The Human Rights, Justice and Peace Foundation (HRJPF) frowns at the secrecy that has shrouded the trial of the October 1, 2010, Abuja bomb blast suspects.
Although HRJPF supports the calls for the perpetrators of that heinous act to be brought to book, it also feels duty bound to draw attention to the following:
1. That as long as Nigeria remains a democracy, not even the Federal Government should do anything to rubbish Nigerian democracy. Thus, the HRJPF joins the Nigerian Bar Association in condemning the secret trials some Nigerian citizens are being subjected to while answering to the charges brought against them for their alleged roles in the dastardly bomb explosions. In line with Article 11(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which Nigeria is a signatory, every suspect in any crime is presumed innocent until he is proved guilty and deserves to be tried in an open court where he would be represented by a lawyer. Anything that would strip a Nigerian of this right is just as dastardly as the explosions for which the blast suspects are being tried for. The right of every Nigerian to fair hearing is sacrosanct.
2. Certain issues surrounding Mr. Henry Okah’s trial in South Africa also require further investigation and total disclosure to the Nigerian public because the October 1, 2010 bomb blasts was a crime against the Federal Republic and not just a crime against the government.
3. Thus, the claims and counter claims between certain Government officials and Mr. Henry Okah himself must stop. Instead of those counter claims, HRJPF calls on the Federal Government of Nigeria to, as a matter of urgency, set up a panel of inquiry, to look into certain aspects of the erstwhile relationship between Mr.
Henry Okah, and some members of the top hierarchy of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.
4. Is it true, as has been reported in the news media, that both President Jonathan and Mr. Godsday Orubebe, a Minister of the Federal Republic, have at various times recently met with Mr. Okah in South Africa?
5. For instance, it has been widely reported that about two weeks to the bomb blasts, Mr. Orubebe visited Okah in South Africa. So, if today, Okah is standing trial for a charge as terrible as that he has been alleged to be the master-mind of the bomb blasts that took the lives of over a dozen Nigerians, the nature of Okah’s relationship with President Jonathan and his close associates and government officials must be established and also be made public. Please, note that HRJPF does not condemn Mr. Orubebe for the mere fact of his having visited somebody. But the nature of such visits have to be ascertained.
6. HRJPF makes this call for a full investigation by a panel of inquiry that must sit publicly because already the truth is being buried, and hurriedly too. In Nigeria, the State Security Service (SSS) has commenced the secret trials of some suspects and the public has no way of following that trial and to understand how the truth or lack of it is unfolding. Also, as the NBA has alerted the nation, to try any Nigerian in secret, is to betray the constitution. To deny them the services of their legal counsels is to do injustice to them. Even under military regimes, suspected coup plotters under trial enjoy the services of military lawyers. But, under a civilian regime, a coup suspect should be tried in an open court and he should not be denied the services of a lawyer. HRJPF is not saying anything new in this aspect for when highly respected Chief Obafemi Awolowo and certain others were tried for such high treason in the early 1960s, they were tried in
open courts and had unfettered access to their lawyers.
7. While the trial of Mr. Okah in South Africa continues as it should, it is according to South African law. It may never address some aspects that should be of interest to Nigerians. That is why there must be a panel of inquiry to investigate the various aspects of the relationship between some members of the government and Mr. Henry Okah. To sweep the matter under the carpet is to keep Nigerians from getting to the root of the bomb blast.
Comrade Chidi Nwosu,
Human Rights, Justice and Peace Foundation (HRJPF)
93, Market Road, First Floor (Back)
Aba, Abia State
E-mail: [email protected]
October 31, 2010