FEATURE ARTICLE

Rev. Fr. Francis Anekwe OborjiTuesday, February 7, 2017
foborji@hotmail
Pontifical Urban University, Vatican City (Rome)

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SOUTHERN KADUNA VICTIMS WANT JUSTICE, NOT MILITARY "OCCUPATION"

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n Saturday, February 4, 2017, the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai, was reported in the media to have laid the foundation stone for the building of military barracks in Kafanchan in Jema'a Local Government Area of Kaduna State. In his opening remarks at the foundation stone laying ceremony, General Buratai, was reported to have said, inter alia:

"The event was in fulfilment of the federal government's promise to establish two military formations in Southern Kaduna to ensure security in the area. The setting up of military formation in the area would consolidate the peace process that had already started in the area."

Also speaking at the event, the General Officer commanding, 1 Mechanized Division of Nigerian Army, Major General Adeniyi Oyebade, said: "Since the presidential approval for the setting up of military formations, the Army has been looking for a suitable land to establish a battalion in Kafancahn."

Present at the military barracks laying of foundation stone ceremony at Kafanchan was also the controversial governor of Kaduna State, Malam Nasir El-Rufai. In his own remarks, Malam El-Rufai, said, among other things:

"The State Government is determined to give the army a structure to start their operations before the completion of the barracks."

Needless to add that the people of Southern Kaduna had time without number ruled out Malam El-Rufai, as a possible candidate for any peace-initiative in the area, judging from the demonstrations and accusations levelled against him by the villagers themselves after the last incident of mass-killings of innocent civilians by the Fulani herdsmen militia terrorists in the area. The local people of Southern Kaduna demonstrated openly against the visit of Malam El-Rufai to their area, which they had judged as an insult to the victims of that incident.

Again, governor El-Rufai had publicly admitted that his government had found the members of the Fulani herdsmen militia perpetuating the killings in Southern Kaduna and other parts of the country, and that he has paid them a "compensation" for them to stop the killings. The governor revealed that the militia is made up of Fulani nomads from neighboring Cameroon, Mali, Niger and other countries.

However, according to the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), "the victims of these murders are Christians and their attackers are on an ethnic and religious cleansing mission." On the account of this, some Christian leaders have called on communities under attack to defend themselves against their attackers. However, Muslim clerics, and even the controversial Muslim governor El-Rufai of Kaduna State have called for the arrest of Christian religious and political leaders as well as intellectuals from Kaduna and other parts of the country who have called on Christians to defend themselves against their attackers.

This is the situation today. It is simply a case of genocide in Southern Kaduna as well as in other parts of the country, which experienced in recent times, the demonic attacks of the Fulani herdsmen militia. Unfortunately, the Kaduna State governor El Rufai, in the first place, feels it is through intimidation of the people that the case can be resolved. More significantly, the present federal government of General Buhari on its own part, feels the only way to respond and restore peace in the area is through "military occupation" or rather erection of more military formation centers and barracks all over Southern Kaduna, the areas inhabited by the victims of genocide, perpetuated by a known terrorist group, Fulani herdsmen militia.

At this juncture, one may ask: "What is it that still prevents the federal government from setting up a "Special Judicial Tribunal" instead of "Military Barracks", in Southern Kaduna to begin the criminal prosecution and trial of all the individuals already implicated in the genocide? This applies as well to other incidents of mass-killings by the same Fulani herdsmen militia as well as the increasing military brutality against unarmed innocent civilians in recent times in various parts of the country.

In the civilized world, a responsible government does not respond to an internal problem such as the murderous activities of a "home-made" terrorist group (Fulani herdsmen militia) through "military occupation" of the areas inhabited by the victims of the violence. This is to show that we have been missing the road in our path to nation building in Nigeria. Because, this is not the first time, the federal government of Nigeria had used this formula of military might instead of justice to the victims of violence, in its response as a government to acts of crime committed against humanity in the land. In fact, it would appear that the use of military might in what is clearly a case for ministries of "Internal Affairs", "Justice" and "Judiciary", has become the culture of the Nigerian government. It is already in the psychic of the government of Nigeria as the only viable solution to cases of mass-killings and genocides committed in the land.

