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Terrorism: Between ICC and AGF.

The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), is in the eye of the storm over his criticism of the International Criminal Court's (ICC) escalation of the cases against Boko Haram, herdsmen and the military. Malami expressed concern over the ICC's decision when he hosted the newly-ghappointed president of the court, Professor Chile Eboe-Osuji, a Nigerian. Osuji had visited Malami in his office recently as part of his working visit to Nigeria and to appreciate the country for the role it played in his emergence as the president of the court. But the international jurist was confronted with the Attorney-General's displeasure over the escalation of the eight potential cases from the stage of preliminary examination to that of preliminary investigation. Six of the cases are against Boko Haram while the remaining two are against the military. The military's cases reportedly have to do with its handling of the Shiite Muslim sect's confrontation in Zaria, Kaduna State, which allegedly culminated in the loss of scores of human lives.

Many Nigerians find it rather inconceivable that the Attorney-General could be speaking against the intervention of the ICC at a time in the country when all forms of senseless mass killings and associated atrocities are being perpetrated. It is becoming increasingly difficult, for instance, to distinguish between the attacks by the Boko Haram group and those of killer herdsmen as their attacks usually bear similar imprints in terms of deadliness and callousness. And it is more than clear to any dispassionate observer that the security agencies and government are far from being on top of the situation. So why is anyone rejecting the involvement of an international agency that promises to get to the root of the seemingly intractable security situation? Has the government taken care of, or evolved any veritable solution to the menace of herdsmen and Boko Haram?

If the ICC has graciously chosen to step in to help surmount the challenge, what is anomalous in its decision? Why should investigation of murderous gangs ruffle official feathers when, by pointing the finger at many and divergent suspects, government has demonstrated its inability to zero in on the real perpetrators of these dastardly acts? Could it be that the government and its officials are really insulated from the pervasive anxiety and worry among Nigerians over the daily mass killing of their compatriots? Even if the ICC intervention means that the government is being called out for its somewhat ineffective security policy formulation and implementation, is it not already indicted by reason of the sheer magnitude and frightening frequency of killings in many parts of the country? Or which is more precious: the supposed image of the country or the lives of its innocent citizens?

Nigeria is a signatory to the Rome Statute of the ICC and it is obligated to abide by its convention even though same has yet to be domesticated by the National Assembly. Some African countries and the Philippines recently withdrew their membership of the court because it does not brook any form of protection for any serving or retired public officials suspected of war crimes and/or grave human rights abuses. Article 27 of the Rome Statute specifically hinges on the removal of immunity of heads of state in order to forestall abuse of power without the fear of being held accountable someday. The overall objective is to engender a peaceful and stable world where there is no repression and oppression of the powerless with impunity but many African leaders are clearly uncomfortable with that. They do not want a whittling down of their near absolute power which is prone to abuse and corruption.

Indeed, many African leaders believe that the provision is targeted at them, even though the statute dates back to 1919 when virtually all African countries were still under colonial rule. Given the grave security situation in the country, especially the spate of mass killings, Nigeria does not have the luxury of preventing those who engage in atrocious acts from being made to account for them. The government has not succeeded in holding the mass killers accountable in any significant way capable of deterring recurrence. It, therefore, does not appeal to reason to reject honest help, irrespective of the source. Nigerians urgently desire a stop to insecurity and desecration of human lives in their country. They also want the culprits to be apprehended and punished according to the law. If the intervention of the ICC is what will help to achieve these objectives, cooperation rather than rejection is what any public official who loves and holds humanity in the high esteem should accord the court.
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Publication:Nigerian Tribune (Oyo State, Nigeria)
Geographic Code:6NIGR
Date:May 1, 2018
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