The hasty nomination of the recently retired security chiefs by President Muhammadu Buhari as non-career ambassadors-designate has been seen by the Peoples Democratic Party and legal practitioners as a deft move to shield them from prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
It would be recalled that Buhari had, yesterday nominated former chief of defence staff, Gen Abayomi Olonisakin, chief of army staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai, chief of naval staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas, chief of air staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar and chief of defence intelligence, AVM Mohammed Usman, as non-career ambassadors-designate and forwarded their names to the senate for confirmation.
Reacting to the development, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) through its spokesman, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, said the president was using ambassadorial appointments as a decoy to shield the ex-service chiefs from investigation over alleged killing of innocent Nigerians and other crimes committed against humanity.
The party, in a statement urged the senate to jettison partisanship and stand on the side of the people, particularly the victims of atrocious regime of the ex-service chiefs by rejecting them as ambassadors.
“It is indeed sacrilegious and a horrible assault on the sensibility of Nigerians that the All Progressives Congress (APC) government is seeking to use ambassadorial appointments as desperate measure to secure diplomatic immunity for the former commanders and protect them from investigation, arrest and possible prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for the atrocities committed against innocent Nigerians under their command.
“The frenzy by officials of the Buhari’s presidency in mounting pressure on the Senate to confirm such abominable ambassadorial nominations has further raised public apprehensions of a desperate attempt to cover the culpability of some other individuals connected to the APC administration.
“It is shocking that instead of allowing the former service chiefs to answer for the alleged crime against humanity under their command, including reported cases of extra-judicial execution, killing of unarmed protesters at Lekki Toll Gate, Lagos, rape, illegal arrest as well as detention and torture of innocent Nigerians, the APC administration is rather plotting their escape”, the party spokesperson said
The PDP insisted that the ex-service chiefs must not be allowed to use diplomatic immunity to escape investigation and possible prosecution for the killing of unarmed #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki Toll gate and other parts of the country as well as the hundreds of civilians reportedly killed by soldiers in the Zaria massacre.
“This is in addition to series of reported military invasions and mass shooting in communities in Borno, Yobe, Rivers, Abia, Anambra, among other states across the six geo-political zones of our country where soldiers reportedly razed communities and massacred unarmed civilians under the command of the ex-service chiefs.
“Our party therefore calls on Nigerians, across board, to unite in rejecting these ambassadorial nominations for the accused former commanders and demand that President Buhari should immediately withdraw their nominations from the Senate,” Ologbondiyan said.
Similarly, a senior lawyer, Mr. Afam Osigwe, said the manner of their nomination suggested that it was done solely for the sake of conferring immunity on the former service chiefs.
He said the president should have waited for the outcome of their investigation before their nomination.
“I would have thought the government should have been circumspect in nominating any person who has charges pending against him or her before the ICC for crimes against humanity.
“I thought it would have been better for any responsible government to have waited for the outcome of such investigation before appointing such persons.
“The manner the five former service chiefs are being nominated for ambassadorial posting makes it look as if the whole idea is to give them diplomatic immunity from prosecution and that should worry all of us about the image of the country and what message we are sending across to the entire world.
“But then, the appointment is still subject to confirmation by the Senate. Going by what we have seen from the Senate, I do not expect to see the Senate reject any of those nominations.
“But then again, the countries to which these individuals may be posted reserve the right to accept their letters of credence, accepting them as ambassadors of their countries.
“We watch and see but I do not think this goes well for Nigeria, for human rights and also accountability in governance,” he said.
Another lawyer, Mr. Inibehe Effiong, described the appointment as an immoral attempt to convey diplomatic immunity on them so that they can evade the prosecutorial jurisdiction of the ICC.
Like the PDP, Effiong urged the senate to reject the nominations.
“President Buhari has by this ignoble appointment reminded Nigerians that he is deaf to their cries and blind to their suffering. No leader in this country in my lifetime has exceeded Buhari’s parochialism and provocative indifference to public opinion.
“These former service chiefs were supposed to be fired long ago, but because we have a president who has an unbreakable covenant with failure, they were retained in defiance of the resolutions of the National Assembly and the opinion of most Nigerians.
“After removing them belatedly, this president has now rewarded them for superintending over the mass murder(s) of citizens by the Armed Forces and non-state actors such as Boko Haram and the so-called bandits. In other words, Buhari is telling them ‘thank you for keeping to my covenant with failure’.
“The appointments appear to be an immoral attempt to convey diplomatic immunity on them so that they can evade the prosecutorial jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.
“If the Senate has an iota of self-respect and decency, they should reject these abominable nominations. If they are confirmed, it will reinforce the belief that the current National Assembly is working against the interest of the citizens,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Concerned Nigerians Group said it had instituted a case against the former COAS at the ICC over what it described as human rights violations and crimes against humanity by the army during his tenure.
Convener of the group, Mr. Deji Adeyanju said the CNG had asked the ICC to investigate, arrest and prosecute Buratai to serve as a deterrent to others.