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Friday, 29 September 2017

HUMAN RIGHT’S RECORD @ 57 BY EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO


At 57, a man/woman is typically expected to be putting plans together for post- retirement age. 
Some of these strategies must of necessity cover the various ramifications of living good life. 
A good life entails spending of meaningful times engaging in constructive activities and also getting body and soul well-nourished with nutritional and spiritual values.
The above mentioned fact goes to show that the attainment of the age of 57 symbolizes maturity which breeds quality lifestyle made possible by qualitative thinking and externalization of the end- products of such critical thinking.
Critical thinking therefore logically takes us to the formulation of what Immanuel Kant the German philosopher calls categorical imperative. 
In the profound explanation of this Kantian theory presented by the reputable author called Samuel Enoch Stumpf in his classical book on philosophy, Immanuel Kant(1724-1804) stated that: “Unlike the technical and prudential imperatives, which are hypothetical in nature, the truly moral imperative is categorical.
Kant stated that categorical imperative applies to all men and commands “an action as necessary of itself without reference to another end, that is, as objectively necessary.” 
"It commands certain conduct immediately, without having any other purpose as a condition. Actually, the categorical imperative commands a law that forms the basis of particular actions. 
He submitted that it is categorical because it instantly applies to all rational beings, and it is imperative because it is the principle on which we ought to act. 
The basic formulation of the categorical imperative is this: “Act only on the maxim whereby thou canst at the same time will that it should become universal law.”
Kant had said that “everything in nature works according to the conception of laws. 
"Rational beings alone have a faculty of acting according to the conception of laws…”
Now he wants to indicate that the categorical imperative is our conception of the law of nature as it pertains to human behavior, and, therefore he expresses the imperative of duty in an alternative way, namely, “Act as if the maxim of thy action were to become a universal law of nature."
A critical thinker will like to know why this writer  makes reference to Immanuel Kant’s moral philosophy in an effort to offer explanation on how a 57 -year old human person ought to behave. 
The age of 57 as I have earlier sated is that of maturity. 
So at that matured age, a man is expected to behave in such a manner as to reflect universal human rights' principles which ultimately  makes the world a happier home for the human race.
This brief philosophical analogy of a man at 57 done in a somewhat representative capacity is to depict what most critical thinkers expect Nigeria to be at the ripe age of 57, that is the post- independence age.
On October 1st 2017, Nigeria will be 57 of post-independence which she got from the then colonial Great Britain.
The symbolism of this solemn event of 57th year Independence anniversary should not be allowed to go with the wind of mere colorful celebrations typical with the usual birthday celebratory occasions that are marked with merry making characterized by wild dances and drinking of expensive wines. 
Arend Lijphart in his widely acclaimed book;"Democracy in plural societies-a comparative exploration", made a profound statement which is at the core of our national conundrum.
Said the aforementioned author:"a great many of the developing countries-particularly those in Asia and Africa, but also some South American countries, such as Guyana, Surinam, and Trinidad-are beset by political problems arising from the deep divisions between segments of their populations and the absence of a unifying consensus". 
This writer adopts the statement that the absence of a unifying consensus is at the root of much of the serious human rights abuses that the Country Nigeria has recorded in the last 57 years.
This year’s independence anniversary therefore should be a perfect time to extensively reflect on the many unfriendly experiences that millions of Nigerians have undergone these past 57 years especially in the field of human rights.
Since independence, successive political leadership including the military despots have made claims that they are specifically focused on creating the right environment for the advancement of human progress and positive values such as the mainstreaming of strict adherence to human rights principles in the governance of the society.
Successive administrations in the past half a century and counting, have often made the theoretical claims of setting up institutional mechanisms and enforced far-reaching policies targeted at the advancement of human progress and respect for human rights built around the acceptance that the Rule of law is sacrosanct. 
