Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has decried what it described as a subtle threat by the Defence headquarters against the group over her recent condemnation of the decision of the Chief of Defence Staff to set up a fact-finding team to Plateau State with regards to the recent upsurge in the bombardments of communities by suspected armed Fulani terrorists leading to the killings of over 200 citizens even as the military or police has failed to arrest the mass killers.
HURIWA had in a statement released on Sunday, criticised General Christopher Gwabin Musa’s response, highlighting the deployment of a Special Fact-Finding Team, led by retired Major-General Augustine Agundu, to investigate the root causes of the attacks.
While acknowledging the military’s commitment to restoring peace, the civil rights group contended that the CDS’s approach falls short of the decisive action required to apprehend the sponsors and perpetrators of the heinous acts.
The civil rights advocacy group raised questions about the accountability and effectiveness of key security figures, including the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 3 Division Nigerian Army, the Director of the Department of State Services (DSS), and the Commissioner of Police in Plateau State.
HURIWA in a statement signed by its national coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko said: “Gunmen wreaked havoc as they brazenly attacked Ndun, Ngyong, Murfet, Makundary, Tamiso, Chiang, Tahore, Gawarba, Dares, Meyenga, Darwat, and Butura Kampani villages in the Barkin-Ladi, Mangu, and Bokkos areas of Plateau State. Residents were left defenceless, enduring continuous shootings and the burning of houses for over 48 hours during the onslaught.
“However, instead of employing intelligence to identify and apprehend the perpetrators swiftly, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Christopher Musa, opted for a different approach. The decision to set up a Special Fact-Finding Team led by retired Major-General Augustine Agundu is rather a move politicizing terrorism.
“We deem the team’s visit to the Governor as an inadequate response to the gravity of the situation, focusing on preaching religious tolerance and peace rather than taking concrete actions to address the crisis.
“We strongly advocate a more decisive and strategic approach by the CDS to unmask the culprits behind the Christmas Eve carnage in Plateau State. Sending a team to engage in diplomatic activities is inappropriate for the military. We call for a shift towards measures that actively contribute to ending the violence.”
HURIWA insisted that individuals responsible for the security lapses, including the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 3 Division Nigerian Army, the Director of the Department of State Services (DSS), and the Commissioner of Police in Plateau State, should be subject to thorough investigations. HURIWA underscored the importance of accountability as a fundamental aspect of governance and urged the CDS to overhaul the current strategy to prevent future occurrences of such carnage.
In a scathing critique, HURIWA emphasized that if those entrusted with security responsibilities failed to act while terrorists unleashed havoc, they must be held accountable. The organisation asserted that accountability forms the bedrock of effective governance and contended that General Christopher Musa must reassess and modify the military’s strategy to prevent further bloodshed in Plateau State.
The group said the Defence headquarters, however, took offence at the statement by its and in a statement by the spokesman Tukur Gusau a Brigadier General, threatened legal action against HURIWA.
It however stated that the reaction of the Defence Headquarters to the group’s position smacks of a mistaken mentality and wrong mindset that Nigeria is in a military dictatorship whereby fundamental human rights are trampled upon.
The group informed the Defence headquarters to accept the indubitable truth that the military institution as a creation of statute is not more superior than the supreme law which is the Grund Norm that all persons and authorities must comply with absolutely.
The Rights group said: “HURIWA wishes to quote and adopt the affirmation from an essay by a British writer who said ‘We’re citizens, not subjects. We have the right to criticise government without fear.’
“The Nigerian public needs more access to what the government is doing in its name. That requires increasing freedom of information and transparency
When freedom of information and transparency are stifled, then bad decisions are often made and heartbreaking tragedies occur – too often on a breathtaking scale that can leave societies wondering: how did this happen?”
“We, just like that British human rights essayist, believe that when the public lacks even the most fundamental access to what its governments and militaries are doing in their names, then they cease to be involved in the act of citizenship. There is a bright distinction between citizens, who have rights and privileges protected by the state, and subjects, who are under the complete control and authority of the state.”
HURIWA also stated that it will continue to speak truth to power and that no amount of intimidation or blackmail will hinder it from speaking for the people because the voice of the people is the voice of God and besides, the Nigerian Constitution in section 14 guarantees the citizens the unfettered right to participate in the government of the Country and section 39 provides for freedom of expression and chapter 4 of the Grund Norm encompass other provisions on the inalienable and universal freedoms that all persons are entitled to.”
The organisation said it is open to any constructive partnership with the Defence headquarters to further the cause of human rights and respect to the constitutional norms and provisions so civil rule and constitutional democracy can be sustained overtime.i