Buhari’s government vilifying rights groups in Nigeria ahead of elections

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The government of President Muhammadu Buhari is vilifying human rights and humanitarian organizations in Nigeria and 33 of them signed a letter on Tuesday calling for a stop.

The attacks have escalated in recent months and days ago, the Nigerian military accused UNICEF of helping Boko Haram terrorists wreak havoc in the Lake Chad Basin. 

Why it matters: Nigerians go to the polls in February, and it seems the government has become less tolerant to all forms of criticisms.

The NGOs singled out the military as being the most vociferous branch of Buhari’s government launching incessant attacks on rights groups.

“The latest of such attacks has been the announcement of the ban of UNICEF, later rescinded and the call to close the Nigerian Office of Amnesty International Nigeria, which has become a regular object of attack by the Nigerian military and security services for doing its work of exposing human rights violations,” the rights groups said.

Read full statement 

We as stakeholders in the human rights community in Nigeria are concerned about the incessant attacks and criticisms of human rights and humanitarian organisations by the Nigerian Government and its security agencies, in particular, the Nigerian military and security services.

The latest of such attacks has been the announcement of the ban of UNICEF, later rescinded and the call to close the Nigerian Office of Amnesty International Nigeria, which has become a regular object of attack by the Nigerian military and security services for doing its work of exposing human rights violations.

We totally condemn threats and intimidation of UNICEF and Amnesty International Nigeria by the Nigerian military and security services, especially as even the Presidency has joined in the fray. That these threats are always issued against Amnesty International Nigeria whenever it issues a report detailing credible allegations of human rights violations in Nigeria shows that the attacks are aimed at gagging the organization, undermining credible human rights reporting and covering up systemic violations of human rights. 

What is curious is that all the threats and accusations against Amnesty International Nigeria by the Nigerian military and security services have consistently failed to present any empirical evidence that contradict the reports issued. It is clear to all objective observers that Amnesty International Nigeria is doing a great job of documenting human rights violations in Nigeria and seeking to bring human rights violators to justice. The Nigerian military and security services should prioritize protecting Nigeria and Nigerians instead of throwing laughable accusations at international organizations providing vital lifesaving services to Nigerians.

The work of Amnesty International Nigeria should be seen as guide for Nigerian government to initiate investigation of allegations of human rights violations. Throwing denials at allegations of human rights violations raised by Amnesty International Nigeria and other human rights and humanitarian agencies only puts the Nigerian military and security services into global ridicule. 

In 2017, the Government established the Presidential Investigation Panel to investigate allegations of non-compliance with human rights obligations and Rules of engagement by the Nigerian Armed Forces in local conflicts and insurgency. This means that Government is aware that there are credible allegations of human rights violations by the military. The Panel submitted its report in February 2018 but there has been no report or whitepaper based on their findings. Rather than continue to harass Amnesty International Nigeria for investigating and reporting on alleged acts of human rights violations by the military, the President should start by revealing the findings of the Panel he had himself set up.

Despite the reflex of consistent attacks by the Nigerian government and its security agencies, the gravamen of the allegations by Amnesty International Nigeria have been largely upheld and corroborated by official investigations, including the Justice Biobele Georgewill Presidential Investigation Panel (PIP).  It is unfortunate that despite the pattern of serious and systematic human rights violations reported by non-governmental monitors and affirmed by official investigations, the Federal Government has failed for about three years to re-constitute the Governing Councils of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria (LACON) in order to give these bodies full standing capabilities to lead in promoting and protecting human rights in Nigeria. To show its seriousness about addressing the issues that Amnesty International Nigeria revealed in its report(s), Nigeria’s Federal Government should without further delay re-constitute the Governing Councils of both the NHRC and LACON  and fully fund both institutions to fulfil their mandates.

Amnesty International Nigeria is manned by Nigerians. Therefore, the Federal Government and all security agencies including the Nigerian Armed Forces are under constitutional obligation to protect their rights and interests as citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. 

In addition, the latest attack against Amnesty International Nigeria corroborates the recent report by the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court that Nigerian authorities tend to deny any allegation of human rights violations by security agencies.  

Nigerian civil society stands with Amnesty International Nigeria and we urge Nigerian government to prioritize protecting the sanctity of the lives of Nigerians.

