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Economy, Politics and Human Rights: Whither Nigeria? (6)

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By Chidi Odinkalu

Odinkalu continues this week with this article on Economy, Politics and Human Rights: Whither Nigeria?

In the period since then, the popularity of the IED has grown exponentially almost in inverse proportion to the capacity of the country’s legal institutions to deal with it.

Dele Giwa’s murder occurred shortly after the completion of the re-organisation of Nigeria’s security services by the then military “President”, Ibrahim Babangida. He was allegedly informed before accepting it that the parcel whose explosion in his hands caused his death was from “the Commander-in-Chief”.

After his death, the then government appeared prepared to do everything within and beyond its powers to frustrate the discovery of the truth about who killed him. Columnist and journalism teacher, Olatunji Dare, whose brother, a policeman, was the investigating Police Officer into Dele Giwa’s murder, continues the narrative from here:

My brother Herbert Tunde Dare, a deputy commissioner of police with the Special Branch, had been assigned to the investigation. Soon after he began investigations with his accustomed energy and commitment – failure was not in his dictionary — he was transferred from Lagos to Kaduna but kept on the case.

Preliminary report

He had been summoned to Lagos to file a preliminary report on his investigations. He had planned to return to Kaduna the same way he had travelled to Lagos: by air. But at the last minute, the police authorities came up with an assignment that warranted his returning by road.

Somewhere between Jebba and Mokwa, in Niger State, he was killed in a curious accident. Announcing his death, the police said he had lost control of his car while trying to overtake another vehicle and crashed. He had died instantly.

26 Bola Ige, People, Politics, and Politicians of Nigeria, 1940-197, p. 143. (1995) © CAO 2013. Check against delivery. Draft 16

The wreck of the car he was alleged to be driving was never produced. The police said a driver and an aide assigned to him were injured in the accident but had been treated at an unidentified hospital and discharged.27

Dele Giwa’s lawyer, Gani Fawehinmi, who tried to ensure accountability for his murder, suffered serial detention, official persecution and even prosecution for his troubles. An arbitrary state was about to be succeeded by a criminal one.

In 1994, shortly after taking over power, General Sani Abacha established a multitude of security agencies. In all, he licensed 16 of them under his Chief Security Officer (CSO).28 Among these, a “Counter-Terrorism Agency” under the command of Assistant Commissioner of Police, Zakari Biu, was established to watch over reputed regime enemies.

Advocates for democracy

Another entity, the “Strike Force” undertook operations to eliminate such people. Advocates for democracy and human rights became terrorists. Such entities as the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), Committee or the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR); Campaign for Democracy (CD); and the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) became enemies of the State. Their leaders and their associates were targeted for persecution or elimination.

Some met untimely, unexplained or violent death. While he was busy at this, General Abacha also managed to appropriate to himself an estimated 3-5% of the country’s GDP, including “$2.3 billion from the treasury, awarded contracts worth $1 billion to front companies and taken $1 billion in bribes from foreign contractors.”29 We lacked the institutions to find out how much or make him accountable.

Around the same time, the word “terrorist” crept into the agitation in the Niger Delta. By 1994, the activists of the National Youth Council of Ogoni People (NYCOP) were described in some quarters as “terrorists”.

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