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Thursday, 28 April 2016

Family Writers Interview with Chairman of International Society For Civil Liberties And the Rule of Law

FAMILY WRITERS INTERVIEW WITH CHAIRMAN OF INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES AND THE RULE OF LAW



Emeka Umeagbalasi is the Chairman of a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) known as International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law(INTER-SOCIETY). He is a renowned Criminologist and an expert in Security Studies. He is an Alumnus of IVLP of the US Department of State. He was also a pre-group coordinator of Amnesty International, formerly Nigerian section and a former Chairman of Civil Liberties Organisation in Anambra State.

In this exclusive interview with Paul Ihechi Alagba of Family Writers, he fearlessly spoke about numerous glaring Human Rights abuses being perpetrated by the government of Muhammadu Buhari, his perception of IPOB as regards to the agitation for Biafra Restoration, the rot in Nigerian judiciary and the bias mindset of Human Rights Organisations in Nigeria and that of Nigerian media outlets.



SIR, BEING THE CHAIRMAN OF INTER-SOCIETY, CAN YOU EXPLAIN THE AIMS AND OBJECTIVES BEHIND THE ORGANISATION?

Well, the truth of the matter is that the global community is being governed by a set of rules. Some of these rules are morally binding, while others are legally binding. A collection of these set of rules is what we call the International Law. If you go into this international law, you have further divisions- for instance, you have the International Humanitarian law, International Human Rights law, International Criminal law, Refugee law and many others. Again, if you look at the principles and purposes of the United Nations, they are fundamentally anchored on the respect for Human Rights. Nigeria saw all these things and resolved to become an integral part of the United Nations as well as a party to so many international Human Rights treaties and Humanitarian treaties which are legally binding. So with all these things, what it means is that how Nigeria conducts its business locally and internationally should be the concern of credible and formidable Civil Society Organisations. This includes how Nigeria relates with the people who are citizens of Nigeria including the Biafrans.



NOW COMING TO THE ISSUE OF BIAFRA, HOW DOES ALL THESE INTERNATIONAL LAWS YOU'VE JUST MENTIONED APPLY TO BIAFRA AGITATION BY INDIGENOUS PEOPLE OF BIAFRA(IPOB)?

Basically, the one that concerns the struggle with respect to Biafra agitation in a non-violent form has to do with International Human Rights law which include Right to Self Determination and also International Humanitarian law to an extent. It is an indisputable fact that Nigeria is a member of several international communities particularly the United Nations Organisation and as a member of these international communities, Nigeria is bound by these set of rules which include international Human Rights Norms and international Humanitarian norms. By the way, when any group wants to go into agitation whether for State or for Right to Self Determination, that group is also expected to be bound by international rules and regulations. These rules and regulations are not only restricted to Nigeria as a State party, they are also extended to IPOB or any other group as a recognised Non-State actor member of United Nations. No organisation or group is expected to wake up one morning to start any form of agitation without adherence to the laid down principles of United Nations. The agitation must be be recognised and anchored within the context  of international Rules and Regulations.



DO YOU THINK IPOB IS RIGHTFULLY APPLYING THESE FUNDAMENTAL INTERNATIONAL PRINCIPLES OR LAWS IN THE COURSE OF ITS AGITATION?

Before our organisation decided to do a kind of advocacy campaign for IPOB, we did some kind of investigation to know the organogram or setting of IPOB, who and who is behind the IPOB, then the methodology IPOB itself is using and we discovered that to the best of our knowledge and all the protests that our Group has monitored, IPOB has never advocated or used violence. If IPOB had or have taken up arms, then the kind of sympathy and Human Rights advocacy backing it will be getting from us would have been different. IPOB resolved to follow the laid down rules of the international community through which such right to Self Determination can be possible and a summary of those rules is NON VIOLENCE.


HOW WOULD YOU RATE THE RESPONSE NIGERIAN GOVERNMENT IS GIVING TO THE PEACEFUL OR NON VIOLENT AGITATION OF IPOB OR BIAFRANS?

Like I said, IPOB has never advocated or used violence rather, it is the Nigerian government through the security agencies in Nigeria that are trying to implant violence within them or trying to provoke the organisation to resort to violence so that they will have more reasons to kill them in mass. Even when IPOB refuse to apply these violent methods, the security forces still went ahead to shoot them in their dozens.



