The Xmas Message delivered today by Presidential Speech Writers, on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari, is a collective insult to all Nigerians. The message, titled: “No Group Will Hold Nigeria to Ransom Again”… is also self-indicted because Nigeria is being held to ransom by the Presidency of Muhammadu Buhari; and not the other way round. A Nigerian Facebook blogger recently stated that “Buhari/APC shouted chain and Nigerians thought the shouters said change”. That is to say that Nigerians are dictatorially captive; following the shout of “chains”, which they took to be “change”. The country’s military had also boasted recently that “it must maintain one united Nigeria by fire by force”.
The latest Presidential and military boasts must have been emboldened by their recent atrocious acts against innocent Shiite Muslim faithful in Zaria, Northwest Nigeria and the Pro Biafran Peaceful Campaigners in Southeast and South-south Nigeria; leading to massacre of over 300 Shiite followers and killing of over 20 Pro Biafran Activists respectively. The two brutal shootings also resulted in scores of deadly injuries. Using “No Group Will Hold Nigeria to Ransom Again” as a Xmas Message to Nigerians also amounts to presidential demonization of feast of Xmas or birth of the Saviour (Jesus Christ). The message title is not only a presidential justification of the two atrocious acts, but also an indication of presidential remorselessness and its readiness to further slaughter thousands of other innocent citizens of Nigeria.
Nigerians and members of the international community had expected the Presidency of Muhammadu Buhari to use the Xmas Message to break its unholy silence over recent presidential atrocities and other forms of abuse of office and power; ranging from reported missing in action of dozens of soldiers, fragrant and rapacious disobedience or flouting of court orders and reckless executive interference in the judicial affairs; to the Zaria massacre and the Onitsha Killings and shootings. We had also expected the embattled Buhari’s Presidency to announce the prompt sack and arrest of the principal actors in the butcheries under reference particularly the trios of Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai; Inspector General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase; and Commander of the 302 Artillery Regiment of Nigerian Army, Onitsha, Col Issah Abdullahi; yet the Xmas Message turned out to be empty and collectively insulting.
Further to the foregoing was the graphic report of how the personnel of the Nigeria Police Force stationed on Southeast Roads by IGP Solomon Arase converted the roads into extortion and other graft scenes; resulting in them pocketing a whopping sum of N1.03 billion in 60 days. Despite the comprehensiveness of the report with recent pictures of police personnel caught brazenly and openly collecting bribes from motorists and other road users; yet the presidential Xmas message chose to ignore it. This is the same Government that goes about parroting locally and internationally of leading a war against corruption. In all these, the Presidency of Buhari and his security forces have adamantly chosen to remain in the past and dark, clinging on State terror and brigandage with impunity.
Arresting soldiers said to have perpetrated the massacre in Zaria and handing them over to the National Human Rights Commission for investigation is a clear case of the COAS being a judge in his own case. The first culprit to be arrested and investigated is the COAS, Lt Gen Tutur Buratai. Accepting such smokescreen or fire brigade approach on the part of the leadership of the NHRC, if true, is also conspiratorial, aiding and abetting; likewise reported intervention of the National Assembly as well as the so called “panel of inquiry”, reportedly set up by the Government of Kaduna State. As a matter of fact, the Government of Kaduna State is an inescapable accomplice in the said Zaria massacre. The case of Ezu River mass murder of January 2013 is still fresh in our memory. The investigative interventions into the dastardly act by the trios of Federal Government, Senate and then Government of Anambra State not only buried the matter, but also extricated the operatives of SARS particularly its Nnewi Unit, which was strongly believed to have accounted for at least 20 of over 40 lifeless bodies murdered late night and dumped in the River. These explain why we opposed and still oppose any form of internal investigation into the two butcheries in Zaria and Onitsha; except UN backed enquiries.
Finally, while we note with deep appreciation recent international reactions trailing the butcheries in Nigeria under reference, particularly the comprehensive report of the Human Rights Watch; which disclosed that “over 300 Shiite followers were killed by Nigerian soldiers and buried in secret mass graves”; we are still deeply concerned over scanty or no attention given to the Onitsha Killings and shootings particularly those of 2ndDecember 2015. It is our insistence that equal attention must be given to unlawful killings or butcheries that took place in any part of the world; failure of which will signal racial discrimination and abandonment; which can result to resort to self help and other forms of uncontrollable violence. We demand firmly that any credible investigation over the butcheries must be extended to the Onitsha Killings and shootings.
While wishing all Nigerians merry Xmas, we also remember the souls of those innocent citizens murdered in broad daylight in Zaria and Onitsha by soldiers and police personnel under firm and written orders of the duo of COAS and IGP. As their lives were cut short by the brute bullets of the principal culprits with the conspiracies of the chief security officers of the home States where they were murdered; so shall those that murdered them remain restless and earthly dangling for the rest of their lives until they are severely punished for heinous crimes they committed. On our part, we shall not rest on our oars until law takes its full course locally or internationally.
Emeka Umeagbalasi, Board Chairman
International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law
Obianuju Joy Igboeli
Head, Civil Liberties & Rule of Law Program