Despite stiff opposition from the South-East region of the country against the plan to drag erstwhile Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Azubuike Ihejirika and six others before the International Criminal Court of Justice in The Hague for alleged human rights violation by security agencies in campaign against Boko Haram in the Northeast, the Northern Elders Forum yesterday (NEF) vowed to go ahead with the plan.
The spokesman of the Forum, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, told reporters after a meeting of a committee of the NEF in Abuja on Wednesday that the Igbo could decide to approach the ICC if they so wished on whatever issues of rights violations they want to raise concerning the Nigerian Civil War.
Information Nigeria reports that Senator Uche Chukwumerije, while speaking with newsmen at the National Assembly complex yesterday, faulted the NEF, saying the move to seek the ICC’s adjudication on the alleged Baga massacre in Borno State was a “national ill-wind that will do no one any good”, adding that “Ndigbo of South East and Anioma will dust their files and head for Hague” too.
Insisting on why NEF was going to approach the ICC, Abdullahi said the Nigerian judicial system had failed to mete out justice in glaring cases of human rights violations in the past.
He also faulted comments credited to Gen. Ihejirika that the North should have been grateful to the armed forces for rescuing the region from the stranglehold of Boko Haram, saying the ex-army chief could not have been expecting a pat on the back for carrying out his statutory duties.
Abdullahi said: “How many people have got justice through the Nigerian legal system? Up till now the Apo six, the Igbomen that were shot there in broad daylight through the careless action of the police, their families have not got justice.
“Recently, some people who are squatting to find means everyday through all manner of petty jobs and so on were carelessly slaughtered and nobody is talking about what justice should be meted to them or their families and so on.
“So the issue of people being abused with impunity has been going on for a very long time in this country. And leaders who really carry out these acts of impunity are simply getting away with them.
“In fact, there is no doubt in my mind that there have been many cases that should have deserved to go to ICC before this one. For example, Obasanjo could have been taken to the ICC for his action in Odi and Zaki Biam where it was clear that instructions were given for the army to go and destroy these villages.
“Again, the police shot Mohammed Yusuf (the Boko Haram leader) with beggars and cripples like rats. Having been arrested and handed over to the police, but they were put down on ground and shot like rats.
“People were not even willing to bring those police officers before courts of either their own system of police or military justice or even the civilian courts for them to really face the criminal acts they carried out in respect of this extra-judicial slaughter of people.
“There are court processes but the police did not think those were important enough. Therefore, at some point, something like this will happen”.
He also frowned at insinuations that Gen. Ihejirika was being dragged before the ICC because he is an Igbo man, saying “It is stupid to insinuate that we are dragging the former Chief of Army Staff to the ICC because he is an Igbo man. It could have been anybody. It is the usual Nigerian politics that you can only take certain decisions based on your tribe, your religion or where you come from.
“This is what Nigeria has been reduced to. People cannot be accused of criminal offences because they are from particular sections of the country. It is a very sad state of affairs. We are taking this action not minding where Gen. Ihejirika comes from”.
Abdullahi said the Abuja meeting of the committee was meant to harmonise its position to ensure that the suit to be filed at The Hague is supported with infallible proofs.
He said: “The legal committee gave us a brief in terms of the goings on in terms of constitutional amendment, and we are now also looking at the various ways and means of ensuring that the issues we are going to raise at the International Criminal Court are issues of facts and figures. This is what we considered today.
“For us to be sure of our facts and figures, we have decided that another group would make its way to Maiduguri to see the Borno Elders Forum, who also have been discussing this matter for many months so we can compare notes with them and see in what way we can work together to ensure that the issues we are going to raise are issues of national concern; are issues that are going to be presented on the basis of facts and figures”.
On whether the NEF would not indirectly drag President Goodluck Jonathan to the ICC as the former army chief may have been carrying out orders he received from the President as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, the former vice-chancellor said it was left for the judges at the ICC to determine that.
Abdullahi added: “It is the ICC based on its procedures and rules that would determine at what point it would stop. Obviously, the man who pulled the trigger may not necessarily be the man with the liability.
“If you notice in terms of past experiences, we have been seeing Heads of State appearing or being issued with warrants of arrest to appear before the ICC but they were not at the front line in terms of where these human rights violations have taken place but the court was able to establish that all of these human rights violations were carried out with their knowledge or with their instruction”.