The rise and rise of ‘Nigerian’ outlaws
The Nigerian Council for Legal Education which coordinates the solemn annual ceremonies of call to the Nigerian bar and the hierarchy of the Nigerian judiciary are some of the finest minds in legal scholarship. There are accusations however that the headship of the Nigerian legal professional training institution (Nigerian Law School) is determined in the current dispensation by nepotistic threshold.
But even this imperfection has not derailed the widely known fact that our legal terrain is populated by some of the finest minds in the legal profession. The formidable intellectual competences of the men and women who run the legal system in Nigeria goes to show that Nigeria does not lack the expertise in law to be able to transform Nigeria to join the rest of the global community and especially the advanced democracies to adhere strictly to the Rule of law and to maintain constitutional purity. Many Nigerian trained lawyers are practising in such civilised nations in Europe and North America and are known to be doing well for themselves and have made us proud. Prince Ned Nwoko a Nigerian born maritime lawyer practised law at the highest level in Great Britain. So are hundreds of others. Recently, a university in United States of America appointed the Nigerian Deputy Senate President and a reputable lawyer as a full time Professor of law. Nigerian lawyers and jurists have been seconded to many African jurisdictions as Chief justices and in Gambia, Nigerians have held the highest judicial offices.
On yearly basis, Nigeria churns out approximately 50,000 young lawyers who are immediately absorbed either in the public or private bars as legal practitioners even as others manage to navigate their ways into various other professional callings. What the above scenarios depicted is that Nigeria is endowed enormously with the requisite manpower and/or trained human resources to administer an efficient and an effective legal system.
In real life, however, Nigeria is a country confronted by the apparent weakness and systemic rot manifested in the near -snailspeed that the wheel of justice is administered. Former Finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala wrote in her book ‘Fighting corruption is dangerous that Nigeria has kleprocrats as political rulers. Two Americans including a former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria write in a recent book ‘all you need to know about Nigeria’ that Nigeria is a kleptocracy. This is how messy our public image has become internationally and sadly, the government through some missteps creates the impression that it is profitable to be an outlaw. In North East of Nigeria, the current government is said to have released hundreds of former Boko Haram terrorists in the guise of rehabilitation and deradicalisation. But when some youth in the South East of Nigeria came together under a platform of IPOB to demand self determination, President Muhammadu Buhari despatched well armed soldiers to crush these unarmed civilians and in the process over 160 of them were killed extrajudicially but the killers are still wearing uniforms as soldiers which shows how government sponsors outlaws.
To make matters worst, the failure of the political process to throw up Nigeria’s first eleven into strategic political offices means that those who get elected and/or appointed into public offices with total disregard to merits, competences and professionalism, have consistently polluted the public space with all kinds of misdemeanors which includes their disregard for the rule of law and constitutionalism. Siren blaring police escorts flours basic traffic riles and laws and many innocent Nigerians have been killed in this kind of lawlessness by these outlaws in police uniforms. The Nigeria Police is known for horrendous human rights violations to an extent that the usually reticent Chief Justice of Nigeria had to publicly criticise these human rights abuses. Not long after the Chief justice of Nigeria raised the alarm, a young girl and a corper about to pass out of her NYSC in Abuja was killed EXTRALEGALLY by a trigger happy police operative. There are too many outlaws in the police including the head of the police who persistently failed to honour the legal summons of the Senate over mass killings across Nigeria. Sadly, this treacherous conduct of the IGP finds support in the eyes of President Muhammadu Buhari. The President had once complained that the IGP disrespected him but he did nothing to call him to order. Disorderly behaviour by public office holders has become the new benchmark for serving federal public officers.
In the current dispensation, many top government officials parade one forged academic qualifications or the other. The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Prosecution, Mr. Obono Obla was accused by West African Examination Council of parading forged WAEC certificate. Finance minister is reportedly parading forged NYSC discharged certificate, an allegation she hasn’t denied.
Mr. President has yet to produce his authentic WAEC certificate and when some lawyers went to court to get him disqualified on this ground the plaintiffs faced threats to their lives which forced them to abandon this line of inquisition.
The government at the center is therefore saturated by alleged outlaws. Although Nigeria has a written constitution with other statutes which codifies how those who run foul of established societal norms and laws ought to be prosecuted and sanctioned in compliance with the principle of rule of law, what we notice is that most Nigerians have the belief that if they have people holding strategic offices they can undermine the administration of criminal justice in Nigeria. The above situation can find explanation in the impunity with which some armed Fulani herdsmen have unleashed violence of unquantifiable dimension.
With thousands of innocent Nigerians killed by armed Fulani herdsmen but not one killer is behind bars and all that the government does is to engage in double speak and the brazen unleashing of falsehoods. As the government at the center engaged spin doctors to spread propaganda freeing the real killers from their heinous crimes, the armed herdsmen have become emboldened to spread their tentacles of killer machines in the North central states.
These suspected armed Fulani herdsmen, understandably believe that since their kinsman Muhammadu Buhari is the president of Nigeria, there is very little that can be done to check their excesses.
There is a reasonable ground to believe that the presidency actively encourages and motivates these sets of outlaws masquerading as armed Fulani herdsmen who are responsible for the wave of bloody attacks in many farming communities populated by largely Christians in the North Central region of Nigeria. This is because the president has chosen to look the other way whilst these devastating attacks are carried on.
