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ICC begins probe into alleged shooting of #EndSARS protesters

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  • UN rights experts say govt has questions to answer

The International Criminal Court says it has commenced a preliminary investigation into the recent #EndSARS protests in Nigeria.

This is coming as UN human rights experts have insisted that Nigerian government must set up a credible, independent inquiry into the reported illegal killing of peaceful protesters by soldiers.

A report by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) on Wednesday quoted the ICC as saying this in a statement, adding its prosecutor had earlier confirmed receiving information on alleged crime.

The examination will “assess whether the legal criteria for opening an investigation under the Rome Statute are met.”

It recalled crowds of peaceful protesters had gathered on streets in major towns of the country demonstrating against police brutality, leading to a crackdown.

Amnesty International said security forces opened fire on protesters, killing and injuring a number of people. Both the police and the army have rejected Amnesty’s allegation.

The ICC said it would make findings of the preliminary examination public.

The development is coming after a number of civil society organisations (CSO) threatened to report some heads of security agencies to the ICC over the conduct of their personnel during the demonstrations, popularly called #EndSARS protests.

However, the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, has since dismissed the threats to report him and some heads of security agencies to the ICC and other international authorities.

“They have continually threatened to report the NA to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and also threatened various forms of sanctions against personnel and their families,” Buratai had said.

“Criminal elements are threatening us with travel ban but we are not worried because we must remain in this country to make it better.”

Meanwhile, some UN human rights experts have said, “Since 2005, UN Special Rapporteurs have repeatedly raised the issue of police killings and impunity with the Nigerian government,” the experts said.

They also said, “We have had 15 years of government promises, but nothing has changed. Governments come and go, but police brutality is as intractable as ever. Nigerians need justice.”

The experts noted that excessive use of force during peaceful assemblies was unacceptable, adding that the shootings at Lekki toll plaza in Lagos on 20 October were “especially disturbing because demonstrators were precisely calling for accountability for previous police brutality.”

“What is particularly disturbing is that the authorities said they had disbanded the SARS and agreed to the protestors other demands, including investigations,” the experts said. “But they immediately announced the formation of another similar unit and have not ended the excessive use of force.”

They recalled that protesters were met with water cannons, tear gas and live ammunition.

The fact that in the Lekki toll plaza incident CCTV cameras and lights were apparently switched off shortly before soldiers opened fire on the peaceful protestors indicates “a disturbing level of premeditation,” the experts said.

Systematic police brutality and use of excessive force against peaceful protesters must be independently and impartially investigated and the perpetrators brought to the justice, the human rights experts said.

In addition to setting up an independent inquiry, authorities must clarify why the military was deployed and who gave the order, the experts said. “Any investigation must aim to identify lines of responsibility, deliver accountability and justice, provide remedies and reparations, and recommend structural and systemic changes,” they said.

The experts also called on the government to release the reports of previous investigations into human rights violations by the security forces. These include the 2019 report by the National Human Rights Commission report on SARS and the 2018 report by the Presidential Investigation Panel to Review Compliance of the Armed Forces with Human Rights Obligations and Rules of Engagement.

They stated, “The authorities have promised for years to address human rights violations by the security forces,” said the experts.

“Hundreds of victims and relatives of those who died have testified and sent petitions, but they never received any remedy, not even the acknowledgement that their rights were violated. It is crucial that the government releases all these reports to the public before they start new investigations.”

The experts have written directly to the Nigerian government, stressing that “it is high time that concrete action is taken to properly look into all incidents and that structural changes be made to prevent any re-occurrence.”

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EFCC grills ex-Kwara gov, Ahmed, over N9n fraud

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has quizzed a former governor of Kwara State, Abdulfatah Ahmed, for allegedly diverting N9bn.
The former governor was grilled by an EFCC team of operatives from the commission’s headquarters at Jabi, Abuja.
Ahmed, on invitation of the anti-graft agency, was said to have arrived at the EFCC headquarters by 10am on Monday.
EFCC spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren, confirmed that he was in their custody, but did not give further information on the development.
Ahmed had governed Kwara between 2011 and 2019.
Before then, he had served as commissioner for finance in the administration of Bukola Saraki, his predecessor.
Details of the allegations of fraud against him are still sketchy but TheCable understands the funds involved run into billions of naira.
This is the second time the former governor will be invited by the EFCC since he vacated office in 2019.
In December 2020, he was at the commission’s office after an invitation.

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Only 9% of miliraty budget spent on weapons – Gbajabiamila

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  • DHQ: Nigeria needs N826bn annually to fund armed forces

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, says only nine per cent of the total budget of the military is spent on weapons.
He stated this at a public hearing on the Armed Forces Support Trust Fund (Establishment) Bill, organised by the House Committee on Defence on Monday in Abuja.

This came as the Defence Headquarters said Nigeria would need $2bn (about N826bn) annually to fund its armed forces to effectively combat the daunting challenges of insecurity facing the country.
This disclosure also came on Monday just it was revealed that some members of the Armed Forces currently engaged in the fight against insurgency and other criminal act are lobbying to be redeployed from the area where they are posted as a result of poor welfare.

