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Nigeria: Human Rights Report Released
Jan 26, 2005 (050126)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
The long-awaited report of the Human Rights Violations
Investigation Commission, completed in May 2002 after two years of
public hearings, has now been made public, not by the Nigerian
government but by civil society organizations. In December 2004,
given the Supreme Court rulingt that the panel's original mandate
was unconstitutional, the government said it was not planning to
publish the wide-ranging report, which is popularly known as the
Oputa report after the name of the panel's chairman, retired Chief
Justice Chukwudifu A. Oputa.
The Nigerian Democratic Movement (NDM), based in Washington, in
collaboration with the Civil Society Forum in Nigeria, decided to
take the initiative to make this public domain document available
over the internet. It is now being widely distributed in Nigeria
through copies on CD-ROM as well.
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains excerpts from the NDM press
release on the report's publication, and brief excerpts taken from
the report's overview volume.
The panel's deliberations covered not only specific human rights
abuses, but also responded to a wide variety of grievances and
issues presented by individual and group petitioners. The panel was
most controversial for the refusal to testify of three former
military rulers, Ibrahim Babangida, Muhammadu Buhari and
Abdulsalami Abubakar. The final report included the recommendation
that they be investigated for suspicious deaths and barred from
governing Nigeria again.
The full 7-volume report and summary recommendations are available,
in downloadable PDF files, at
http://www.nigerianmuse.com/nigeriawatch/oputa, which also contains
a timeline and an extensive set of links to news articles on the Oputa Panel
report. The downloadable files are also available on several other
For additional background and links on Nigeria, visit
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++
National Democratic Movement Releases Full Version of Oputa Panel
Press Release, January 1, 2005
National Democratic Movement (NDM)
Washington, DC, USA.
A/ Release of Unofficial Oputa Panel Report
In solidarity with the Civil Society Forum (CSF) in Nigeria, the
Nigerian Democratic Movement (NDM), a Washington-based
pro-democracy organization since 1993, hereby releases unofficially
the full Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission (HRVIC),
popularly called the "Oputa Panel Report".
C/ Un-official Nature of the Report
This report is NOT a leak, rather a determination of the Civil
Society in Nigeria to spend its own money (rather than wait for
government money), time and effort to make it available to the
world at large. The Commission did its work in the public domain;
the report has ALWAYS been available in the public domain, but
Civil Society in Nigeria had been waiting for two-and-a- half years
(since it was submitted to President Obasanjo in May 2002) to have
the Federal Government spend money to publish it. Now that it is
clear that it is unwilling, unable or incapable of spending that
money, we have decided to relieve it of that burden.
There are no hard feelings.
D/ Court Injunctions
We are aware of challenges to the legality of the Oputa Panel
before several courts in Nigeria, all of which, being so far
unresolved, stop the Federal Government from carrying out some or
all of the recommendations of the Oputa Panel report. None of the
injunctions issued from the courts has stopped its publication. We
respect the courts in the country, but are hopeful that the Federal
Government will VIGOROUSLY defend itself in those courts, so that
the time, money and effort spent in all the nation-wide sittings of
the Panel will not be in vain. Otherwise, future efforts to solicit
the participation of the Nigerian public in discourses, for example
the upcoming "National Dialogue," will always be met with
E/ The Duty of Civil Society and Citizens of Nigeria in 2005 and
The NDM calls upon all members of organized Civil Society and all
the Citizens of Nigeria to re-dedicate ourselves in this New Year
2005 and beyond towards ensuring greater transparency,
accountability and integrity of ALL of our political and public
officials. The wide dissemination of the Oputa Panel Report in
various formats - including translation of its recommendations in
various Nigerian languages - is a good starting point, as well as
support for Electoral Reform, and the recently-announced revenuefocused
"Citizens for Public Accountability and Integrity in
On its part, the NDM promises to re-engage in the dialogue which
must lead to a New Nigeria.
F/ The Press as the Fourth Estate
The NDM particularly urges the Press in Nigeria to do everything
that it can to disseminate these transparency, accountability and
integrity efforts as a public service, and with minimal cost to the
long-suffering citizens of Nigeria.
God Bless Nigeria ! God give its leaders integrity ! [Amen]
List of downloadable PDF files
[links available on
Summary recommendations [612 Kb]
Volume One - Chairman's Introduction, Origins of the Commission,
etc. [461 KB]
Volume Two - International Context [486 KB]
Volume Three - Research Reports [1.0 MB]
Volume Four - Case-by-Case Records of Public Hearings [1.3 MB]
Volume Five - Briefs on Petition Memos [1.2 MB]
Volume Six - Reparation, Restitution and Compensation [6.0 MB]
Volume Seven - Summary Conclusions and Recommendations [8.2 MB]
Appendix: List of Witnesses [1.4 MB]
Appendix: List of Exhibits [3.9 MB]
Synoptic Overview of Report Submitted by
Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission
Chairman Hon Justice Chukwudifu A. Oputa CFR, Justice Emeritus,
Supreme Court of Nigeria
Excerpts from Chairman's Foreword
1.2 For much the greater part of the period covered by this Report,
Nigeria was under military rule. During this period, most of our
rulers. principal motivation and pre-occupation were not service to
country but the accumulation of wealth and personal gratification.
