The Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG), representing the vast circle of rights and civil organisations in northern Nigeria, once again, written to call the attention of the United Nations and other international friends and partners of Nigeria, to the implications of the recent protests that swept across the southern Nigerian states and the Federal Capital, Abuja.
According to the letter date October 26, 2020 and obtained by Abuja Business Reports, the coalition noted that “the protests, hash tagged #EndSARS, prima facie, were a clear and legitimate demand for an end to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a unit of the Nigerian police force, for alleged notoriety for unlawful arrests, torture, disappearance, murder and other forms of violations in some parts of the country.”
The letter signed by the group’s Board of Trustees chairman, Nastura Ashir Shariff, the group alleged that from the onset, “the protesters enjoyed heavy funding, support, encouragement, cheer and protection by a combined force of part of southern Nigerian elite including some of its political, business, cultural, religious, legal and media assets as well as a handful of aggrieved and disgruntled northern political leaders.”
The rest of the letter reads:
Emboldened by this level of support and influence, the marches were able to spread and take over strategic locations across many southern states as well as ground all official and private activities in the Federal Capital within the first two days.
On October 11th, 2020, few days into the protests, Nigerian authorities swiftly pronounced the dissolution of SARS and immediate demobilization of its officers and acceptance of the five demands of the protesters .
The Nigerian Inspector General of Police also announced the replacement of SARS with a Special Weapon And Tactic (SWAT) unit, and assured that a team of investigators, including civil society groups and human rights organisations, would be set up to investigate alleged abuses.
Around that time, the regularity of murderous attacks, killings, vandalization of entire communities, kidnapping, highway robberies and a furious Boko Haram insurgency almost turned the North virtually into a battle ground.
The CNG meanwhile was staging a northern region wide protest tagged #EndInsecurityNow to demand action against the devastating banditry and other violent crimes in the region. .
Yet, even this government response that obviously favoured one section and exposed other sections of the country, in this case the North, to fresh security vulnerabilities, could not persuade the #EndSARS protesters to reason with constitutionalism, public peace and safety, national security and fair play, by giving the government time to see the promised reforms through.
Thus, from the third day, the initial genuine intentions of the marches were twisted into an avenue for the venting of pent-up anger ushered by a jailbreak in Edo state followed by widespread arson, killings, and looting, targeting the nation’s police facilities and personnel and daring the entire national law and order assets. ,,,
In the wake of this deterioration, the CNG directed and achieved the immediate suspension of the #EndInsecurityNow protests to forestall undue infiltration that could occasion a general breakdown of law and order.
For too long, enemies of Nigeria, both foreign and local have worked strenuously to ensure that the country remains backward, divided, weak, confused and bewildered by myriads of challenges and problems.
A series of attempts have been made to exploit the cleavages of religious and ethnic fault lines through inflammatory, and inciting propaganda that pitched the different Nigerian ethnic nationalities against each other.
The foremost in recent years is the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), which has openly and perpetually called for war on the Nigerian nation, and outright killings often targeted at people of northern Nigerian origin using all sorts of guises including marginalization and self-determination as articulated in our first communication on 12th July, 2017 to Your Excellency and the second dated September, 30th, 2017.
The CNG took the bold and necessary step of drawing national attention to the unfolding developments in Nigeria with Nnamdi Kanu, the IPOB leader’s persistence on war and incitement of genocide against other regions and also made two representations to the UN.
CNG addressed those petitions to Your Excellency’s office with similar communication addressed to the major foreign diplomatic missions represented in Nigeria, in which it drew attention to the emerging trends in the country that were pregnant with complications and unforeseen consequences.
The CNG’s truly patriotic representations aimed to forestall the drift toward anarchy and bloodshed in Nigeria, and also to alert the international community as to where responsibility would ultimately lie if such momentous and terrible events ever came to pass.
The Nigerian authorities acted promptly by proscribing IPOB and its activities and pronouncing it a terrorist organization while the international community turned a blind eye and even granted asylum to Kanu and a platform to launch further attacks on Nigeria.
WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY
Three years after the Kaduna Declaration, with the dimension taken by the #EndSARS protests of October, 2020, IPOB saw another opportunity to attempt to actualize its national destabilization agenda which it failed to achieve in several years of agitation, propaganda and clamour.
To push this long held agenda, the #EndSARS protests were hijacked and the original motive twisted, giving it a new face that came with a long list of demands backed by a well orchestrated media propaganda alleging government’s impunity and highhandedness on the protesters.
These unverified and fictitious claims of killing of protesters by the Nigerian army, particularly the so called Lekki massacre, were pushed hard and fast that even the international community, reputable foreign media outlets and civil organizations bought into the lies.
As amply shown above, the protests were inadvertently manipulated by IPOB and its terror network to kill several people, mostly northerners in PortHarcourt, Edo, Aba, Enugu and other South-eastern states in a well planned genocide. There were no reciprocal response in the North.
