What exactly constitutes the very solid quality of statehood or sovereignty?
From an elementary viewpoint, a self-governing political entity is a sovereignty provided it is recognized by the international community and importantly provided that the structures of governance put in place by the citizens are functioning optimally, effectively and efficiently to provide security of lives and property of the citizenry.
As a Nigerian who is witnessing the most unexpected scenarios of hopelessness, despondency, climate of fear, breakdown of law and order and the rampaging effects of the activities of the daredevil armed terrorists, hoodlums and outlaws generally classified as gunmen, the most logical question to ask is if the nation is sovereign and is unable to fulfil her obligations to her citizenry, what exactly should outsiders do to stop the drift to a general state of collapse of Nigeria?
By a generalized estimates compiled by many credible researchers both in Nigeria and abroad, there have been over 30,000 deaths of the Nigerian citizens in less than a decade that have occurred due to the terror activities of a range of armed non- state actors just as it is a well-known fact beyond politics and rhetoric, that these deadly attacks were escalated since over five years of the coming of the administration of President Buhari. Significantly, since the coming of the currency central government, majority of the mass killers and terrorists have escaped the long arm of the law due to the unwillingness of the government’s to enforce the law maximally. Ironically, this government is known to have freed rather than jail terrorists who are responsible for some of the worst cases of genocides in the World. There is also an absence of any form of coordinated strategy amongst government officials to end the vicious circle of mass killings.
Incidentally as I write, both the Defence Chief and the Minister of Defence in the Central government have just told the world that the security situations have reached frightening dimension.
Of the duo, the Minister of Defence sounded very afraid but the Chief of Defence staff also acknowledged the infestation of Nigerian forests by armed non state actors but sounded very crude on the solution as if he has lost touch with the fact that we are in the 21st century whereby killings ought not to be glamourised.
Here is what the Chief of Defence Staff said and then we look at the expression of anxiety by the Defence Minister. We begin with the minister.
Minister of Defence, Major General Salihi Magashi (rtd), admitted that Nigeria was in a critical situation following resurging terrorists’ attacks, banditry and abductions across the federation.
He said the security challenges required the support and collaboration of the civilian populace and critical stakeholders.
Addressing a National Defence and Security Summit organised by the Defence Headquarters with the theme ‘Promoting Kinetic Operations as a Major Plank for Counter-Terrorism and Counter-Insurgency in Nigeria’, the minister observed: “We are in a critical situation that requires the understanding, buy-in, support and collaboration of important stakeholders and key players in this strategic option and national task. This is important to minimise distractions and maximise civil support in order to facilitate operational success and mission outcomes.”
He added: “This summit is coming at a sober time in the life of our dear nation. A time when merchants of violence are threatening to tear the very foundation of our nation, a time when diverse manifestations of security threats dot the landscape and impact individuals, communities, and almost all sub-national entities in disconcerting ways, a time when fear and uncertainty pervade the land; and a time when global indicators of national insecurity give room for serious concern.
“Physical insecurity in Nigeria, expectedly, has both forward and backward linkages to different shades and forms of national security. Indeed, it is linked to political instability, economic under-development, and social inequalities. Others are food insecurity and cumulative environmental degradation. These indicate the multi-dimensional nature of national insecurity.”
On his part, the Chief of Defence Staff, Maj.-Gen. Lucky Irabor, says the military has concluded arrangements to neutralise non-state-actors and other agents of violence in the country. Then i ask, do you need to tell the World that your intention is almost as crude as these mass killers?
However, while speaking at a one-day National Defence and Security Summit in Abuja, on Monday, the defence chief said illegal occupants of communities, forests and countryside will be targeted so as to stabilise the country.
He said the military will ensure that the peace which eluded the country returns as soon as possible.
According to him, it is no longer news that the nation experiences a wide range of national security threats including terrorism, insurgency, farmers/herders conflict, ethno-religious conflicts, kidnapping and banditry.
“Our strategic objectives are manifold and imbued to neutralise non-state-actors and other agents of violence in our communities, forests and countryside to stabilise the security situation across the nation, to facilitate law and order; and lastly to provide the enabling environment far peace and development.
“These presuppose that the military would need support from other security agencies during the operations and would be required to give support to others at different stages of the internal security effort.