DO YOU THINK NIGERIA IS ADHERING STRICTLY TO THE INTERNATIONAL OBLIGATIONS WHICH IT SIGNED AND AGREED TO UPHOLD?

The answer is no. If Nigeria has adhered strictly to international obligations,  you wouldn't have heard of a situation where people that gathered in a particular compound that has a perimeter fencing, the Nigerian security forces moved in there and opened fire on them. People that were just singing praises to God, you move in, shoot and kill them in their dozens. Then again at Niger bridge head last year, people on hearing that court has ordered the release of their leader- Nnamdi Kanu, abandoned the meeting they were holding, pumped into the street and started jubilating. On getting to the Niger bridge to salute the statue of Ojukwu, the soldiers opened fire on them and killed many of them and not only killing them, the soldiers after killing them took away the corpses of those they killed and some of the people that were at the point of death. The others that were recovered from the scene were taken to the hospital but the soldiers also stormed the hospital at about 8minutes past 10 in the night and confisticated those people that were receiving treatment. All these things are in a serious violation of the International Humanitarian law. As a matter of fact, it is stated under optional protocol 2 of 1949 of Geneva conventions that even in a state of war, the law provides that once a soldier is injured, whether that soldier is your soldier or a soldier that belongs to your opponent, you are bound to get the soldier treated not to talk of shooting and killing people and going ahead to abduct those undergoing treatment at the hospital. So that is why we became interested in what is happening.



WHAT EXACTLY IS THE ROLE YOUR NGO IS PLAYING TO CURB OR CURTAIL THIS GRIEVOUS ACTS FROM NIGERIAN GOVERNMENT?

Now generally, we are trying to serve as a buffer between the Federal government of Nigeria and IPOB worldwide within the context of the rules guarding the Sovereign States and the international community as well as between the Sovereign State internally and its citizens such as IPOB in the course of the Right to Self Determination and Nigeria. Article 1,2 and 3 of African chapter recognises the Right to Self Determination non-violently and Nigeria is a party to it. It is already a part of Nigeria municipal law. The international consonants of civil, political, social and cultural Rights also have provisions for self determination which Nigeria is a part of. Then Nigeria as a member of UN is also bound by basic principles of international law which include that a State must not use force to disperse Non-violent assembly even if that assembly is an unlawful assembly provided it is non-violent. So our organisation is trying to ensure that Nigeria adheres to these basic principles.


DO YOU THINK SEVERAL OTHER HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANISATIONS AND MEDIA ARE DOING ENOUGH IN EXPOSING THE ATROCITIES OF NIGERIAN GOVERNMENT WHEN IT COMES TO HUMAN RIGHTS OF THE POPULACE EXPECIALLY THE BIAFRANS?

I don't think so. This is because of their vested interest. I am aware that most of the Human Rights Organisations before now used to have the South West or Lagos as their stronghold and their operational base. To be precise, that is where 60-70% of Human Rights Organisations in Nigeria are located and most of them conspired in one way or the other and installed the present administration either by hook or crook due to their connections. All those people that have made name as Human Rights activist and organisations have all sealed their lips. Unfortunately, 50 or 60% of them are from the South East. One of the organisations that is worthy to be mentioned is National Human Rights Commission(NHRC). When Zaria massacre took place, they rushed in and I told the whole world that they are going to set up a commission of investigation but when members of IPOB or Biafrans were massacred in their dozens, all of them shut up. They have not said anything up-till today. Also when Nnamdi Kanu was being denied his legal Rights, we wrote to the Chief Justice of Nigeria. They did not respond to that letter until after three months and what did they tell us? They told us that we should wait until the court matter is disposed of, that as long as that matter is in court, they are not going to say anything. The implication of this is that even if you are taken to military tribunal and your legal Rights are being denied or abused, the Chief Justice of Nigeria and the National Human Rights Commission cannot comment on that. So you find out that such a Human Rights Organisation is ill-motivated. To put it short,-there is a political undertone. You can only hear them talking once it has to do with Buhari's corruption. No matter how he fight it, you will see them coming out addressing a press conference that nothing will stop this man from fighting corruption. That is to say that Buhari fighting corruption and killing people- no problem provided it is corruption.