Shockingly, it was during the infamous military dictatorship of late General Sani Abacha that a national institution for the promotion and protection of human rights known as the National human rights commission. But essentially, the then military regimes of Generals Abacha and Abdulsalam Abubakar treated the human rights commission as mere smokescreen for laying claim to be a government that was meeting up with the international human rights obligations of all member nations of the United Nations Organization. 
With the advent of democracy for the third attempt since after independence following the decision of the then General Abdulsalami Abubakar's regime to transmit power to civilians, the extant constitution came into effect in 1999 with wide ranging human rights provisions and other provisions that brought into existence such bodies like the National Assembly which has the inherent function of making good legislations that ought to build standard democratic institutions and policies to actually and practically promote and protect human rights. The National Assembly since 1999 has successfully created many agencies and also passed legislations to further empower such bodies like the National human rights commission with operational and funding independence. However, the state of human rights in Nigeria is frightening and abysmal. 
It is a well-known fact that “Human Rights have pervaded much of the political discourse since the second World War", in the words of Mr. Nowak of the United Nations.
He wrote that: "While the struggle for freedom from oppression and misery is probably as old as humanity itself, it was the massive affront to human dignity perpetrated during that war, and the need felt to prevent such horror in the future, which put the human being back at the center and led the codification at the international level of human rights and fundamental freedoms". 
He reminded us that Article 1 of the Charter of the United Nations declares “promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion” as one of the purposes of the Organization.”
Mr. Manfred Nowak who visited Nigeria in 2007 on official duty continued thus: “ The Universal Declaration of Human Rights , adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, was the first step towards achieving the objective. It is seen as the authoritative interpretation of the term “human rights” in the charter of the United Nations.
The Universal Declaration together with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, both adopted in 1966, constitute what has become known as the International Bill of Human Rights, so argued beautifully by Mr. Nowak. 
Hear him: “Since 1948, human rights and fundamental freedoms have indeed codified in hundreds of universal and regional, binding   and non-binding instruments, touching almost every aspect of human life and covering a broad range of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights." 
"Thus, the codification of human rights has largely been completed. As the (then) Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Kofi Annan, had  pointed out, today’s main challenge is to implement the adopted standards.” (HUMAN RIGHTS-HANDBOOK FOR PARLIAMENTARIANS BY MR. MANFRED NOWAK).
Mr. Nowak’s deep thoughts on the essence of human rights offers us a clearer understanding to emphatically state that for constitutional democracy to thrive in any given human society, the respect for the fundamental human rights and basic freedoms must be enforced as of necessity.
The Nigerian constitutional democracy which we practice is definitely not in isolation of the universal human right principles and laws. 
This therefore explains the rationale for the greater portion of the 1999 constitution to specifically focused on the fundamental rights' provisions enshrined in chapter four.
Then again, the Nigerian constitution explicitly makes several provisions in chapter two which covers the various ramifications of the economic and social rights. 
Chapter two of the Nigerian constitution is rightly titled as : “the fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy”.
It must be pointed out that the fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy is such an important tool that promotes good governance which is the reason it is embedded in the official oaths of office which all the holders of offices in the three arms of government viz executive, legislative and judicial must be administered before they can assume duties within the context of the laws of federation. 
This perhaps formed the basis for the recent speech made by the current President Muhammadu Buhari at the just ended United Nations Assembly.
President Muhammadu Buhari had in that speech assured the international community of Nigeria’s firm and unshaken commitment to democracy in the country and the African continent.
Delivering Nigeria’s national statement during the General Debate of the 72nd Session of United Nations General Assembly (UNGA 72) in New York, the President said this commitment to democratic ideals became profound with Nigeria leading ECOWAS’ effort in the restoration of democratic governance in The Gambia and Cote D’Ivoire.
Hear him: “Our faith in democracy remains firm and unshaken. Our regional organization ECOWAS came together to uphold democratic principles in The Gambia – as we had done previously in Cote D’Ivoire,” he said.
According to President Buhari, “The frontiers of good governance, democracy including holding free and fair elections, and enthronement of the rule of law are expanding everywhere, especially in Africa.”
