A human rights advocate, Mike Ozekhome, SAN, on Friday, said the Federal Government lacks both legal and moral justifications to encourage the invasion of Niger Republic by the Economic Community of West African States.
He argued that being a sovereign state, Nigeria does not have the legal right to dictate to Niger and its citizens the way to run their affairs, particularly on the type of government they should operate.
Leaders of ECOWAS states had, in the wake of the recent coup in Niger Republic, resolved to, among others, deploy forces to unseat the military government currently in place.
However, Ozekhome disagreed with the decision, maintaining that Nigeria lack the moral foundation to stand and dictate to Niger because the international community never dictated to Nigeria in many instances when it experienced military interventions in the past.
The activist stated these in his keynote address during the public presentation of a book, titled themed, ‘International humanitarian law and armed conflicts: An African Perspective’ held in Abuja by the International Human Rights Commission, authored by the IHRC’s Head of Diplomatic Mission in Nigeria, Dr. Hezekiah Duru.
The event had in attendance the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar; the Minister of Interior, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo and other personalities featured among others,
According to Ozekhome, “The international community never came to dictate to us how to govern ourselves during instances of military interventions. We have no moral authority to go and intervene in another sovereign state’s internal affairs.”
He said the most Nigeria, ECOWAS and others, opposed to the current political situation in Niger could lawfully do, would be to impose economic, diplomatic and related sanctions, but not to engage in military intervention.
He blamed the resurgence of military intervention in the continent on the failure of African leaders to provide effective leadership and refrain from insisting on being in power perpetually.
While citing examples of some African countries led by a single family for many years, Ozekhome argued that it was unfair to other citizens of such countries to be subjected to the leadership of one family for decades.
“Are you saying that there are no other families in those countries that can produce leaders? African leaders should give good governance to the people. Where they are not ready for the gain, they should be ready for the pain,” Ozekhome said.
The Sultan of Sokoto, represented by Professor Ahmed Mora, said human rights issues were very much consistent with the tenets of the Islamic religion, which must be continually protected in Nigeria and the West African sub-region.
He recalled that as a retired Brigadier General, who served the Nigerian Army for 34 years, he was involved in peacekeeping and peace enforcement exercises across the continent.
The Sultan, who regretted the impact of conflicts on Nigerians, including the high number of internally displaced persons, called on everyone to work on ways to discourage war and other forms of conflicts that affect the people’s ability to exercise their human rights
The Interior Minister, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, who was represented by Eva Omotese, said because many countries in the continent are currently experiencing different forms of conflict like civil war, coup, insurgence, banditry, terrorism, and militancy, among others, it became imperative for all to promote human rights of everyone by supporting the work of the IHRC.
The Secretary-General of the IHRC, Professor Rafal Marcin Wasik, who was visiting Nigeria for the first time, assured of his organization’s commitment to the promotion of human rights and humanitarian services globally.
Speaking on his book, Duru explained that it identified legal challenges and critically discussed them with a view to proffering possible solutions, adding, “the significance of the book also borders on the understanding of new developments in armed conflict which it brings even as it extends the knowledge-base that currently exists in the field.
“In all, the book thus dovetails into the objective of this symposium, which essence is to focus on the justification and promotion of humanitarian intervention and peace-building in Africa, particularly in countries which unfortunately are experiencing armed conflict, either in the form of civil wars, coup d’états, insurgencies, banditry, militancy, terrorism, etc.”
The Executive Secretary, of Nigeria Christian Pilgrim Commission, Rev. Yakubu Pam, regretted the devasting effect of the current security challenge in the country and on the people and promised to support the activities of those behind the symposium.