By Dr. Peregrino Brimah
First it starts with foes, then friends, then you and I. At a time, against better advice, I strongly supported the extra-judicial detention of Radio Biafra boss, Nwannekaenyi Okwu-Kanu. My argument was that, it should not be because the Department of State Security botched a slam dunk case that it should allow a dangerous person who had publicly advocated our being killed and bought weapons to that effect, to be released. I held similar view for Sokoto Prince Dasuki.
ENDS casuists debated and rebuked me harshly, explaining the importance of respecting the law. I was warned that I was speaking on my own and must not include the organisation in my write-up.
It was not long after that I saw several more Nigerians go down in unconstitutional detentions and extra-judicial deaths, that I realized how and why I was wrong. It is better to risk releasing and allowing the escape of a Kanu and a Dasuki, than putting 170 million Nigerians in clear danger of an above-the-law totemic government that feels it has the mandate and support of the majority to detain and kill extra-judicially without remorse, repercussion, retribution or even rebuke.
Islamic Movement Sheikh Zakzaky has been held since December 13th. He was flown abroad without notice or permission of his remaining family. Whether he is alive or dead and how he is, blind, crippled, vegetative or otherwise is unknown. No one has seen him since. His lawyers have been denied seeing their client. It has been over two months. The same is the story of his wife.
So also, over 190 Nigerian Muslims were detained extra-judicially and even when at last they were charged two months later, some were not brought to court and their names not listed and the judge had to go to the prisons in clear violation of the law to book them.
On February 13th, after speaking to the international media, criticizing the claims by Nigeria's government of a technical defeat of Boko Haram, which put the people at risk...letting down their guards; and allegedly for the "offense" of condemning the government for denying when its soldiers died and being obstinately indifferent when 300 Nigerians were killed in Dalori; Rtd. Colonel Hussaini Monguno was whisked away by State security agents and his whereabouts remained unknown till we protested his freedom.
Hussaini Monguno was finally paraded on rather outlandish claims, of him and two others picked surprisingly several days after he was, fuzzily accused of being heard on the phone, perhaps by phone tapping, planning to blackmail and extort officials and intending to "misinform" President Buhari and Nigerians about allegations of corruption among members of his "perfect" cabinet. Most of the listed charges were prospective, "thought crimes."
While it is difficult to wade into these claimed charges finally posted on the Borno prominent son and brave anti-Boko Haram and anti-corruption activist, one thing there is no doubt of, is that there are VERY corrupt people in Buhari's government who pad budgets, who brazenly steal, or rather, Senate-lift entire budgets from the "hallowed" Senate chambers and who are so audacious they can even pad things like the house of the ADC in Aso compound, add "rent" for Aso villa, intend to rob millions from the Aso clinic, and list single boreholes under the Ministry of Works and Housing budget for $700,000.... and that while Hussaini Monguno has been arrested, these persons are still free.
We doubt it is within the jurisdiction of the DSS to arrest and investigate Hussaini Monguno and others for allegations within the jurisdiction of State and Federal police. Under the new administration, Nigeria's agencies have overridden the police, with the army self-declaring as the "defenders of democracy" and being responsible for addressing intra-State protests, making arrests or immediate death-sentencing, and responsible for restoring law and order in States; and the DSS has similarly become judge and jury for all types of cases in all departments. The sudden picking up of Kogi's Faleke and Audu's son, is in not too distant memory.
Once a person has been illegally detained, that person has been permanently denied justice. It is not reversible or amendable. An extra-judicial detention is called a kidnap and thus, while the guilt of the suspect is yet to be determined, the State has committed a crime, that is quite confirmed. Ben Rawlence, writing for Human Rights Watch said of similar transgressions by the Kenyan government, "Violating suspects’ rights also risks alienating and further radicalizing young men. Neither kidnapping suspects nor locking up those who protest violations will make the region safer."
While we are happy that at last and after two weeks, Hussiani Monguno is finally paraded and we finally know where he is; we once again bear witness to the Schutzhaft Gestapo modus of operations where Nigerians are arrested and whisked away extra-judicially and detained without the required 2 days access to a judge and constitutionally enforced access to legal representation and visitation.
A recent damning and chilling report by the AP, "People detained by military disappear in northeast," described how Nigerians in the Boko Haram-troubled northeast have been whisked and killed extra-judicially by Nigerians State agents. As can be expected, Nigerians and the Nigerian media are increasingly becoming afraid to release reports that may appear critical of the new administration.
December it was Zakzaky. Yesterday it was Hussaini Monguno. Between, many more have been detained for admonishing the State, in Kaduna, Borno and elsewhere. Most cases we never hear about. Who knows who it will be tomorrow. Should we be cowed?
* Dr. Peregrino Brimah is of Every Nigerian Do Something (ENDS) and can be reached via Twitter: @EveryNigerian