This Day (Lagos)

31 December 2013

Nigeria: NHRC to Set Up Committee to Probe Obasanjo's Allegations

Following the directive by President Goodluck Jonathan through the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN), to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the commission will be setting up a committee to investigate the allegations of human rights violations contained in former President Olusegun Obasanjo's letter to the president.

Confirming this Monday, a source at the commission said the committee would have been constituted but for the yuletide holiday season. The source said the commission has taken the instruction from the presidency seriously and would do all within its powers to investigate the allegations.

Investigations by THISDAY showed that the memo from the attorney-general requesting the commission to probe the allegations has already been circulated to all council members of the commission. Meanwhile, a non-governmental organisation, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has also sent a petition to the NHRC requesting it "to urgently investigate the recent allegation by former President Olusegun Obasanjo that the government of President Goodluck Jonathan is training snipers and other armed personnel secretly and clandestinely acquiring weapons to match for political purposes like Abacha, and training them where Abacha trained his own killers." SERAP urged the commission to ensure that anyone found to be involved in the training of snipers should be held responsible.

SERAP said it was concerned that the allegation, if found to be true, amounted to a grave breach of international law, and directly undermines the government's responsibility to safeguard the safety and security of the citizens. "It also constitutes an assault on the rule of law, and is entirely inconsistent with the practice of a democratic society, which Nigeria strives to become," SERAP said.

The organisation said government had a particular responsibility to protect all citizens and others resident in the country against human rights violations. It said: "The training of snipers will lead to a pervasive climate of insecurity and the absence of the rule of law. The legal right to life and protection against extrajudicial execution is recognized by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Nigeria is a state party. Article 6 of the Covenant states that 'No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.' This right is non-derogable even in times of emergency." Jonathan had last week directed NHRC to investigate the said rights abuses contained in Obasanjo's letter.

Acting on the instruction of the president, the attorney-general had forwarded Obasanjo's letter to the commission for investigation. In a memo dated December 23 and addressed to the Executive Secretary of NHRC, Prof. Bem Angwe, the attorney general had requested the commission to investigate the allegations bordering on human rights violations contained on pages 9-10 of Obasanjo's letter.

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