The leadership of International Society for Civil liberties & the Rule of Law (intersociety) has observed the full return of iron bars of prison and executive butchery and lawlessness in Nigeria. It is disheartening to observe a situation where a State that ought to protect and preserve the lives of its innocent citizens at all times, systematically turns around to be the murderer of its own innocent citizens under no iota of legal breaches and devaluation of any sacred social codes. Also calamitous is where a State that ought to protect the constitution and the rule of law by being law-compliant at all times; becomes an unrepentant breaker of the same ground norm and judicial conventions.
Butcheries of 2015: In the killing entities’ ranking for 2015 or assessment of armed entities engaging in prohibited murders or unlawful killings; such as street criminal entities like armed robbers and kidnappers; civil homicidal entities like illegally armed communal and individual elements; politico-cultural criminal entities like Boko Haram and Fulani Islamic terror groups; and murderous State security agencies like the Nigerian Army and the Nigeria Police Force; the Nigerian security forces; comprising the Nigerian Army and the Nigeria Police Force emerged as the second deadliest killing entity in Nigeria in 2015. That is to say that Boko Haram terror group retained its first position as the deadliest killing entity in Nigeria in 2015. The third deadliest killing entity ranking went to Islamic Fulani terror group, while civil homicidal entities like illegally armed communal and individual elements (inclusive of domestic violent deaths) clichéd fourth position as the fourth deadliest killing entity in Nigeria. The fifth position went to street criminal entities like armed robbers and kidnappers as the fifth deadliest killing entity in Nigeria in 2015. These killings got exacerbated in the past seven months of the Buhari’s administration (June to December 2015).
In the victims or casualty figures’ assessment, Boko Harm terror group had between June and December 2015 killed over 1,700 citizens; followed by the Nigerian Army and the Nigeria Police Force with unlawful and unconstitutional killing of over 800 citizens most of whom members of the Shiite Muslim Movement of Nigeria. Others are victims of the police pretrial killing and torture as well as those killed in recent pro Biafran self determination peaceful agitations in Onitsha. The Human Rights Watch had in its recent comprehensive report on Zaria Army massacre disclosed that over 300 Shiite members were killed and hurriedly buried in mass graves by the Nigerian Army under firm directive of COAS, Lt Gen Tutur Buratai. Other credible independent sources also reported that as much as 1000 citizens were massacred in the butchery. In the 1st and 2nd Onitsha Police and Military Killings, as much as 22 citizens were killed including 13 citizens killed in the first killing and 10 others killed in the second killing. Among the latter’s casualties were two citizens that died recently in hospital following deadly gunshot wounds.
In the two separate peaceful processions and protests; leading to Zaria massacre and Onitsha killings, hundreds of citizens were also brutally shot and wounded. Among those brutally shot and battered is the leader of the Shiite Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakzaky. The victims of two other unlawful killings carried out by the civil and the street criminal entities are believed to be in the neighborhood of 500 citizens or more. That is to say that Nigeria has since June 2015 under the Buhari administration; a period of seven months; lost over 3,500 citizens in the hands of the five criminal and murderous entities named above. The return of iron bars of prison and executive butchery and lawlessness that heralded the emergence of Buhari administration in June 2015 came with it a spiral increase in police pretrial killing and torture, resulting in the death of scores of citizens particularly at roadblocks and in the hands of police criminal investigators and special anti robbery squads. Till date, the perpetrators of these heinous crimes particularly those involved in the killing of innocent citizens participating in the peaceful protests and processions, are still on the prowl and protected by the Buhari administration.
Executive Lawlessness: In the area of executive lawlessness, which riotously bounced back in Nigeria in June 2015 as well, two principal entities that fueled and still fueling it are President Muhammadu Buhari and the Department of the State Security (DSS), chaired by Alhaji Lawal Musa Daura (a statutorily retired officer of the Service). That is to say that the duo of President Muhammadu Buhari and Alhaji Lawal Musa Daura and his DSS emerged as the most executive lawless entities in Nigeria for year 2015. The DSS had earlier bagged from the Southeast Coalition of Human Rights Organizations the unceremonious and unholy title of the chief enemy of democracy and rule of law in Nigeria for year 2015.
While Nigeria still parades itself before the international community as a country under moratorium for death penalty, it still applies mischievously and maximally extra judicial and unlawful killings as a short-cut in its anachronistic penal policy; by killing and torturing its citizens at will and outside the law. All the rules of engagement in the use and application of force and firearms against unarmed civilian population are grossly observed in breach. As a matter of fact, President Muhammadu Buhari’s discomfort with rule of law, human rights and the constitution is very glaring and brazen. Subjecting accused citizens to the process of rule of law, constitutionalism and obedience to court pronouncements, has remained a presidential nightmare; and his preference of arrest at will, detain at will and kill at will without judicial and due processes, is the worse crime against constitutionalism and rule of law in Nigeria.