Gbajabiamila said that appropriation records showed that about 91 per cent of the current funding of the Armed Forces was spent on recurrent overhead, salaries and welfare.
“This bill seeks to provide an injection of additional capital funding for the Armed Forces of Nigeria at a crucial time in our nation.

“I am sure many of you will wonder why the Armed Forces of Nigeria need an additional financial injection at this time.
“The fact based on appropriation records is that about 91 per cent of the current funding to the Armed Forces go on recurrent overhead, salaries and welfare, leaving only nine per cent for capital purchases.
“This reality has prompted this 9th House of Representatives to seek a way of providing funds that will be focused on the capital needs and training of our Armed Forces,’’ he said.
Gbajabiamila said that the importance of the bill is evidenced by the dwindling resources available to the Armed Forces to prosecute the various security operations it is involved in.
Gbajabiamila said that Nigeria’s expenditure on military hardware and training in the last five years was between nine per cent and 11 per cent of the budgetary allocation to the military.
He said that it was incapable of empowering the military to face the security challenges in the country especially the insurgency in the North-East.
Gbajabiamila said that to succeed in the fight against insecurity, the military would need more funding for modern weapons and training.
He said, “Nigeria is at war against insurgency, terrorism, kidnapping and all manner of insecurity; hence the need to uplift the resources available to our armed services to enable them procure the best tools to help win this war.
“So, what we seek to do in this bill is not new or unique to us as a nation; the solution to our security challenges requires asymmetric actions across many policy areas. This is what we have tried to do as the representatives of the people.
“The concept of a trust fund already exists for the Nigerian Police; it only makes sense to also bolster our military capability as well through this unique vehicle.”
Chairman, House, House Committee on Defence, Rep. Benson Babajimi (APC-Lagos) said that the bill sought to explore alternative sources of funding for the military.

Meanwhile, Director of Production, Defence Headquarters, Air Vice Marshal M. A. Yakubu, who spoke at the public hearing said even the sources of funding specified in the bill would be inadequate to tackle the problem.
He said the projection for funding in the Bill is estimated at about N100bn per year.
When established, the Support Trust Fund is expected to draw funds from one per cent of the total money accruing to the federation account; 0.5 per cent of the profit made from the investment of the National Sovereign Wealth Fund (NSWF) by the Nigerian Sovereign Investment, one percent of Value Added Tax (VAT) remitted to the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) as well as any take-off grant and special intervention fund as may be provided by the Federal Government, states and local governments of the Federation.
It will also draw funds from one percent of the air ticket contract, charter and cargo sales charge to be collected by the airlines and paid to the support fund; Aids, grant and all assistance from international agencies, nongovernmental organizations and the private sectors; and Money derived from investments made by the Support Fund.
But AVM Yakubu said this will still be inadequate, saying “I have been a defence attaché in the United States of America from 2014 to 2017. I have been a Director of Procurement at the headquarters of the Nigerian Airforce for another two years.
“I have been a chief of logistics also at the headquarters Nigerian Airforce for another two years. So I am fully conversant with what it takes to run the affairs of a fighting Airforce.
“I also understand the limitations we have in Nigeria and what it should have been. I want you to understand how large is this problem we are trying to address before I make my point.”

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Insecurity: FCTA demolishes taxi park shielding criminals

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In a bid to eliminate criminal activities in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory Administration has demolished a taxi park reportedly turned into a drug addict’s colony and a haven for many other criminal activities.

FCTA said the place, located at NICON Junction in Maitama District, was supposed to be an interchange by the Abuja Master Plan, but temporarily made a taxi park to mitigate the hardship of commuters.

Director, FCTA Security Services Department, Adamu Gwari, said the taxi park had not only turned into an environmental nuisance but also a security threat that could not be allowed.

Gwari, who led other officials on the demolition exercise, also noted that in view of the persistent insecurity across the country, the administration is prepared to deal with all potential dangers to the residents.

His words: “In line with the city programme, this place is a taxi rank. But it has been highly abused and turned into nuisances. That is why we have to remove everything. This place has become a security threat and it breeds criminality. There are series of concerns from the residents regarding the rate of criminality which emanates from this place.”

Chairman,  FCT Ministerial Committee on City Sanitation,  Ikharo Attah said the FCT Minister  Malam Muhammad Bello was worried that the government’s efforts towards alleviating residents’ transportation difficulties were scuttled by miscreants.

Attah explained that the ministerial directive to immediately demolish the taxi park was meant to promptly address brewing insecurity within the highbrow Maitama District, saying the park was abused.

According to him, a place provided by the government to ease residents’ movement, unfortunately, had turned into a hiding place for drug addicts.

He vowed that the contravention won’t be allowed to remain an environmental nuisance that breeds insecurity within the neighbourhood and the territory in general.

Attah said: “This place is supposed to be an interchange according to the plans, but temporarily turned to a taxi park to manage transportation problems, but the place was abused. The place was turned into a home for drug addicts and has become dangerous for the neighbourhood.

“The Minister was clear when he gave a matching order that this nuisance is removed. The taxi park has become a contravention that can’t be allowed.

“All the concerned departments will ensure that the nuisance does not reappear because this place is the heart of Maitama District. The Minister has ordered that we should green the place, to add to the aesthetic of the city.”

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