1.3 This personal accumulation of wealth led to the decay of our
society. Public and private morality reached its nadir; and the
casualties included human dignity, human rights and our basic
freedoms. We also experienced institutional and structural decay.
1.4 This Report has attempted to provide an over-view of the extent
of our moral, physical and institutional decay under military rule.
The proscription and circumscription of our human rights and
freedoms under military rule were symptomatic of a much serious
malaise, the departure from constitutional or limited government
and with it the absence of accountability and transparency in
public life. This was the ultimate decay involving the
personalization of the governmental process around the military
1.5 The return to democratic civilian rule on 29 May 1999 provided
the opportunity for us to rise above this decay, to break the
silence of the past and to forge ahead, determined to lay to rest
the ghost of this dark and painful period in our national history.
1.6 But we must be prepared to confront this history, if we are to
forge ahead. We need to understand it, even if it means asking
unpleasant questions and offering blunt answers. Where did we make
the wrong turn? Who was responsible for what? What opportunities
did we miss and why? What are the major lessons to be learnt? What
do we now need to do to put the past behind us and to look to the
future with renewed hope and patriotic zeal? What are the basic
conditions for us to effect national catharsis?
1.7 This is what we have attempted to do in this Report. We have
tried to be faithful to our terms of reference and to our mandate,
both of which imposed on us the obligation .to review the past;.
and to map out or indicate pathways to enable us as a people
.redress the injustices of the past; [and] to prevent and forestall
1.27 To forgive and to reconcile is not necessarily to deny
justice. We should not confuse or conflate justice with prosecution
and with criminal or retributive justice. Viewed in the broader
perspective of legal theory or jurisprudence as well as moral and
political philosophy, reconciliation represents not the antithesis
but the triumph of justice.
1.28 Nigeria now has a nascent and fledgling democracy, with all
its imperfections and teething problems. Managing the transition
from military to democratic civilian rule requires deft and
dexterous navigational skill to avoid land mines and treacherous
waters. To manage the transition successfully and to consolidate it
may require that we sacrifice criminal justice for the higher moral
imperative of reconciliation and to avoid the trauma, anguish and
pain criminal prosecution will give rise to.
1.38 As one of our research teams pointed out, quite correctly, our
national experience with federalism shows that the problem of
marginalization is at the bottom of minority ethnic group fears of
the curtailment or violation of substantive human rights. the right
to selfdetermination, the right to the promotion of their cultural
rights, and their citizenship rights, especially the right to
equitable participation in the cultural, economic and political
life of the country.
1.39 Under simple majoritarian, first-past-the-post competitive
democratic electoral processes, and much more so under
authoritarian regimes ethnic minorities all too easily find
themselves excluded by the structure of power and the rules of the
electoral process, making them less competitive and denying them
access to the State and its enormous patronage.
1.40 A refreshing and confidence-building fall-out from the work of
our Commission is the raising of the issue of minority rights as a
core dimension of gross human rights violations and bringing it on
the agenda of national debate. In this way, such public
consciousness may engender well-thought out remedial public
policies and constitutional guarantee of minority rights, thereby
facilitating national reconciliation.
1.49 Unfortunately, our various military rulers, like all
dictators, were unable to draw this distinction between themselves
and the State. Their intelligence outfits danced to their tune and
their agents also saw themselves as beyond and above the law. This
led to the hounding of journalists and those who criticized their
administrations and policies. Intellectuals and human rights
activists, among other critics of military rule, were arrested and
jailed, without recourse to due process, in the so-called interest
of State security.
1.50 This attitude was also reflected in the protection given to
oil companies, which supplied the much of the needed oil revenue to
various military administrations. Their interests became .State
interests,. which must be protected. This logically led to the
systematic and generalized violations and abuses, which occurred in
the Niger-Delta during the dark period of military rule in the
country, as detailed in Volumes One, Three and Five of this Report.
1.54 The non-appearance of three former Heads of State and a number
of former top government functionaries, when summoned by the
Commission, put to test the theory that in a democracy all men are
equal before the law, that the rule of law and not the rule of man
should prevail. In addition to not appearing, these former Heads of
State filed civil actions challenging the Commission.
1.55 The former Heads of State are: Generals Muhammadu Buhari,
Ibrahim B. Babangida, and Abdulsalami Abubakar. The former top
functionaries are: Colonel Halilu Akilu and Lt-Colonel A.K. Togun.
1.56 Many in Nigeria and, indeed, in the international community,
wondered why these highly placed Nigerians, who had held high
public office, refused to appear and testify in person before the
1.57 Although the Commission had the power to issue warrants for
their arrest, it refused to do so, in the over-all interest of
Excerpts from historical introduction
6. Despite the lingering multifaceted and complex crises it has
been going through since independence in 1960, the country has
remarkably held together, always pulling away from the precipice,
except for the civil war years between 1967 and 1970. Indeed, many
would argue that perhaps the country's resilience is both its
strength and its weakness.
