Between Hisbah Police and Biafra Security

Posted by News Express | 26 August 2017 | 3,241 times

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Of all the works of intellectualising and global scholarship bequeathed to mankind by one of Black Africa's original thinkers - Prof Chinua Achebe - one tiny book entitled The Trouble with Nigeria stands out. Because, it remains profoundly rich in prophetic affirmations that continuously stand the test of time.

In one of the few chapters of that copy and, indeed, a chapter that has become a topic in the ongoing political conversations in Nigeria, is titled “The Igbo problem”.

In it Achebe, who has gone ahead of us to the great world beyond, alluded to the mysterious ways in which Igbo-speaking persons are misunderstood by a greater percentage of Nigerians of other ethno-religious affiliations.

Achebe, quoting a scientist of non-Igbo ethnicity, said that there seems to be an unwritten code by most other ethnic nationalities to have a general type of mutual suspicions of any moves made by an Igbo-speaking person or Igbo interest group.

In short, the iconic writer stated that it was a hypothesis of a certain scientist that Nigeria has an Igbo problem. 

He said: “A distinguished political scientist from a 'minority' area of the South pronounced some years ago that Nigeria has an Igbo problem.”

In the last few months, the actions, comments, threats, innuendos and purported quit notice to vacate the northern 19 states - authored, masterminded and promoted by an amorphous but well-funded group of Hausa/Fulani ethnic champions known as Arewa Youth - have gone a long way to reinforce the conviction that this ‘Igbo problem’ mentioned  over 30 years ago in that small book by Achebe is still being sustained by Igbo-phobic anti-intellectuals, such as the emerging Arewa youth groups, who recently committed the constitutional heresy of issuing quit notice to the Igbo-speaking nationality: to be evicted by force from the 19 northern states by October 1.

The Arewa group of people who met in the political seat of power of old Northern Nigeria, in Kaduna, called Arewa House, said they were allowing Igbo to stay in the 19 northern states up until the 1st of October, before they (Arewa Youth) can activate mechanisms to enforce this order.

Few weeks after this illegal order was made which, to every intents and purposes, is a call to embark on genocide of Igbo-speaking persons in the North, a certain hate-filled song in Hausa language against Igbo was released and circulated en masse.

Worst still, given that the heads of virtually all the segments of the armed security services are predominantly of Hausa/Fulani origin, they have failed to take lawful action to arrest this bunch of hate-merchants, parading around as Arewa Youth. These worrying signals go to the core of the argument that, indeed, there is still an Igbo problem in the North. The only difference is that all men/women of good will from all ethnic groups have denounced the quit notice.

Because of the failure of the established security services in Nigeria to take concrete measures to enforce the law - by arresting and prosecuting these set of Arewa Youth, who did not only threaten Igbo with genocide but have gone ahead to encourage a song advocating genocide against Igbo - some persons under the aegis of the indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) who live in eastern Nigeria have decided to set up a vigilante group to protect their lives.

IPOB, which set up the civilian-led mechanism to watch the neighborhoods of the South-east, said the name of the vigilante group is to be known as ‘Biafra security services’. This well-thought-out decision - to secure their zone and assist the lethargic and near-compromised armed security forces to protect lives and property in South East - has been widely misinterpreted by some persons, largely from the North, who don't wish the Igbo well. Their grouse is said to be anchored on the perception that the security platform may be a disguised group of combatants to engage in armed struggle against the Nigeria state, to set up an independent Biafra state.

These wrong-headed suspicions are not only misplaced, but mischievous and borne out of hatred for the survival of Igbo people.  

Given the foregoing backdrop, the question arises: Who, then, wants the Igbo wiped out of the surface of the universe? 

This interrogation is imperative, because on many occasions communities in the South-east have come under attacks by armed Fulani herdsmen. The armed security services did nothing to stop such bloody attacks, but also failed to bring the suspects and their sponsors to the court of law. In one instance, the attack last year April in Nimbo community of Enugu State, could have been prevented by the security forces. But, nothing was done.