He also noted that “Through our individual national efforts, state institutions are being strengthened to promote accountability, and to combat corruption and asset recovery,” stressing that “These can only be achieved through the international community cooperating and providing critical assistance and material support.”
But with the greatest respect there are existential gaps between those statements  made at the United Nations by president Buhari and the realities of our times especially with the issues of respect for the human rights of Nigerians. Infact, the President made his presentation at the United Nations about the same time that empirical evidences were in circulation showing the widespread abuses of human rights committed by armed soldiers who are currently engaged in a highly controversial internal military operations called operation python dance 11 by the Nigeria Army. Video evidences and eye witnesses have it that several unarmed members of the now government's proscribed Indigenous peoples of Biafra (IPOB) were extra judicially assassinated by the armed soldiers even as torture was frequently applied against captured unarmed members of the self-determination group known to be unarmed and non-violent. Whilst the simultaneous military assaults on civilian population in the South East of Nigeria were going on, the Army unilaterally declared the group known as Indigenous peoples of Biafra (IPOB) seeking an independent self-governing process for the South East of Nigeria and when the illegality of that declaration became notorious, the Federal Attorney General then hurriedly made an exparte application to the Acting Chief judge of Federal High court to secure the proscription of IPOB. IPOB has appealed this exparte declaration which they claim was done out of malice. 
The aforementioned cases of abominable extralegal killings of IPOB members are not the only main concern of this piece. Members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria known as Shiites have also suffered massive extralegal executions by the soldiers. Suspects in their thousands have also disappeared from police detention facilities all across Nigeria in the last 57 Years but the last two years are particularly worrisome. 
Generally speaking, since the last 57 years, Millions of Nigerians  have suffered different degress of deprivations and gross human rights violations. Economic deprivations and the rapid collapse of critical health, educational and transportation infrastructures due to corruption by government officials have occasioned thousands of deaths that ordinarily are avoidable.
But amidst all the cases of human rights violations, the most disturbing phenomenon is the rapid decline in the respect to the right to life.
Let us look at what the constitution says about the right to life in section 33(1).The grund norm states as follows: “Every person has a right to life , and no one shall be deprived intentionally of his life, save in the execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty in Nigeria.”
The right to life as propounded by the constitution is however recklessly disrespected by the government and a range of non-governmental individuals. Daily, social crimes of kidnappings do occur and thousands of Nigerians have perished. On many occasions, armed Fulani herdsmen have unleashed devastating violence and arson on farming communities all across Nigeria but the Nigerian government under President Muhammadu Buhari who incidentally is Fulani by Ethnicity has failed to bring these vicious circle of deaths to an end and to punish these killers. The other day key officials of the current administration defended the government's double standard in hurriedly declaring the unarmed IPOB as a terror group but simply sees the armed fulani herdsmen as mere criminals and not terrorists.  
It can then be said that the last two years can be raked as the worst in terms of human rights violations apart from the killings that took place for 30 months in the late 60's during the Nigeria/Biafra civil war. 
Over 3 milion Igbo civilians were slaughtered in that needless but necessary war. The last two years has seen Nigeria emerged as a place whereby grave human Rights violations take place. Amnesty International in its 2016/2017 World human rights report indicted the Nigerian government of a range of serious human rights abuses.
Amnesty International said: "The Nigerian security forces, led by the military, embarked on a chilling campaign of extrajudicial executions and violence resulting in the deaths of at least 150 peaceful pro-Biafra protesters in the south east of the country, according to an investigation by Amnesty International published".
"Analysis of 87 videos, 122 photographs and 146 eye witness testimonies relating to demonstrations and other gatherings between August 2015 and August 2016 consistently shows that the military fired live ammunition with little or no warning to disperse crowds. It also finds evidence of mass extrajudicial executions by security forces, including at least 60 people shot dead in the space of two days in connection with events to mark Biafra Remembrance Day."