“On behalf of the officers and men/women of the armed forces, I pledge our unalloyed loyalty to C-in-C and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The mandate shall be delivered; fear and despair shall be extinguished from our land. Nigeria will have peace again,” the CDS said.
He stressed that the Armed Forces of Nigeria were committed to ensuring the return of peace to different parts of the country being confronted by insurgency, banditry, kidnapping and other forms of security challenge.
The military chief noted that defence and security were universally considered as common, but existential values that affect the entire nation.
He added that the summit was organised to seek to discuss how to promote kinetic operations by leaders and eminent personalities in the Nigerian society who would contribute their narratives towards addressing the security challenges.
Here we have two officials of the Nigerian state giving us contradictory signals.
One says to us that the security situation is irredeemable but the other says to us in a positive but very crude format that the military will rise to the occasion but may resort to extrajudicial executions.
Be that as it may, the existential fact remains that the level of extrajudicial killings of the citizens by armed non state actors has reached unprecedented height.
The insecurity situation is as its peak so much so that a governor was almost killed and a certain group claimed responsibility but yet to be arrested by government.
Similarly, virtually all the non-state actors that have staged series of attacks targeting civilian targets are roaming freely and the Nigerian state and government has spectacularly failed to protect Nigerians and enforce the law.
So, in the event as it were that our government is dancing in the sun with criminals and terrorists, should the United Nations stand in dormancy and take no action to prevent the total collapse of the Nigerian Nation state? I think not.
Is the United Nations not under obligations to intervene and stop the unwarranted Coordinated violence against Nigerian citizens in the face of willful failure of the relevant local authorities to stop the violence and bring perpetrators to justice? I think the UN should intervene.
What is the essence of the preamble to the United Nations Universal Declarations of Human Rights if the Organization is not adopting any positive and constructive step to intervene and stop the Nigerian nightmares?
Here is the preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights thus: “Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,
Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,
Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,
Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in cooperation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,
Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge, now, therefore.”
Also, the General Assembly: “Proclaims this Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.”
So I ask, how come that for five straight years, indeed a decade, over 30,000 civilians have been decimated and degraded by terroists, armed herdsmen, kidnappers and armed Fulani militia, but the UN has not done anything to stop the killings? This is even more so disturbing tjat the TERROR GANGSTERS and kidnappers essentially committed crimes against humanity and there is evidence that the central government has not lived UP to her statutory obligations to protect the citizens frim unwarranted attacks and killings?
The next citations from a law book tells you that Nigeria is ripe enough for UN to intervene and stop the harvests of deaths.
“In every armed conflict, the international humanitarian law takes over from the human rights law as the lex specialis with regard to the conduct of war.
Despite being relegated to the background, the human rights law still has validity during armed conflict since it operates both in peace and war time.
As such, there are rights which persons (civilians in particular) are entitled to despite the fact that the parties are at war with each other. The adherence to these rights is of paramount importance so as to further guarantee the protection of the civilian population during any armed conflict.
Article 27 of GCIV is instructive with regard to protection of the civilian population. It provides thus:
“Protected persons are entitled in all circumstances, to respect for their persons, their honour, their family rights, their religious convictions and practices, and their manners and customs. They shall at all times be humanely treated, and shall be protected especially against all acts of violence or threats thereof and against insults and public curiosity.”
“Civilans fall within the category of protected persons during any armed conflict and as such are entitled to the protection available under Article 27 GCIV. Civilians are to be respected which according to author mean that ‘all acts that might unjustifiable cause harm to a Civilian must be avoided. They are entitled to this respect ‘in all circumstances, this buttresses the point that civilians are entitled to certain rights even during armed conflict situations. Civilians are also to be protected, such protection not being limited to the presence of military personnel for the protection of the civilians. The protection envisaged under Article 27 may be extended even to the evacuation of civilians to ensure their safety from military operations of both sides of the conflict”.
“The basic rights to which civilians are entitled to under Article 27 GC IV include: respect for their persons, their honour, their family rights, their religious convictions and practices and their manners and customs. The rights provided for here should not be taken as an exhaustive list of rights available to civilians in any armed conflict.”
“Civilians are entitled to respect for their persons in any armed conflict.
