Current happenings, including alleged human rights violations, are bringing back memories of how President Muhammadu Buhari and others got life ban from politics after failing to appear before a panel set up to probe the violations of the rights of Nigerians.
The late Supreme Court Justice Chukwudifu Oputa was appointed by President Olusegun Obasanjo to head the Human Rights Violation Investigation Commission.
Charged to probe human rights violations from 1966 to 1999, the panel summoned General Buhari, General Ibrahim Babangida and General Abdulsalami Abubakar, who were military heads of state at different times within the period, but declined to appear before the Commission.
Although the report of the panel, which completed its work in 2002, was never officially published and its recommendations were not implemented as a result of a court ruling that the commission was unconstitutional, according to The New Humanitarian, the report was published in 2005 by pressure group Civil Society Forum.
While the panel ordered an investigation into the Babangida’s role in the assassination of Dele Giwa, the editor of Newswatch Magazine, it said that Abubakar should be held “accountable” for the death in custody of Moshood Abiola in 1998.
The Commission, also known as the Oputa Panel, ruled that Buhari should be held responsible for the death, by firing squad, of three suspected drug traffickers in 1984.
“The executions were carried out on the basis of a military decree promulgated by Buhari long after the offences were allegedly committed,” The New Humanitarian reported years ago.
The panel recommended that the three former heads of state should “be considered to have surrendered their right to govern Nigeria” because they did not honour its invitation to respond to accusations made against them.
The authority and existence of the Oputa Panel was challenged by Babagida and a judgment was given in his favour.
Failing to ensure he rules forever and never explaining how Giwa was killed, Babangida lives a quiet life at his Uphill Residence in Minna, Niger State.
Although out of active politics, Abubakar leads the National Peace Committee, which promotes peaceful elections, he has not accounted for the death of Abiola, the winner of the 1993 election, in prison.
After many attempts, Buhari became President through the ballot. But his administration has been accused of disregarding the rule of law despite claiming to be a repented democrat and violating rights of citizens, including freedom of expression and to protest against the government. He has also failed to deliver on multiple electoral promises, including ending insecurity.
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