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A leading pro-democracy and non-governmental organization – HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has asked Nigerians not to lose sleep over the reported shoot-at-sight order against ballot box snatchers made by President Muhammadu Buhari because the President wouldn’t give such unlawful order in writing. 

Against the backdrop of criticism trailing the alleged directives to the armed forces by president Muhammadu Buhari to shoot to kill suspected ballot box snatchers, the Rights group said it is inconceivable to believe that such an unlawful order can emanate from a democratically elected president who has subscribed by the provisions of the Nigerian constitution which are sacrosanct inviolable and supreme. HURIWA said that it is difficult to believe that in the twenty-first century a nation that is a signatory to the Rome statute setting up global war  crimes Court would tolerate a leader that orders the use of extralegal execution of suspects even when that leaders knows that he could be arrested and prosecuted before the International criminal court just as the military chiefs understands the doctrine espoused in the Rome Treaty on ICC committing individuals to be tried individually for crimes against humanity arising from their official actions. 

“Nigerians must never lose sleep because president Buhari knows that it is absolutely unlawful to ask that persons in conflict with the law should be summarily assassinated because under all global human rights treaties and conventions, extra judicial executions are regarded as a crime against humanity which are inevitably captured under the Rome statutes that set up the international crimes court (ICC) which Nigeria is a principal signatory.

HURIWA also expressed optimism that the current hierarchy of the Nigerian military in Nigeria are vastly knowledgeable about the extensive ramifications of the universal declaration of human rights even as it is clear that under the current dispensation, so much has been done in terms of creating awareness to military operatives to appreciate the far-reaching implications of violating the right to life of citizens as captured under numerous international human rights laws and section 33 (1) of the Nigerian constitution.

Specifically, section 33 (1) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) states thus: “Every person has a right to life, and no one shall be deprived intentionally of his life, save in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty in Nigeria.”

Also, Rome Statutes provides thus: “Article 25 Individual criminal responsibility

 1. The Court shall have jurisdiction over natural persons pursuant to this Statute.

2. A person who commits a crime within the jurisdiction of the Court shall be individually responsible and liable for punishment in accordance with this Statute.

 3. In accordance with this Statute, a person shall be criminally responsible and liable for punishment for a crime within the jurisdiction of the Court if that person: (a) Commits such a crime, whether as an individual, jointly with another or through another person, regardless of whether that other person is criminally responsible; (b) Orders, solicits or induces the commission of such a crime which in fact occurs or is attempted; (c) For the purpose of facilitating the commission of such a crime, aids, abets or otherwise assists in its commission or its attempted commission, including providing the means for its commission; (d) In any other way contributes to the commission or attempted commission of such a crime by a group of persons acting with a common purpose. Such contribution shall be intentional and shall either: (i) Be made with the aim of furthering the criminal activity or criminal purpose of the group, where such activity or purpose involves the commission of a crime within the jurisdiction of the Court; or (ii) Be made in the knowledge of the intention of the group to commit the crime; (e) In respect of the crime of genocide, directly and publicly incites others to commit genocide; (f) Attempts to commit such a crime by taking action that commences its execution by means of a substantial step, but the crime does not occur because of circumstances independent of the person’s intentions. However, a person who abandons the effort to commit the crime or otherwise prevents the completion of the crime shall not be liable for punishment under this Statute for the attempt to commit that crime if that person completely and voluntarily gave up the criminal purpose.

In respect of the crime of aggression, the provisions of this article shall apply only to persons in a position effectively to exercise control over or to direct the political or military action of a State.

4. No provision in this Statute relating to individual criminal responsibility shall affect the responsibility of States under international law.”

HURIWA  also asked Nigerians to support the military in their lawful duties during the rescheduled polls because: “The Nigerian constitution authorizes the military to play these roles and the provisions as enshrined in section 217 (1) of the 1999 constitution goes thus: “There shall be an armed forces for the Federation which shall consist of an army, a navy, an Air Force and such other branches of the armed forces of the Federation as may be established by an Act of the National Assembly.”

“You will agree with us that the threats of insecurity is real, genuine and frightening because even those who hold positions of authority like governor of Kaduna state has issued death threat against foreign observers.

The Nigeria police force has spectacularly failed to carry out its obligation thereby compelling the military to step in. But doing so, the Nigerian Army being a professional institution created by the constitution must not breach the fundamental rights of Nigerians as enshrined in chapter 4 of the constitution.

“Democracy has also been explained in the Black’s Law Dictionary as that form of government in which the sovereign power resides in and is exercised by the whole body of free citizens directly or indirectly through a system of representation, as distinguished from a monarchy, aristocracy or oligarchy. It is also argued that it is a form of government usually representative, in which the powers of the majority are exercised within the framework of minorities the enjoyment of certain individual or collective rights, such as freedom of speech and religion known as liberty or constitutional democracy.”

“The New Standard Encyclopedia on its part states that democracy has three different but related meanings. Firstly, it is a form of government in which those who control the government are elected by the people and are responsible or answerable for their actions to the people. Secondly, it is a form of government in which there is no privileged class and in which individuals may rise by ability to positions of power and influence. Thirdly, it is an ideal way of life that stresses equality, liberty, individual rights, tolerance, freedom of discussion and compromise. In addition, democracy has been described by the Chambers English Dictionary as a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people collectively, and is administered by them or by officers appointed by them. It is a state of society characterized by recognition of equality of rights and privileges, namely political, social and legal equality.”

HURIWA also expressed optimism that the Army will not carry out extralegal killings because they understand  that there is “The doctrine of compact that was further explained by Justice Willes in Dawkins v. Lord Rokeby when he said “But with respect to persons who enter into the military state, who take His Majesty’s pay, and who consent to act under his commission, although they do not cease to be citizens in respect of responsible, yet they do by a compact which is intelligible and which requires only the statement of it to the consideration of any one of common sense, become subject to military rule and discipline.”

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