We would recall that after the civil war in 1970, instead of setting-up a judiciary tribunal to investigate and prosecute all those accused of the pogrom and other crimes against humanity committed during the war, the federal government chose instead to sweep those matters under the carpet. However, with the renewed insurgence all over the country and agitations for devolution or restructuring of the country going on presently in some parts of the country, those unresolved cases have come back to haunt us as a nation. Perhaps, these things are beginning to happen because we had chosen not to apply justice in addressing those crimes committed against humanity in our land. Instead of bringing to book all those who participated in the massacre of innocent civilians during the war and the pogrom, what happened in Eastern Nigeria, the epic center of the civil war hostilities, since then, was the occupation of the area by Nigerian Police, Army and Bureaucratic machinery. The master-minders of the civil war atrocities were instead of facing the wrath of the law, rewarded in the "new" Nigerian governments with key leadership role and political positions. The country is still at the mercy of some of these individuals.

We have today, the case of Southern Kaduna mass-killings and other similar atrocities perpetuated by a known terrorist group, Fulani herdsmen militia. Instead of applying justice to address this ugly situation, we are still using the archaic formula of military might in responding to a clear case of crime against humanity. A question easily suggests itself here: Why can't we, as a nation make use of our judiciary and ministry of justice in responding to these known criminal cases of genocide and mass-killings perpetuated by known terrorist groups, Fulani herdsmen and Boko Haram?

The question is, 'by resorting to military might in resolving internal problems" and using it as a response to cases of genocide perpetuated by a known local terrorist group in Nigeria in this twenty-first century, are we, as a nation-state moving forward or retrogressing?' In fact, from hindsight, a good number of Nigerians are saying that further "military occupation" of Southern Kaduna (and as increasingly mounting in Eastern Nigeria and Niger Delta nowadays), is nothing but a subtle way, those in power want to use to achieve a sinister objective. The objective is nothing, but to arrive at the making of Nigeria an "Islamic State" through military might. If this is so, we must be very careful.

Therefore, as interesting as the federal government's arguments for the building of more military barracks and presence in Southern Kaduna may appear, however, there are other sides of the coin. Firstly, the Nigerian Military as it is today is composed of, and dominated largely by people from a particular ethnic and religious group, namely, Hausa-Fulani Muslims. How do we trust such an ethnic and religious biased military barracks and officers to be arbitrators of peace in a clear case of atrocities perpetuated against Christians by a Muslim Fulani herdsmen militia? Again, how do we trust these army officers, who are yet to respond proactively to any of the mass-killings perpetuated by the Fulani herdsmen terrorist groups in various parts of Nigeria since the present regime of President Buhari came to power in 2015? How do military barracks erected in Christian towns and villages by such an insensitive army leadership and government, function impartially in handling these delicate issues of genocide and mass-killings?

Already, the Nigerian military is viewed by the public as an accomplice in the said Southern Kaduna mass-killings of Christians perpetuated by the Fulani herdsmen militia. This is also the same Nigerian Army, security and law enforcement agencies recently accused by Amnesty International for their involvement in the extra-judicial killings of unarmed young pro-Biafra protesters in Eastern Nigeria? A military seen by many as an accomplice in the recent massacre of Shiite Muslims in Kaduna State. How can such military officers be impartial arbitrators in settling a dispute in which, they are being accused as "hidden protectors" of perpetrators of these acts of violence? How can a "military barrack" of such army officers be an impartial arbitrator in protecting and in rendering justice to victims of violence? These are hard questions to ask!

Southern Kaduna Victims Want Justice, NOT Military "Occupation"

As I argued in a recent article on this matter, the fact is that the incident of mass-killings of Christians in Southern Kaduna by the Fulani herdsmen militia (as in other of such atrocious cases committed by the same terror group), is a criminal matter and therefore, not a question of military "occupation" of the area in question. The handling of such cases (criminal) belongs to the works of custodians and interpreters of nation's Constitution and therefore, to the ministry of justice and the law courts (judiciary). Period! The victims of violence are crying for justice, not "military occupation." The same thing applies to the victims of similar mass-killings previously carried out also by the same Fulani herdsmen militia in Agatu in Benin State, Nimbo and Attakwu areas of Enugu State, etc.