SIGNED BY:

1.     Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD)
2.    Centre  for Democratic Research and Training (CRDDERT)
3.    Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC)
4.    Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Centre)
5.    Public Interest Lawyers League (PILL) 
6.    Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC)
7.    Partners for West Africa
8.    Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD)
9.    Socio-Economic Right and Accountability Project (SERAP)
10. Zero-Corruption Coalition (ZCC)
11.  Accountability Maternal New-born and Child Health in Nigeria (AMHiN)
12. Partners on Electoral Reform
13. State of the Union (SOTU)
14. African Centre for Media and Information Literacy 
15. National Procurement Watch Platform
16. Say NO Campaign—Nigeria 
17. Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civil Education (CHRICED)
18. Social Action
19. International Press Centre
20.WANGONET
21. Community Action for Popular Participation
22.Borno Coalition for Democracy and Progress (BOCODEP
23.Global Rights
24.Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC)
25.Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law
26.Alliance for Credible Elections (ACE)
27.Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth & Advancement (YIAGA) 
28.Tax Justice Nigeria
29.Practice section on public interest and Development Law 
30.Environmental Rights Action (ERA)
31. Women in Nigeria 
32.African Centre for Leadership, Strategy & Development (Centre LSD)
33.CLEEN Foundation
………

NAF Immortalizes Fighter-Pilot Baba-Ari in Maiduguri

As a mark of honour for the supreme price paid by Late Squadron Leader (Sqn Ldr) Muhammed Bello Baba-Ari, an experienced fighter pilot who died on 28 September 2018 while participating in the aerial display rehearsals for the 58th Nigerian Independence Day Celebration, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has named the newly commissioned Pilots’ Crew Room at the Headquarters Air Task Force (HQ ATF) Operation LAFIYA DOLE in Maiduguri after the late senior officer. The ultra-modern Pilots Crew Room Building, which houses a briefing room, computer room/library, pilots’ life-support room, lounge, recreation room, kitchen, 3 bedrooms for pilots on standby as well as several restrooms, would go a long way in adding value to the fight against insurgency and bolstering the morale of officers and men in the frontlines. The ceremony, which took place in Maiduguri today, 18 December 2018, also witnessed the commissioning of a newly constructed HQ ATF Extension Building as well as the winging of 5 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) pilots, in furtherance of the capacity building initiatives of the current NAF leadership.

In his remarks during the event, the Special Guest of Honour (SGOH), former Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Air Marshal Al-Amin Daggash, commended the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, for the monumental achievements the current NAF administration has made since 2015. He acknowledged the many milestones attained in such a short time, as evidenced by the many completed projects in all NAF Bases across the Country. This, he said, was a clear testimony of the zeal and commitment of the CAS to the welfare of NAF personnel. He equally expressed admiration for the remarkable operational achievements the NAF had recorded in the past 3 years. According to him, the achievements were clearly manifested in the NAF’s effective projection of air power in pursuit of national security objectives across the country, particularly in Operation LAFIYA DOLE. He noted that the highly commendable operational successes were attributed largely to the dynamic leadership of the CAS as well as the acquisition and induction of various platforms into the inventory of the NAF by the Federal Government. He therefore expressed appreciation to President Muhammadu Buhari for providing necessary support to enhance the operational readiness and welfare of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, in spite of the current economic realities of the Country. 

Speaking further, Air Marshal Daggash noted that the winging of the 5 UAV pilots was yet another testimony of the CAS’ adept dexterity in focusing attention on all aspects of Service growth. He congratulated the officers for attaining their new status while urging them to employ their newly acquired knowledge and skill to add value to efforts aimed at securing the nation. The former CDS also commended the CAS for immortalizing late Sqn Ldr Baba-Ari, a committed, dedicated and experienced fighter pilot who participated actively in the operations in the North-East, by naming the magnificent Pilots’ Crew Room Building after him. He described the gesture as befitting and appropriate. He enjoined officers and men to imbibe such sterling qualities while redoubling their efforts to uplift the NAF and the Nation to more enviable heights.

The CAS, in his opening remarks, expressed delight to be in Maiduguri to assess the conduct of operations while also seizing the opportunity to witness the commissioning of the projects and winging of the UAV pilots. He noted that the event was another opportunity to re-focus attention on the clarion call of the nation for increased commitment to duty and service. He observed that the NAF has been performing very crucial roles towards providing the much needed air support to enable ground operations proceed unhindered. According to him, “in pursuit of the NAF’s constitutional roles, and also in line with my vision for the NAF, I have constantly sought, not only to evolve strategies that would enable the Service adequately project air power to effectively and efficiently deal with prevalent security threats, but to also see to it that personnel welfare is given utmost priority”, he said.

The CAS, who expressed satisfaction with the progressive performances of the ATF against the insurgents, especially during the last Operation GREEN SWEEP, further charged the Task Force to reciprocate the various welfare enhancements by dealing harder and more effective blows against the remaining elements of the Boko Haram insurgents with a view to completely eliminating them. He reassured the troops of NAF support, particularly in providing what they require to prosecute the war, as far as the prevailing national economic realities permit. Air Marshal Abubakar also thanked the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buahari, for his overwhelming support to the NAF towards the achievement of its desired goals. He pledged the resolute commitment of the Service to the successful execution of the ongoing counterinsurgency efforts. He also specially appreciated the SGOH and former CDS for his presence at the event while noting that the enviable status of the NAF was attributable to the legacies he and previous Chiefs had built in the past.  

