Unfortunately, the below article contains a too familiar story. Attacks on persons with albinism, mutilation, murder, involvement of high-placed politicians, cover up practices. The President of the Associations of Persons with Albinism in Malawi (APAM), Ian Simbota, again turned his attention to the country’s rulers and requested the government of President Lazarus Chakwera to speed up all abduction and murder cases which targeted people with albinism (PWA) for ritualistic purposes, often involving high-profile politicians.
It is shocking to read the following article. I won’t repeat here what follows. Once more, however, I want to draw attention to these heinous crimes which threaten people with albinisme on a daily basis. Ritual murders must end. Politicians and other culprits who are involved must be apprehended, put on trial and sentenced. Simultaneously, a national awareness campaign must start, emphasizing the sanctity of life, the need to protect innocent people, the promotion of human rights notably to right to live and the right to live without fear. The government must take its responsibility and act accordingly – or resign. (webmaster FVDK).
APAM asks Tonse Alliance Govt. to speed upon ‘albino’ cases
Published: April 29, 2021 By: Nyasa Times – Tiwonge Kumwenda
After yesterday’s article on the spread of ritualistic killings in Liberia by the Daily Observer, this leading Liberian newspaper surprises us today again with another article focusing a phenomenon which seems so difficult to eliminate in this West African country. Another group of citizens is protesting against the mysterious deaths in the country, which they blame on certain people responsible for ritualistic and secret killings. Citizens against secret killings (CUASK) allege that while the Sirleaf administration era saw a number of mysterious, ritualistic deaths as well as secret killings, such deaths are even more alarming under the George Weah administration.
True of untrue? It’s a fact that nobody in Liberia is surprised by news of another ritual murder that has been committed. In the last paragraph of the Daily Observer newspaper article – presented below – two recent examples are being given.
-As families of the deceased fear for their lives for speaking in public on how they feel about the loss of their loved ones
A group of angry citizens, some of whom are mourning the mysterious deaths of their loved ones, marched on Wednesday, April 21, 2021 marched petitioned the United States government, through its Embassy near Monrovia to call on President George Weah administration to see reason and conduct further investigations in order to establish causes of the deaths and bring the perpetrators to book.
The group, under the banner “Citizens United Against Secret Killings (CUASK)” said they are saddened to know that the Liberian government has failed or is failing to properly investigate circumstances leading to the deaths of a number of people, including some high profile government officials including security personnel, financial experts, among others.
CUASK said it strongly believes that there are hidden motives behind the alleged killings of several of those who lost their lives and that the only way those motives can be aborted and prevented from causing further harm in the Liberian society is to incessantly push the government to act appropriately rather than what they have so far done.
“We are aware that the secret and ritualistic killings have been going on, even in the previous government but the exponential rate at which it is now going is alarming. We say so because we never tell who is next among us who have come to present this petition today,” said Jethro Emmanuel Kolleh, leader of CUASK.
Kolleh added: “We also believe that the autopsy reports given were done surreptitiously to cover the facts. The doubtful reports by these governments, we mean the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf-led administration and now the Weah led administration, have left us in fear about the growing rate of impunity.
“In fact, impunity has become a monster among us and if nothing is done about it now; there may be more disastrous happenings across the country, with the perpetrators having nothing to fear simply because they will be pre-informed that doing wrong, no matter how grievous, is nothing to worry about in the country.”
In their petition, CUASK listed several names of people, including children who died through alleged questionable means as raised by the concerned citizens.
“Our motto is “All Liberians Lives Matter,” and this is why we will not stop mentioning the names of all those great sons and daughters who died under mysterious circumstances,” Kolleh further noted.
He named Harry Greaves, former managing director of Liberia Petroleum Refinery Corporation (LPRC), Michael Allison, a whistle blower and Shakie Kamara, a 15 year old boy in West Point as individuals who died during the administration former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf under troubling circumstances.
Others who died during the Sirleaf administration and named in the CUASK petition as questionable deaths were Victoria Zayzay, a young lady who Police claimed, committed suicide overnight while in custody and little Angel Togba who lived with Hans Williams and his wife in Monrovia, prior to her (Angel Togba) death which was attributed to suicide.