Return of Iron Bars of Prison: The policy of iron bars of prison proclaimed dead in many of the 193-member States of the United Nations; has also found its way back to Nigeria under the Presidency of Muhammadu Buhari. It was Mr. Anwal Ibrahim, the former Prime Minister of Malaysia, once accused falsely of committing the offense of sodomy who stated that “the true conscience of a man is greater than the iron bars of the prison”. Late Madam Alice Stebbins Wells as the inventor of preventive policing and rehabilitative penology for global community including Nigeria will be shedding ceaseless tears in her cosmic world following President Buhari’s thirst for iron bars of the prison and summary punishment and deterrence policing. Late Madam Alice Stebbins Wells, who was the first modern global woman to be admitted into the Los Angeles Police Department in 1910; had once observed publicly that “the most effective and result-oriented policing and penology are that built on preventive policing and rehabilitative penology; for the purpose of making people staying away from crime or getting reformed when convicted so as to commit crime no more when pardoned or freed”.
Hearing a President in public places saying “looters will rot in jail”, “I will jail them”, “I will arrest them”, “I will detain them”, “no group will hold Nigeria to ransom again”, etc; are stark attributes of not only an intolerant President, but also a President with high tolerance of the sanction code of the Yore and pre-colonial trial-by-ordeal punishment or jungle justice. A country that aggressively pursues policy of institutional reforms and moral reinvigoration dedicates little time and attention to harsh and sub human sentencing sanctions and deterrence; built on iron bars of the prison. It is sad to note that when other respected members of the international community, which Nigeria claims to belong; are steadily modernizing and upgrading their penal systems and relaxing their custodial sentencing, Nigeria under President Muhammadu Buhari is busy stiffening the country’s custodial sentencing policy with spiral prison congestion and rapacious disobedience to court orders and pronouncements.
Today, over 65% of prisons inmates in Nigeria are the so called “awaiting trial inmates” (inmates without trials and others undergoing snail pace trials). The plain language of modern penology or penal system has long been premised on “rehabilitation and reformation”. Contradictorily, President Buhari’s perception of same is crudely hung around punishment and deterrence. The worse of it all is the President’s crude intolerance of exhaustible judicial processes including constitutional rights to fair hearing and presumption of innocence until judicially found guilty. Rehabilitative and Reformative Penology have also been strengthened by introduction of a number of non or lighter custodial sentencing options such as community/labour service, probation, parole, electronic tagging, counseling/rehabilitation, commutation, pardoning, bail, community payback, etc. But in Nigeria of Buhari’s Presidency, it is a penology built on Nazi Concentration Camp.
The consequences of adoption of iron bars of the prison by President Muhammadu Buhari as his major justice sector policy in Nigeria is that more prisons must be constructed to accommodate tens of thousands of Nigerians who may most likely be accused in coming months of “treasonable felony”, “treason”, “malicious/seditious publication aimed at impugning public officials”, “terrorism & terrorism financing”, “terrorism membership”, “conspiracy to commit offense of terrorism”, “belonging and managing unlawful Society”, “criminal conspiracy & criminal intimidation of the President of the Republic” as well as accusation of commission of street and white collar crimes , such as armed robbery, abduction, fraud and embezzlement.
Recommendation for construction of 1,548 more maximum security prisons: Since President Buhari’s justice sector policy is anachronistically hinged on iron bars of the prison, it is our call on the National Assembly working on the 2016 Federal budget estimates to increase the budgetary allocations of the Ministries of Internal Affairs and Justice to enable the President construct more 1,548 maximum security prisons on basis of two maximum security prisons for each of Nigeria’s 774 Local Government Areas; totaling 1,548; for the purpose of sending more Nigerian citizens to prison in coming months. We further urge the President to ensure that at least 5,000 citizens per month and 60,000 per annum are arrested and thrown into prison in Nigeria. As Citizen Nnamdi Kanu aptly captured it “it is better to remain in detention without trial than to be tried or brought to court whose orders and pronouncements are flouted with reckless abandon by the same accusing and executive authority”.
Emeka Umeagbalasi (Criminologist & Graduate of Security Studies)
Board Chairman, International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law
Email: [email protected], [email protected]
Barr Obianuju Joy Igboeli, Head, Civil Liberties & Rule of Law Program