In fact, the Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, was on record as stating that the then Police Commissioner was mobilised heavily by the state, from the humongous security votes. But the Police Commissioner, who had provided intelligence on the planned invasion of the Enugu community from Kogi flank, did nothing until the armed Fulani attackers invaded the agrarian community killing, maiming and destroying lives and property. Over 40 persons were killed. One year after, not one killer has been arrested or prosecuted. 

Not long after that, two other attacks were carried out by armed Fulani herdsmen, including the one in which a final year Catholic senior seminarian about to be ordained a priest, was mauled to his untimely death within Enugu metropolis. In another attack at Agwu, soldiers from 82 Division, Nigerian Army, located in Enugu, went to the community arrested and clamped into detention and later prosecuted victims of the Fulani attacks, only because the community rose up to protect their farms. On Sunday August 6, when Saint Philip’s Catholic Church, Ozubulu, Anambra State, was attacked by unknown gun men and over 80 worshippers were killed; the Police which was in slumber then started engaging in wild conjectures, alleging that some drug Nigerian barons, who were fighting each other in South Africa, were behind the dastardly attack.

These many cases of breach of the Constitution, and violation of the Police Act, is enough to motivate citizens to take the gauntlet and set up constructive security apparatus, to lawfully prevent the precious lives of their people and their visitors from being wasted, decimated and degraded. By the way, the right to life is inviolable, inalienable, universal and sacrosanct. It can only be taken in the lawful execution of a binding court verdict, in matters in which the appropriate sanction legally is the death penalty.

Section 33 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) avers: “Every person has a right to life, and no one shall be deprived intentionally of his life, save in execution of the sentence of a court, in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty in Nigeria.”

Also, the Police Act states clearly that the primary duty of the Police Force  is to prevent crime and enforce the law. 

Section 14 (2) (b) of the Constitution states that “the security and welfare of the people, shall be the primary purpose of government.

In the event that all the security forces willfully or negligently refuse to do their constitutional duties of safe-guarding lives and properly of citizens, it is the lawful obligation of the citizens to take all necessary action for self-preservation and self-defence.

This fact is true because, as is well-known, someone who is dead can’t enforce his/her right to life. Over time, political philosophers had canvassed the position that the state exists to protect the fundamental human rights of citizens and, if it becomes clear that there is a willful intent on the part of heads of security forces not to carry out their lawful duty to safeguard lives, then citizens are obliged to protect their right to life. This is a legitimate duty incumbent on citizens. 

A classical political philosopher, John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), wrote in his scholarly work The Individual and the Limits of State Power, that:  “No society in which these liberties are not on whole respected, is free, whatever may be its form of government; and none is completely free in which they do not exist absolute and unqualified. The only freedom which deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs or impede their efforts to obtain it. Each is the proper guardian of his health, whether bodily or mental and spiritual. Mankind are greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seem good to themselves, than by impelling each to live as seems good to the rest.”

As I had clearly stated, the Nigerian state, since the assumption of office of President Muhammadu Buhari, has exhibited the lack of commitment to provide efficient, effective and legal security to lives and property of most Nigerians. Thousands of citizens have been massacred by armed Fulani herdsmen, while security agencies have stood by and did nothing. So, it is constitutionally right that Nigerians threatened with extermination, should and must take all lawful measures to preserve their lives. 

This line of action is legitimate, and if the philosophy behind the ‘Biafra Security Services’ is to use lawful means to secure lives and property of citizens resident in the South-east of Nigeria, so be it; because it is constitutionally legitimate. 

By the way, in the North-east, there is a vigilante group called Civilian Joint Task Force (Civilian-JTF) made up of local hunters and volunteers who have greatly assisted in waging the counter-terror war.

So, why the misplaced angst by persons with double standards against the vigilante set up by some citizens to watch over their communities attacked severally, without effective security back-up by the armed security forces? Are they scared of the nomenclature, ‘Biafra security services’?