“We strongly believe that the deaths of Greaves and Allison were political and arbitrary. They were killed but justice was never served,” he emphasized.
The Weah era
Citizens against secret killings (CUASK) said while the Sirleaf administration era saw a number of mysterious, ritualistic deaths as well as secret killings, such deaths are more alarming under the George Weah administration.
The advocacy group said it is disappointed in the George Weah led administration because, while in opposition, they (Coalition for Democratic Change — CDC) condemned former President Sirleaf and her administration for failing to protect the lives they took oaths to protect.
“We are aware that the U.S. government is fully informed on a daily basis about happenings in Liberia. We are aware and that has been made clearly known by the State Department’s human rights report as well as the Global Magnitsky Human Rights and Accountability Act of 2021,” Jethro Kolleh said.
The group referenced the death of Zenu Miller, a journalist at OK FM 99.5 as one case that ended inconclusively, but due to his family’s wish to avoid the unnecessary rigmarole that could have proven nothing worthy, Miller was buried without justice.
Zenu Miller was beaten by Presidential security personnel (Executive Protection Service (EPS) at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex on January 25, 2020. He became sick and was admitted at the ELWA Hospital in Paynesville, the place re stayed at until his passing on February 15 of the same year.
He posted on his Facebook account saying that he was experiencing severe pain in his chest following the EPS’ brutality meted against him but in the end, Miller’s family informed the public that he died of hypertension (high blood pressure).
In October of 2020 alone, three auditors and a tax expert suffered mysterious deaths that raised public outcries.
On October 2, 2020, Gifty Lamah and Albert Peters, workers at the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), were found dead on Broad Street in a car said to have been owned by Albert Peters.
Another employee of LRA, Joseph Fahnboto, died two days later, October 4, 2020.
On October 10, 2020, news broke, announcing the passing Emmanuel B. Nyenswa, head of Liberia’s Internal Audit Agency (IAA).
Following the deaths of the auditors and staffs of LRA and IAA, Dr. Benedict B. Kolee and Dr. Zoebon B. Kpadeh, employees of the Ministry of Health and the John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital respectively, were hired by government to conduct the autopsies on the remains of the victims.
However, the autopsies reports released by the two pathologists were received with discontent by the public.
In their report, as read by Justice Minister Frank Musah Dean, Gifty Lamah and Albert Peters died in the vehicle due to carbon monoxide.
The reports had it that the IAA boss, Emmanuel Nyenswa died as a result of massive hemorrhage, multiple bone and soft tissue injuries which he sustained after falling from the height of his home.
According to the Justice Minister, the IAA boss’s death requires further investigation, stating that circumstances leading to the cause of his demise are unnatural.
For George Fahnboto, the autopsy report indicated that he died as a result of the accident he was allegedly involved in along the Samuel Kanyon Doe Boulevard while driving.
Following those deaths, Melvin Earley, a U.S.-trained Presidential guard who served former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and later President Weah, was said to have died by suicide using his own gun, while on the nationwide tour with Weah in Tapitta, Nimba County.
The family of Earley and many critics of the Weah led government disagreed with the government’s allegation that he committed suicide. His widow and all of his family members as well as their supporters called on the Weah led government to provide evidence that he (Earley) took his own life, but no report came, according to them, as the widow said there is no death certificate to show cause of her husband’s death.
Several other deaths, mysterious and questionable, occurred in the weeks and months that followed. To name two more, Florence Massaquoi, 46, was found dead on the Samuel Kanyon Doe (SKD) Boulevard, with some parts of her body extracted, while in Maryland County, Mordecial Nyemah, a graduating high school student, was killed for ritualistic purpose, causing a major protest and rioting from the angry citizens of the county.
The advocacy group, citizens united against secret killings (CUASK) said they will not rest their pursuit for justice until it is served in each of the cases.
