Is Nigerian Senate truly Serious That Nigerians Have The Right to Protest?
By Abdulmumin Giwa
I must say I was shocked for the second time again with the response of the Nigerian Senate concerning the protests staged by some patriotic Nigerians calling on the ailing Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, who has been in London for over three months now, to return to the country and resume his duties or resign.
This follows a statement by the Chairman Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs Senator Aliyu Abdullahi condemning the police brutality on the protesters who were teargased by the police in attempt to disperse them from the protest.
The Committee Chairman stated that “While we are opposed to the subject of the protest, the Senate acknowledges that the protesters have the constitutional right to gather and express their views in a manner that will not breach public peace and order.”
“Since the ‘Our-Mumu-Don-Do’ protesters did not conduct themselves in such a manner as to disturb public peace, it is not right for the Police to brutalize them as they reportedly did yesterday.”
“The Police should review their rules of engagement and ensure that they are in line with that of modern democratic societies. The rights of the people should not be violated by the police employed to protect these rights.”
Why I keep saying I am shocked is as if the Nigerian Senate was not in existence when the Nigerian Police and Army were harassing and trampling on the fundamental human rights of the members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria.
On several occasions the Police have attacked and extra-judicially killed members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) in their hundreds in Kano, Kaduna and other cities but the Nigerian Senate was not bothered. It was as though they were never in existence.
If all these laws and issues of rules of engagement exist in Nigeria, why have the Police persistently attacked and harassed peaceful protests staged by IMN members in Abuja and other cities in the country with teargas and life bullets? Is the Senate not aware of all these or is it all part of the tenets of democracy they are preaching?
In fact some of those attacked during the resume or resign protests in Abuja in the last few days were victims of Police brutality during other protests they staged calling on the Nigerian government to respect the Constitution and Judiciary and obey court orders and release some Nigerians like Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky from illegal detention. The Police molested them using teargas and water canon in Abuja. The Senate pretended not to have heard or seen anything. Could this be described as hypocrisy, cowardice or mischief?
Some of those patriotic Nigerians brutalized by the Police were present during the Annual Quds Day peaceful demonstration organized by the IMN that took place in June 2017 in Kaduna and they saw how the Nigerian Police clampdown on the peaceful protest shooting at women and children with live bullets. Several people were injured as a result of the Police brutality and they all gave their accounts through the media but the Nigerian Senate pretended never to have heard anything.
The same patriotic Nigerians protested against government irresponsibility that watched sponsored hoodlums staging mob actions and threatening the office and workers of the Amnesty International (AI) in Abuja who were earlier condemned by the Nigerian Army Spokesman for speaking against the rising rates of human rights abuses by the Nigerian Army. The patriotic Nigerians staged a rally outside the premises of the Amnesty International in Abuja calling on it to continue its good work of protecting humanity. The police also harassed them there while the hoodlums faced no threats from the police. There too the Senate saw nothing wrong.
Nigerians have watched with keen interest how the Nigerian security have invited some of the patriotic protesters in the near past for questioning when they called on Nigerian government to respect the judiciary and obey court order but the Senate never saw the security as trampling on the rights of the protesters.
In the same words as I have mentioned to the presidential Spokesman Garba Shehu who made similar remarks, I am forced to tell the Senate that its reaction to the protest is not because they are just and fair but political thinking that they can fool all the people all the time. The Senate is only responding because of the political repercussions it would cause on them and not because they see anything wrong with the way the Army and the Police are disrespecting the Nigerian Constitution and engaging in extra-judicial killings and flagrant human rights violations.
The Senate cannot say it is not aware of the Zaria pogrom of December 2015 where the Nigerian Army murdered over 1000 Nigerian men, women and children simply because they are IMN members and they don’t share the same religious understanding with Nigerian leaders. The Senate cannot claim to be ignorant of the mass grave in which 347 Nigerians murdered by the Nigerian Army were buried in collaboration with the Kaduna State Governor Nasiru El-Rufai and in violation of local, international and religious laws. The Senate cannot also claim ignorance of the illegal and unconstitutional detention of the IMN leader Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky and his wife after the Army had killed three of their children and burned the Sheikhs elder sister and nephew alive. Why then is the Senate silent on all these atrocities?
More so, the Senate cannot claim ignorance of the act of contempt of court perpetrated by the Nigerian government when it refused to release the IMN leader as demanded by a court of competent jurisdiction, the Federal High Court in Abuja. The Senate cannot also claim ignorance of the fact that some Nigerians have been in prison for over two years now on bailable cropped-up charges in Kaduna following their arrest after the Army killing spree in the Zaria massacre of December 2015. Where is the conscience of the Senate?
This hypocritical stance exhibited by the Nigerian legislature has only succeeded in turning Nigeria and Nigerians into objects of ridicule in the eyes of the world. You see people protesting and condemning the Nigerian regime for violating human rights and acting like a military regime. People have protested on the streets of London, New York, India and Malasia condemning the irresponsibility of the Nigerian regime and even calling it a terrorist regime and yet it is of no concern to the Senate.
The legislators in the US have refused to allow the sale of arms to Nigeria because of its bad human rights records, the Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, UN Human Rights Committee and various Nigerian Civil Rights groups have all been speaking against the deliberate flaunting of human rights by the Nigerian government but all that has not been of any concern to the Senate. Even the international media has now turned Nigeria into an object of mockery and still the Senate sees nothing wrong.
Does this then prove that the Nigerian legislature is made up of hypocrites, deceivers, liars, ingrates and cowards? To prove this wrong the Senate in particular should speak out against the misdeeds and call on the executive arm to respect the judiciary, obey the court and release Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky.