celebration there was a presentation at the United Nations on the human rights abuse by the Nigerian government made before a special panel by the Islamic Human Rights Commission of London (IHRC).

This came just a few days after the Amnesty International (AI) had issued a press statement on the crackdown on journalists and assault on protests shrinking civic space.

The AI was particular about the regime’s clampdown on journalists and bloggers who do not share the same views with the government, violent crackdown on peaceful protests by the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) and the Bring Back our Girls (BBOG) initiative as well as illegal detention of the IMN leader and members and the Pro-Biafran leader and members.

The Muhammadu Buhari regime was yet to respond to calls by the AI when it advised it earlier to come clean on the Zaria massacre where over 1000 IMN members were extra-judicially killed by the Nigerian Army on the 12th to 14th of December 2015.

Earlier the Human Rights Watch (HRW) had also indicted the regime on the Zaria massacre where it said that the Nigerian Army had extra-judicially killed over 350 IMN members in contravention of Army rules of engagement.

Earlier also the IHRC had taken the President and some key individuals that contributed to the Zaria massacre including the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague for crimes against humanity for which investigations have since commenced.

The Judicial Commission of Inquiry (JCI) set up by the Kaduna state government to look into the Zaria massacre had in its report described the Army as having committed massacre of IMN members is Zaria.

All these mentioned violations of fundamental rights by the Nigerian regime have not included utter disregard to court orders by the government and the incessant arrests and illegal detentions of individuals disliked by the President and his boys.

On some occasions during his visits to the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US) the Nigerian President had to face protesters condemning the regime on human rights violations at the Nigerian High Commission in London and the United Nations in New York.

There is also the rampant use of impunity by the regime with total disregard to national and international laws.

A very popular example here is that the Nigerian Army and the Kaduna state government violated state laws, religious laws and the Geneva Convention when they mass buried 347 IMN members after the genocide in Zaria.

They were forced to reveal the mass grave before the JCI not because they thought it was proper but because the AI had revealed the incident to the world in its report using satellite pictures of the mass grave.

The revered leader of the IMN, His Eminence, Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky is being detained illegally for almost ten months without trial or court charges by the Muhammadu Buhari regime in total disregard to the Nigerian constitution.

With all these and thousands of other human rights abuses perpetrated by the Nigerian government It is actually not surprising that the Nigerian President did not address the issues of flaunting of fundamental human rights despite the pressures on it to clear its human rights image.

The Nigerian President took his time to discuss 50 points none of which bothers about the deteriorating human rights image of the regime.

It is not surprising at all because the human rights abuses by the regime in Nigeria are generally linked to the President directly and not the subordinates and it is his interest that is being served by those who flaunt the rights of innocent citizens.

He ordered the Zaria massacre where innocent unarmed men, women and children were killed by the Nigerian Army, an action he defended on national television during his maiden media chat. None of the soldiers involved in the mass murder has been arrested or prosecuted even with the pressure on the regime from various quarters.

What is there to be surprised about as regards human rights violations by a regime that can order extra-judicial killings of innocent and unarmed civilians? Definitely no one expects the President to castigate himself or condemn himself for impunity or human rights abuse.

But I expected that he would at least address the issue by assuring the world that his regime will protect the fundamental rights of citizens. Instead, he left the citizens doubtful and in suspense as regards their fundamental rights. People are now left with the fear that their rights could be trampled upon not by individuals but on the order of the government whenever the president desires.

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