Mounting Concern Over UN Special Rapporteur Report on Extrajudicial Killings in Nigeria

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By Mikky Attah

Agnes Callamard is the UN Special Rapporteur for Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions. Her recently released report on Nigeria is the result of a fact- finding trip to the country, and her disclosures have elicited a great deal of media attention globally, as is sampled above. However, it appears the report has not attracted quite as much attention and debate locally. There has been no official response since the release of the document on September 2. Notwithstanding. This report is as timely as it is relevant. Callamard says that in a 2006 report, the then Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial killings pointed to “the remarkable inadequacies of almost all levels of the Nigerian criminal justice system, and the repeated practice of adjournments handed out with reckless abandon.” Instructively , Callamard points out that, “fifteen years later, similar patterns and allegations of similar practices were repeatedly brought to my attention. “

Additionally, Callamard speaks of the collective punishment of civilians, and emphasises the truth of the matter: that Nigerian insecurity requires urgent attention, and that Nigeria must stop extrajudicial killings- like the Saudi Gazette and the VOA have also echoed.

The UN report is indepth. There are excerpts of overview for examination , and hopefully , for proper official implementation. I must add that at least 36 people were killed upper week, and at least 9 people were kidnapped in Nigeria in the same period. A week ago 6 people were kidnapped in Abuja, that everyone thought was the safest. And in the most recently released Terrorism Index , Nigeria ranked third highest globally, higher even than Syria and Somalia in impact of terrorism.

The Overview
The overall situation that I encountered in Nigeria gives rise to extreme concern. By many measures, the federal authorities and the international partners are presiding over an injustice- pressure cooker. Some of the specific contexts I examined are simmering.

The warning signs are flashing bright red: increased numbers of attacks and killings over the last five years with a few notable exceptions ; increased criminality and spreading insecurity ; widespread failure by the federal authorities to investigate and hold perpetrators to account , even for mass killings, a lack of public trust in judicial systems and state institutions more generally; high levels of resentment and grievances within and between communities , toxic ethno- religious narratives and ‘extremist ‘ ideologies – characterised by dehumanization of the “others “ and denial of the legitimacy of the other’s claims ; a generalised breakdown of the rule of law with particularly acute consequences for the most vulnerable and impoverished populations of Nigeria .

Over the course of its tumultuous history, Nigeria has confronted many challenges and much conflict, including military rule and mass killings. It has also experienced economic boom and considerable economic growth particularly in the 1990s, thanks to its oil resources. Perhaps it is this history that leads (some) commentators, analysts and even some officials themselves to downplay or ignore the warning signs or to assume that no matter the gravity these would be overcome. However , the absence today of accountability functionality is on such a scale that pretending this is anything short of a crisis is a major mistake. It is a tragedy for the people of Nigeria. Unchecked, its ripple effect will spread throughout the sub region if not the continent , given the country’s central economic, political and cultural leadership role.

Weak rule of law and its brewing crisis are intertwined with, result from and come on top of: a nationwide population explosion and increased rates of extreme poverty which characterises the reality for roughly half of the Nigerian population. This is exacerbated by the spreading environmental degradation and desertification evident throughout West Africa. It is also fed by the increasing proliferation of small and military-grade weapons made readily available by increasing instability and originating, according to some reports from as far north as the Libyan conflicts.

These nation- wide and broader regional pressures applied against Nigeria’s diverse eco- political – economic systems are producing localised systems and country- wide patterns of violence, many of which are seemingly spinning out of control. They are claiming the lives of thousands, and include for instance, arbitrary killings in the context of: the military conflict in the North of the country against Boko Haram and splinter groups-the conflict in the Middle Belt along with some parts in the North- West and South between Fulani herdsmen and farming communities belonging to various ethnic groups -cultism in the oil- producing South States and other well- organised criminal gangs-local militias engaged in mining and cattle rustling in the North-West, particularly Zamfara-the repression of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), and the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP)

-the mass expulsion of slum- dwellers in Lagos and elsewhere and more generally greed motivated policies and interventions resulting in killings.
Country wide patterns include police and military excessive use of lethal force in violation of applicable international standards, the lack of effective investigations, the absence of meaningful prosecution, the militarisation of policing- all of which are compounded by the lack of transparency and effective communication strategy over the vast majority of security issues, fuelling further distrust and breakdown of confidence in the security agencies.

*Attah can be reached on Twitter @mikky_princess