The fact that up-till now, our ministry of justice and nation's judiciary divisions are still silent about these mass-killings of innocent Nigerians perpetuated by known terrorist groups should give all of us a cause for concern. What of the government continued silence on the already known brutality perpetuated by the Nigerian Army and Police against unarmed pro-Biafra protesters in Eastern Nigeria and the Shiite Muslims in Kaduna State? Again, the fact that our law-makers, both at the state and federal levels, have not even started to deliberate on these issues or promulgating new laws where our Constitution may be lacking, to address these issues of justice to the victims of terrorist attacks and military brutality, leaves much to be desired.

The first article of 1999 Constitution assigned to the Nigerian State, the duty of protecting lives and promoting welfare of all Nigerians based on the principles of freedom, equality and justice. This is the first and primary duty of the three arms of the government (executive, legislature and judiciary) to the Nigerian citizens. The judiciary is an independent arm of the government. Its' duty is precisely to checkmate excesses of the Executive arm of the government - its component institutions such as, the Army, Police, or agencies like DSS or EFCC, through judiciary processes and dispensation of justice on the basis of equality which all of us share before the law. It is also the primary duty of the judiciary, with the collaboration of the Police (not the Army), to investigate criminal, civil or any of such cases that infringe on the basic rights of the individuals in the society as enshrined in the Constitution and other relevant laws. It is for this reason that the Constitution invested judiciary with status of independence and final arbitrator in the execution of justice to the citizens.

In other words, there is already an arm of government and state institutions as well as agencies invested by the Constitution to handle the issues of violence and violation of human rights and dignity of individuals or rather right to life of citizens, whenever violated by criminal elements in the society. The handling of a criminal case such as killings of innocent persons or mass-murder is not the duty of the army. It is also not a matter of building military barracks in the affected areas.

The Constitution assigned to the Army the function of protecting the country from any external aggression. This is the function of the "Ministry of Defense." The army is an arm of the "Ministry of Defense", while the Police belongs to the "Ministry of Internal Affairs." The internal maintenance of law and order belongs to the ministry of Internal Affairs (especially, the Police) and the "Ministry of Justice and "Judiciary." It would appear that all along, the government of Nigeria has been mixing-up the functions of these ministries, "Defense" and "Internal Affairs", and have blatantly refused to employ the services of the judiciary as well as the "Ministry of Justice", in handling these cases of genocide and mass-killings being perpetuated by Fulani herdsmen militia and Boko Haram against innocent citizens.

The duty of the state in promoting the internal security of life and property of the citizens is assigned to the "Ministry of Internal Affairs" and "Ministry of Justice", including the Judiciary. Ministry of justice and the judiciary in collaboration with the law enforcement agencies ("Ministry of Internal Affairs") are the competent authorities to investigate and bring to book and justice, the violators of the sacredness and inviolability of human life.

Killing or taking away the life of innocent individual (or individuals) is the highest form of criminal act any sane society can condone. Anybody that kills or takes away the life of another human person has no respect to human life. Such a person or individual by his action has demonstrated that he is a criminal and therefore, the law enforcement agencies and the judiciary are duty-bound to make sure that such an individual is isolated, taken away from circulation and brought to justice. This is the only way to promote peace in the society and restore the hope of the people in the government and judiciary. This function cannot be for the "soldiers in the army barracks" no matter how good their intention may be.

The question is, 'where on earth, or rather in civilized world today, are incidents of genocide or mass-killings of innocent citizens by avowed terrorist groups (such as Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen militia), handled by erecting more "military barracks"? When has it become the onus in a plural society and modern nation-state (such as Nigeria) to build more military barracks in order to address criminal cases like mass murder and killings of innocent citizens committed by terrorist groups in the name of their religion and cattle rearing?

