The Nigerian military arrested 486 travelers about one week ago on the way to the Eastern part of Nigeria. The authorities claimed ab initio that the arrested travelers were Boko Haram fighters. The same authorities later claimed that they were travellers except one of them who was described as a notorious Boko Haram kingpin.
Instead of setting the rest 485 travellers free, the army declared that they were not in a hurry to do so.
The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) decries this culture of impunity being exhibited by the Nigerian military. The constitution is constantly swept aside by the army while Allah-given and fundamental rights of the citizens are flagrantly violated.
We note with serious concern that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 guarantees Right to freedom of movement. Chapter IV, Section 41(1) says “Every citizen of Nigeria is entitled to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part thereof, and no citizen of Nigeria shall be expelled from Nigeria or refused entry thereto or exit therefrom.”
We also remind the authorities of the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, particularly Article 4, Clause 1 & 2 which says, “Human beings are inviolable. Every human being shall be entitled to respect for his life and the integrity of his person.”
In spite of these clear provisions, innocent traders are being denied freedom of movement on account of their being Northerners and Muslims. This makes a mockery of our democracy and turns the rule of law in Nigeria into mere charade.
Ceteris paribus, democracy is expected to guaranty the liberty of the individual including freedom of movement from one part of the country to another without let or hinderance. But the reverse is the case in Nigeria of today.
MURIC is deeply worried that Muslims and Northerners are constantly at the receiving end of arbitrary arrest, harassment, intimidation and extra-judicial killing.
We warn that the arrest and continued detention of these Northern travelers is a very dangerous precedent. It also amounts to religious and ethnic profiling. It is interesting to note that despite the fact that kidnapping is rampant in the South Eastern part of Nigeria, no trader of Eastern origin has been arrested or turned back from any of the Northern states on the suspicion of being a kidnapper. The arrest and continued detention of the Muslim travelers therefore constitute a potent threat to national unity.
MURIC calls for the immediate release of the travelers. In the alternative, they should be charged to a competent court if suspected of having committed any crime. We charge the Federal Government to call the army to order before it is too late.
We appeal to the Security Committees of both Senate and the House of Representatives to investigate these human rights abuses. We call the attention of the international community, particularly the United Nations Organisation to the constant stigmatization and victimization of Nigerian Muslims.
Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)