Alleged snipers’ training: Odinkalu heads NHRC’s 5-man probe panel

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By IKECHUKWU NNOCHIRI

ABUJA—The Governing Council of National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, yesterday, constituted a five-man panel of inquiry to probe the allegation by former President Olusegun Obasanjo that President Goodluck Jonathan was training snipers and had placed 1,000 political opponents on his watch list.

In a communique at the end of its extraordinary meeting in Abuja, the council said that in line with the provision of Section 6(3) of the National Human Rights Commission Act (as amended), its investigation into the allegation against President Jonathan would not be subject to the direction or control of any other authority or person.

Describing the content of the 18 paged letter of Obasanjo vis-à-vis the allegations contained therein as “weighty and grave,” the Council, said it concluded that the letter raised issues of serious and systematic violations of the rights to life, access to fair hearing and justice, personal liberty, safety and security, equality before the law and the prohibition against discrimination.

Consequently, the Chairman of the Council, Professor Chidi Anselm Odinkalu is to head the probe panel while the Executive Secretary of NHRC, Professor Bem Angwe, Mrs. Eugenia Abu, D.O.C Ezeigwe, and Alhaji Ibrahim Nikau would serve as members of the panel.

Similarly, the NHRC, constituted another three-man panel to undertake a verification mission into Rivers State with a mandate to identify and verify facts and actors involved in the ongoing crisis in the state and any violation of human rights connected therewith.

The panel which has Mr. Kayode Komolafe as its Chairman, Mrs. Rita Ifeyinwa Njokanmma and Mr. Eric Bell-Gam as members, was further empowered by the Council to recommend any interim measures to ameliorate or prevent further escalation of the situation in Rivers State into serious or massive violations of human rights, as well as, undertake any other or further tasks related to or necessarily incidental to the foregoing.

The communiqué said, “Council considered the referral transmitted to the Commission by the Honorable Attorney-General of the Federation, and Minister of Justice on  December 23, 2013 in relation to allegations contained in recent correspondence between former President Obasanjo and President Jonathan.

“In taking cognizance of the HAGF’s referral, Council made it clear that Rule 79(2)(e) of the Standing Orders and Rules of Procedure the Commission provide for the HAGF or Attorneys-General of States to refer appropriate cases to the Commission.

“Council is at all times guided also by the provision of Section 6(3) of the National Human Rights Commission Act (as amended) that “in exercising its functions and powers under this Act, the Commission shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other authority or person.

“Council considered the allegations contained in the transmission from the HAGF to be quite weighty and grave and concluded that they raise issues of serious and systematic violations of the rights to life, access to fair hearing and justice, personal liberty, safety and security, equality before the law and the prohibition against discrimination.

“Following comprehensive deliberations, Council decided, in exercise of its powers under Sections 5 and 6 of the NHRC Act (as amended) and in accordance with Rule 79(2)(a), (c) and (e) of the Standing Orders and Rules of Procedure of the Commission to constitute a panel to inquire into the following:

“Whether or not there is or has been state-sponsored killings or assassinations in Nigeria at any time since November 1995 to date; if so, what organisations, institutions, agencies or persons were or are involved in or affected by such killings; whether there is or has been at any time since November 1995, a list of persons to be targeted for watching or for such killings; if, in any of such cases, the perpetrators, known or unknown, were brought to justice or assisted, facilitated or helped by any persons or institutions to evade justice; whether the victims of any such killings were or have been afforded access to truth or to effective remedies; and undertake any other or further tasks related to or necessarily incidental to the foregoing.

“Council authorized the Executive Secretariat of the Commission to immediately issue an invitation or call for memoranda on the above-indicated terms of reference.

“Council decided that this inquiry shall be public. A calendar and schedule for the public sittings of the inquiry shall be announced once the Commission determines.

“Council also considered the deepening crisis in Rivers State and concluded that the situation calls for urgent action to verify the facts and stem any further deterioration.

“Accordingly, Council constituted a panel to undertake a verification mission into Rivers State as follows: Mr. Komolafe, Chair, Mrs. Njokanmma, Mr. Bell-Gam.

The Verification Mission to Rivers State shall: identify and verify the facts and actors involved in the ongoing crisis in Rivers State and any violations of human rights connected therewith; identify and interact with all parties or actors connected with or affected by the crisis; recommend any interim measures to ameliorate or prevent further escalation of the situation in Rivers State into serious or massive violations of human rights; and undertake any other or further tasks related to or necessarily incidental to the foregoing.

“Council authorised the verification mission to work on an expedited time scale and report back to the next regular meeting of Council before the end of February 2014.”

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