“This deadly repression of pro-Biafra activists is further stoking tensions in the south east of Nigeria. This reckless and trigger-happy approach to crowd control has caused at least 150 deaths and we fear the actual total might be far higher,” said Makmid Kamara, Interim Director of Amnesty International Nigeria.

“The Nigerian government’s decision to send in the military to respond to pro-Biafra events seems to be in large part to blame for this excessive bloodshed. The authorities must immediately launch an impartial investigation and bring the perpetrators to book.”
In summary, the human rights record of Nigeria at 57 is abysmal and very poor to put it mildly. 
The National Assembly has failed the people and has not effectively served as an institutional mechanism to check the excessive brutality of soldiers and police against the civilians. The National Assembly has little consideration for human rights and are basically concerned about passing legislations that can consolidate their stay in political offices. The National Assembly is a partner of the Executive branch of government that has scant regards to allow for the frontiers of respect for human rights to be respected. As i write this piece the House of Representatives is busy churning out anti people's legislations to stiffle the fundamental human rights of Nigerians to set up Non-governmental organizations. The Judiciary which should act as the last hope of the common man is not performing optimally but the judges are busy dishing out judgments to the highest bidders. Nigeria is ripe for a transformational revolution but the people aren't in a hurry to even carry out incremental or small scale revolution as they are too poor, too hungry to pursue this noble objectives but do we the people have a choice? I don't think so. 
The Nigerian people must wake up to repossess Nigeria and free the Country from the hostile hostage takers and undertakers known as politicians. This can be done by actively minding what goes on in government and by arming themselves with voter's cards to vote out dubious politicians in the coming polls and safeguard the sanctity of our votes.
*Emmanuel Onwubiko is head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria HURIWA andblogs@www.emmanuelonwubiko.comwww.huriwa@blogspot.com

