Interview

April 24, 2024

Murdered Professor’s last interview: Kidnappers, terrorists don’t deserve mercy

Murdered Professor’s last interview: Kidnappers, terrorists don’t deserve mercy

Professor of Human Rights and Gender  Law, Yinka Olomojobi was shot dead last week Friday by suspected kidnappers at Iperu Remo, Ogun state. Unaware that he would lose his life in the hands of kidnappers, the Babcock University lecturer in this interview, raised concerns on the dire security situation in the country and adviced that government must be firm and resolute in punishing kidnappers and terrorists to serve as deterrent to others. He also spoke on other issues. 

Excerpt: By Henry Ojelu, Juliet Umeh

Your new book, “Armed Conflict, The convergence between International human rights law and international humanitarian law,” was launched in January. What was the inspiration behind the book?

I am a scholar and human rights lawyer. In my field, we have a number of books and scholarly articles on human rights but what has been missing are books on international and humanitarian laws. In the context of human rights, the international and humanitarian laws are  always left out because it’s still in a growing process. I teach it as a component of human rights but it is limited in its application to fighting wars, and using the elements from distinction proportionality, humanity and those other various elements.

So I decided to put it into a broader picture to let people understand that there is a distinction and convergence between international human rights laws and international humanitarian laws. There is usually a great confusion in the two areas.  The confusion is that scholars and lawyers look at them as separate. They believe that International laws can apply in times of war only and international humanitarian rights laws apply only in the absence of war at every other time.  

But my argument is that although they are distinct, they are not divergent. So the arguments is that once there is an infringement on the laws of war or how law should be conducted, then there is a violation of human rights.  

Do you think Nigeria is adhering to international laws in its fight against insurgency?

When you look at the fight against Boko Haram, it is what we call non International conflict. The reason is that Boko Haram has a command structure and in that regards, the laws of war must be strictly adhered to between Boko Haram fighters and the military. The military must observe the rules and conducts of war as well as Boko Haram terrorist fighters.   But usually there is complexity because how does the army identify who Boko Haram fighters are? How do they know those who are combatants?  It may be easy to identify soldiers as combatants but the issue is that Boko Haram terrorists are always targeting none combatants.  Obviously, they are not obeying the laws of war. In the case of the military, I would also posit that if non-combatant are target in the effort to fight back, then that would clearly be against international laws.

What do think of the FG’s consideration of amnesty for insurgents and terrorists?

On the issue of amnesty, it is very complex because there has been an infringement International humanitarian law and infringement of human rights laws. Once you have infringed on human rights law and the right to life has been taken away,  I don’t think they should be allowed to go.   There should be some punitive measure, otherwise, this may open the door for other insurgents to carry up arms at the end of the day knowing  that there is a gateway to some amnesty. 

So what should happen is that everything should be in accordance with the law. They should be tried for breach of international humanitarian laws and for violation of human rights. They should go hand in hand.  Same should also apply to other crimes such as kidnapping and corruption which is also becoming a major problem in the country. When people are properly punished for crimes they committed, I believe it will serve as serious deterrent to others. 

Do you think Nigeria is winning the war against terrorism and kidnapping?

Once there is a strong division between the privileged and the less-privileged in any country, it’s a pacesetter for terrorism and kidnapping to exist. Go to Somalia and Niger, they are one of the poorest countries in the world.  There are Muslims in Ghana,  yet they don’t have serious issues of kidnapping and terrorism because what they have is divided.  Even in Malawi, the resources are evenly divided. Terrorism and kidnapping is thriving because there is a strong division between ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’. So irrespective of what the government is doing, until there is equal opportunity and level playing ground for everyone, the problem will remain. What happens is that once you give everyone equal economic opportunities,  terrorist and kidnapping ideologies will wither away.

The UN humanitarian assembly recently urged the FG to implement #EndSARS report. What are the real implications of not implementing such critical reports?

There are serious implications because if the report comes out and it does indict the leadership of the country, then there will be problem.   Recall what happened in Kenya in 2007. It shows that human rights does exist at all times, it does not belong to a state.   It is part and parcel of international law. Since 1945, United Nations is there to ensure that all states observe human rights. When human rights are not observed in any state, it is violence against humanity. So my advice is that it is in interest of the country to ensure that recommendations made by the various EndSARS reports are fully implemented. 

How can your book help to resolve some of the burning crises in the country?

The major things that make conflict exist is due to poor economy,. I won’t blame it on issues of  colonization because we have countries like Malaysia, India and even China that were colonised by the British.  The question is, now that we have our own independence,  what has African leaders done for Africa? When you have a system of corruption,  there will be an endemic system of failure. That is why today in Nigeria,  we have the third weakest currency in Africa. The reality is that there is no honest person out there trying to deal with the issues at the federal level. There is no honesty at the top level.  In reality, we don’t operate the federal system of government.  I will  suggest in strong terms that we go back to regionalism. Regionalism is the only way forward. The federal government dishes out allocation and the local government  is there doing nothing.  With that kind of approach, the system will always failure.  It’s not about policies because the system just won’t work.

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