My question to those who want us to apply two parameters in analysing similar situations should rather be concerned that in Kano, Sokoto and many other northern states, the governments of those states went against the Constitution to set up parallel religious police they called Hisbah or Islamic Police, even when section 214 (1) of the Constitution states in black and white:

There shall be a police force for Nigeria, which shall be known as the Nigeria Police Force, and subject to the provisions of this section, no other police force shall be established for the federation or any part thereof.” Besides, section 10 of the Constitution bars states from recognising a state religion. 

The setting of Islamic police violates the sanctity of the secularity of Nigeria, and the unambiguous provision of the Constitution in section 10. 

Why are there no public resentments against this brazen abuse of the Constitution by northern state governors who subscribed to oath of office to uphold the Constitution? Why the persistent attacks of the Biafra Security Service? This hypocrisy must stop. 

In their effort to clothe their illegality with some form of populism, the Kano State Government, for instance, claims that the Hisbah Service Board, that oversees the Kano State Hisbah Corps, was established by the state government in 2003 with the institutionalisation of formerly local and privately maintained Hisbah security units. 

Kano said hisbah, which is an Arabic word meaning an act performed for the good of the society, is an Islamic religious concept that calls for enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong on every Muslim. The Hisbah Corps consists of government officials, secular police officers, and religious leaders, and is highly decentralised with local units supervised by committees comprising officials and citizens in the communities in which they operate.

Leadership Newspaper reported recently that before now, the relationship between the Hisbah Corps and civil police has been sometimes acrimonious. 

“The Nigeria Police to whom the Hisbah must report crimes, frequently refuse to cooperate in enforcement of religious law. On multiple occasions, police officers have had to arrest Hisbah members for trespassing, when the latter have attempted to enter private property to enforce Sharia. The Hisbah Corps, by the law setting it up, does not have authority to execute arrests and its operatives are armed only with non-lethal weapons for self-defence, such as batons. Hisbah officers who observe violations of Sharia are expected to alert the Nigeria Police.” 

And I ask, why the fuss over ‘Biafra security services’ when those persons are non-violent and unarmed, just like the Islamic police in Kano or Sokoto states?

Already, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) has explained why it established a vigilante group, Biafra Security Service (BSS). It said the BSS would only gather intelligence and ensure that criminal elements do not compromise the safety and welfare of people residing in the South-east of Nigeria.

According to the Publicity Secretary of IPOB, Comrade Emma Powerful, the group would not be militarized, as erroneously believed in some quarters and in various media reports. He also refuted the reports that the group leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu made uniforms for members of the group. He noted that IPOB was interested in the well-being of the people and ready to ensure the safety of those returning from the North, over the October 1 quit notice by a coalition of Arewa youth.

His words: “Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of IPOB, did not sew any uniform for these volunteers, erroneously called Biafra soldiers. There is no standing Biafra army, and we emphasise the word NO. We have security volunteers just like you have vigilance groups. IPOB is legitimately concerned about the well-being and safety of Biafrans all over the world.

 “IPOB is against all forms of lawlessness, from the menace of Fulani herdsmen to kidnapping, armed robbery and cattle rustling. All these vices will be stamped out in the coming months without recourse to armed confrontation.

“It means that Biafra land will be the safest part of Africa, where inward investments will drive the new industrialisation policy championed by IPOB. We are concerned about the high-level of hopelessness brought about as a direct result of decimation of the socio-economic landscape in Biafra land. High-level of both youth and adult unemployment, galloping inflation indices, unbearable hardship leading to premature deaths everywhere.”

As a Nigerian human rights activist, i sincerely see nothing sinister about the vigilante group set up by IPOB, except to suggest that the state governments should partner with these persons to legitimately operate as community watch persons, whose obligations are to ensure safety of lives and property and to partner meaningfully with the armed security forces. 

Source: News Express

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