This category of rights embodies both the physical and mental integrity of civilians. They are not to be subjected to inhumane or dehumanizing treatment as stated under Common Article 3 GC I-Iv. They are not to be tortured under any circumstances. Torture is considered as a crime against humanity under the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
It means “the intentional infliction of severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, upon a person in the custody or under the control of the accused” and may not be taken to include pain or suffering arising from lawful sanctions.” ( from the book titled “International Humanitarian Law” by Chris C. Wigwe PhD (Leeds) BL).
John Campbell, former U.S Ambassador to Nigeria spoke on the existential challenges facing Nigeria and from the tone of his interview with Bloomberg’s James Gibney on January 4th, 2021, it is clear that Nigerians are undergoing some of the worst forms of terrorism.
This indeed calls for urgent, immediate and military intervention of the United Nations in my own view.
What is the meaning of sovereignty when the citizens can not be guaranteed protection from extrajudicial deaths by non-state actors?
Ambassador Campbell says: “It partly depends on how you define Nigeria. A relatively large area on the map colored red will remain. The national capital in Abuja will remain. There will continue to be a diplomatic service. The country will continue to be active in international organizations. But the power of the federal government seems to be declining rapidly, and political power is increasingly being exercised by sub-national entities, in some cases individual Nigerian states, in other cases jihadi groups, bandits or traditional rulers. If you’re going to call Nigeria a failing state or a state that risks failure — and many, many Nigerians believe that — you’re implying that Nigeria is a nation-state as the world traditionally defines it.”
“By that criteria, Nigeria is failing. But if you look at Nigeria as some other type of entity, then it seems to me, while it may well be increasingly dysfunctional, you can’t say that it’s failing. In fact, for the top 1-2% of the Nigerian population that has grown wealthy from oil revenue, the current situation is relatively satisfactory. They send their children abroad for education, not to boarding schools in Nigeria where they’re subject to kidnapping. They go to London or Johannesburg for medical attention, not to the public hospitals, which are failing. The current political arrangements provide a venue for sharing out political offices and oil revenue. So I think we have to be careful about using terms like failed state”.
“We have to go back to history, which has not been kind to Nigeria. As an entity on the map, it was created by the British for bureaucratic convenience. They lumped together more than 350 different ethnic groups which had never had anything in common before. And they did this fairly recently. The British established a colony in Lagos only in 1860, unified the country only in 1914 and then left in 1960. Furthermore, there was no independence movement that transcended ethnic and religious divisions in the country and that could provide an impetus toward national unity as it did in Kenya, or as it did in Algeria. There was opposition to British rule, but it was based ethnically rather than nationwide. It was against colonialism and racism rather than for Nigeria”.
There goes Ambassador Campbell. From his intellectual rigmarole, one thing is clear that Nigeria now more than ever before needs the interventions of the UN to end the bloodbath.
For the UN, it must tell us if it is relevant to the survival of over 200 million Nigerians. Nigeri a is the largest black nation in the World. Does United Nations wish that this huge black nation implodes before it comes in for peace keeping?
An academic had framed similar question.
Professor Akin Oyebode writing on the UN in a scholarly book affirmed thus: “We are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations at a time the World is in the throes of impotence, self-doubt and disillusionment occasioned, in part, by reckless and wanton violation of human rights across the globe. Such violations range from large-scale infractions of civil liberty as witness in contemporary theatres of internecine conflict to acts of overzealous state officials and agents of repressive regimes against their compatriots as well as isolated cases of denial or miscarriage of justice in otherwise normal or peaceful societies.”
“Fortunately, in the post-cold war unipolar world in which we live, the global news networks and the Internet or the so-called information superhighway have ensured the defeat of efforts by votaries of sovereignty and the domaine reserve to shield abuse of human rights by state officials through the argument that how a state treats its nationals was its exclusive business. And, perhaps no other institution has done greater for the cause of globalization of human rights than the UN, an organisation which from it’s inception had insisted that the quest for an international minimum Standard of human rights be placed on the front-burner of, international discourse.”
“How has the UN fared to its self-appointed mission of being the sentinel of human rights in the world and, more especially, Africa?”
“What obstacles have strewn the path of realising this crucial assignment? What needs be done to ensure that the protection of human rights in African becomes less risky and more propitious?” (Africa And the UN System: The First Fifty Years Edited by George A. Obiozor and Adekunle Ajala).
Nigerians await any sort of international interventions to end the vicious circle of bloodbath.
*EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and [email protected] theingerianinsidernews.com, www.huriwanigeria.com.