Nigeria’s security problems have many faces. In the northeast of the country Boko Haram terrorizes the population and has disrupted ordinary, daily life. The exact number of victims of the jihadist terrorist organization which also operates in neighboring Cameroon, Chad and Niger, can no longer be counted. It is estimated that since the beginning of the uprising, in 2002, between 25,000 and 30,000 people have been killed, over two million people have been displaced, and a countless number of children have been kidnapped – girls for sexual motives, boys to be forcibly recruited as soldier in the terrorist organization which originally started as a campaign against corrupt officials.
The seemingly perennial violent conflicts between herders and farmers in several states also have cost thousands of people their lives. Furthermore, a countless number of people have been abducted by kidnappers, bandits and cultists. Moreover, superstition and the greed for (more) power, prestige or success are at the origin of the notorious ‘money-rituals’ for which Nigeria is known and which is feared by virtually the entire population, not only in the southeastern states as my posting of January 30 could suggest. Last but not least, ‘ordinary’ criminal killings, manslaughter, murder and extrajudicial killings by security personnel add to the many security challenges which Nigeria is facing.
In the coming days and weeks I will elaborate on the ‘money-rituals’ and the criminal activities of cultists, herbalists, witchdoctors, and other perpetrators of heinous, criminal ritualistic acts. If a government wants to effectively fight and eradicate this ugly, partly traditional phenomenon it will have to take the overall (in)security situation of the country into consideration.
The author of the article reproduced here, Femi Falana, SAN, is a Human Rights Lawyer and a recipient of the prestigious Bernard Simmons Award of the International Bar Association. In his article he explains the violent clashes between herders and farmers, and provides a possible solution to their conflict which basically is a dispute over land. Although the topic of his article is beyond the main focus of the present website, the article is reproduced here in its entirety, not only for a well-deserved respect for the author but also for information reasons as well as to illustrate that for every problems there exists a solution (webmaster FVDK).
Violent Clashes Between Herders and Farmers: A Legal Panacea
Published: February 2, 2021 By: This Day, Nigeria – Femi Falana SAN
From 1999 to 2021, thousands of people have been brutally killed in herders/farmers’ clashes in several States of the Federation. The mindless killings have continued, due to official impunity and negligence which have led to the virtual collapse of the security architecture of the neocolonial State. Hundreds of other citizens have been abducted by gangs of kidnappers and bandits. While some of the abducted people were killed in gruesome circumstances, others were released after the payment of ransoms running into hundreds of millions of Naira by their family members. The hardened criminal elements, have subjected abducted women to sexual abuse. Over 100 school girls in captivity, have been forced to marry their abductors. In spite of the routine assurance of the security of life and property of every citizen, the Federal Government appears to have lost the monopoly of violence to the criminal gangs.
As a result of desert encroachment, the Fulani herders have been forced to seek fertile land for grazing of their cattle in the middle belt and southern parts of the country. Since the State has failed to address the challenge of desertification, the herders have continued to graze their cattle in the bush. In the process, they graze their cattle without regard to State laws and the rights of the farm owners. In struggling to survive on fertile land, the herders attack farmers who resist the invasion of their land. They attack farmers with AK 47 rifles, which have been acquired to protect cattle from rustlers. The violent clashes between herders and farmers have continued, due to the failure of successive governments to revive the ranches inherited from the regional governments of the First Republic, but which collapsed during years of the locusts under successive military regimes.
History of Ranching in Nigeria
The point that I am struggling to make is that, ranching is not a new phenomenon in the country. It is on record that the regimes of Ahmadu Bello, Obafemi Awolowo and Nnamdi Azikiwe established ranches in the Northern, Western and Eastern regions respectively. The Obudu Cattle Ranch which was the oldest in the country, was established in 1951 by a Scot, but was later taken over by the Eastern Regional Government. The Northern Regional Government established a ranch in Mokwa (Niger State). In the West, there were ranches in Iseyin (Oyo State), Oke Ako (Ekiti State) and Akunu (Ondo State).
Under the Yakubu Gowon regime (1966-1975) , the Kano State Government headed by Police Commissioner Audu Bako, established ranches in the State. All the ranches collapsed during the years of the locusts, under successive military juntas. The famous Obudu Cattle Ranch has since been turned to Obudu holiday resort.
