OPEN LETTER TO CHIEF OLU FALAE ON WHY KIDNAPPING IS A CRIMINAL OFFENCE AND NOT AN ETHNIC PHENOMENON
National Response Initiative (NRI) wishes to express its deep concerns over the recent kidnap, payment of ransom, and your subsequent release by your abductors. The National Response Initiative strongly condemns this ugly, unholy and criminal act. This group will always stand against the perpetration of any criminal act, anywhere in Nigeria, and beyond.
We also commend the Nigerian Security agencies for responding to the issue through the prompt arrest of the suspects and the immediate initiation of formal investigations. We wish to stress the need for sense of urgency, and promptness, in the handling of criminal activities at all levels in the country.
It is however most unfortunate that ethnic prejudices were introduced into the assessment of the events associated with the criminal act. Rather than treating the case of kidnapping as a criminal offence, attempts were made by some disgruntled politicians to use the occasion as an opportunity to incite ethnic hatred and violence, as well as civil strife, in opposition to the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as well as those of International Laws on Human Rights.
It is important to stress that attempts to incite ethnic hatred, and violence, are criminal offences punishable under International Law-as the numerous cases of ethnic genocidaires pending in the international courts of justice most clearly illustrate. Similarly the subversion of peaceful co-existence in Nigeria, or the denial of the basic rights of its citizens, are grievous offences punishable under our own national laws. It is on these grounds that the NRI expresses great concern, and disappointment, over the attempt by a few unscrupulous elements to turn the criminal incidence of kidnapping, associated with your person, into a campaign for the pursuit of politically motivated objectives, rather than a quest for Justice and the general promotion of a relatively crime-free environment in Nigeria. To achieve such myopic objectives there was a rush to prejudge, on the basis of ethnic prejudices, rather than any call for due process or the adoption of required legal procedures. The results are threats against the corporate existence of Nigeria on the basis of irresponsible attempts at the criminalization of whole culture groups, on the basis of the most misleading assumptions and rumours, as well as associated calls for one form of ethnic cleansing exercise or another. These are clearly not only negative and destructive prescriptions against our national interests, they are also clearly criminal in nature.
Unfortunately, your humble self, a former Secretary to the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and a one-time presidential candidate, as well as a presumed elder statesman, laid the stage for such actions that are inimical to national unity, peace and progress. Worthy of note was the statement credited to you that you were abducted by Fulanis whom you believe had links with Boko Haram even before any proper investigation was conducted by the relevant agencies. Worse still it was reported that you made utterances bordering on blaming a whole people, the Fulani, for your ordeals rather than a bunch of criminals.
This subsequently led to other ethnic chauvinists including groups such as Afenifere, of which you are a prominent member, to make inflammatory, inciting and divisive utterances including threats of secession which is clearly a treasonable felony. Typical of some Nigerian politicians it is evident that those who supported the previous regime, and lost, have now chosen to play the ethnic card in order to make themselves relevant. We totally reject, and also condemn, such unpatriotic actions and stance in our national affairs.
NRI strongly believes that Nigeria’s unity and the peaceful co-existence of its peoples is not, and cannot be, a bargaining chip for politicians who have nothing constructive, or positive, to offer towards the country’s general development. We support all the patriotic individuals and groups that have come out to condemn such divisive politicking.
It is public knowledge that Nigeria is currently experiencing serious security challenges which include diverse cases of kidnappings, assassinations, armed robberies, cattle rustling, vandalization of oil and gas pipelines and the Boko Haram crisis e.t.c. which have been happening over a long time in Nigeria. Victims of such criminal activities include both the high and the low cutting across all ethnic divides, just like the perpetrators of the crimes. It is very important to emphasize that only criminals are culpable for the offences they have committed. It will amount to a subversion of Justice to accuse whole peoples, ‘ethnic’ groups or ‘tribes’ of crimes allegedly committed by certain individuals. It is indeed such actions that constitute criminal incitement against certain peoples which tend to promote discriminatory acts, and ethnic cleansing exercises, against the targeted groups.
We wish to call on the government to note that for this country to progress, as desired by its founding fathers, the full weight of the law must be brought to bear on any one or group, no matter how highly placed, working against the unity, peace and progress of the country. We also call on all Nigerians to shun all divisive, deceptive and self-serving ethnic propaganda that have operated to keep the nation below its potentials.
We finally call on the Government to ensure, through its security and law enforcement agencies, that all the citizens of Nigeria are equally protected from the activities of criminals of all shades and at all levels, no matter how highly placed, in line with our laws as well as those international laws to which Nigeria is a signatory.
Prof. Sule Bello
4th November, 2015