Abuja, Nigeria (PANA) – A coalition of 46 leading non-governmental organisations (NGO) on Thursday cautioned the Nigerian federal government, especially the security agencies, against extra-judicial killings, saying that respect for rule of law must be imperative in all dealing with Nigerians.
Reacting to the directive by President Muhammadu Buhari last Saturday in Katsina, Katsina State of northeast Nigeria, said that the military should not “spare bandits” who kill, maim and extort innocent citizens, the NGO coalition said that “the entire apparatus of the State, and our security agencies should promote adherence to the rule of law for all forthwith while fulfilling their constitutional obligation of ensuring the security and welfare of all.”
Addressing officers and 160 soldiers of the 17th Army Brigade and Nigerian Air Force in Katsina, President Buhari said: “I don’t think you should spare any bandit. Identify and eliminate them. Pursue them anywhere you can find them and eliminate them. Nigeria deserves peace. We will give you all the right equipment so that you can deal with them with dispatch. I appreciate all your efforts, but you can do more. I don’t want any bandit spared.”
But the coalition, which described the presidential directive as “bewildering,” said in a joint statement that “no person is above the law and no one is below it; nor do we ask any person’s permission when we require them to obey it. Obedience to the law is demanded as a right, not asked as a favour.”
Saying that the statement by President Buhari “strongly suggests extra-judicial elimination of suspects,” they regretted that “unfortunately,” this is not the first time the President “would order the extrajudicial killing of suspects of crime by security forces. It will be recalled that he had issued a similar directive at the cusp of the 2019 elections, ordering the summary execution of ‘ballot box snatchers.’”
Noting that his comments “most unfortunately contributed to the inordinate recourse to violence by some security agents in the discharge of their duties,” the coalition reminded the “President that he is constitutionally bound to obey, and ensure that the apparatus of the state under his command comply with, and uphold the rule of law. He must be mindful that as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, incendiary statements made by him will have consequences, and that he will be directly liable for the actions of security forces who in compliance to his directives act outside of the confines of the law.
“We assert that it is possible to track down criminal elements and ensure they are brought to justice, while respecting their human rights to equality before the law and the right to a fair hearing before a competent court of law.
“Finally, we wish to place on record that not all our security agents are rogue elements. We salute the courage and gallantry of the core of our security agents who have continued to uphold our peace and unity in extremely difficult circumstances, and sometimes under extreme provocation. "
The NGOs assured the security agents that Nigerians applauded their efforts. They emphasised that respect for the rules of engagement remains an important element in maintaining the rule of law.
"As we all know, force in itself cannot guarantee peace. What is required is the deepening of inclusive governance so that citizens build respect for governance processes and reinforce State legitimacy.
"Nigeria’s security infrastructure will serve the people better if it respects their rights and aspirations. As our local adage goes: it takes the wisdom of the elders, and strength of the youth to save a country,” the statement added.
-0- PANA MON/AR 22Aug2019