A statement by the pro-democracy and leading civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) commending the decision of the Federal Attorney-General of the Federation to prosecute the persons responsible for the alleged killings and destructions in Idumuje Ugboko kingdom in Aniocha North Local Government and Aniocha North Local Government areas of Delta State to Court Under Anti-Terrorism law before the Federal High Court, and admonishing the Court system to ensure that justice is done to those Killed.
Gentlemen of the Fourth Estate of The Realm, we humbly welcome you all to this Press Briefing, which is completely our independent initiative in our capacity as the prominent Civil Rights Advocacy Group with no political affiliations but passionate about achieving just and equitable development in our dear country. Our track record within the organized civil society community in Nigeria spans nearly two decades of an unblemished record of patriotism, especially in the area of Human Rights.
As the leading civil rights advocacy group that monitored events preceding the series of police and National Human Rights Commission’s investigations after which the recommendation was made to the Office of the Federal Attorney General and Minister of Justice to commence prosecution, it has become pertinent for us to address you so as to clear some misconceptions.
More so, to commend this effort of this government that has come under intense criticisms for being too slow in taking actions to address matters of human rights concern.
For purposefulness in this statement, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), sequel to the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the USA, passed a Resolution 1373, which required member states to make not only terrorism a serious crime in domestic legislation along with terrorists funding and but also other ancillary offences.
Consequently, in Nigeria, the first direct attempt at tackling the problem was included in some sections of the EFCC (Establishment) Act 2004. A comprehensive Terrorism Bill was proposed at the National Assembly 2005 but did not pass into law. However, the situation changed with the passage of the Terrorism Prevention Act (TPA) of 2011 which was amended in 2013.
It has come to our notice that the decision of the Federal Attorney General of Nigeria; Abubakar Malami for the set of persons from Idumuje Ugboko community, who allegedly committed violent crimes resulting in the destruction of lives and properties to have their day in court of competent jurisdiction and not court of ‘cigarettes’ smoking and wine quaffing jesters’ has been subject of a vicious and sustained campaign of misrepresentation.
The campaigns are being carried out by some unscrupulous elements, opposed to justice, equity and fair play who are spreading wrong and poisonous narratives, making it look like the alleged killers who are in detention are actually the victims.
To achieve their nefarious objectives they have executed many sponsored write-ups all over the media space accusing Prince Ned Nwoko with the federal government’s action, painting the picture that he (Ned Nwoko) is intimidating his people because he has money.
For clarity, the charges that was in 2019 filed before the competent court of law relates to the Anti-Terrorism Act of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and not in any way connected with any land ownership civil litigation involving anyone in Idumuje Ugboko.
Pertinent to mention here that the gruesome attacks in Idumuje Community left much properties destroyed, people’s homes where burnt down and looted, valuable and lives where lost. The Police where first invited from the Local Government Headquarters at Issele-Uku, then state Police Headquarters in Asaba and later to Zone 5, Benin City, from where the matter went to Abuja.
It will be worthy to note here that the current Inspector-General of Police; Mohammed Adamu was the AIG in charge of Zone 5, Benin City when this matter was reported there and according to reports, it was Prince Nonso Nwoko who transferred the matter first to the AIG in Benin and then to the Inspector General’s Office.
The Federal government’s intervention, which has now resulted in a pending suit before the Federal High Court, Abuja Division has as one of the ingredients of the allegations thus: Conspiracy punishable under section 17 of the Terrorism (Prevention) (Amendment) Act 2013
Clearly, the statement issued by Comrade Salihu Isah; the Special Adviser (as he then was) to the Attorney General of the Federation; Abubakar Malami, SAN stated that the Federal Government following investigations into the case had decided to file the charges against the accused persons for violating the nation’s anti-terrorism laws.
