By EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO
THE element that marks a sovereign state as stable and secure is the ability of the legitimate governmental institutions to permanently secure the nation state and the citizens from all external aggressors and internally organized violent criminals.
Nigeria has for over a decade failed in the critical indices of a stable and secured nation to such a ridiculous extent that impunity has almost assumed official recognition. The ugly state of instability in Nigeria reached a crescendo when some ragtag armed Boko Haram terrorists took territories and declared an independent caliphate in the three states in the North East of Nigeria. For 20 months, Boko Haram terrorists controlled these large swarthes of arid lands until the international community assisted the Nigerian military with logistics and training and the then Federal Government, under President Goodluck Jonathan, employed the services of foreign mercenaries from South Africa before over 95 percent of the captured areas were recaptured.
President Muhammadu Buhari has so far recaptured the remaining areas held by Boko Haram terrorists including the once dreaded Sambisa forests in Borno State. But the emergenceof armed Fulani herdsmen on the scene and their ability to turn many hitherto peaceful farming communities across Nigeria into killing fields and the government stands by and does nothing but mouth empty rhetoric is mystifying, to put it diplomatically.
Nigeria is at a stage where both the armed security forces and hoodlums have perpetrated mass killings, but not a single offender who has committed these crimes has been arrested, let alone made to face prosecution.
Examples of gruesome killings abound. The various security forces set up by statutes and the constitution to prevent these crimes and effectively enforce laws against crimes of mass murders have stood by and watched as innocent citizens of all ethno-religious affiliations are slaughtered. Of recent, the problem of coordinated attacks on farming communities by armed Fulani herdsmen has assumed a dangerous dimension. But, rather than take decisive legal measures to arrest and prosecute offenders, the Presidency has been accused of engaging in meaningless rigmarole of debating the location from where these mass killers came. The failure to punish failed security officers on whose territories crimes of mass murder and genocide are committed is itself a crime against humanity.
We will return to these specific examples but let us look at the various laws to determine the precise roles of security forces in the prevention of crimes such as these killings.
Section 14(2) (a) and (b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1999 (as amended) provide thus: “Sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this constitution derives all its powers and authority; and significantly, “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.” Sections 214; 215; 216; 217; 219 and 220 are some of the fundamental constitutional provisions that established the Nigeria Police Force and other security forces such as the Army, Navy and Air force. The primary constitutional role of all these organs of the armed forces and police is to enforce the laws against unlawful killings of citizens.
Similarly, under the Administration of Criminal Justice Act of 2015, there are a deluge of provisions that spell out clearly the important roles of the law enforcement agencies in the prevention and detection of crimes.
Section 50 (1) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act of 2015 provides that “a police officer may intervene for the purpose of preventing, and shall, to the best of his ability, prevent the commission of an offence.”
In the Police Act of 1943 in section (4), the police shall be employed for the prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension of offenders, the preservation of law and order, the protection of life and property and the due enforcement of all laws and regulations with which they are directly charged, and shall perform military duties within and without Nigeria as maybe required by them by or under the authority of, this or other Act.”
Section 215 (3) of the Nigerian Constitution however shifts the responsibility of direct command of the police on matters of securing lives and property of Nigerians on the doorsteps of the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
That specific section states as follows: “The president or such other Minister of the Government of the Federation as he may authorize in that behalf may give to the Inspector-General of Police such lawful directions with respect to the maintenance and securing of public safety and public order as he may consider necessary, and the Inspector-General of Police shall comply with those directions or cause them to be complied with.”
The Nigerian legal system frowns strongly at cases of culpable homicide which is why it is a capital offence. But instances abound like in Nimbo, Uzo-Uwani local government council of Enugu State and Agatu in Benue State where armed forces allegedly stood by and failed to prevent the slaughter of civilians. Annoyingly, whilst hundreds of families in Benue, Plateau, Enugu, Taraba and Delta and indeed all across Nigeria including the Southern Kaduna State were mourning the tragic killings by armed Fulani herdsmen of their loved ones, the Federal government reportedly failed to stop these killings and arrest the suspected killers.
n Onwubiko is a human rights activist