  

Now coming over to the media in Nigeria, the paper and television media in Nigeria are also being controlled by the South West or Yorubas and they have passion for the killing of Biafrans. How many times have you seen them set up any panel of discussant on any major private or public television house in Nigeria talking about the killing of IPOB members in Aba and Onitsha? You can never! It’s a conspiracy, its deliberate because they are the people that installed this government and by installing this government, they have lost focus, they have lost credibility, so we are not surprised over their silence of the grave yard. The paper and tv media in Nigeria are in support of the killing of innocent Nigerians because they do not belong to the tribe or section of their preference. If those people that have been killed belong to something like Yoruba or Hausa Fulani, ehee, we would have seen a different reaction. Look at them, all the big names, some of them are Senior Advocates of Nigeria. They are not speaking. That is the truth about the whole thing.



NOW THAT ICC HAVE ANNOUNCED THE COMMENCEMENT OF THEIR INVESTIGATION IN NIGERIA, WILL YOUR ORGANISATION BE PLAYING ANY ROLE IN THE COURSE OF THIS INVESTIGATION?

We do not know the nature of their investigation, but all we know is that there have been a number of petitions before them with respect to what is happening in Nigeria. We also know that the International Criminal Court (ICC) does not always work in isolation. There are so many principles that guide the ICC intervention. When a State is being fingered as responsible for the killing of its citizens. Even if the country that is being fingered says it did not sanction the killings, the question is- What have you done to bring the perpetrators to book? This is a fundamental requirement in ICC statutes and they call it "principles of complimentality." If a country is found unwilling and unable to address some Human Rights abuses like the killing of IPOB members, then that means technically, the IPOB has a case and the ICC automatically has a jurisdiction. As I am speaking with you, the Chief of Army Staff is walking in Nigeria streets and even boasting, the retiring Inspector General of Police is still boasting, although because he knows that his retirement is at hand, he is no longer talking loquaciously on the media threatening fire and brimstone. In fact i'm sure they are out to scuttle the investigation


DO YOU THINK SEVERAL OTHER HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANISATIONS AND MEDIA ARE DOING ENOUGH IN EXPOSING THE ATROCITIES OF NIGERIAN GOVERNMENT WHEN IT COMES TO HUMAN RIGHTS OF THE POPULACE EXPECIALLY THE BIAFRANS?

I don't think so. This is because of their vested interest. I am aware that most of the Human Rights Organisations before now used to have the South West or Lagos as their stronghold and their operational base. To be precise, that is where 60-70% of Human Rights Organisations in Nigeria are located and most of them conspired in one way or the other and installed the present administration either by hook or crook due to their connections. All those people that have made name as Human Rights activist and organisations have all sealed their lips. Unfortunately, 50 or 60% of them are from the South East. One of the organisations that is worthy to be mentioned is National Human Rights Commission(NHRC). When Zaria massacre took place, they rushed in and i told the whole world that they are going to set up a commission of investigation but when members of IPOB or Biafrans were massacred in their dozens, all of them shut up. They have not said anything up-till today. Also when Nnamdi Kanu was being denied his legal Rights, we wrote to the Chief Justice of Nigeria. They did not respond to that letter until after three months and what did they tell us? They told us that we should wait until the court matter is disposed of, that as long as that matter is in court, they are not going to say anything. The implication of this is that even if you are taken to military tribunal and your legal Rights are being denied or abused, the Chief Justice of Nigeria and the National Human Rights Commission cannot comment on that. So you find out that such a Human Rights Organisation is ill-motivated. To put it short,-there is a political undertone. You can only hear them talking once it has to do with Buhari's corruption. No matter how he fight it, you will see them coming out addressing a press conference that nothing will stop this man from fighting corruption. That is to say that Buhari fighting corruption and killing people- no problem provided it is corruption.