The question is, when has it become the duty of a political and often ethnic and religious biased "military" such as the present composition of the Nigerian Army, to address the issue of mass-killings of innocent citizens by terrorist groups? Again, this is very worrisome, especially, in the case of the Southern Kaduna incident, which took place under the watchful eye of law enforcement agencies such as the Army and Police, and which occurred almost immediately, the State governor El Rufai visited the place and imposed 24 hours curfew there?

As I argued recently in another article, this incident at Southern Kaduna was a kind of a replica of the Nimbo, Enugu state massacre of the natives by the same Fulani herdsmen early last year. The Enugu State governor when he got wind of the terrorists' threat to attack the rural communities of Nimbo, he turned to Abuja and notified President Buhari who is the Chief security officer of the federation, in virtue of his office, but there was no clear response from Abuja. The Enugu governor turned again to the General officer commanding 82 Division of the Nigerian Army in Enugu, the Enugu State Police Commissioner, and the Department of DSS in Enugu, held an emergency security meeting with them that same evening. Unfortunately, the Fulani herdsmen militia struck at Nimbo, Enugu State, that same day and night, killing over 200 innocent citizens, wounding many others and destroying people's houses and property worth billions of Naira.

In other words, if these militia groups struck the same night an emergency security meeting took place at Enugu, then that means that someone in the corridors of power, who had been following the security meetings at Enugu State government House and Abuja, was feeding the Fulani herdsmen militia with vital information, telling them the appropriate time to strike. This has been the suspicion of a good number of people since that incident happened. Because nobody has been called to book since then.

The same scenario happened in Agatu in Benue State, few months before Nimbo, Enugu State massacre. It later happened in Attakwu, another rural community in Enugu State. Now, there is that of Southern Kaduna and some others. Till date, nobody has been charged and brought to justice in any of these cases of clear mass-killings perpetuated by known terrorist group, Fulani herdsmen militia.

Conclusion

The route to peace and co-existence among diverse peoples and individuals in any plural society and community is justice. Without justice, there will be no peace and unity among the people. What the people of Southern Kaduna are yearning for is justice to their dead ones and other victims of mass-killings perpetuated by the Fulani herdsmen militia across the country. Therefore, what the people there need is NOT "army barracks" (military occupation), but rather establishment of an impartial (if possible, international) justice tribunal to prosecute and begin the trial of the perpetuators of those criminal acts of genocide and mass-killings of innocent Nigerians. Governor El-Rufai of Kaduna State has already confessed that he had personal knowledge of some members of these Fulani herdsmen militia and their whereabouts. This is already a judicial material for the tribunal to commence its proceedings by inviting governor El-Rufai to come and testify, and if possible, assist the Judiciary and Police in identifying the perpetrators of this heinous crime against humanity committed in the Southern Kaduna and elsewhere.

Unless a step of this kind is taken, nobody would take us serious in the fight against insurgents and terror groups in Nigeria. In other words, we need to strengthen our ministry of justice and judiciary as well as the Police to function dispassionately, without fear or favor in the execution of their duties to the citizens and the nation. We need a ministry of Justice and Judiciary as well as Police Force that is inclusive, transparent and people-oriented, both in composition and execution of duty.

Meanwhile, Nigeria lacks such a public "ministry" and government parastatals built upon justice, honesty, freedom and truth. What we have at present is the domination of government machinery, ministries, institutions and parastatals by one particular privileged ethnic and religious group at the expense of others. Perhaps, this may explain why up-till now the nation pays little attention to issues relating to justice to the citizens, especially, victims of violence. We have specialized in maneuvering the people through military might and "occupation", as the present case in Southern Kaduna shows. Where we should emphasis justice to the victims, we silence and intimidate the people through military might.

How long are we as a nation to continue behaving in this way, is another matter? Because to promote the overall interest of its diverse multi-ethnic and multi-religious groups, Nigeria as a heterogeneous nation-state cannot continue to maneuver the issue of justice to victims of violence.

We need to respect the independence of judiciary as enshrined in the Constitution. Allow the judiciary to perform and do its duty to the nation and the common people, in an atmosphere of liberty, transparency, truth and justice. The inept leadership of this arm of government in dispensing justice in this regard of reckless killings and mass murder of innocent Nigerians being perpetuated by known terrorist groups, Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen militia, should worry all of us.

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