All through the period of the protests, Kanu has openly used platforms in foreign countries to broadcast messages of hate and instigated his followers in Nigeria to unleash violence against Nigerian security forces and other tribes and ethnic groups, especially those of the northern part of the country.
He used the opportunity to also declare for violent change of government using distorted versions of the right to self-determination and false claims of marginalization.
This, and the encouragement and massive support and protection accorded the arsonists in the guise of peaceful protests by the southern elite, as well as the express endorsement of their actions by even southern leaders in top government positions, had also helped in escalating the situation.
Under the guise of what these southern leaders still insist are peaceful protests, enemies of Nigeria have made good their plots with the killings of northerners in the South; the killing of police personnel, burning of police locations, vandalization of private residences, public assets and private, businesses.
Despite this provocation, the North especially the CNG and the Northern Elders Forum did not relent in issuing wide press statements and travelling the different corners of the North to urge people to remain calm and avoid retaliation on the millions of southerners living in the region.
Thus the North continues to accommodate other nationalities and giving them the space, opportunity and the peace to continue to live and do business even when northern businesses were under attack in northern cities like Kano’s Sabon Gari that are heavily inhabited by Igbos.
This sad fallout of the #EndSARS protests has thus vindicated our position that IPOB is no less than any terror group in the world.
It has also vindicated our previous warning that IPOB will, beyond doubt, target innocent Nigerians and will unleash violence and death upon them for the simple reason that they belong to a different ethnic group.
The CNG finds it regrettable that while Nigeria remains committed to peace and global order, our friends in the international community appear convinced with the one sided narration of the Southern Nigerian press to this campaign of hate and genocide veiled in the #EndSARS protests with their reluctance to treat them as aberrations that none of the countries of the world will ordinarily condone.
We are also profoundly agitated that the global community continues to give a safe haven to the IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, who again and again has called for war and genocide and whose propaganda, campaign and directives instigated the targeting of Nigeria’s national security assets, killing of people of other regions, looting public and private properties and violating other Nigerians’ dignity and rights during these protests.
This is notwithstanding that in Britain, the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 that inserted Section 4A into the Public Order Act 1986 clearly prohibits anyone from causing alarm or distress or doing any such act with intent to cause a person harassment, alarm or distress by “using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behavior, or disorderly behavior, or displaying any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting, thereby causing that or another person harassment, alarm or distress”.
Unmistakably too, Kanu’s utterances have fulfilled all the conditions of illegality as laid down in the American case of Brandenburg v. Ohio, as it clearly promotes “imminent” lawless action, that is “likely” to occur and Kanu intends to produce imminent lawless action “directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action”.
Equally, R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul, 505 U.S. 377, 388 (1992) American laws protects “individuals from the fear of violence, from the disruption that fear engenders, and from the possibility that the threatened violence will occur.
It is therefore disturbing that while IPOB was proscribed as a terrorist organisation legitimately by Nigerian authorities, they have found the West as a safe haven to commit all sorts of crimes against Nigeria; crimes that no western country will allow against its own people.
We are also worried that in dealing with security situations that affect Nigeria and Nigerians, very little attention and appreciation is given by our international friends to what Nigeria and law abiding Nigerians such as the CNG are doing in the interest of national sovereignty, national security, national peace and constitutionalism.
This is evident in the fact that while the ENDSARS protests had resulted in the killings of several northern Nigerians living as minorities among southern communities, the attention of the international community is more directed to the concocted Lekki incident that remains unsubstantiated.
Worrying also, is that Nigeria’s international friends and partners have often been swift to condemning but slow in engaging Nigeria to build peace and harmony.
Equally disturbing is that, the international community, especially countries where Nigerians will find comfort to perpetuate an agenda that fans the embers of discord, call for war and violence on Nigeria, refuse to take action in line with their domestic laws on hate speech and international laws on war and genocide, to sanction these people and not accommodate them as is being done now.
We place reliance on Article 20(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) adopted by the United Nations General Assembly and ratified by 169 nations, which require states to prohibit all negative statements towards national groups, races or religions, but, as soon as a statement “constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence,” it must be banned.
Although the US has reservations over this provision, it also agrees that incitement which is intended to cause imminent violence should be restricted.
Hence, it has become necessary to state that it is unacceptable to Nigeria and Nigerians, and particularly the North, that those we accept as friends will allow their countries, media space and facilities to be used in promoting anarchy and campaigning for genocide in Nigeria.
As a group that represents the legitimate interest of Northern Nigeria, we expect our international friends to interrogate these unwarranted cases of people using the privilege of dual citizenship to move to their countries and use their spaces to transmit messages and propaganda that has so far caused the destruction of many lives and property and further polarized Nigerians along ethnic, religious and regional lines, sowing deeply a discord that will take ages to undo.
We expect that what our friends in the West will not condone upon their country and citizens, they should not condone the same to be perpetrated from their land against other people and countries.
We wish to stress the need for the United Nations to caution the global community against the current bias of favouring one Nigerian region, or one ethnic group over the North, especially when it is patiently at the receiving end.