In 2014, the Jonathan regime decided to establish ranches in the country. A team of young people were sponsored to learn animal husbandry in Botswana, while the sum of N100 billion was released to some State Governments to establish the ranches. In a recent probe, the House of Representatives confirmed that the money was diverted, as not a single ranch was established.
In 2016, the Buhari regime also opted for the establishment of ranches, in order to end the perennial violent conflicts between farmers and herders. About 55,000 hectares were acquired in 11 States, for the project. The Federal Government also announced its plan to disarm the herders, and other armed bandits. But, instead of establishing the ranches and disarming the herders, the Federal Government has handled the violent clashes between farmers and herdsmen rather lackadaisically. The sudden embrace of cattle colony or RUGA policy by the Federal Government, was suspected by many citizens as a design to take over and turn over land seized from farmers to herders.
Clashes and Kidnapping
Even though the dangerous policy has been dropped, the plan to establish ranches has equally been abandoned. In recent times, the clashes between herders and farmers has been compounded by many incidents of kidnapping that have been traced to some herders. Owing to the failure of the Federal Government to bring the situation under control, some people have reported to self help and jungle justice. The various State Governments have come up with policies such as enactment of anti-grazing laws, and compulsory registration of all herders and farmers operating in forest reserves. The Umar Ganduje administration, once invited displaced herders in Benue and Taraba States to Kano state.
Instead of adopting knee jerk reactions to the crisis, the Federal Government and State Governments should encourage the immediate establishment of ranches. Apart from ending clashes between herders and farmers, the policy will lead to large scale production of meat which will be distributed throughout the country, and possibly exported. Ranching is working in Botswana, Mozambique, Kenya and South Africa. It has worked before in Nigeria. It can work again. Let the Authorities move speedily to end the violent clashes between herders and farmers, without any further delay. Let the Authorities adopt proactive measures to end kidnapping, banditry, armed robbery and ritual murder, as well as extrajudicial killing by security agencies.
State Governments and Security Challenges
A few years ago, armed robbers launched violent attacks on banks in Lagos State. The criminals killed many bankers, customers and security personnel, and carted away millions of Naira. The then Babatunde Fashola administration, sought the permission of the Federal Government to purchase and import some modern security equipment and gadgets. As soon as the licence was granted by President Umaru Yar’adua, the Lagos State Government brought in the equipment and gave them to the State Police Command. Armed with such equipment, the Police succeeded in securing the banks and other commercial institutions in the State. Shortly thereafter, about 20 well armed members of the Boko Haram sect sneaked into the State and concluded plans to launch bombing attacks on people, religious centres and schools. The terrorists were arrested and detained under the Terrorism Act, a Federal offence. The State Government requested the Federal Government, to try the dangerous suspects.
When it became clear that the Federal Government was foot dragging over the matter, the Attorney-General of Lagos State applied for the fiat of the Attorney-General of the Federation to enable him to prosecute the terror suspects. As soon as the fiat was granted, the suspects were tried, convicted and jailed.
In another development, the State Government faced fresh security challenges when another set of criminal elements embarked on kidnapping school children and other innocent people. Again, with the acquisition of more sophisticated equipment by the Lagos State Government, the Police Command has frontally attacked the crisis and brought the situation under control. About three years ago, the Inspector-General of Police Monitoring Unit recently arrested a billionaire kidnap suspect, Mr. Chukwudimene Onwuamadike (a.k.a Evans). The suspect was alleged to have specialised in extorting millions of dollars and other foreign currencies, from victims of his criminal enterprise. At the end of the Police investigation, the Lagos State Government took over the matter and has since charged the suspect and his cohorts with armed robbery and kidnapping, before the Lagos high court.