Now coming over to the media in Nigeria, the paper and television media in Nigeria are also being controlled by the South West or Yorubas and they have passion for the killing of Biafrans. How many times have you seen them set up any panel of discussant on any major private or public television house in Nigeria talking about the killing of IPOB members in Aba and Onitsha? You can never! Its a conspiracy, its deliberate because they are the people that installed this government and by installing this government, they have lost focus, they have lost credibility, so we are not surprised over their silence of the grave yard. The paper and tv media in Nigeria are in support of the killing of innocent Nigerians because they do not belong to the tribe or section of their preference. If those people that have been killed belong to something like Yoruba or Hausa Fulani, ehee, we would have seen a different reaction. Look at them, all the big names, some of them are Senior Advocates of Nigeria and mostly Biafrans. They are not speaking. That is the truth about the whole thing.



NOW THAT ICC HAVE ANNOUNCED THE COMMENCEMENT OF THEIR INVESTIGATION IN NIGERIA, WILL YOUR ORGANISATION BE PLAYING ANY ROLE IN THE COURSE OF THIS INVESTIGATION?

We do not know the nature of their investigation, but all we know is that there have been a number of petitions before them with respect to what is happening in Nigeria. We also know that the International Criminal Court (ICC) does not always work in isolation. There are so many principles that guide the ICC intervention. When a State is being fingered as responsible for the killing of its citizens, even if the country that is being fingered says it did not sanction the killings, the question is- What have you done to bring the perpetrators to book? This is a fundamental requirement in ICC statutes and they call it "principles of complementarity." If a country is found unwilling and unable to address some Human Rights abuses like the killing of IPOB members, then that means technically, the IPOB has a case and the ICC automatically has a jurisdiction. As I am speaking with you, the Chief of Army Staff is walking in Nigeria streets and even boasting, the retiring Inspector General of Police is still boasting, although because he knows that his retirement is at hand, he is no longer talking loquaciously on the media threatening fire and brimstone. In fact I’m sure they are up to something to scuttle the investigation..


...(cuts in) ACTUALLY, THAT DRAWS ME TO THE INSINUATIONS MAKING THE ROUNDS THAT ICC MAY BE INFLUENCED NEGATIVELY BY NIGERIAN GOVERNMENT IN THE COURSE OF THEIR INVESTIGATION. HOW POSSIBLE CAN THIS BE?

ICC can never be influenced by anybody. The way ICC is established, if a country cannot influence the judgment against another country before the International Court of Justice, then ICC can never be influenced. The reason why ICC was established is to address the issue of impunity by leaders, State actors and non-State actors. Formerly a leader can commit offence and order the killing of ten thousand people just like the IPOB and Shiit muslims were killed in Biafra land and Zaria respectively and Army chief go scort free saying- "after all  I’m protected by immunity", but in the eyes of ICC, there is no immunity for impunity. Therefore, if at the end of the day Buhari is fingered, international arrest warrant will be issued against him and that means he will now begin to calculate where he goes to and where he does not go. Same is applicable to his Army Chief, Inspector General of Police and others. And also, due to what is happening now, they are very desperate. What they did in Biafra and Zaria is hooking them and they are trying to do anything to destroy the evidence but the evidences of their atrocities on IPOB and that of Zaria are too difficult for them to destroy but then that is where it is because evidence does not lie. What they did was so glaring, a situation whereby after killing some people, you took them away, dump them somewhere and after some days, you went to the mortuary and dumped them there only for us to discover some of those people they dumped in the morgue. We actually kept all the necessary evidences and have them documented. They are afraid, if it is possible to bribe the ICC, they can do that but the standard and conditions under which ICC operates cannot allow any Sovereign State to influence them.



...(cuts in) IS THAT WHY WE GET TO SEE SOME MURDERED BIAFRANS WHO WERE SECRETLY BURIED IN MASS GRAVES AND BURNT AFTER THEIR BODIES WERE DISCOVERED?

Exactly, that is true but there are so many other things. If you destroy those corpses, have you destroyed those ones that their families have taken home and buried? Are you going to go to their families and start exhuming them? Destroying the corpses and setting them on fire does not quench the fire or even explicate them from criminal responsibilities. The day of reckoning is coming. I believe that we are doing what we are doing so that the culture of impunity will no longer have feet in Nigeria.



