Lawyer and human rights crusader, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), has called on the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to investigate Attorneys-Generals of states, who have refused to prosecute perpetrators of murders in their jurisdictions. The lawyer explained that unless the NBA is prepared to sanction Attorneys-Generals, who refuse to prosecute masterminds of murders, their heinous activities will continue unabated.
Mr. Falana made the call in a letter to the NBA President Mr. AB Mahmud. Dated 16 December 2017, the letter said it is disturbing that the NBA has failed to monitor the prosecution of murder suspects arrested by the police or indicted by the judicial and administrative panels of inquiry set up by the federal and state governments to probe violent civil disturbances.
"We have confirmed that the rate of killings in the country has been on the ascendancy due to the refusal of several state Attorneys-General to prosecute murder suspects due to political pressure or sheer negligence of duty," said Mr. Falana.
He stated that between 1999 and 2007, an official squad was fingered in the murder of 70 people in Gombe State. The murder charges filed against the suspects by the Police, he added, were dismissed by the courts at the instance of the state government.
"The late Alhaji Ibrahim Hassan, who demanded for the prosecution of the culprits, was charged with giving false information to the Police by the State government," stated Mr. Falana.
He also said that members of an official squad, which killed some politicians and students in Ekiti State between 2003 and 2006, were arrested by the Police and charged with murder before a High Court sitting at Ado Ekiti. According to Mr. Falana, a retired Army captain and his Police orderly, who killed the students, were convicted and jailed. However, he added that both convicts were pardoned by the state governor in 2009.
"As if that was not enough, the murder charges pending against the other murder suspects were struck out by the trial court in 2014 for want of diligent prosecution on the part of the state government," stated the lawyer.
In addition, Mr. Falana said the Ahmed Lemu Presidential Panel, which investigated the 2011 post-election violence in 12 northern states and Akwa Ibom State, found that 856 people were killed by armed thugs. Mr. Falana noted that in the White Paper issued on the report, the Federal Government directed that the culprits be prosecuted. However, the directive was not carried out by the states where the killings took place.
Also, the National Human Rights Commission under the leadership of Professor Chidi Odinkalu, recalled Mr. Falana, found that 55 people were killed in the 2015 pre-election violencw in Rivers State. He stated that culprits were never prosecuted by the state government. The failure to prosecute, he said, has resulted in the killing of over 100 other citizens by armed gangs and militants.
Mr. Falana equally noted that the Justice Mohammed Lawal Garba Commission of Inquiry, which investigated the December 2015 violent attack on the Shiites by the Nigerian Army, found that 347 people were killed and secretly buried in a shallow graves.
"In the White Paper issued on the report of the commission the state government directed that the suspects be prosecuted, but the Attorney-General of Kaduna state has refused to prosecute the murder suspects," said Mr. Falana.
In addition, he recalled that in December 2016, the National Management Emergency Agency (NEMA) confirmed the killing of 204 people in Southern Kaduna. The murder suspects were arrested by the Police and the Army, but have not been prosecuted by the Kaduna State government. The lawyer equally recalled that in Taraba State, a number of suspects were arrested and charged with murder for the September 2017 killing of hundreds of Fulani people in reprisal attacks in Sardauna Local Government Area. The murder suspects, he explained, have since been freed by the state government which terminated the criminal proceedings. Similarly, Mr. Falana said the Fulani herdsmen were arrested for killing scores of unarmed farmers were not prosecuted.
"We have also confirmed that not less than 100 suspects murder suspects have been arrested by the Police in connection with the pogrom in Benue State. The suspects may soon be released from custody as they have not been charged with culpable homicide in the appropriate courts by the State government," stated Mr. Falana.
He added that irrespective of the recent killing of thousands of people, including security personnel in Nasarawa, Plateau and Zamfara states, the suspects arrested by the Police and the Army have not been prosecuted by the governments of the affected states.
Mr. Falana argued that since culpable homicide or murder is a state offence, the state Attorneys-General should have ensured that the suspects arrested by the security agencies were prosecuted. "Having failed to prosecute the murder suspects, the Chief Law Officers of the states have breached their oaths of office and subverted the rule of law. It may interest you to know that some Attorneys-General have a penchant for terminating murder charges by filing nolle prosequi," Mr. Falana said.