Thursday, 28 September 2017

WHEN THE POLICE BECOMES THE THIEF By Emmanuel Onwubiko


The Nigeria Police has a very notorious image which must be cleaned up through fundamental attitudinal transformations of the men and officers of the institution.
Apart from the well-known notoriety as being corrupt and excessively bribe taking, some percentages of those enrolled in the Nigeria Police have also entered the book of infamy as perpetrators of a range of crime ranging from petty crime to sophisticated robberies.
Some readers may be wondering why we give a lot of attention to some of these manifestations of crime and criminality within the ranks of the police.
But, the symbolism of the policing institution which portrays their operatives as the enforcers of laws that prevent and punish criminals, makes it the more bizarre to  see that some of these trained police operatives get involve in carrying out violent crimes in the society.
There is this popular aphorism that says that he who goes to equity must go with clean hands. In the same vein, people are left shell shocked whenever it is discovered that the same police operatives who should save the society from crime is the criminal.
The immediate trigger for this piece is the celebrated case of men of the Rivers State Police Command who were indicted by the state government of being the brains behind all sorts of criminalities and violent robberies including kidnappings for ransom payments. Infact as i write this piece, a taxi driver has just been killed by the operatives of this notorious SARS in Port Harcourt over allegations of belonging to a cult group. This commercial cab operator of Yoruba descent has however been said by witnesses not to belong to any cult group. By the way, is it in the place of the police to arrest and kill suspects even before they are prosecuted in the competent court of law in line with section 6 of the Constitution of federal republic of Nigeria? The scope of allegations of involvement of police in crime has however expanded as i said in Rivers and several other states. Few weeks back during the last Easter festivities, a Nigerian returnee from Malaysia who went home to Owerri Imo state for his traditional wedding was extra legally killed by the police for failing to part with some of his money. 
Let's revisit the matter of involvement of SARS operatives in dastardly crimes in Rivers state. 
The Rivers State governor Mr. Nyesom Wike, a lawyer had in early September specifically accused the operatives of the police special Anti-Robbery squad (SARS) of carrying out most of the armed robbery incidents and kidnappings in Rivers State.
The Rivers State governor who in his capacity can access lots of intelligence, also told the media that visible evidence exists to show that his allegations were not sensational but factually accurate. 
The governor went as far as indicating that official signals from the police had clearly proved his allegations to be genuine and credible.
According to Wike, criminal activities of SARS, Rivers State have been uncovered by the Inspector General of Police X Squad Abuja deployed to the State after the squad busted the attempted kidnap of one Mr. Azumana Ifeanyi on September 11, 2017 at the GRA, Port Harcourt.
Rivers State government officials stated that the official Police Signal with the title: “Police Wireless Message” and Reference Number DTO: 121030/09/2017 - INGENPOL-X-FHQ ABUJA TO-INGENPOL SEC ABUJA, noted that the squad received a distress call on the kidnap of Mr. Ifeanyi and immediately swung into action.
According to the Signal, they met three SARS operatives robbing before a gun duel ensued.
The operatives had taken Mr. Ifeanyi to a Fidelity Bank ATM where they compelled him to withdraw N500,000 as ransom, according to the Rivers government's officials.
One of the SARS operatives was killed, while Inspector Justice Nyeche who led the IGP team was injured, the narrators said .
Governor Wike said: “Most of the kidnapping and armed robbery taking place in this State are done by men of SARS. They use exhibit vehicles to operate. As the Chief Security Officer of the state, you complain, but they choose to play politics with crime.
“They fight crime in some States, but they refuse to fight crime in Rivers State. We are done with the elections, but they are using SARS to create insecurity in the State.
“As I speak with you, they will deny. But the SARS Operative who was killed was amongst those who raided the Rivers East Senatorial District Collation Centre. This man can be identified in the video as one of those who invaded the collation centre with his commander.”
The Governor alleged that the deliberate acts of violence being perpetrated by the Police in Rivers are being orchestrated as part of a ploy to rig the 2019 general elections.
“I have never seen a country where they politicize crime, it is very obvious that they want to give the impression that Rivers State is unsafe. They want to instill fear preparatory to declaring during the elections that there is so much killing in Rivers”, Wike said.
He added that, “authorities are deliberately trying to destroy a whole State and you want the people to be happy. I will no longer write. Now is the time to take my case to the public, for the whole world to know what is happening”.
The Governor said his administration has invested more than any other in logistics for security personnel, yet the police is continually working to undermine and destroy the State.
Apart from the allegations of police involvement in violent crimes, there are several cases of professional indiscipline by the police operatives which rubbishes the essence of the policing institution.