We call on the United Nations to consider the above stated facts and urgently condemn the latest coordinated attack and killing of northeners and take steps to ensure appropriate redress and reparations for victims.
We demand the United Nations to pronounce the #EndSARS protests as a violent insurrection against the Nigerian state and to hold all persons, groups or governments that insist on justifying them responsible by imposing necessary international sanctions on them.
The UN should urgently proscribe the activities of IPOB all around the world and appropriately label it a terrorist organization.
We base this call on the universally accepted definition of terrorism which includes, the targeting of civilians with violence based on the pursuit of political aims, religious, or ideological change that is often committed by non-state actors or under cover personnel serving on behalf of their respective governments; or a crime that is mala prohibita (i.e. crime that is made illegal by legislation) and mala in se (i.e. crime that is inherently immoral or wrong).
We submit therefore that IPOB by its violent utterances and action against Nigeria and other Nigerian tribes in pursuit of political aims and targeting people based on their ethnicity and religion in ways that are clearly prohibited by relevant Nigerian legislations and international laws, adequately qualifies as a terror outfit.
We also call on the UN to support the Nigerian State’s recent application of the constitutional tools and other lawful and internationally practiced methods of quelling violent protests that portend total breakdown of law and order.
We call for international intervention to strengthen the effort of the Nigerian government as necessary because IPOB will likely resume to the Diaspora of Europe and America to continue inciting for violence and genocide like it did during the #EndSARS protests.
We finally call on the UN to impression Nigeria’s international partners, particularly, the UK, USA, France, Germany, Israel and Canada to forbid their territories from being used by a terror group as plat forms to incite and instigate war in Nigeria.
Similarly, they should monitor and control the activities of IPOB sympathizers currently resident across Europe and the US who are spewing speeches of hate and xenophobia via the social media and other means.
In this regard, the European Union (EU) Framework on hate speech is clear to the extent that the Framework Decision on Combating Racism and Xenophobia criminalizes the public incitement to violence or hatred directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin.
Hate speech as defined in this Framework Decision is a criminal offense also when it occurs in the online world.
We also call on the UN to declare Kanu and other notorious IPOB leaders wanted by initiating necessary procedures for their arrest and appropriate prosecution in consistence with relevant international criminal laws.
It is imperative for our friends and the international community to understand that our bilateral friendship is guided by the principles of sovereignty, promotion of peace and the standards that guide legitimate interference.
Hence, their intervention, exclamations and actions should not be drawn to discountenance the effort of the Nigerian state to protect citizens from violence and to impose law and order.
Let it also be clear that while International law allows for peaceful protest, assembly and association, it does not legitimize violence and destruction. And no democracy will allow its citizens to be threatened by either internal or external aggression.
Protests are constitutional rights; violence in the name of protest is a crime. These are clear provisions in Nigeria as they are under international law. Section 45 of the Nigerian Constitution refers.
Both the 1966 ICCPR and other international conventions are clear on the legality of restricting violent assembly and on enforcing the law to protect the right of others, to ensure national security, and to guarantee public safety and public order.
Lastly, it is important to call the attention of our friends, particularly in Europe and the entire international community/organizations to weigh the impact and consequence of these campaigns coming from their backyard.
By far, a destabilized Nigeria will certainly threaten the peace and security of the entire sub-Saharan Africa.
As the most populous country on the continent and one that continuous to influence peace and stability across the sub-continent, any breakdown of law and order will only compound the security and humanitarian situations in the region, especially in Mali, Libya etc.
This will further worsen the continent, disrupt international cohesion, compound the despondent cases of human trafficking, migration and other challenges the continent and the world are now facing.
Nastura Ashir Shariff
 https://www.thisdaylive.com/index.php/2020/10/21/1993-inmates-freed-in-edo-jailbreak-says-fg/; https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/headlines/422948-week-of-jailbreaks-over-2000-inmates-escape-from-three-nigerian-prisons.html
 https://www.vanguardngr.com/2020/10/endsars-looting-spree-in-nine-states/; https://nairametrics.com/2020/10/25/endsars-lagos-to-prosecute-229-suspects-for-looting-and-vandalizing-public-and-private-properties/
 https://allafrica.com/stories/202010220405.html; https://www.worldstagegroup.com/endsars-terminal-operators-condemn-burning-of-npa-building/
 https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/10/killing-of-endsars-protesters-by-the-military-must-be-investigated/; https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-54624611; https://time.com/5902112/nigeria-endsars-protest-shootings/
 http://saharareporters.com/2020/10/19/bayelsa-governor-drums-support-endsars-directs-release-illegal-detainees; https://www.thecable.ng/breaking-osinbajo-finally-speaks-on-endsars-says-we-are-sorry; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KH2Gylnn85w
 https://humangle.ng/arewa-community-demands-compensation-over-suspected-ipob-attack/; https://www.legit.ng/1378369-endsars-nef-raises-alarm-claims-northerners-south-attacked.htmlv;https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=3177053285737964&id=100002999727626