NOW MOVING OVER TO NNAMDI KANU'S TRIAL  DO YOU THINK NIGERIA GOVERNMENT HAVE ANY CASE AGAINST HIM?

I don't think so. I told you about the issue of International law, there is an aspect of International Human Right law and Humanitarian law that is called the International Refugee law. So if you look at that Refugee law, it says while defining the issue of refugees, people are entitled to be accorded the rights adherent to refugees, It says that people who are running away from accusation and commission of crime in the country of their origin are not qualified to be accorded the status of Refugee apart from those who are accused of committing a political crime. If you are accused of committing a political crime like this particular treasonable felony that they are charging Nnamdi Kanu of, the international community does not see it or see you as a criminal suspect because they know that these allegations can be persecutory and that people can be easily persecuted on the account of their criticism of the government or disagreement with some government policies or certain demands. So I think what Nnamdi Kanu is facing in the hands of Federal Government is persecution and not prosecution.


WHAT IS YOUR POSITION ON THE ALLEGATION THAT JUSTICE TSOHO, THE JUDGE HANDLING NNAMDI KANU'S TRIAL IS BEING MANIPULATED BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT?

The issue is that there are conditions under which a judge handling a case can be criticised or under which you can disagree or agree with him. For instance, when a judge is handling a case and it appears to you that the two fundamental principles guiding the rule of law is being toyed with or when a judge begins to engage in activities or conduct that makes him to look as if he is becoming a judge in his own case instead of being a dis-interested State party just like Nnamdi Kanu and the Federal government, then an alarm concerning the conduct of the judge can be raised. On these grounds, anybody can say his opinion with respect to the conduct of Justice Tsoho so far. Also when there is a strong allegation that Justice Tsoho is warming up to succeed the current Chief Judge of Federal High court, then the probability of the judge not being fair to all parties in the suit is very high.



WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO SAY ON TSOHO'S CONTROVERSIAL RULING ALLOWING MASKED WITNESSES IN THE TRIAL HAVING EARLIER REFUSED SUCH PROPOSAL?

This is exactly one of the things I’m taking about. Now in the whole thing, it means that the two foundations of rule of law are under threat. For instance, by probating and reprobating, he is no longer being fair and the issue of the principle of impartiality and legality that guides the legal proceedings have been brought to question. When a judge finds out that there is strong public perception that he is not handling the proceeding in a manner that is laid down, what the judge will do is to hands-off and that is why we advice him that since in these controversies started, he has not been able to resolve any of them, what he should do is to resign from the case and allow another judge to take over the matter because he has a vested interest and there is no way a judge that has a vested interest can continue to dispense what Justice C. Oputa called "three way justice". That is justice to the State (Federal Government), justice to Nnamdi Kanu and Justice to the Nigerian society. So that is why people like us are not happy with him. Again, some of the rulings he has given, he has refused to sign for any of the party that wishes to go to Appeal court. As at the last time I was told, he has refused to sign a number of those ruling thereby frustrating the defence council to Nnamdi Kanu from enjoying their right of Appeal. So the totality of all these shows that he is not clean. He doesn't have the integrity or credibility to continue with the trial.



IS THERE STILL ANY HOPE THAT NNAMDI KANU WILL GET JUSTICE FROM NIGERIA IN THE COURSE OF HIS TRIAL?

The thing is that the Federal government, that is Buhari himself has stepped out at all cost to send Nnamdi Kanu to jail. Sending Nnamdi Kanu to jail is a fundamental part of his old brigade thinking of locking everybody up in the prison, not knowing that the world has changed. He has been scuttling the independence of the judiciary by determining the judge who will sit over the case and concoct all sorts of things to make sure that Nnamdi Kanu goes to jail by fire by force forgetting that he cannot remain President forever. He doesn't want Nnamdi Kanu to defend himself, there is no evidence against him, in fact as I speak to you, Buhari's DSS have continued to  concoct one form of fabricated evidence or the other, if this one doesn't work, they come up with another theory tomorrow. Remember there was a time they asked the court that Nnamdi Kanu be detained forever for his alleged involvement in terrorism and terrorism financing. When that one was knocked off, they came up with another soldier- this time they say treason. The worst is that they don't have evidence, the only thing they are doing is that once you mention treason, the person will be detained and granting him bail will be difficult but in their short sightedness, they are not looking at the end of it, how the whole thing is going to end. Mandela was in prison for 27years and after that he came out. And also while Nnamdi Kanu is there, they are doing everything possible including influencing anybody, springing up groups and casting division here and there trying to destroy IPOB.

