We at Igbo Ekunie want to state that African continent has disproportionately been a theatre of gross human rights violations which unfortunately has continued with no end in sight. While bad governance and overall irresponsible leadership have been the main culprit, we believe politicisation and or trivialisation of human rights violations in Africa and Nigeria in particular, the non-establishment of a human rights court by the African Union and inaction or insufficient action by the International Criminal Court even in many instances where evidence of such violations abound has by far helped to sustain the egregious human rights situation in Africa.
The case study of Nigeria suffices to establish this omission on the part of the ICC, the UN and other relevant agencies. For all intents and purposes, Nigeria has had and continues to have the highest incidents of human rights violations in Africa, yet for unfathomable reasons, there has to date been no indictment of any Nigerian official for such crimes against humanity. It’s a historical fact that genocide and or pogroms in Africa were pioneered in Nigeria between 1966 and 1967 when military officials, the police in collaboration with civilians and local authorities targeted and massacred more than 30,000 persons of Eastern origin while the then head of state General Gowon being part of the conspiracy did nothing. The massacres, rape and other such atrocities were to continue through the consequent civil war that lasted until 1970.
We submit that the non-punishment or at least indictment of the then head of state and principal officers; military/civilian who committed such crimes against humanity by the UN, the commonwealth, the Organisation of African Unity and other such agencies paved the way for subsequent genocides and human rights violations in Africa including the Rwanda genocide. While it is true that the Rome statute was not then existent, the precedent of the Nuremberg trials had already established a framework through which the perpetrators could have been pursued and brought to justice through the auspices of the United Nations and other such international or regional agencies. We note that the Rome statute and establishment of the International Criminal Court came into effect only in 2002 but we also note that the crimes of genocide and or crimes against humanity are not subject to any statute of limitations. We also note that the Rwanda genocide and the Liberian war that happened long before the establishment of the ICC have had culprits implicated in those atrocities indicted and convicted by the ICC.
Curiously, even though Nigeria continues to be a major theatre of human rights violations, no one has been indicted for either past or present crimes against humanity. For example, in 1999, the Odi massacre was carried out by the Nigerian army in Odi Bayelsa state followed in 2001 by the Zaki Biam massacre. The victims were all civilians who were subjected to rape, destruction of property and extrajudicial executions. Within the same period, the introduction of Sharia and ensuing riots orchestrated by well-known individuals consumed thousands of lives with no consequence. We note that while the 2007-08 post-election violence in Kenya that killed a few hundred people was quickly subject to the intervention of the International Criminal Court a similar 2011 post-election violence in Nigeria that according to Human Rights Watch killed almost a thousand people attracted neither investigations nor indictments by the International Criminal Court.
The obvious implication of these omissions/lapses by the ICC is that the Nigerian state; army, police and leadership has continued with the impunity of committing human rights violations at will. Consequently between 2015 and 2016 alone close to two thousand civilians have been massacred in plain view by the Nigerian army, Fulani herdsmen and other security agencies. The massacre of nearly a thousand Shiite adherents and hundreds of peaceful IPOB/MASSOB protesters in Aba, Onitsha, Asaba and elsewhere; some abducted and killed inside a church and some incarcerated or missing in a time of supposed democratic rule only serves to vitiate the damning levels of human rights violations in Nigeria. A new dimension of killings condoned by the federal government in recent times is the invasion and mass killing of civilians in various communities across the north-central and southern states by Fulani herdsmen while the president who is himself a Fulani and security services have conspiratorially done nothing. Just like the Janjaweed in the then Sudan, there is incontrovertible evidence that Fulani herdsmen have enjoyed the support of the state in carrying out massacres that have cost almost a thousand lives without consequence.
It is our conviction that these violations have continued because of the impunity associated with the lack of action by the ICC even though several petitions have been submitted in that regards. Realistically, the troubling incidence of human rights violations in Africa cannot be solved until culprits from countries like Nigeria where such atrocities are prevalent are punished to end the circle of impunity. We hereby ask for an update on the state of our petition and accordingly urge the ICC to break the jinx and deliberately act to investigate and indict Nigerian officials guilty of human rights violations.
Maazi Tochukwu Ezeoke
President Igbo Ekunie Initiative
Secretary Igbo Ekunie Initiative