7. In short, as if in a stupor, the country has tottered on, all
the fears, anxieties and frustrations of nation building,
notwithstanding. Many have concluded that indeed, rather than being
seen as evidence of weakness or fragility, the sense and sentiments
of nationhood actually run deep in the veins of Nigerians.
Nigerians love their country. They want to see it united and
strong. The real problem is, at what cost and who bears the brunt?
8. The missing link appears to be the inability of the ruling elite
and the political class to establish a nexus between the yearnings,
desires, hopes and aspirations of its young and coming generation
and the design and construction of a new future for Nigeria.
9. It is arguable that the continuing frustration about the
character of the polity is not unconnected with the general feeling
among the Youth in the age brackets of 30-40 and below that earlier
generations of the political class have squandered their hopes and
10. There is the feeling that the country's political leadership
has been greedy, self-serving and lacking in serious political
will, contributing in no small measure to the crises of democracy
and development, which have delayed the country's march to
11. When the military seized political power in January 1966, there
was a general feeling in the country that they were motivated by
altruistic intentions and objectives to save the country from
descent into political chaos and instability.
12. As time passed, the country's military rulers and the military
as an institution by and large lost their sense of direction. The
greed of the military dragged the nation further and further away
from the project of nationhood. The result is that by the end of
almost thirty years of military rule, Nigeria is far more
fragmented than it was in January 1966, when the military first
13. The democratic struggle against military rule in the country,
whose high water mark was the return to democratic civilian rule on
29 May 1999, symbolizes and marks the return to the project of the
three Rs (Rehabilitation, Reconstruction and Reconciliation), which
the military enunciated after the end of the civil war in January
Excerpts from findings
90. Clearly, the military are to be held accountable for gross
human rights violations in the country, during the period under
review. This is exemplified by cases of torture at the Intercentre,
DMI headquarters in Lagos and Jos Prison by the military. All the
other prisons in Nigeria failed so far below the standards of the
United Nations that they became torture centres.
91. Oil, one of the greatest blessings God has showered on our
nation, has turned out to be a curse. Instead of providing the
basis for national economic, political, scientific/technological
and social growth and development, cushioning its citizens from the
scourge of abject poverty, squalor and want, oil became, in the
hands of the ruling elite and the political class, an instrument
sounding the death-knell of such key principles of good governance
as democracy, federalism, transparency, accountability and national
growth. Oil was the mainstay of the economy and the junta saw any
inhibition to its flow as a breach of security. Consequently,
legitimate complaints/agitations against oil pollution by host
communities were violently suppressed. We therefore had to pay a
heavy prize in lives and human rights violations.
93. Unable to accept defeat, some politicians often turned to their
military contacts as a means to regain access to political power
and the access to the state coffers flowing from it. Given that
politics is essentially about capturing power, the business class
has often been unable to subordinate its interests to those of the
nation. The result is that wealthy and influential Nigerians have
used their resources to bankroll coup plotters. We therefore hold
that they were accomplices and therefore should be held accountable
for the resultant human rights violations. The politicians should
imbibe democratic spirit. This is because the desperation to win at
all costs propels them to use the army to resolve political
problems through coups with resultant violation of human rights.
94. If democracy is to take firm roots in Nigeria, then the various
segments of the stakeholders in the polity must realize that, no
matter the nature of their interests, such interests can only be
attained within the boundaries of a democratic and stable nation.
95. This means that politicians must learn to accept the rules of
the game. Those who win elections must realize that they have not
won a price for themselves and their party, but that they have won
a national trust. Those who lose elections must realize that it is
easier to go back to the drawing board and wait for the political
calendar to turn around than to resort to the military solution,
which has no timetable, as such.
97. Sadly enough, both Islam and Christianity have never really
been able to rise above the limitations of their intra- and interdenominational
and sectarian cleavages. The result is that the
country is now caught up in what has come to be known as the
problem of religion in Nigeria. Religious intolerance has been the
main cause of communal clashes with attendant loss of lives and
gross human rights violations. ...
99. However, the religious bodies ought to have done much more than
they did in the struggle against human rights violations,
especially during the dark days of the late Abacha regime. On the
whole, the politicization of religion has undermined religion.
100. A new responsibility has now devolved on both the leadership
of Christianity and Islam to respond appropriately to the
challenges of nation building and to help in laying a solid
foundation for a Nigeria that promotes and respects human rights
under the rule of law.
113. Nigerians agree that corruption in public life, which was
pronounced under military rule, has reached alarmingly pandemic
proportions, and should now be a matter of very serious and
pressing public policy concern.
114. From the evidence, which the Commission received, it is clear
that the quest for political power personal enrichment was largely
the driving force for military interventions in politics. The
military tended to treat the state as a conquered territory and
proceeded to treat the proceeds of state as spoils of war to be
shared among the members of the military, the conquering forces of
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