FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Lagos, Monday, September 15, 2014: The Stop Impunity Nigeria (SIN) Campaign today commended the Lagos State Government for setting up a Tribunal of Inquiry into the road traffic accident in which a soldier was killed in the Palm Grove area of Lagos on July 4, 2014 and the subsequent arson and vandalization of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) buses by soldiers.
In a statement in Lagos, the S.I.N. Campaign described the action of the soldiers who went on rampage on July 4 following the accidental killing of their colleague, burning every BRT vehicle in sight, and attacking civilians and journalists, as “an act of impunity, which is one of the major social problems perverting the Nigerian polity.”
It recommended that the inquiry into the incident, which begins today with the inaugural sitting of the Tribunal, should be thorough and that all indicted officers should be brought to book, adding that all persons and agencies of government whose rights were violated by the incident should also seek legal and economic redress.
The campaign coordinator, Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, of Human Development Initiatives (HDI), said: “The concept of ‘impunity’ is linked with disregard for the law or rule of law, violation of human rights, abuse of legal-social order and deliberate disregard for due process. This impunity which translates to immunity from the law warrants a thorough investigation which, happily, the Lagos State Government has found the will and courage to institute.”
Prof. Owasanoye noted that the accident which resulted in loss of life was clearly unfortunate and perhaps could have been avoided but wondered: “Was it right for soldiers to have taken laws into their hands by going on rampage, destroying Government property, beating up civilians, and disturbing public peace?”
Saying that the answer is obviously “No”, he contended that the Military is clearly subject to civilian authority, particularly having regard to section 130 (2) of the 1999 Constitution, which declares that the President is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federation.
Also citing Section 217 (2) of the Constitution, Prof. Owasanoye stressed: “Clearly, the soldiers acted outside their remit and in contravention of their constitutional duties and powers. The Law forbids anyone regardless of class, position or standing from resorting to self-help. Where a person is aware a crime has been committed, the place to seek redress is in court and through any other constituted Authority. Rather than resort to self-help and jungle justice, the soldiers ought to have reported the incident either at a Police Station or through appropriate channels within the military hierarchy.”
He expressed regret that “Nigeria’s military have been known too often to act irresponsibly on various occasions, resorting to self-help in real or imagined situations of infringements of the rights of a member of the group” and cited several such instances, dating back to the 1977 invasion by soldiers of the home of late Fela Anilkulapo Kuti, named Kalakuta Republic.
Prof Owasanoye insisted that “the signal should be sent to the public that no individual or institution is above the law. Soldiers and civilians alike are subject to rule of law and should not be allowed to commit impunity as if the arm of the law is too short to restrain them.”
The Campaign therefore urged the Lagos State Government and all the victims of the July 4 rampage to seek legal redress against the Military, saying “It is only by so doing that we can strengthen the rule of law in which we all hope for refuge.”
The Campaign said its representatives would be appearing before the Tribunal of Inquiry to make a presentation and that it would observe the entire proceedings of the Tribunal until the end of the public hearing on September 26.
For further information, please contact:
Executive Director, Media Rights Agenda, Lagos