The media unit of the current presidency has on many occasions circulated media statements to exonerate Miyetti Allah Cattle Owners Association of blame in the spate of attacks. This is even as this Miyetti Allah Cattle Owners Association through many of her officials have been quoted in the media either threatening to cause violence or justifying these acts of violence on the ground that the communities so attacked by armed Fulani herdsmen were responsible for theft of unspecified number of cows.
The presidency under Buhari has consistently found different ways to explain away the involvement in these attacks of Fulani herdsmen. This tendency of the current presidency to defend armed Fulani herdsmen and to shift blames to the so-called politicians runs contrary to the constitutional oath of office of president Buhari and the rudimentary constitutional duty of the holder of the office of president which is to protect lives and property of the citizenry.
Aside those weighty constitutional implications, what is now at play is that by omission or commission, the current federal government has granted licences for the rise and rise of many variants of outlaws who are now operating as if there will be no tomorrow. It is no longer a hidden fact that many Nigerians who should know have tasked president Buhari to combat these armed insurgency of his kinsmen by applying appropriate sanctions supported by the laws of Nigeria so as to whittle down the rise of these out laws who have grown wings.
One question on the lips of most Nigerians is why President Buhari quickly declared Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) whose members are non-violent as terror group but is busy finding and manufacturing logically untenable excuses all in a futile bid to exonerate armed Fulani herdsmen of blame in the dastardly criminal acts of atrocious mass murders.
Some persons have asked why President Buhari wants to establish ranches with government money to placate Fulani herdsmen if he thinks they are not the persons killing the farmers. In plateau state, there are reports that in those communities ransacked by armed Fulani herdsmen, the attackers have forcefully taken over the communities from the ancestral owners who are all in the internally displaced people’s camps and have even renamed their communities. Special Media Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari Mr. Femi Adesina told the media that Nigerians are better alive than to die struggling for ancestral lands.
The presidency must be told that playing on the collective intelligence of Nigerians through deployment of massive public funds to sponsor half-baked and illogical propaganda to sow seeds of confusion on who are the mass killers, will not bring about lasting peace. Manipulating the security forces to parade choreographed suspects so as to exonerate armed Fulani herdsmen is both disingenuous and vexatious. Peace can only come when there is justice and equity.
Several respected personalities have faulted the false claims circulated by the presidency and some elements in the security forces controlled and headed by mostly Hausa/Fulani Moslems; which strive to shift the blame away from the correct source of all the attacks – armed Fulani herdsmen. Tried as they could to market the misperception that there are clashes between farmers and Fulani herders rather than call a spade by its name, most knowledgeable Nigerians and even survivors of these attacks know that the persons carrying out these atrocities are armed Fulani herdsmen – no more, no less. One of such personalities is the catholic Archbishop of Jos Reverend Dr. Ignatius Kaigama who rightly affirmed that the killings by armed Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria have continued to escalate because Fulani herders believe President Muhammadu Buhari who is also a Fulani man, is their ally and for that reason they can do whatever they want and go scot-free.
The cleric made these verifiable claims in an interview recently with the Catholic Church’s humanitarian agency, Aid to the church in need (ACN), published on its website.
“Not enough has been done to challenge the herdsmen killings. That could either be because of a so-called ‘hidden agenda’ or simply the absence of courage, determination, patriotism and political will. Cattle, as important as they are, cannot be valued over human beings. That does not mean that cows should be wounded, stolen or killed. Our President should come out clearly, categorically and courageously to explain to his kinsmen why dialogue is the best solution.” But my lord, the Archbishop of Jos should be told that President Buhari has come out openly to state that the killers are Libyans, that the killings are sponsored by his political enemies and that his kinsmen carry only sticks and cutlass.
But ironically, President Buhari has asked the victims of these attacks to accommodate the attackers. Mr. President, Nigerians are asking you to explain why you told president Trump that those doing the attacks are from Libya but you are also asking the victims whose lands are now taken away by the occupying forces of armed Fulani herdsmen to accommodate their attackers if they are Libyans. Why do you want the ranches if Fulani herdsmen are not the mass killers?
These politically tainted fallacies oozing out from the current presidency goes to show that the Fulani out laws have the support of some top persons in government. Indeed these armed Fulani out laws who are seen as mass murderers by millions of Nigerians are celebrated by the presidency as good people who only bear sticks and harmless cutlasses. The truth however is that they are out laws through and through.
I adopt the views expressed in www.vocabularly.com about who an outlaw is.
“An outlaw is a criminal who’s on the run. Historically, the word outlaw was used for Western criminals like Billy the Kid or Jesse James, not so much for contemporary drug lords or serial killers.”
“Because they didn’t need to be arrested by a police officer or other official, pursuing outlaws was once a way to earn reward money. The outlaw figure became popular due to the almost romantic image of nonconformity they had — outlaws are common characters in Western books and movies. You can also use outlaw to mean “ban or make illegal.” If you had your way, you might outlaw spinach, long lines, and stinky perfume.”
The people of Nigeria must collectively speak out and adopt a range of civil disobedience activities to draw the attention of the World leaders to the government backed insurgency of the armed Fulani outlaws. The time to act is now.
Onwubiko heads the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA).
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