Judicial Activist Group says Jonathan must end impunity in governance
Nigeria cannot truly celebrate its forthcoming independence anniversary because the most Nigerians are still not free from official high-handedness and insecurity, a judicial activist group, the Access to Justice has said.
The group, in a statement signed by its Executive Director, Joseph Otteh, said although Nigeria's will celebrate its 51st independence anniversary by this weekend, many Nigerians, particularly those without privileges of wealth, power and influence, continue to suffer untold abuses by the failure of Nigeria's government to guarantee them a life of security, dignity and opportunity.
"Fifty one years after independence, the blessings of political liberty still ring hollow for several millions of Nigerians who continue to endure grueling exploitation, want, deprivation and abuse from their government," Mr Otteh said. "From the abject collapse of critical infrastructure - power, roads, water - to a dysfunctional state of services delivery - healthcare, education, security and safety, housing, judicial services. Nigerians have, in growing frustration, endured the pain of not realizing individual and national aspirations for 51 years."
The group said Nigeria has failed to invest in the welfare of its citizen and keeps on violating section 14(2) of the Constitution, which provides that the welfare and security of citizens shall be the primary purpose of government.
"Nowhere is this more evident than in the failure to guarantee that Nigerians will no more be subjected to brutal and gross abuses of their rights to live in dignity, and free from violence and risks of extrajudicial killings by security officials," he said.
It further stated that for too long, the Nigerian government has permitted officials of its state security agencies to abuse the civil rights and freedoms of citizens ordinarily enjoyed by democracies worldwide.
"Year after year, thousands of people are killed by security agencies extrajudicially while on their ordinary business, and the government looks the other way. This month, September, Ismaila Quadri, a Lagos baker was brutally assaulted by policemen from Ipaja police station, and did not survive the grievous assault, dying a few days later and an audacious Commissioner of Police says he was caught with weed," the statement said. "Earlier in the year, soldiers went on a rampage to murder policemen who had nothing to do with a soldier allegedly killed by a policeman. Whilst professing to be a "people's government", the Jonathan administration turns its back to the people when it stays silent in the face of thousands of summary executions of innocent people; it turns a blind eye to their need the Nigerian people have for an accountable and law-respecting police force. It remains indifferent to longstanding agitations towards reforming Nigeria's security institutions and has refused to take any credible step towards changing the paradigm of law enforcement operations in Nigeria."
The group said these actions are no longer excusable, given the opportunities Mr Jonathan has to bring to an end abusive policing and impunity in the work of security agencies.
"This week, the President called on the newly confirmed Chief Justice of Nigeria to reform the Nigerian Judiciary. While his concern for the efficient and accountable delivery of justice services is welcome, President Jonathan must also train and focus his attention to the needs within the executive branch bleeding for his concern and to the desperate cries of thousands of families in Nigeria for reform of the security sector. The Nigerian landscape is soaked in the blood of innocent victims of mindless killings by security operatives, and these cry for justice day and night. Ordinary folk in Nigeria live each day of their lives literarily in the shadow of death; in the constant fear of violence from security forces, whose ubiquitous presence in every corner raises the risk of jeopardy. Some of the victims are the voters who brought the President and other office holders to power. Yet, President Jonathan has laid out no agenda, no vision for reforming the security agencies even at this time."
Access to Justice also said deplorable state of the security sector is one of the reasons why it cannot deliver safety or security to Nigerians or tackle corruption and other social vices.
"The implications of a dysfunctional police force reach into other spheres. Companies are divesting from Nigeria and foreign investors will think hard become coming here again. The UN has recently said its staff will no longer travel to Abuja, and many functions are being canceled or removed from Nigeria. Nigeria cannot truly celebrate freedom when its people are not free."