Also, the Principal State Counsel; Mr. Magaji Labaran of the Nation’s Department of Public Prosecution, Federal Ministry of Justice alleged that one of the culprits, Ejimofe Nwoko between May 18-25, 2017 at Idumuje-Ugboko in Delta state conspired with the ten others to commit an act of terrorism punishable under Section 17 of the Terrorism (Prevention) Amendment Act, 2013.
Emphatically, their prosecution has nothing to do with land dispute. Land disputes are in civil courts. Rather their alleged criminal acts arose when they allegedly terrorized, beat up, set properties ablaze and allegedly killed two people among those who are opposed to Prince Nonso Nwoko becoming the king of Idumuje Ugboko. One of those brutalised also allegedly died from his wounds even as his pregnant wife was physically humiliated.
WHY THE AGF’S DECISION DESERVES OUR COMENDATION
Justifiably, the current administration’s intervention in the protracted human rights violations that have threatened the social fabrics of a notable agrarian community in the crude oil rich Delta state known as Idumuje-Ugboko which is approximately a trekkable distance from the political seat of power of Delta state of Asaba is generally applauded.
The need to restore lasting peace in Idumuje Ugboko on the one hand, and on the other hand to ensure that those who approached the National Human Rights commission through us to gain a sufficient redress of their dehumanization cannot be overemphasized.
Some of these persons have died as a consequence of the physical torture allegedly inflicted on them by some or all of those that the Central government of Nigeria has instituted a case of terror related charges for which they will be fully represented in the Court of competent jurisdiction and will have their day. This is what the constitution says about the court system of Nigeria in Section 6 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1999 as amended.
Moreover, the persons charged are still innocent in the eyes of the law until proven guilty by the court of law in line with section 36(5) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1999 (as amended). So there shouldn’t be any need to entertain any fear but should have their day in court to prove their innocence or otherwise.
Besides, the effect of this section as it relates to these Nigerians from Idumuje Ugboko community charged to court for terrorism is that they will be given fair hearing in line with section 36(5) of the Supreme law of Nigeria and they will be afforded every opportunity in this World to contradict the terror related charges filed against them and they have three stages to do this that is assuming without conceding that they may lose.
They now have the opportunity at the Court of first instance, the Court of Appeal and the final appellate forum which is the Supreme Court of Nigeria. So it is not as if once they are dragged before the court of first instance that they would be denied justice and an adversarial verdict imposed on them without any right of appeal.
OUR POSITION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Although the term “terrorism” has posed legal definition challenge, its peculiar characteristics manifest in motive founded on ideology, identifiable by signature violence and targets primarily intended to compel compliance. Hence, those terrorized in Idumuju Ugboko were seen as ideological enemies of those allegedly inflicting these physical harms.
All over the world, civilised people expect governments at state or national level where murder is committed to do everything within its legitimate powers to unravel the cause and perpetrators of such murder and bring the culprits to justice.
The government’s decision to institute a terror case against those alleged to have carried out the heinous crimes in Idumuje Ugboko Community is a welcomed development and should proceed with speedy prosecution so that there will be justice given to the victims.
Again, only few of those that were supposed to be charged and PROSECUTED before the court have actually been apprehended and detained. These are people government has already mentioned that have prima facie case to answer, why is government not making any effort in ensuring that those people come and answer to those charges and prove their innocence as the court will determine?
We have credible evidence allegedly suggesting that Okey Ifejioku; The Idumuje Ugboko Development Union President called for money to, according to the evidence, reinforce their arsenal, meaning they already built an arsenal that needed to be reinforced. Shouldn’t such a person be tried and convicted?
It is very wrong then for people to continue to push the wrong and poisonous narrative that the killers are now the victims. Are the people killed less of human beings than the people in detention? Wouldn’t it be better that one is in detention than he or she is in the grave? These should not be the issue, but that of justice delivery.
Therefore, while we welcome and applaud the government for taking this bold step, we admonish the court system to ensure that justice is not only done to those killed, but seen to have been done, because the way to lasting peace is decisive justice.