Earlier in his welcome address, the Commander ATF, Air Vice Marshal James Gwani, said the CAS, in seeking to enhance the welfare of the ever increasing number of personnel posted to the ATF, had embarked on massive construction of office and residential accommodation in NAF Base Maiduguri. He noted that this had gone long way in boosting the morale and fighting spirit of the troops. He said the Pilots’ Crew Room was simply another one of such morale-boosting initiatives aimed at providing a dedicated, purpose-built location for aircrew to relax and refresh before or after operational missions. He therefore expressed the profound gratitude of the entire ATF to the CAS for the final realization of a Pilots’ Crew Room, consistent with international standards.

IBIKUNLE DARAMOLA
Air Commodore
Director of Public Relations and Information
Nigerian Air Force
…………

FCC Director Arraigned  over N8.8m Job Scam

The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) has charged a Deputy Director with the Federal Character Commission (FCC), Mr. Ahmad Balarabe to court for allegedly defrauding unsuspecting job seekers of N8.8 million.

The Commission, in a two-count charge brought before Justice Bello Shinkafi, of the Zamfara State High Court, Gusau, said that Mr. Balarabe fraudulently collected huge sums of money from job seekers with a promise to employ them into the services of the Federal University, Gusau and other federal government agencies.

ICPC informed the court that the accused, while acting as the State Coordinator, FCC, in October, 2014, collected the N8.8 million from several job seekers including N970, 000.00 from one Lawali Sule Garba and his friends as financial commitment for processing their employments.

According to the Commission, his offence violates Section 1 (1) (a) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act, 2004 and punishable under Section 1 (3) of the same Act.

One of the counts read, “That you, Ahmad Balarabe, in October 2014 or thereabouts at Gusau, Zamfara State, whilst being the State Coordinator, Federal Character Commission, with the intent to defraud, did obtain by false pretense, the sum of N7, 700, 000.00 from unsuspecting job seekers under the guise of securing employment for them into the Federal University, Gusau, Zamfara State and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 1 (1)(a) and punishable under Section 1 (3) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act, 2004.

The Deputy Director who now heads Public Enlightenment, Media and Mobilisation Department of FCC, pleaded not guilty when the charge was read to him as his counsel, A. Abubakar, urged the court to grant him bail on liberal terms.

Counsel to ICPC, Mashkur Salisu, while agreeing that the accused be released on bail, urged the court to be mindful of the penalties for the offence which is a maximum of twenty years imprisonment.

He therefore prayed the court to ensure that the accused provided reasonable surety in line with the provisions of the law before he would be admitted to bail.

The trial Judge, while ruling on the bail application, admitted the accused to bail in the sum of N20 million with two sureties in like sum. The sureties must have landed property in Gusau, valued at N30 million each. The bail conditions also required the accused to submit his international passport with the court.

Justice Bello ruled that Balarabe should be remanded in the Gusau Central Prison, pending the fulfillment of his bail conditions

In another development, a Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court 14, Jabi, presided over by Honourable Justice Danlami Senchi, has committed a Deputy Director of the Federal Government Property Alienation Committee, Mr. Patrick Pillah, to jail for fraudulently converting a plot of land belonging to another person to use by his relations and associates.

Mr. Pillah was charged to court by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) on three counts, one of which was conferring corrupt advantage upon himself by virtue of the office he was occupying in Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC).

The Commission, in the charge sheet, told the court that Pillah, in July 2000, used his position as a public officer in AMAC to confer corrupt advantage upon his relations and associates by transferring the title document for plot SS1 Jikwoyi Extension 111, to an unregistered company, Pax Education Resources belonging to them.

Counsel to ICPC, Adesola Michael told the court that the offence violated Sections 19 and 26 (1) (c) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000 and punishable under Section 19 of the same Act.

One of the counts read: “That you Patrick Pillah, on or about the month of July 2000 at Abuja while being a public officer in Abuja Municipal Area Council, Abuja, as Secretary of Committee of Resolution of Disputes involving land and Zonal Land Manager respectively used your said office to confer corrupt advantage upon relations and associates of Patrick Pillah by causing title documents of plot SS1 Jikwoyi Extension 111, to be issued in favour of Pax Education Resources an unregistered company belonging to Patrick Pillah’s relations and associates and you thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 19 of Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.

The trial judge, Hon. Senchi, handing down the judgment, found the accused guilty of the charge and therefore sentenced him to one month in jail without an option of fine. He also ruled that the land be returned to the original owner.

Signed: 

Mrs. Rasheedat A. Okoduwa, mni
Spokesperson for the Commission

Today News Africa
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