ABUBAKAR Malami, SAN, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, surprised watchers of unfolding events in Nigeria when he pledged the Federal Government’s commitment to end impunity at the opening of the 18th Session of the Assembly of State Parties to the Rome Statute, at the International Criminal Court, ICC, recently at The Hague, The Netherlands.
While supporting efforts for the ICC to become a global independent and impartial court, the Federal Government condemned attacks meant to cripple the Court’s “fight against impunity and the laying of a solid foundation for a peaceful and just world”.
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As a signatory to the Rome Statute of the ICC, Nigeria is not only duty-bound to support efforts of the global court, it must also conform to its rules aimed at minimising impunity and rights abuses.
Unfortunately, however, Nigeria is already a marked country in the ICC following several assessment visits by the Office of the Prosecutor of the Court, OTP, and also several Amnesty International, AI’s, indictments of Nigeria over alleged acts of impunity in the anti-Boko Haram insurgency war and crackdown on Biafra activists.
In fact, there are very real indicators that the Court might formally open up investigations against Nigeria in 2020.
The continued detention of Sambo Dasuki, Ibrahim El Zakzaky, Jalingo Agba, Omoyele Sowore and a host of others in total defiance of court orders granting them bail, and the recent desecration of an Abuja Federal High Court by operatives of the Department of State Services, DSS, to re-arrest Sowore after being released on bail 24 hours earlier add to the pile-up of acts of impunity by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
Under the Rome Statute of the ICC, the rule of law is supreme as it underpins democracy and the respect for the rights and dignity of persons.
The regime’s obvious ambivalent takes on impunity, whereby it does not always practice what it preaches does not endear it to international rights watchdogs such as ICC, AI and others.
These and similar organisations are present in the country and are witnesses to the double-speak and the difference between what the regime preaches and practices.
The danger in treading this path is that with the increased sidelining of the rule of law by the government, the country risks being isolated, with our development partners treating Nigeria as a pariah nation which was the case during the General Sani Abacha regime.
Top regime officials also risk being marked for sanctions across the civilised world and Nigeria could acquire the reputation of a rogue state. We cannot afford that.