“Since when do we have to agree with people to defend them from injustice?” (Lillian Hellman).
The Ijaw nationalist and Nigerian patriot Asari Dokubo was arrested and detained under the trumped up charge of “endangering state security.” For well over a year now, he has been held mostly incommunicado, maltreated in detention, frequently moved around from one detention center to another, subjected to injurious elements, refused quality visitation by his wives and children and other members of his family, and in some occasions, refused basic human needs. What the government of Nigeria, under President Olusegun Obasanjo is doing to Mr. Dokubo-Asari is reminiscence of what takes place in places like Syria, Libya, Laos, Eritrea, Myanmar, and Augusto Pinochet’s Chile .
When one think of Myanmar (Burma) one think of political repression, arbitrary arrest and prolonged detention, torture and ill-treatment in prison, particularly during pre-trial detention; and poor prison conditions and denial of good medical treatment, access to family and adequate legal representation. But you never think such things would happen in Nigeria under a supposed democratic system, do you?
When one think of places like China, Uzbekistan, Sudan, Turkmenistan, and Equatorial Guinea one instinctively think of the arbitrary detention and ill-treatment of opposition political figures; torture and ill-treatment of detainees; disappearances, and criminal proceedings which fall far short of international standards. For a country like Nigeria that claims to be a democracy, well, the government of Olusegun Obasanjo is acting very much like that of Stalin’s.
What was Asari Dokubo’s offense? That he spoke against the maltreatment and the exploitation of the Ijaw ethnic group? That he spoke against the excesses and abuses being perpetrated by the multinational oil companies against the indigenes of the Niger Delta? That he spoke against the environmental degradation and abject poverty that is rampant in the Niger Delta? That he spoke against the high-handedness of President Olusegun Obasanjo? That he refused to “play ball” with Governor Peter Odili of Rivers State? That he called for and championed the noble cause of his people? That he refused to kowtow to the whims and wishes of the ruling oligarchy?
The vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, recently revealed that Obasanjo “approved $2 billion for procurement of weapons to suppress the people of Niger Delta.” Well, this revelation is not a surprising revelation as far as Niger Deltans are concerned. Those in the know knows that one of Obasanjo’s master plan is to wipe the “trouble makers” in the Niger Delta off the face of the Delta or push them deep into the Atlantic. What is happening to Dokubo-Asari is part of Obasanjo’s master plan: to weaken a movement that is fighting for the Ijaw cause; to browbeat the brave and the courageous in the Niger Delta; and to put a final stop to the agitation and aspiration of all Niger Deltans.
Obasanjo and the Attorney General of the Federation do not have a case against Asari. None! There are no reasons for his arrest and perpetual detention. There are no sound legal bases with which to hold him. In pretext therefore, they delay his trial and in most cases, concoct reasons for his trial to be postponed again and again and again. And again! This is not justice. This is not justice! It is unjust and illegal to continue to hold a suspect knowing full well that there is no just cause for his detention.
Asari Dokubo should be treated fairly. And fairness demand that he be released from detention and be allowed to go about his normal daily activity as he see fit. Otherwise, he should be prosecuted now. He should be prosecuted immediately. Holding him in perpetuity, holding him incommunicado is not only unfair, it is a flagrant violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which states that:
- Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference;
- Anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release;
- Anyone who is arrested shall be informed, at the time of arrest, of the reasons for his or her arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against him or her;
- Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that:
- Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his or her rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him or her;
- Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers;
- No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; and
- No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
Taken together, what we have is an egregious violation of Asari’s rights. Let me remind the three branches of the Nigerian government (the executive, the judiciary and the legislature) that “Justice is itself the great standing policy of civil society; and any eminent departure from it, under any circumstances, lies under the suspicion of being no policy at all” (E. Burke). What we have, in this case is a violation of the rights of another Nigerian. This violation must not stand! Additionally, his continued detention and mental torture is also a violation of the Nigerian constitution. (Please see Chapter 4: Fundamental Human Rights:).
If the government of Nigeria wants to prosecute Dokubo-Asari, they should go ahead, they should do so without delay — and not use extralegal tactics to delay judicial proceedings. Whether or not Asari offended the president is irrelevant, this should not be “revenge time,” this is not the time to settle scores. The law is the law; Obasanjo should not make this personal.
There are two ways to this resolve this matter: (1) allow the law to speedily — speedily — take its course; or (2) immediately withdraw all charges against Alhaji Dokubo-Asari so he can rejoin his family and go about his God-given and constitutionally protected way of life. Anything else would be wrong, unjust.
President Obasanjo and his government is hereby called upon to (1) to ensure full and complete respect for all human rights to all Nigerians; and (2) until the case goes to court or before he is released, the government should grant access to the Ijaw National Congress, the Red Cross, and Amnesty International so as to ascertain the physical and mental wellbeing of the detained. The government should also assure us that his life will NOT be compromised once released.
To all Nigerians — especially Niger Deltans — “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest” (Elie Wiesel). The time to vigorously protest this blatant injustice is now. The time has come! Please visit: http://www.akumafiete.org/home.html