Take for instance the cases whereby police operatives have been caught in Lagos attempting to rob innocent night crawlers to an extent that these armed police operatives would take their victims to the Automatic teller machines for them to withdraw money to settle the police.
There are instances whereby those vulnerable individuals arrested by those wayward police have ended up being paraded as armed robbery suspects before the media and thereafter taken to the courts to face prosecutions and detention for years.
Only few hours ago, a drama was enacted in a real life court hearing whereby a woman being charged for armed robbery narrated her ordeals and how she was framed up simply for refusing to give sexual gratification to a police man.
As reported, the 27-year-old trader, Mrs. Victoria Amodu,  told an Ikeja High Court, Lagos that an Investigative Police Officer (IPO) at the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), Ikeja Division, demanded sex from her to release her from custody.
Amodu, a mother of four, gave the testimony as a defence witness in her trial for alleged conspiracy and armed robbery, before Justice Kudirat Jose.
The lady, who denied the allegation, was arraigned alongside one Hammed Isiaka on a six-count charge of conspiracy to commit robbery and armed robbery, contrary to Section 295(2)(a) of the Criminal Law No 11 Laws of Lagos State, 2011.
One of the charges reads, “Hammed Isiaka, Victoria Amodu and others now at large, on or about August 12, 2014 while armed with a pistol did rob one Elizabeth Moses of a cash sum of N35, 000 and a cheque of N1.4m.”
However, while being led in evidence by her counsel, Nelson Onyejaka, Amodu told Justice Jose that she was unjustly arrested by the police on August 12, 2014 at Church Bus stop, Badagry, Lagos. She said she was selling bread at the bus stop when policemen raided the area, arrested her and others and bundled them into their truck, where they met some men who were already tied up.
Narrating the incident, Amodu said: “I was arrested by the police while I was selling bread and taken to the station at SARS, Ikeja. An IPO (name not mentioned) there told me to call someone that would come for my bail. I called a neighbour, a lady that helps me look after my kids. When she arrived, the IPO said a woman could not sign my bail bond, which he put at N400,000.
"I became worried because I didn’t know any man to call since I was no longer living with my husband and I was also new in Lagos. I decided to call my father but he refused coming to the station. He said since I was married he had no hand in anything concerning me."
“I didn’t know what else to do at this time, so I started begging the IPO to let me go and take care of my kids since I didn’t commit any offence. The IPO took me outside the cell to a corner and said that I am a pretty lady and that if I submit myself to him, I would be freed. I got angry and shouted at him, asking why he would make such a statement to me. He immediately, dragged me back to the cell. Some others who were arrested that day were released after they paid money, though I don’t know how much they paid".
“Nights after, the IPO brought out some case files and told me and others in the cell to sign them. He said that when we were done signing, we would be released. I agreed to sign the documents on the condition that he would not touch me. But the other men refused saying they couldn’t sign what they didn’t know."
“The IPO immediately brought out his gun and threatened to shoot them if they didn’t sign and they fearfully signed it. “After signing the documents, we were all taken to a Magistrates Court and from there, to Kirikiri Prison.”
Amodu pleaded with the court to tamper justice with mercy and permit her to go home to cater for her children.
During cross-examination by prosecution counsel, Mrs. Awosika, Amodu denied knowing the first defendant, Isiaka. She said she had never seen him before and only met him for the first time in court on the day of arraignment.
Isiaka, a driver, who also testified while being led by his counsel, Mrs. Olamide Amore-Akintoye, said he was arrested on his way from Seme border while carrying food items belonging to a customer. He said his car was impounded and taken to the station where he was locked up after he failed to pay for his release.
Justice José adjourned till November 29 for adoption of final addresses.
This is not an isolated matter because this same pattern of forgery and frame up of innocent persons are replicated right across the length and breath of Nigeria. The hierarchy of the police are also insensitive to the plight of innocent persons arrested by the operatives right under their nose.  What then is the duty of the police if one may ask. From the Police Act we will learn the exact functions of the police but which unfortunately the operatives are undermining. 
“The police shall be employed for the prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension of offenders, the preservation of law and order, the protection of life and property and the due enforcement of all laws and regulations with which they are directly charged, and shall perform such military duties within or without Nigeria as may be required by them by, or under the authority of, this or any other Act”.
The aforementioned provision is the fundamental duty of the police in Nigeria but what do we see now all over the place are cases of professional compromise and pure armed robbery by lots of rogue police. So why is the Inspector General of Police Ibrahim Kpotum Idriss more concerned about sounding defensive rather than activate effective internal but transparent mechanisms for fishing out all the rogue elephants embeded in the Nigeria police force? Your response is as good as mine. 
*Emmanuel Onwubiko is head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) andblogs@www.emmanuelonwubiko.comwww.huriwa@blogspot.com.

