Since a seeming strange era was foisted on Nigeria in 2015, life has become increasingly meaningless in the country. Rebel groups operating by whatever name that fits their fancy, snuff out the life of citizens at will. And, the authorities appear to be helpless.
In Kaduna State, Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU) wants Governor Nasir el-Rufai to take responsibility for the cold-blooded murder of three students of the College of Education, Gidan Waya that were involved in a peaceful demonstration against school fees hike by the el-Rufai administration.
Perhaps, there is the need at this point to ask, what is the main purpose of government? It seems governance in Nigeria under the current regime has a different purpose unknown to a greater majority of the citizenry. The authorities appear to be tolerant to ethno-centric/religious bloodletting, and frequently demonstrate zero-tolerance to self-determination agitations.
Yet, students of political science keep bombarding us that the main reason for the existence of the state, is to protect and promote the common good and the general welfare of its citizenry. Can this be true of Nigeria of today?
Theoretically, the subsisting military decree known as the 1999 Constitution, charges the Nigerian state with protecting its citizens from harm, whether from foreign enemies, or from internal disorders that reduce the peace and security of its people. In reality, that does not seem to be the case. Any country can slap Nigeria on its face by killing her citizens without Abuja doing anything about it. Security agents can kill innocent citizens at will without Abuja calling them to question.
Rather than the Nigerian state imposing civil laws and public policy which supports those ends, such as laws against murder which protect the innocent from being unjustly killed, we are seeing the government battling very assiduously to promote open grazing routes, and empowering the security forces to open fire on citizens. Doesn’t a just government treat all citizens equally, regardless of gender, age, size, religion or ethnicity? Why is Nigeria under President Muhammadu Buhari’s watch finding it too hard to do just that since 2015?
However, SOKAPU’s National Publicity Secretary, Liku Binniyat, in a statement notes that with the hate and ill will that Governor el-Rufai harbours against the people of Southern Kaduna, it is not surprising that a peaceful protest against the same increment will lead to such a bloody crackdown.
It also says el-Rufai has become beyond reproach and defies every wise counsel on how to reduce tension and crisis in Kaduna state as a result of his anti-citizens policies, precipitating poverty and record level insecurity among other negative developments under his government.
Accordingly, SOKAPU is calling on President Buhari, the National Assembly and the National Human Rights Commission to come to the assistance of the people of Kaduna State by ensuring that relevant laws of the land are invoked, including the declaration of a State of Emergency in Kaduna state.
SOKAPU says its call became necessary since it has been proven beyond doubt that Governor Nasir el-Rufai is incapable of ruling Kaduna without inflicting severe hurt to everything that stands for peace, justice and progress in the state, adding, ”the intolerance of Kaduna State government to peaceful protest against its anti-people actions and policies is already documented in its misadventure with the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), after governor el-Rufai’s desperate attempts to stop its peaceful protest against mindless mass sack of its members failed in May, 2021.
“In Kaduna State University (KASU), as a means of disallowing any form of disagreement against the hike in school fees by over 500%, parents are made to sign an undertaking that should their wards be involved in any protest against the school fee hike, they would summarily be dismissed from the university. Such is the extent that Kaduna State government can go to gag its citizens against a suppressive and exploitative policy”, SOKAPU said.
The group is therefore, calling for assistance from the international community, International and local based civil society organisations, the clergy, and all men and women of conscience to come together and ensure that justice is obtained for the poor students of College of Education, Gidan Waya forcefully arrested by the military and police.
For them, ”el-Rufai and his government must also be held accountable for all the destructive and backward developments that have taken place in Kaduna state owned high institutions since he raised students’ tuition fees. On Monday, 28th June, 2021, students of Kaduna State College of Education (COE), Gidan Waya staged a procession against a shocking hike in the tuition fees of all government owned tertiary institutions in Kaduna state, including the COE, Gidan Waya.
”The students were not armed, they did not attack any passersby and did not destroy any private or public property. The protest was peaceful and non-violent as collaborated by locals. Going by the reports available to us, the military and other security personnel stationed in Gidan Waya had already appealed to the students to stay calm and find ways of relating their grievances to the right authority. It was then that a battle ready contingent of combined armed troops of soldiers, Mobile Police and Civil Defence Corps landed and started molesting the already upset students.
”In the process, live bullets were used to fire at the protesting students. As the dust settled one student lay cold dead after being aimed at and shot in the heart. Three other students were fatally shot and were rushed to the General Hospital, Kafanchan where one of them died few hours later. Their names were given as Emmanuel Nathan and Abbas Zakari both of them 100 level Students of the school.
”The fate of the other injured is now wrapped in mystery. It is disputed whether they are alive or dead, as all entreaties by us to locate them before issuing this statement met with lack of cooperation from Hospital authority. We are also yet to get the number of those who sustained other forms of injuries from the high-handedness of the military and are privately receiving treatments away from the gaze of the state authority.
”This is because, after the shooting, the troops went berserk arresting students they could grab. So far, 13 students of the schools have been arrested. They are made up of 4 females and 9 males. Some of them said that they were in their rooms when their doors were broken into, beaten up, arrested and hauled into a waiting van and then driven to Kafanchan Area Command of the Nigeria Police Force some 18km away.
”They have spent 48 hours without trial and without bail today Kafanchan Area Command of the Nigeria Police is very notorious for such human rights violations as we have pointed out over time. We are told they are undergoing torture and may be moved to Kaduna where they may be charged for murder”, the group says..
While SOKAPU is calling for the immediate release of the 13 detained students and compensation paid them for their illegal detention without trial, the question still remains, what is the purpose of government in Nigeria when citizens are not free to protest and their lives not guaranteed?