LAGOS—Human rights lawyer and activist, Mr Femi Falana, SAN, has called on the Federal Government to set up a panel of inquiry to investigate the killing of the MASSOB/IPOB members, as well as the scores of the Shiites who were allegedly killed by the army and the police, following the admission by the Nigerian Army that it killed 5 protesters instead of the 150 alleged by Amnesty International.
Falana spoke at the 2016 Law Week of the Jos branch of the Nigerian Bar Association, Jos where he presented a paper titled: War Against Corruption-Issues And Challenges Confronting The Judiciary.
Falana pointed out that Amnesty International last week released a damning report on the brutal killing of 150 members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) by the Nigerian Army and the army has denied the report.
According to the activist, in joining issues with the human rights group, the Nigerian Army must have forgotten that it had issued a statement on May 31 this year wherein it acknowledged that ‘in the aftermath of the fire fight that ensued, many of our own troops sustained varying degrees of injury. These injured troops are currently receiving treatment at own medical centre.’
Falana recalled that the army statement claimed that “5 members of MASSOB/IPOB were killed, 8 wounded while 9 were arrested for due legal actions.”
In driving home his point, Falana maintained that “it is public knowledge that a judicial commission of inquiry set up by the Kaduna State government has established that 347 members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria were massacred by the Nigerian Army in December 2015 for allegedly blocking a road in Zaria, Kaduna State during a religious convention.
“The peaceful protests to demand the release of the leader of the movement, Sheik Ibraheem Elzakzaky and his wife from illegal incarceration by the SSS have been violently suppressed under the pretext that the religious group has been banned.
“ Meanwhile, the armed soldiers who have engaged in the killings have not been charged to any criminal court whatsoever.”
Speaking further, Falana described as curious the fact that neither the national leadership of the NBA nor any of its 109 branches has deemed it fit to condemn the crimes against humanity committed by the army and the worsening human rights record of the Federal Government but reacted angrily to the nocturnal raid of the homes of seven judges who were arrested for alleged corrupt practices last month by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS).
He said: “While not supporting the harassment of the judges, I did not hesitate in condemning the NBA for engaging in hypocrisy by limiting the defence of human rights to the senior members of the legal profession. Since this is a body of lawyers, I wish to state, without any fear of contradiction, that the Department of State Services (DSS) is not a juristic personality as it is unknown to law. So, if you sue the Department of State Services instead of the State Security Service in any of the courts, the case will be struck out by virtue of the Nigeria Security Agencies Act (Cap N74) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
“As statutory defenders of the rule of law and human rights, the NBA ought to mobilize its members to stop the liquidation of any group of agitators in the country. The government is at liberty to charge any citizen or group of people to court if it has evidence of their involvement in treasonable conduct or any form of criminality.
“There is no doubt that the ruling class in Nigeria is highly corrupt . At the same time, the anti-graft agencies should put an end to the media trial of criminal suspects. Otherwise, transparency and other western anti corruption bodies will continue to justify the fraudulent stigmatization of the victims of grand corruption.”
Falana further lamented the fact that the regular courts are congested with many cases and therefore would necessitate the creation of special courts to try cases of corruption, drug trafficking, human trafficking and electoral offences.
“Our youths have been driven to armed robbery and kidnapping because of the criminal diversion of public funds earmarked for job creation and education. The other day, a big man who is on trial for alleged money laundering of N400 million was handcuffed from prison to court. There was so much anger in the media.I thought that was the height of hypocrisy in a country where poor criminal suspects who steal handsets and tubers of yam valued at less than N10,000 are handcuffed and leg chained. The NBA and the media never talk of human rights or rule of law when the poor are so brutalized.”