President of France
On the up-coming bilateral terrorism talks:
1) Kindly permit me to salute you through this open letter whose season started some years ago and made popular by no other than our own former president, Olusegan Obasanjo. You must have read his latest book, “My Watch”. The Nigerian people will be happy to have you this coming weekend, more so in these times of heightened insecurity not only here in Africa, but all over the world. Like Ghanaians say in Twi, Akwaaba, you are well come.
2) It is understood that your bilateral talks with Franco-phone countries and their neighbors in the West sub-region will be centered on counter-terrorism and how to tackle the likes of Boko Haram. Behind closed doors we know other issues of mutual interests too are likely to be discussed. The Nigerian people hope that the growing menace of the Fulani herdsmen will also be on the table. Your office must have been adequately briefed on the massacres at such communities like AgaTu, Oturkpo, Nimbo, Enugu state and other sundry locations. As you know, the Fulani herdsmen have been graded as the 4th largest and most dangerous terrorists group in the world by international security and humanitarian organisations.
3) The twin evils of Boko Haram and the Fulani herdsmen ravaging the Middle Belt and now much of southern Nigeria leaves a sour taste in the Nigerian experience. The atrocities and crimes against humanity committed by the Fulani herdsmen can only be imagined, let alone felt. The graphic display of thousands of decapitated hands, heads, torsos of little children and old people is too much to describe. Imagine the epic and sense-defying destruction of completely burnt down villages and towns. Imagine a replay of the Rwandan genocide. The surviving victims would remain psycholgically damaged forever. While the government has promised to “silently” arrest these dangerous security challenges posed by the marauding herdsmen, the people of southern Nigeria count on France to come to their aid when and if they need the support of your country.
4) Dear President, while your bilateral talks would be heavily tilted towards counter-counter terrorism measures, there are other germane issues plaguing the Nigerian people. Needless to say these are issues that border on the human rights of the citizens. The issues of the rule of law and governance through strict adherence to the constitution are the things that engender the dividents of democracy. At the moment, the administration’s disdain and disrespect for the constitution and the rule of law can only compound the security challenges in the country.
5) Perhaps a little painstaking illustration might suffice. In the current political dispensation, the arbitrary arrest and indefinite detention of citizens in the guise of fighting corruption doesn’t bode well for Nigeria, nor the security of the west African sub-region. You can imagine the rippling effects of a society where the authorities do not respect the rule of law. Such a society is in danger of degenerating into a lawless republic, with the by products far beyond one’s comprehension. The disdain for the constitution only makes the situation more complex, more scary.
6) This open letter to you won’t be complete without attaching the human faces that compound the country’s political conundrum. As you prepare to arrive Abuja, Nigeria, there is the case of Nnamdi Kanu, the founder of Radio Biafra, who is currently in jail as a prisoner of conscience. Even after a court of competent jurisdiction has granted him bail, the state has continued to keep him jailed. This case of indefinite incarceration is not grounded in any known local and international law or jurisprudence. This is all about the abuse of Nnamdu Kanu’s human rights. Nigeria is a signatory to the UN’s charter on human rights. Therefore, his continued detention negates the UN’s principle that states every man deserves to be properly treated and his human rights respected irrespective of his circumstance.
7) That Nnamdi Kanu is indefinitely detained against his will is an incontrovertible fact. And the authorities argument and excuse for denying him bail rests on the puerile reasoning that he is a terrorist. However, this is one innocent terrorist who did not carry a weapon and has not killed anyone. His only sin is for trying to emancipate his people in their dream of Biafra. While some Boko Haram terrorists who have killed hundreds of thousands of innocent souls have been given amnesty and are gradully integrated into the society, a prisoner of conscience, Nnamdi Kanu sits in indefinite detention without any known further charges. Nothing can better describe the grotesque irony of these two situations and the travesty of justice.
8) Dear President Hollande, the arbitrary arrests, detention and psychological torture of victims under the pretext of fighting corruption are on the rise. Here, let me add the following names: Femi Fani-Kayode (a former aviation minister) Liyel Imoke (former governor of Cross River) Dr. Robert Azibaola (a private businessman) Col.(rtd) Sambo Dasuki(former National Security Adviser, NSA) These men whose names are captured above are joined by the same fate. They are all currently been detained indefinitely despite court orders for them to be released on bail. These men are yet to be proven guilty in a court of competent jurisdiction. These men’s continued detention is what makes the travesty of justice so distasteful, so narcissistic and so troubling.
9) What makes the government’s case more disingenuous is this. How most of the accused are arrested by agents of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), often times without the the necessary court orders or subsisting evidence. In most instances, the men are arrested and then are intimidated under duress to give evidence incriminating themselves. In the case of Dr. Robert Azibaola, it is believed his denial of bail is not unconnected with his refusal to implicate Goodluck Jonathan, the immediate past president and a relative.
10) Dear President, the peace loving people of Nigeria are encouraged by your forthcoming august visit to their country. They are proud to reflect on the positive relations the two countries have shared going back to many decades. It is based on this premise your understanding is sought in swaying the authourities to have a rethink about the inherent dangers in the tyranny of power and how absolute power corrupts absolutely. This is the worst form of corruption.
11) The affore-mentioned persons accused by the state of embezzling various sums are pregnant with hope that your holistic look at their problem come these bilateral security talks will yield positive outcomes. It can only strengthen the friendship of our two countries. The Nigerian people continue to be optimistic.
Ebi B Asain
Archbishop of Canterbury