Help! The military are coming back!

By MajiriOghene Etemiku

Problems associated with human rights and development are Siamese twins. You can hardly separate the one from the other, especially in the developing world.

Human rights are fundamental and inalienable, and they are the basis for development. Let’s face it, if there is no right to life, and if we cannot freely associate and be associated with, and if we do not have access to information, how can development of any type take place? Matters will always become jaundiced if we do not address issues of human rights and use them to promote issues of sustainable development.

It is in the light of this that I want to discuss two key incidents which substantiate the need for the wheels of justice to roll a little faster than they do. In June 2015, the 19 Battalion of the Nigerian military allegedly shot and killed a certain vigilante Benson Ogedegbe in cold blood. The gist around town was that the men in uniform were using their uniforms to aid and abet illegal oil bunkering activities, and late Benson was a thorn in their flesh.

The commanding officer in that town was also alleged to have made overtures to late Ogedegbe, overtures which Ogedegbe was said to have spurned. There were other stories which flew here and there after the summary execution of Ogedegbe, and in an apparent attempt to put the cart before the horse, the military high command via the commanding officer decided to give the dog a bad name after it had killed it.

There were other stories about Ogedegbe and one of them was that the late Ogedegbe was the leader of a gang which unleashed mayhem on the inhabitants of Koko town. I have decided to focus on these preceding sentences about the justification for the cold-blooded murder of late Ogedegbe for a number of reasons. One, even though the late man was a cold-blooded gun-toting criminal as the military rhetoricians put it, what business did they have with a matter that the police could easily or uneasily handle? The place of the military is with the maintenance and protection of our territorial integrity we are told. What was the interest of the commanding officer of the 19 Battalion in Koko in civil affairs in 2015?

But we might even add that even if the late Ogedegbe was the hardened criminal that the commanding officer made him to be, that cannot justify killing him in cold blood. If we begin to kill every hardened criminal the way late Ogedegbe’s life was snuffed out, then we would have veritable returned to the Hobbesian state of nature, and may have rescinded on our collective decisions to submit our individual liberties and privileges in the hands of one man who guarantees our freedoms and privileges.

In submitting our rights and liberties in the state, we were supposed to have come under the institutions of state like the criminal justice system, which administration has been the template for the dispensation of justice against all perceptions of injustice.

It is against the background that we should not slide back into the anarchy and chaos of the pre-Hobbesian times that we have maintained a call for late Ogedegbe. In a letter dated May 31, 2017, and directed to the offices of the Commander, Special Investigations Bureau of the Nigerian Army Corps of military police in Abuja, the Law Offices of Festus Keyamo has asked the Chief of Army Staff to investigate the activities of the 19 Battalion of the Nigerian Army, Koko, Delta state. The said letter comes after several petitions written on the subject of the summary execution of the late Ogedegbe, for which the military high command has been somewhat mum, and which now seeks ‘an expedited conclusion of the investigation as well as prosecution of all those found culpable’.

In calling for justice for the dead, we are mindful that justice may not bring back Ogedegbe or assuage the deep pain which Ogedegbe’s assassination may have caused his widow and children. Yet we do this from a consideration of the looming disaster which acts of impunity like the one meted to Ogedegbe, and the injustice which it generated may engender.

Just a few days ago, a prominent paramount chief in Ologbo, Delta State, ordered his boys to strip naked and beat up Esther Temile, 52, and mother of three children. We have the details, pictures and a video recording of this incident, and to describe what I saw of this woman and her bruises, I can well attest to a similar beating of Jim Caviesel of Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ.

We are not giving out further details until we get the side of the paramount chief in Ologbo who confirmed to police that he ordered his boys to strip naked and flog Esther Temile until she nearly bled to death over a quarrel which the police may easily or uneasily handle.

The message we ordinarily deduct from these incidents is that justice on behalf of oppressed Nigerians, and which would serve as strong deterrent has never really been served. If the military high command cannot deal with a case of cold-blooded murder which one of theirs meted on a civilian, and in peace times, shouldn’t that be an incentive for civilians to seek to strip peoples’ wives naked and flog them in public? Who is out there who will return from work only to find his wife had been stripped naked and flogged publicly that would recite a Hail Mary and go to bed thereafter?

Etemiku, is a Communications Specialist based in Benin City, Edo State
@DsighRobert,
www.wadonor.org

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