By Femi Falana SAN
From December 12 -14 2015, a massacre of our compatriots took place in Kaduna. The group targeted by the massacre has put the number at over 1000. The sheer scale of the genocidal event is however imaginable to independent minds by a subsequent disclosure, by the Secretary to the Kaduna State Government in an official submission to a Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the incident, of the secret burial in mass graves of 347 of the victims. According to this official, 191 of the corpses, taken from the Nigerian Army Depot, Zaria, were buried in a mass grave in Mando area of Kaduna State. The same fate befell 156 other corpses conveyed from the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, Zaria. The offence of the victims? Well, no more than that they were members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), adherents of the Shiite interpretation of the religion of Islam, who in the course of a peaceful protest denied right of way to a commander of the Nigerian Army.
I am not a Shiite or a member of the IMN. But I am a human being and a Nigerian. Just like the victims. I remembered the regrets of Martin Niemoller regarding the do-nothing attitude of those who should have known better when the warning signals of the darkness that eventually enveloped humanity under the jackboots of the Nazis and their superior-race ideology began manifesting. According to Niemoller:
First they came for the socialists
and I did not speak out –
because I was not a socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out –
Because I was not a unionist
Then they came for the Jews,
and I did not speak out –
because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak for me
The event of December 12, 2015 happened just a few months into the first term of our current democratic rulers. As morning shows the day, events since then have shown it was a precursor of things to come, as Martin Niemoller poignantly warned those who would rather sit in their comfort zone and watch while evil stalks their land because they are either the evil doers or are wallowing under a false sense of assurance of their own position. I feared that unless we shouted and called-out the perpetrators, they would be emboldened to match from Shiites to non-shiites, to anyone who happens to hold a view different from the one they cherish, or who dares look at their god-head with eyes other than that of worship and devotion.
Martin Niemoller was right, and I was right to follow his admonition by speaking out loud, and taking up the cause of my fellow human beings and fellow citizens, the victims of the genocide that took place in Kaduna. Kaduna has been followed with several occurrence of similar nature in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory. Crocodiles have smiled while Python has danced, winced, cried, raged and roared across the length and breathe of Nigeria, gobbling-up citizens who dared to be different or ask for accountability. The latest has been the use of men of the Nigerian Army to wage genocidal attack on peaceful and unarmed #EndSARS protesters especially at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos. A full scale war declared illegally in Port Harcourt has claimed the lives of scores of unarmed civilians.
Never on my own side have I ever used anything other than the Law to resist the attempts return us to 1984. For instance, when these elements suddenly woke up one morning in October 2019 and gave to themselves the power to go on the streets to conduct military operations against civilians under the guise of a so-called Operation Positive Identification, I instituted the Suit No. FHC/L/CS/1939/19 with a view to bringing them back to the path of constitutional rectitude. In the case, the Federal High Court declared such operation illegal. The presiding Judge, the Honourable Justice Aikawa issued a restraining injunction and said :
“It would be outside the powers of the 3rd Respondent (the Nigerian Army) for it to parade the streets in the rest of the country and demand citizens to show their identity cards and the like. If there is any security need for that, my view is that it should be left in the hands of the police, which is the security agency vested with these functions as spelt out by Section 4 of the Police Act.”
It was because they have no respect for the Rule and the duly constituted courts that these elements have persisted in dabbling into politics and civil affairs as recently shown in their deployment of soldiers in full battle gear and war formation against peaceful protesters. They should learn from their USA counterparts who, despite all encouragements by the President of the country, refused to run such errands for those in transient political authority.
Thanks to the advancement in science and technology, it has been impossible to bury or sweep under the carpet the Kaduna genocide, because the world has moved beyond what obtained in 1984 when the NTA and the FRCN were the major means of information gathering and mass dissemination of news. And thanks to the International Community, there has also come into existence the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court by which state actors can be held accountable for crimes such as was perpetrated in Kaduna in December, 2015. So, thanks to this international convention, the era of Unknown Soldier is long dead and buried. It is now no longer possible for any state actor to use his or her control of executive or influence over judicial levers of state power to sweep crimes of these magnitudes under the carpet. Just as the Kaduna State Judicial Commission of Inquiry has not thwarted the efforts at the international level to bring the powerful individuals res ponsible for the Kaduna genocide to book, the current exertions by those responsible for the latest use of men of the Nigerian army to massacre peaceful protesters are sure to be in vain.
I hear that those who (by virtue of the state offices they hold relative to these matters) are sure to be called-upon by the ICC for explanation are going about trying to divert attention away from themselves. I even hear that one such attempt has, in a complaint to the ICC, named me, Femi Falana, as responsible for allegedly instigating the violent EndSARS protests that led to killing innocent citizens, wanton destruction of properties and other heinous crimes against humanity in Nigeria. According to online reports, the alleged petitioner is Joseph Nwaegbu, Esq. a senior Associate of Pathfind Attorneys on behalf of Make Nigeria Better Initiative (MNBI).
Mr. Joseph Nwaegbu/Pathfind Attorneys/MNBI and their shadowy minders and paymasters obviously think that the ICC is a forum for frivolities, especially of the type we have gotten accustomed to in Nigeria (like, government and government officials hiring praise-singers or protesters to counter-balance genuine protesters!). They will sooner or later know that the ICC is not such a place. I welcome them to pursue their petition. I move around the world and I have easy and undisturbed passage. I hope the shadowy minders and paymasters of Mr. Joseph Nwaegbu/Pathfind Attorneys/MNBI are able to do likewise. In fact, I challenge them to dare!
To the Guilty, Be Afraid. Be very afraid!
FALANA SAN is a foremost Nigerian human rights activist, and anti-corruption crusader