By Abdulwahab ABDULAH & Dotun IBITOYE
Leaders of major ethnic organisations led by the founder and president of the Oodua Peoples Congress, OPC, Dr Frederick Fasehun,Â yesterday spoke in one voiceÂ for the immediate and unconditional release of Major Hamza Al-Mustapha,Â and his fellow detainees in the spirit of unity and democracy.
At a press briefing put together by the leaders that cut across the three major ethnic groups in Nigeria, they argued that the failure of the government to release Major Al-Mustapha, who was the chief security officer to late General Sani Abacha and the other three detainees accused of committingÂ criminal offences under the administration of the late Gen. Abacha after spending about 12 years in jail, lowers the esteem of the government in its efforts to promote human rightsÂ in Nigeria.
Those who joined Fasehun at the briefing were the leader of the Niger-Delta Volunteer Force, NDVF, Alhaji Asari Dokubo, Alhaji Shettima Yerima of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, AYCF, Comrade Bright Ezeocha, Igbo Youth Congress, IYC, Prince Tony Nwaezeigwe, Igbo Peopleâ€™s Congress, IPC and Mr. Abuka Oma-Baba of the United Middle-Belt Youth Forum, UMBYF.
They argued that keeping Al-Mustapha, the former Lagos police boss, Mr. James Danbaba, ex-Zamfara military administrator, Col. Jubrin Bala Yakubu and CSP Rabo Lawal behind bar 12 years after they were first arraigned for some criminal charges, â€œcontradicts our countryâ€™s position as a signatory to the United Nations, Commonwealth, African and West African Conventions, Charters and Resolutions on Human Rights, on Torture, on Detention and on imprisonment.â€
They said that, â€œmore embarrassing is the fact that all the witnesses that the state has pushed forward in the court of law have by and large debunked the allegations levelled against these gentlemen.
This is despite the fact that such witnesses sometimes received prior tutoring on how to rope in these accused. Largely because of all these prevarications, Major Hamza Al-Mustapha and his co-accused have languished in jail for twelve whole years.
Maintaining that they are in support of any move to get them out of jail, they insisted that, â€œthe time has come to say: enough is enough. Time has come to terminate this national disgrace and lunacy.â€
They appeal to to President Goodluck Jonathan to wade into their plight, in the name of all that is good, by appealing to the Lagos state government trying them of the offences and release them forthwith.
â€œWe pray Mr. President to invoke the Prerogative of Mercy clause in Nigeriaâ€™s 1999 Constitution and grant amnesty and liberty to Major Hamza Al-Mustapha and these prisoners of conscience.
President Jonathan should know that he will be writing his name in gold if he should let these people go. They have more than paid for their zeal in serving their General Abacha.â€
They said, setting them free would mean that the leadership of the country isÂ doing everything it takes to reconcile Nigerians and make this country move forward towards progress. â€œWe believe Mr. President should be the arrowhead of this quest for human rights , the rule of law and the entrenchment of social justice.â€
Apart from this they called onÂ the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Raji Fashola ,SAN, in whose jurisdiction the cases are being prosecuted, â€œto please cooperate with the President in this matter.
Gov.Fashola must join this fight to protect human rights provisions of our countryâ€™s constitution and promote our democracy. He should please , as a matter of urgency, mandate the attorney-general of the federation so as to work out modalities for their release.â€
However, they promised to engage in all what it can take to get them release from detention without any string attached.