WHERE IS THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY? BY EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO


A highly provocative pattern of conversations by politicians and their unlearned/uncultured supporters have emerged in the last few months which signpost the emergence of authoritarianism of the worst degree.
This pattern of public debate has to do with the increasing amount of intolerance to critical thinking and the irrational conclusions drawn by supporters of the central governments targeted at demonizing persons with a difference of opinion from the president. 
The National Assembly has also caught this bug by aligning herself to the emerging dictatorship by way of trying to foist a tyranny of a commission to monitor the operations of Non-Governmental organisations.
This grand scale intolerance to dissenting voices was recently taken to a very ridiculous dimension against the person of the senate president Dr. Bukola Saraki when he intervened in the controversy that trailed the declaration by the defence headquarters of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) as a terrorist organization.
The senate president who doubles as the chairman of the National Assembly had only pointed out the disrespect to the rule of law and the non-compliance to relevant sections of the counter terror Act in making that determination about the status of the self-determination group.
But his position was viciously attacked by the majorly leader of the Federal House of Representatives who felt that the senate president’s speech was meant to provide support for the self-determination group based in the South East of Nigeria.
The majority leader of the federal House who is a Northerner was apparently playing to the gallery. 
As if that was not enough, an Abuja based newspaper known as the media mouth piece of the core North seems to have gone to an overdrive by publishing sensational stories meant to demean the office of the senate president and to ridicule his position on the declaration of IPOB as a terrorist organization.
However, this writer is pleased to note that the senate president has not capitulated to the naked show of irrationality displayed by those who have reduced the agitations for self-determination or restructuring as being enemies of president Buhari. 
Undeterred by the misplaced and illegal criticism of his stand on the hasty but illegal declaration by the military of IPOB as a terrorist organization the senate president was the same person who counseled the president to abide by the relevant sections of the law in making any declaration particularly on IPOB .
The same Federal government then went back to now file an exparte motion before the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court which subsequently proscribed IPOB. 
IPOB is however challenging the action in court.
Welcoming his colleagues from their recent recess, the senate president told them thus: “ a house divided against itself will not stand. More than ever before, we need to stand for the unity and indivisibility of our country."
"We must condemn in the strongest possible terms all forms of violence as a form of engagement. The Constitution and laws have laid down tools and procedures for us to push through our interest as all democratic nations do. Our nation is blessed with exceptionally talented and beautiful people, we are collectively strong and indomitable and it is time for all of us to stand up for our nation. Our dream of a virile nation must keep us motivated and this dream is already at the horizon.”
He argued that as leaders, closest to the people, the Senators must rededicate themselves to the values they have institutionalized in the chamber. 
"In this chamber, we are first and foremost, Nigerians. Yes, we are Igbos, Yoruba’s, Hausas, Fulani’s. Yes, we are Muslims, Christians and traditional worshipers". 
The Senate President apparently aware of the sinister motives of some irrational regional warlords told his colleagues that: "we must in all our conversations and decisions continue to be first and foremost Nigerians and as Nigerian citizens be our brothers’ keepers. Too many of our youths, too many of our families from the South to the North need a lifting. Our job is to help government give them a hand and ones again make them feel great again being Nigerians. This is our mission.”
“As we work to even make our Constitution better, it must be remembered that Constitution review is a continuous process which we must undertake with the vision of the future in our minds."
 The Senate President should be reminded that too much of tinkering with the constitution makes nonsense of the essence of having a politically stable polity. Nigeria needs to work out the modalities for genuinely writing a people's constitution that will stand the test of time.
Sadly, the speaker of the Federal House of Representatives Mr. Yakubu Dogara never spoke against the extra judicial killings by soldiers of IPOB members which happened when soldiers began the ongoing operation python dance 2.
The speaker rather sounded like a Northern irredentist by consoling only the victims of floods disasters in some parts of Northern Nigeria.
Hear Him: “We are all aware that during the recess, the agitation by a group of persons based in the south eastern geopolitical zone of the country and the heightened call by many groups for restructuring of the country dominated discourse in Nigeria". 
"It is in this regard, that I wish to commend our religious and traditional rulers, leaders of various ethnic nationalities, elder statesmen, security agencies, the Governors and indeed governments of the states in the Federation for their display of statesmanship during this period."
Even whilst he is guilty of overlooking the extralegal executions of civilians he pretended to be patriotic by asserting that indeed all patriotic Nigerians rose in unison to uphold the fundamental rights of all citizens to move freely and reside in any part of the federation as they choose, without let or hindrance.
" It appears to me that the citizens of this great country have sounded the message loud and clear that they stand for a united, prosperous and just Nigeria.”
The Speaker said it is necessary to emphasize that Nigeria is a constitutional democracy with a clear legal framework for resolving differences that normally arise among citizens, between citizens and government as well as between the structures and arms of government. 
He then made a very pretentious  affirmation thus: "Make no mistake, as representatives of the people we have a duty to champion the protection and preservation of the rights of our constituents and peoples. We are very conscious and indeed jealous of the fundamental human rights of all Nigerians".

“As an institution, this House stands firmly on the side of those who seek equity, fairness and justice so long as such is pursued in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which we as Honorable Members have sworn to protect and preserve.   Anyone or group who assaults our Constitution will not find a partner here because our oath of office repels it..."
The above statement is callous and insensitive to the plights of the people of South East of Nigeria. The National Assembly must truly behave like an independent national institution whose place is assured in the Constitution rather than behaving like puppets of the President. 
*Emmanuel Onwubiko is head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and blogs @www.emmanuelonwubiko.comwww.huriwa@blogspot.com.