Before then, the Ondo State Government had invoked its sovereign powers to deal with the challenge of insecurity. On September 21, 2015, Chief Olu Falae, a former Secretary to the Federal Government was kidnapped by a gang of kidnappers on his farm at Ago Abo in the outskirts of Akure, Ondo State. The criminals demanded a ransom of N100 million, for his release. President Muhammadu Buhari who was embarrassed by the report of the incident, directed the Inspector-General of Police to rescue Chief Falae without further delay. The Chief regained his freedom three days later, after the payment of an undisclosed ransom. The seven kidnap suspects (Abubakar Auta, Bello Jannu, Umaru Ibrahim, Masahudu Mohammed, Idris Lawal, Abdulkadir Umar and Babawo Kato) were arrested and paraded by the Police at Abuja, in the Federal Capital Territory.
As soon as the investigation was concluded by the Police Headquarters, the then Ondo State Government decided to take over the case in exercise its constitutional powers. Since the case had disclosed that the offence of kidnapping was committed in Ondo State, the then State Attorney-General, Mr. Tayo Jegede, SAN requested the Police to transfer the suspects to Akure, together with the case file and the exhibits recovered during the investigation of the case. As soon as the suspects were brought to Akure, they were charged with conspiracy and kidnapping before the Ondo State High Court. At the end of the marathon trial, the presiding Judge, the Honourable Justice Williams Olamide found the Defendants guilty as charged, convicted and sentenced them to life imprisonment.
No doubt, by prosecuting the dangerous kidnappers and armed robbers, both Attorneys-General of Lagos and Ondo States have demonstrated that State Governments are not encumbered from maintaining law and order in their areas of jurisdiction. It is my strong belief that it is the failure of other Attorneys-General to enforce relevant criminal and penal codes, that has led to a breakdown of law in several States of the Federation. Even though hundreds of suspects have been arrested in several parts of the country by the combined teams of Police and Army personnel for abducting several people including children, they have not been brought to book by the Attorneys-General of the affected States. Majority of critics who are not aware that it is the exclusive constitutional responsibility of State Attorneys-General to prosecute suspects indicted for the offences of kidnapping, armed robbery and culpable homicide, have continued to blame the Federal Government for not prosecuting herders who have been arrested by security agencies.
Welfare of the People
Since a country cannot be secured by a Government that is not prepared to attend to the welfare of the people, the Constitution has outlined the socioeconomic rights of the people and embodied them in Chapter two of the Constitution. The said socioeconomic rights are otherwise called, the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy. Even though the ruling class has made them not justiciable, the workers in alliance with other progressive civil society organisations have compelled the Government to enact a number of laws to promote the welfare of the people. But, the welfare laws have not been implemented due to alleged lack of ,funds in spite of the nation’s enormous wealth. On account of the failure of the Government to fund welfare programmes, Nigeria is said to have the largest number of poor people in the world.
The economic paradox has been fuelled by large scale looting of public funds, by the ruling class. Most of the problems at the root of insecurity in Nigeria, are traceable to the implementation of neoliberal policies imposed on the nation by imperialism. Over 25 million young people including university graduates, are in the unemployment market. In addition to that figure, there are over 10 million children of school age who are roaming the streets, which is said to be the highest figure in the world. Not unexpectedly, such street kids are easily recruited by terrorists, bandits and other criminal gangs to unleash mayhem on the people. The hijack of the recent #EndSARS protests by hoodlums and other criminal elements, has confirmed that the nation is sitting on a keg of gunpowder.
Since armed robbery, kidnapping and murder or culpable homicide are State offences, we have pointed out that State Governments ought to be blamed for failing to end impunity, by prosecuting the herders and other criminal suspects arrested and indicted for kidnapping and killing of innocent people. Instead of engaging in ethnic profiling, concerned citizens should be organised to prevail on the Federal and State Governments to discharge their constitutional duty of protecting the life and property of every citizen. The Governments should also be compelled to put an end to the perennial violent conflicts between farmers and herders, which have needlessly claimed many lives and the destruction of properties worth several billions of Naira in many States of the Federation. As a matter of urgency, herders and bandits should be disarmed by the Federal Government. Having embraced ranching as a permanent solution to the clashes between herders and farmers, the Federal Government and State Governments should proceed to establish ranches in a number of States.
Femi Falana, SAN, Human Rights Lawyer, recipient of the prestigious Bernard Simmons Award of the International Bar Association