The transition to democratic status remains illusive in Nigeria. This point has recently repeatedly come to fore with increasing usurping of the powers of the police and judiciary by the Nigerian military.
In current headlines, the military has decided on granting an amnesty to “repentant” Boko Haram terrorists. This process already in motion with about 800 has been branded the “Safe corridor initiative.” According to NEMA DG Alhaji Sani Sidi, CDS Major-General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin coordinated this Boko Haram pardon initiative that has already begun teaching terrorists in “skill acquisition.”
The above is a clear fragrant violation of Nigeria’s constitution and anti-terror bill.
The Nigerian military has absolutely no role in determination of sentences or pardons for arrested criminals and terrorists. According to the Nigerian constitution, arrested criminals must me charged to court and their sentences are meted only by the judiciary.
The Nigerian military further released a statement today in attempt to defend the federal government from embarrassing press publications on the grant of an amnesty to the murderous Boko Haram terrorists. The Acting Director, Defence Information, Brig. Gen. Rabe Abubakar told the public to “disregard” the publication of the amnesty, claiming it was not so.
Apparently the army did not realize that the statement was far from a denial and rather an admission of guilt.
Quoting the DHQ press release:
“In line with United Nations convention Charter, which Nigeria is a signatory, The Defence Headquarters came up with an initiative “Öperation Safe Corridor”, this initiative is geared towards rehabilitating and reintegrating the repentant terrorists back into normal life in the society.”
The defense and ‘denial’ was depressing to say the least. There are two fundamental problems here:
1, The Nigerian army has no role in determining the fate of detained terrorists and should not even be issuing these statements and then the ‘denials’ in the first instance. Any releases on arrested criminals or terrorists should come from the police and Attorney general’s office.
2, As is obvious, by virtue of the army not understanding the interpretation of the law, the constitution and Nigerian and international laws, their public statement in a jurisdiction they are uninformed about ended up being an entire blunder. An amnesty is a pardon. An amnesty means the citizen (each citizen individually) did not pass through the judicial system and was not sentenced by a judge.
“Rehabilitating and reintegrating and returning” terrorists to society is an amnesty.
According to the constitution and the anti-terror bill as amended, the Nigerian attorney general is in charge of ensuring that the stipulated penalties for all criminals including terrorists are enforced. No Nigerian is above the constitution (law) in a democracy and no individual or office has the authority to abrogate the stipulations of the law.
Nigeria’s anti-terror bill, “Terrorism Prevention Act of 2011 as amended in 2013, Part 1, subsection” clearly states that “(2) without prejudice to sub-section (2) of this section, where death results from any terrorist act, the penalty shall be death sentence.”
What is most troubling is that while the CDS is willing to violate his office by pardoning terrorists and investing in rehabilitating them, soldiers who have been victims of Boko Haram and their families have not yet been adequately “rehabilitated.” Likewise the northeastern youth, vigilantes, civilian-JTF and others who fought and died to defend Nigeria are yet to be rehabilitated. The victims of Boko Haram, displaced persons, rape victims, debilitated and mentally traumatized victims are all yet to be rehabilitated.
Rather than deliver the God and constitution prescribed death sentence punishment for these terrorists in keeping with their sworn obligations to protect the lives of Nigerians, the army is usurping the role of the judiciary and investing Nigerian funds to rehabilitate these murderers and rapists ahead of rehabilitating good and patriotic Nigerians.
We ask: what global practice recommends a pardon/amnesty/rehabilitation and reintegration of terrorists who have murdered and raped?
We ask: if this is not an amnesty, then what is an amnesty?
We ask: has the CDS now usurped the role of the legislature that ratified the specified punishment for terrorists and collaborators and also usurped the role of the Judiciary that recommends justice?
As we have earlier stated, we will be taking the government to court if and when any Boko Haram terrorist killer and rapist is released into society. We urge other Nigerians to initiate such legal proceedings likewise.
Nigeria should have learned from the errors of the amnesty it illegally administered in the Niger Delta that brought no long term benefit.
Terrorism must be discouraged and must not remain the best pathway to receive reward, “skill training” and rehabilitation for common victims of the failed state.
Unless the victims (Nigerians) decide to forgive Boko Haram and decide on the blood money the terrorists must cough out, I will never walk on a road beside someone who abducted and raped the Chibok girls. And I believe most Nigerians stand with me on this.
By Dr. Peregrino Brimah; @EveryNigerian