Mike Ozekhome, a human rights advocate and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), expressed his belief on Friday that the Federal Government has neither legal nor moral grounds to support the invasion of Niger Republic by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). He argued that Nigeria, as a sovereign state, lacks the legal authority to dictate the governance of Niger and its citizens, especially concerning the type of government they should have.
In response to the recent coup in Niger Republic, ECOWAS leaders had resolved to deploy forces to remove the military government currently in power. However, Ozekhome disagreed with this decision, asserting that Nigeria lacks the moral standing to intervene in Niger because the international community did not intervene in Nigeria during past instances of military rule.
Ozekhome made these remarks during his keynote address at the public presentation of a book titled “International Humanitarian Law and Armed Conflicts: An African Perspective,” organized by the International Human Rights Commission in Abuja. The book was authored by Dr. Hezekiah Duru, the Head of Diplomatic Mission in Nigeria for IHRC.
The event was attended by notable figures including the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar, the Minister of Interior, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, and other dignitaries.
Ozekhome emphasized that the most Nigeria and ECOWAS could lawfully do in response to the political situation in Niger would be to impose economic, diplomatic, and related sanctions, but military intervention should not be considered. He attributed the resurgence of military interventions in Africa to the failure of African leaders to provide effective leadership and their desire to remain in power indefinitely.
Citing examples of countries ruled by a single family for extended periods, Ozekhome argued that it was unfair to other citizens in those countries who deserved the opportunity to lead. He called on African leaders to prioritize good governance and be prepared to relinquish power when their time is up.
The Sultan of Sokoto, represented by Professor Ahmed Mora, stressed the importance of protecting human rights in Nigeria and the West African sub-region, in line with the principles of the Islamic religion. He also urged efforts to discourage war and conflicts, which hinder people’s ability to exercise their human rights.
The Interior Minister, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, represented by Eva Omotese, highlighted the prevalence of conflicts in many African countries, including civil wars, coups, insurgencies, banditry, terrorism, and militancy. Therefore, it became crucial to promote human rights and support the work of IHRC.
Professor Rafal Marcin Wasik, the Secretary-General of IHRC, assured of his organization’s commitment to the global promotion of human rights and humanitarian services.
Dr. Hezekiah Duru, the author of the book, explained that it identified legal challenges in armed conflicts and discussed possible solutions while expanding knowledge in the field. The book focuses on the justification and promotion of humanitarian intervention and peace-building in Africa, particularly in countries experiencing various forms of armed conflict.
Rev. Yakubu Pam, the Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Christian Pilgrim Commission, expressed his concern about the security challenges in Nigeria and pledged support for the symposium’s organizers.
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