It is no longer news that the Nigerian Army led by General Tukur Buratai has set up a purported Panel of Inquiry to investigate the multiple killings of unarmed civilians , the members of the Indigenous People of Biafra ( IPOB ). The action of the Nigerian Army in setting up the purported Panel of Inquiry was apparently compelled by the widely published report of the Amnesty International ( AI ) on the gruesome and odious massacre of over 1, 000 IPOB members across different parts especially in the South – South / South – East regions of Nigeria within the last one year.
For the purposes of straightening the records, it would be recalled that on the 26th November, 2016, the Amnesty International released a well –detailed and damning report (with an assemblage of hardcore inculpatory and over-powering evidence ) on the most callous and blood-chilling butchery of the IPOB members by Nigerian state actors. The report graphically painted a gory picture of the large –scale impunity and unprecedented high-handedness of the security forces in repressing the unarmed pro-Biafrian groups. Indeed, the report in its entirety is a classic study in ethnic –cleansing, pervasive culture of impunity , genocide and state –sponsored terrorism against a hapless and unarmed lot merely seeking to exercise their globally –recognized imperishable human rights to self-determination. This report has sparked global outrage against the Government of Nigeria and its brutal Army.
A prominent part of the report reads as follows;
“Despite overwhelming evidence that the Nigerian security forces have committed human rights violations including extrajudicial executions, torture and other ill-treatment, there has been no action by the authorities to hold them to account. This report includes evidence of 87 videos of the events showing the killings of pro Biafra activists and the immediate aftermath of these fatal shootings. Yet the Nigerian government has not done anything to end the unlawful and brutal crackdown. There has been no independent investigation nor has the President instructed the armed forces to comply with international human rights law in responding to IBOP protests.”
It was in a failed bid to exculpate the Government of Nigeria and put a hamper on the widespread outrage against the pervasive atrocities of its Army that the Nigerian Chief of Army Staff ( COA), Major-General Tukur Buratai, on the 9th of February, 2017 set up a kangaroo Panel of Inquiry to investigate the report of the Amnesty International.
It is instructive to note that “On 30 September 2016, Amnesty International wrote and shared the key findings of this report with the Federal Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Army Staff, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Interior, Inspector General of Police and the Director-General of the State Security Service. Responses were received from the Attorney General and Inspector General of Police but neither answered the questions raised in the letter”
If what the Nigerian Army Chief has set out to achieve is to bury the truth as graphically exposed by the AI, our position is that such a misconceived mission is dead on arrival. Every norm of natural justice is glaringly against the method infamously deployed by General Buratai and the Government he serves. No less an instrument than the Nigerian constitution itself is eloquently against the Army Chief and his employers.
Now, hear this:
“In the determination of his civil rights and obligations, including any question
or determination by or against any government or authority, a person shall be entitled to a fair hearing within a reasonable time by a court or other tribunal established by law and constituted in such manner as to secure its independence and impartiality.” (Section 36 (1) of Nigeria’s amended 1999 Constitution).”
The above statutory provision is a crystal encapsulation of the twin pillars of natural justice famously expressed in Latin as; nemo judex in causa sua and audi altere partem which has its English translation to mean; no one should be a judge in his own case and hear the both parties. These twin pillars of natural justice, as they are fondly called, are unarguably of great appeal and universal application. Any departure from the rigid dictates of these rules, no matter how slight, attracts the only severe consequence of declaring the outcome of such exercise a complete nullity.
We are therefore of the opinion that the principle which governs this matter is that a man shall not be a judge in his own cause–nemo judex in sua causa: see Dimes v. Grand Junction Canal (1852) 3 H.L.C. 759, 793, per Lord Campbell. As stated by Lord Campbell in that case at p. 793, the principle is not confined to a cause to which the judge is a party, but applies also to a cause in which he has an interest. The situation here is even worse and extremely mind-boggling as the very same Nigerian Army in the eye of the storm is now attempting to purportedly probe itself. There cannot be a better example of working from the answer to the question. It is indeed a misguided journey in self-deceit.
We therefore call on the Nigerian Government and its Army to stop playing possum and wake up to the enduring admonition of its own Supreme Court in the case of Akpamgbo-Okadigbo v. Chidi (No. 1) (2015) 10 NWLR (Pt. 1466) 124 where it is stated thus ;
“This is a constitutional provision which must not be toyed with. It is well settled that the right to fair hearing entrenched in section 36 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (supra) entails not only hearing a party on any issue which could be resolved to his prejudice but also ensuring that the hearing is fair and in accordance with the twin pillars of justice, namely, audi alteram partem and nemo judex in causa sua. Thus, where a party is not heard at all in a matter which affects his right or the trial is adjudged unfair, any judgment generated therefrom, becomes a nullity and of no legal consequence. It is bound to be set aside.”
It is for the foregoing reasons that we IPOB have taken the firm position that we cannot be a party to the festival of absurdities being organized by Buratai and his paymasters in their kangaroo Panel. We have never been known for inanities and shenanigans so we do not have time for such at this point in our history.
Dr. Ikenna Chinaka
Iyom Grace Ukpai