Huge victory for pink dolphins used as catfish bait in the Amazon



Colombia has banned the sale of piracatinga fish after our campaigning. This is incredible news for pink river dolphins whose meat is used to bait the catfish
We’re delighted about the Colombian government’s decision to protect pink river dolphins, also known as boto, by banning the sale of piracatinga fish. We’ve been campaigning on this issue for four years from our Brazilian and Latin American offices.
306,000 people, mainly in Latin America, signed up to show their support for our campaign. Each one of them helped us achieve this ban. It’s a win for our organisation, our supporters, other organisations who’ve campaigned on the issue, the fish, and of course the dolphins.
Reducing cruelty
Pink river dolphins are cruelly killed and used to entice piracatinga fish, who are drawn towards their meat, making it easier for fishermen to catch the fish.
We expect the cruel killing of pink river dolphins for bait to dramatically drop, now the ban has been put in place.
Celebrity support
The ban was announced a month after we launched a video featuring ten Colombian celebrities, who were asking people to stop eating piracatinga fish."We have no doubt that this video was instrumental in obtaining this ban. The fisheries authority of Colombia used the mercury concentration as one of the main reasons for the ban, but in a communication directed to us, they recognised their commitment with the protection of dolphins internationally," explains Roberto Vieto from our wildlife campaign team in Brazil.

The veil is lifted for consumers
The ban puts an end to the deception of people who bought piracatinga fish without knowing the full story behind their food.
The ban does not only help end the slaughter of pink river dolphins in the Amazon. It protects the health of Colombians, since the piracatinga fish often has high levels of mercury, which is ingested by people who eat the fish.
When announcing the ban, the Colombian government confirmed that there are high levels of mercury in the fish, which poses a threat to public health.
Enforcing the ban
Anyone who fails to comply with the ban may be fined, have their permission suspended or revoked, have their boat, equipment or products confiscated, or their property closed.
We hope that the government of Colombia will persist with enforcing the ban, and end the sale of piracatinga in fishmongers and other stores.
An achievement for many
As well as our supporters, this achievement is also thanks to other organisations who campaigned on the issue and researched it, including the Omacha Foundation and the University of the Andes.\

We’ve seen an increase in activities and positive messages about the protection of pink river dolphins in Amazonian fishing communities, which is another great sign that our campaigning is working.
FROM THE DESK OF ANIMAL RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA



Just as animals begin to recover from Hurricane Irma, new disaster approaches


Category 5 storm Hurricane Maria is following the same destructive path across the Caribbean as Hurricane Irma. We're still protecting vulnerable animals affected by Irma, but fear they'll be in even more danger after this second storm
Thousands of people's and animals' lives were devastated by Hurricane Irma, which hit the Caribbean September 7. Now another huge hurricane threatens to cause even more damage.
Our disaster response teams are in Antigua and Barbuda, St Kitts, St Maarten and Turks and Caicos working hard to feed, rescue, and deliver medical care to desperate animals affected by Irma.
Aside from having to evacuate Barbuda and St Maarten, our teams are still on the islands. As Hurricane Maria moves in, our teams have sought shelter and unfortunately must wait out the storm before resuming their work.
"It is very frustrating that as we are all ready to get our plans into action, we are delayed again by another massive storm," said Scott Cantin from our disaster management team, who is currently in Antigua.
"I fear for the animals on Barbuda especially and can only hope they are spared the full brunt of Maria when she passes."
Advice for animal owners
Yesterday we sent disaster preparation advice for Hurricane Maria out to many local radio stations and media, so it can be announced to pet and farm animal owners.
If they can bring their animals, we're advising animal owners to bring a 72-hour supply of suitable food and water, travel with an emergency kit for the animals, and bring any important documents for the animals, such as identification.
If animal owners have no choice but to leave them behind when evacuating, we're advising that they move them to higher ground, leave 72-hours-worth of food, and untie them so they can swim or escape if they need to.
Being prepared for disasters is vital. It saves animals' lives.
Help after Hurricane Irma
In Turks and Caicos, about half of the islands' infrastructure was severely damaged by Hurricane Irma. Luckily, however, in Grand Turk island there are only around 72 horses167 donkeys, and some cattle, pigs, goats and poultry there, and most of them survived.
In St Maarten, most pets that were left behind have been taken in by neighbours or other people on the island who can take care of them. We're working to reunite dogs with their owners who had to evacuate.
The small island of Barbuda was hit hard by Irma. Our teams have been driving around feeding and treating animals, and they've also rescued and rehomed cats and dogs.

FROM THE DESK OF ANIMAL RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA