Nigeria's Justice System On Trial

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Cold Case Paradise

 

By Anwar Kazaure

 
Even before the brutal extra-judicial executions of the Nigerian Police Force were broadcast-ed on television and to the horror of the entire civilized world, back before the high-profile political assassinations of prominent individuals including then Attorney General of the Federation Chief Bola Ige made international headlines and exposed this reality for what it is; a blatant mockery of the Rule of Law. Look farther back to an era when sadistic Military Dictators held absolute power, the Nigerian Judiciary has never for once given anyone a reason to believe in its moral integrity.

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The above footage released by Aljazeera in 2009 revealed a frightening dimension to the mysterious resurgence of  an insecurity never witnessed in the country since the darkest days of the civil war and it also proved my point; that no society which desires to live in peace should tolerate such acts of wanton brutality, the cold-blooded murder of unarmed fellow countrymen is a disgraceful stain on the honor of our law enforcement agencies and a betrayal of the most fundamental reason to which they owe their existence.
I come from  a land where those whose duty is to enforce the laws are the same folks we see publicly extorting N20 from motorists, where traditional police work of protecting people’s lives and properties has become mere idealistic ethos pronounced only for  PR purposes.

Many a-times I witnessed an even bigger irony, of corporals on patrol punishing ordinary men and women not for any offense, but for refusing to pay a bribe. That’s what you get for been an honest and responsible citizen in a country where such values have been largely forgotten.
Yet, one must forgive the poor under-paid and under-equipped constable for his transgressions, he is as much a victim of this corrupt system as you or I. What we can not excuse however is the apparent inability of our police force to solve even the most basic criminal case; be it blue-collar misdemeanor or a political conspiracy, they all share one thing in common: that the perpetrators are never uncovered and the mystery files are left colder than a Russian Gulag.  Let us not talk about the widespread allegations of ‘accidental discharges’ and sometimes torture of innocent bystanders who happens to be in the wrong place and at the wrong time; let us close our eyes to what some may consider to be cowardice and a  dereliction of duty, I am talking about  the Police’s usual habit of showing up at a crime scene exactly five minutes late. Let us even ignore the sad story of Justice delayed and decades-long detention without conviction; There is nothing more disheartening than the travails of the thousands of  individuals rotting away in our dilapidated prisons. Some of these prisoners of conscience may have been framed, some may have been guilty, none was ever convicted.
NOTHING BRAVE ABOUT ‘THE BRAVE’
I grew up in the era when Military rule has become deeply entrenched in the Federation, and in such climate, we were brought up to revere the Nigerian Military and its ennobled role as the defenders of Nigeria’s unity and the sole guarantors of its territorial integrity, a difficult task by all account but a duty which they have never shrank away from whenever the need arises. If one is aware of the heavy price the Armed Forces have paid in the line of duty over the past 5 decades, one may develop some real admiration for these institutions. Unfortunately, this type of naive sentimentality and sometimes fear of retribution has led us into a situation whereby We The People having failed in our responsibility to ensure that those who fight in our name at home and overseas in places like Somalia and Sudan, only fight in a way that is agreeable to our conscience as Human beings and in accordance with pre-defined Rules of Engagement.
It is only now that the ghosts of Free Town are coming back to haunt us,  when almost 90% of those living in the areas affected by the ongoing insurgency say they fear the Joint Task Force (J.T.F) more than they are terrified by the constant attacks of the Boko Haram, only now that allegations of war crimes and denials are front page news that we begin to make demands we should have been making ages ago. The abuse of power and heavy handedness by the recruits of  both the Army and the Police Force is nothing new, what is however is the hypocrisy of some of the regional daily newspapers and their failure to rise above divisive sentiments and see that this isn’t just a problem that their countrymen in the North East region are facing, that it is rather a national one which deserves all our attention and immediate action. After all, today it may be others at the receiving-end but tomorrow it may be me; and who then would I count on to protest on your behalf?
We are yet to fully comprehend the motives behind the loud denials and outright hostility which followed Amnesty International’s release of a report  titled: ‘Nigeria: Trapped in the Cycle of Violence’, in which AI documents the atrocities of Boko Haram and also catalogued what it described as, “the serious human rights violations carried out by the security forces in response, including enforced disappearance, torture, extrajudicial executions, the torching of homes and detention without trial.”  When almost anybody living in affected areas can tell you that these accusations barely scratch the surface on the horrors they are forced to endure while terrorized from both opposing sides of the spectrum, the question is who then does the Federal Government want to mislead? Certainly not the people at the receiving end of the cold ‘facts on the ground’ or the sold-out traditional institutions whose duty it was to make sure such violations never occur in the first place,  nor could it be the Foreign Investors who are probably more informed then the chaps in Abuja considering the growing number of foreign spy agencies operating in the conflict zones and at the expense of National Security, so who else could it be?

“You can LIE to Everyone but not to Yourself”

ON BAGA: The Genesis of A Genocide

 “The cycle of attacks and counter-attacks has been marked by unlawful violence on both sides with devastating consequences for the human rights of the people trapped in the middle.

I will not tire you with long speeches and endless historical narrations on what I think is the cause of such constant tragedies, of mass extra-judicial killings by our security forces and the loud denials which foment this culture of impunity. The horrific images of burnt human beings, the death of 200 civilians caught in the crossfires and the unimaginable horror they speak-of; rampaging Soldiers setting an entire town aflame with people still inside their houses, throwing babies into raging incendiary fires and shooting sporadically at those running away for their dear lives. The People the Soldiers are supposed to be fighting for, ordinary People trapped in the middle of a violence that is taking a heavy toll on a society that is incapable of protecting its own.

Satellite Images Exposed the extent of  deliberate arson and the Gross Human Rights Violations perpetrated by State Actors.

While the politicians continue to play politics with People’s lives, while the majority is unwilling to confront this malignant trend, our hopes for peace are more likely to remain an elusive fantasy. This is because of principles as old as war itself; for any side to emerge victorious in a counter-insurgency conflict, the conventional military wisdom is that the support of the local population (their hearts and mind) is a key requirement of any winning strategy or battle-plan.

Such wanton brutality and attrition displayed by both sides in Baga shatters the confidence of the People in the JTF’s ability to Protect them and only help push them  closer to the arms of Boko Haram.

Has enough blood not been shed in the deadly cycle of revenge and retaliation?
Has enough lives not been wasted in the hopeless pursuit of a hollow victory?
Has the sacrifice of so many innocent souls not quench the thirst of hatred and greed?
Forgive them Almighty God.
It is time to LIVE and LET LIVE.

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