This is democracy, there is a limit to everything anybody can do and human being cannot take up the responsibility of God. So whenever somebody is trying to do something because you are in power today, remember that tomorrow you cannot be in power. In less than eight years from now, Buhari is not going to be the President of Nigeria come what may.


IS THERE ANY CHALLENGES YOUR ORGANISATION HAVE BEEN FACING FROM NIGERIAN GOVERNMENT GIVEN YOUR UNINTIMIDATED STANCE AGAINST THEIR ATROCITIES?

Yes ofcourse. If you are fighting this type of course, there is no way you can be doing it without stress and security issues. When you talk of challenges, you talk of psychological challenges and physical challenges or stress. Ofcourse you cannot say nobody is this, its part of the game but the most important thing is that the organisation is focused, the organisation has intellectual capacity which is the most important thing and also divinely speaking, that God is behind the organisation. And ofcourse the souls of these people that have been murdered, I am sure wherever they are, they will be happy because their case is being taken up by somebody and I so much believe they have some influence and power. They are not here physically but they are in the cosmic world watching. Operating from the cosmic world means that their powers are doubled- they have influence here on the physical world and the spiritual world. The only thing is that we can no longer see them in physical setting because they have transited. I believe that the totality of all these things have the capacity of giving us the necessary protections we need and again continue to work.



FINALLY, WHAT LAST WORD DO YOU HAVE FOR BIAFRANS AND IPOB LEADERSHIP AS WELL AS NIGERIAN GOVERNMENT?

Well, there is nothing much to say. What I know is that for now, the IPOB worldwide has not resorted to any conduct that violates any of the international norms. Their demands are obtainable within the confines of the constitution. It is also obtainable within the confines of African Chapter for Human and People's Rights. It is also obtainable within the confines of International Human Rights norms like Universal declaration of Human Rights, international consonant of civil and political right as well as social and cultural right and Nigeria is a full party to all of them. Nigeria undertook the responsibility of adhering and protecting the rights of all its citizens and we believe that if IPOB is saying they don't want to stay in Nigeria anymore, you don't oppress them, you don't intimidate them, and you don't use violence as a response to what they have said as far as they have not resorted to violence.

Nigeria government should call them (IPOB), there are so many ways of settling some of these issues. You look into the problem, the reasons why they said they don't want to be part of Nigeria again. Is there any way you are marginalising them? What is the ratio of Biafrans to other Nigerians in the area of Federal appointments as well as the police or senior security officers? Is the zone adequately represented in the number of States, local government and geo-legislation? Are the lives of Biafrans adequately protected in Nigeria? Is there any structural violence against Biafrans? And so many others. There must be reason for something. Biafrans did not wake up one morning to say they don't want to be in Nigeria anymore, there must be reason why they said so and you cannot respond to all these things violently against them. We believe that the international community will catch up with them and that is exactly what is happening. You should know that we are not against the Nigerian government, we are also not against IPOB but where we complain is where the conduct of the government becomes internationally and locally unacceptable. We will come and say- NO! This thing you have done is wrong and it must be condemned. Likewise on the side of IPOB, if IPOB wakes up tomorrow and engages in something that violates the international norms, we will turn against them. So that’s exactly what we are doing. We want the both parties to restrict their activities within the confines of international law and international code of conduct.

Follow family Writers on Twitter handle  @FamilyWriters1

1 comment

  1. What more can i say, my hope is being completely restored, with the messenger of truth Mazi Nnadmi Kanu the Director of RadioBiafra/BTV, the one & only truly genuinely Leader of Biafrans world wild, coupled with after reading this undiluted information, i can assured us that there are still good men left in our society. I do not wish to use the word may, no. I said Chiukwu Okike Abhiama who brought our family writers must uphold them till eternity, that non of them shall fall by the way side till we matching inn to the promise land of the risen Sun Biafra. Iseeee.

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