Nigeria And The Fight Against Impunity
1.6 Identification of main organisations working on international justice
Nigerian NGOs and CSOs have been active on international justice related issues. The Nigerian Coalition for the International Criminal Court (NCICC) which is an affiliate of the global NGO Coalition for the ICC (CICC) was formed in May 2002 and has been in the forefront for advocacy on the domestic implementation of the Rome Statute and the fight against impunity in Nigeria. The NCICC also played a role in the advocacy activities to ensure that Nigeria surrendered Charles Taylor to the Special Court for Sierra Leone. The NCICC also carried out advocacy activities to stop the President of Sudan from attending a meeting in Nigeria in 2009 after his indictment by the ICC. Furthermore, the NCICC has trained journalists and other public professionals on the provisions of the Rome Statute of the ICC and have published several materials on its advocacy efforts. In relation to the ICC Bill, the NCICC was a member of the Working Group coordinated by the MOJ that worked on the draft that was submitted to FEC. The NCICC is made of Steering Committee members which forms the core members and general members. Membership of the NCICC is by NGOs although individuals can be invited to join the Steering Committee if there are considered to have adequate knowledge and expertise on the ICC. The Steering Committee is made up of the Convenor, Chairperson and other members that head several committees including Advocacy and Publications Committee. One problem with NGOs working on international justice in Nigeria is lack of coordination and the multi-faceted advocacy carried out by NGOs and CSOs. This means that several NGOs have different issues that donors are funding which may not be related to the pursuit of international justice. The need for adequate funding, capacity building and effective coordination amongst the various actors involved cannot be over-emphasised.
1.6.1 Efforts to advance ICJ in Nigeria
Nigeria has a robust civil society movement that is involved in activities aimed at ending impunity for international crimes. For example several NGOs and CSOs were involved in the campaign to end military dictatorship in Nigeria. Organisations like Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), Constitutional Rights Project (CRP) Campaign for Democracy (CD), Campaign for the Defense of Human Rights (CDHR) and Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Centre for Free Speech amongst others were involved in several activities aimed at ending military rule in Nigeria and the abuse of human rights. This resulted in several complaints filed before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) on behalf of Nigerians. After the return to civilian government in 1999, Nigerian NGOs and CSOs also played important roles in the advancement of the international justice in Nigeria through the formation of the NCICC in 2002 and advocacy to implement the Rome Statute. An opportunity for further activism came calling when the Nigerian government granted asylum to Charles Taylor. Nigerian NGOs and CSOs mounted several advocacy campaigns for the surrender of Charles Taylor to the SCSL. NGOs and CSOs also supported individuals affected by the war in Sierra Leone to commence civil proceedings against the government of Nigeria regarding the asylum granted to Charles Taylor. It can be argued that international pressure galvanised by NGOs and CSOs in Nigeria added to regional security resulted in the surrender of Charles Taylor to the SCSL. The NCICC is carried out advocacy campaigns in 2009 regarding the visit of President Al-Bashir of Sudan to Nigeria after an arrest warrant was issued him by the ICC. Members of the NCICC petitioned the Federal Government and several government officials on Nigeria’s obligation to arrest and surrender Al-Bashir if he visited Nigeria.
1.6.2 Transitional justice and conflicts in Nigeria
In relation to truth, reconciliation and victims’ rights to reparation, the Nigerian criminal law system does not recognise the right of victims of crimes to reparations. This is similar to several countries in Africa that operate the common law system. However the provision of SVTF in the current ICC Bill is a welcome development. There have been previous attempts to address human rights abuses in Nigeria through transitional justice mechanisms. For example, the Nigerian government in June 1999 set up the Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission (Oputa Panel) which sat from June 1999 to May 2002 and submitted its report to the government of Nigeria. The Oputa Report holds military incursion into politics as one of the issues responsible for human rights violations in Nigeria. The report argues that “[m]ilitary rule has left, in its wake, a sad legacy of human rights violations, stunted national growth, a corporatist and static state, increased corruption, destroying its own internal cohesion in the process of governing, and posing the greatest threat to democracy and national integration.” The open and traperent process adopted by the Oputa Panel allowed several Nigerians to present their views and seek for redress.
However, the government of Nigeria refused to release the report citing the judgment of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in Fawehinmi vs. Babangida as the reason of the decision. The Supreme Court in that case held that under the 1999 Constitution, the Federal Government of Nigeria had no power to set up a Tribunal of Inquiry as the power was now under the residual legislative list exercisable by states only and not the federal government unlike the 1966 Constitution which made provision for such. The decision to withhold the report has been criticised by Nigerians including legal scholars as a means of supressing the truth. The report has been unofficially released online by NGOs and CSOs in Nigeria and abroad. A fall out of the Oputal Panel Report and the Supreme Court decision is the setting up of truth and reconciliation commissions by State governments in Nigeria to address human rights abuses.These include the Rivers State Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up in November 2007, Osun State Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up in February 2011 and Ogun State Truth and Reconciliation Committee set up in September 2011.
The complex mix between religion, ethnicity, politics and control of natural resources in Nigeria have led to several ethnic based militia groups including Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Odu Peoples’ Congress (OPC), Movement for the Emancipation of Niger-Delta (MEND), and Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) amongst others. In June 2009 the government of late Umaru Musa Yar’adua declared an amnesty which allowed militants to hand in weapons for cash and other benefits of rehabilitation. This was pursuant to the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999.The amnesty proclamation was in response to the agitation of Niger-Delta militants for self-determination and the crippling effects of its campaign on the production and export of crude oil which is the main stay of the economy.
The current war on terror against the Boko Haram sect is not a new phenomenon. The only troubling issue is that Boko Haram has assumed a wider dimension linking up with other AL-Qaeda affiliates in Africa. The sources of conflicts in Nigeria are myriad. These include corruption, religious and ethnic issues, competition for scarce resources, inability to implement laws. Several conflicts in Nigeria have a combination of religious, ethnic and political connotations. In fact mostreligious conflicts in Nigeria usually assume inter-ethnic colouration even when they begin as purely religious disagreements. In addition, the reverse is sometimes the case where socio-economic conflicts often degenerate into inter-religious conflicts. Hence, the boundary between ethnic and religious conflicts in Nigeria is very hazy and not well defined. Nigeria has witnessed ethnic, economic, religious and political conflicts since independence and current threat by Boko Haram and affiliated groups is threatening the security of the Nigerian state.
The limited success recorded by the amnesty granted to the Niger Delta militants has also prompted several highly placed Nigerians including the Sultan of Sokoto to request the Federal Government to grant amnesty to Boko Haram members. Whether the government will accede to the request is subject to debate. This is because the government has consistently maintained that Boko Haram members do not have any genuine interest to negotiate peace with the government.