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Nigeria: One Sacked, 15 on the Radar in the Judiciary Purge

A Nigerian High Court judge has been sacked and 15 others placed under investigations in a crackdown against corruption in the Judiciary.

Justice Musa Anka of Zamfara was relieved of his job based on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council (NJC).

Judge Anka was accused of having received $6,000 bribe from Mr Zubairu Abdumalik, to subvert justice.

The Zamfara State government resolved to sack the judge after it approved the NJC recommendation for his removal from office.

Irked by the high level corruption allegations against judges and a recent sting operation on them by Directorate of State Service (DSS), NJC has constituted panels to probe the 15 judges.

The 15-member Corruption and Financial Crime Cases Trial Monitoring Committee (COTRIMCO) is headed by a retired president of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami.

 The committee will investigate the listed 15 high court judges, including two serving chief judges.
 Meanwhile, the lobby group, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), to review the composition of the committee.

SERAP Executive Director Adetokunbo Mumuni urged the Court of Appeal to urgently review the composition of COTRIMCO.

He said the move would remove the risk of the apparent and potential conflicts between the work of the committee and the private practice of some of its members.

An International Law and Jurisprudence scholar, Prof Akin Oyebode, lauded the establishment of the committee to monitor grand corruption cases.

Prof Oyebode also hailed the appointment of Justice Salami as the chairman of the committee.

He spoke in Lagos at a strategic roundtable entitled, Mobilising the Citizens to Demand Anti-corruption Reforms and an End to Impunity for Grand Corruptions in Nigeria.

“So pervasive has corruption become that it is now conventional wisdom that if drastic measures are not put in place to contain it, corruption might ultimately result in the mortality of Nigeria as a nation-state,” said the former Vice-Chancellor of Ekiti State University.

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Burma: Military Massacres Dozens in Rohingya Village

(Dhaka) – The Burmese military summarily executed several dozen Rohingya Muslims in Maung Nu village in Burma’s Rakhine State on August 27, 2017, Human Rights Watch said today. Witnesses said that Burmese soldiers had beaten, sexually assaulted, stabbed, and shot villagers who had gathered for safety in a residential compound, two days after Rohingya militants attacked a local security outpost and military base.

Human Rights Watch has not been able to verify estimates of the number of villagers killed. Satellite imagery analyzed by Human Rights Watch shows the near total destruction of the villages of Maung Nu (known locally as Monu Para) and nearby Hpaung Taw Pyin (known locally as Pondu Para). The damage signatures are consistent with fire.

“All the horrors of the Burmese army’s crimes against humanity against the Rohingya are evident in the mass killings in Maung Nu village,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “These atrocities demand more than words from concerned governments; they need concrete responses with consequences.”On September 28, the United Nations Security Council met to discuss Burma publicly for the first time in eight years, but took no action. Human Rights Watch repeated its call for the council and concerned countries to adopt an arms embargo and individual sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes, against Burmese military commanders implicated in abuses.

Human Rights Watch spoke with 14 survivors and witnesses from Maung Nu and surrounding villages in the Chin Tha Mar village tract of Buthidaung Township. The witnesses, now refugees in Bangladesh, said that after the militant attacks they feared Burmese military retaliation. Several hundred gathered in a large residential compound in Maung Nu. Several Burmese soldiers entered the compound while others surrounded it. They took several dozen Rohingya men and boys into the courtyard and then shot or stabbed them to death. Others were killed as they tried to flee. The soldiers then loaded the bodies – some witnesses said a hundred or more – into military trucks and took them away.

Attacks by Militants

Over 500,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh to escape mass atrocities by Burmese security forces. The crackdown followed after militants from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), on August 25, attacked a military camp and about 30 security force outposts throughout northern Rakhine State. The government reported that the militants killed 11 security force personnel during the attacks.

The militants attacked the headquarters of the Western Command’s Light Infantry Battalion 552 in Taung Bazar, about 10 kilometers north of Maung Nu. The government said that at least 10 militants were killed.

One of the post attacks occurred early that morning close to the market in Hpaung Taw Pyin, just north of Maung Nu, when ARSA militants attacked a checkpoint manned by the Border Guard Police (BGP). Residents living near the market told Human Rights Watch that they were sleeping at home and heard heavy gunfire coming from the area near the BGP checkpoint. They said gunfire continued until about 6 a.m.

Mohammad Usman, a 15-year-old Rohingya, said he was awakened by the heavy gunfire. When their homes caught fire, he and other villagers fled, but it was too dark to see who was shooting. “We ran out of our house to other villages,” he said. “Bullets were falling like rain and people were falling down around me. Suddenly, I felt something hit my arm and then my back. I lost consciousness and I woke up in someone else’s home.” Mohammad said he had been shot in the arm and hit by shrapnel in the back.

The Burmese government reported that over 100 militants took part in that attack using “swords, firearms and bombs,” and that two police officers and two militants were killed. There are numerous reports of serious abuses committed by ARSA militants, though Human Rights Watch has not been able to independently verify those accounts, in part because of the lack of access to northern Rakhine State.

Human Rights Watch could not verify the government’s figures, but witnesses said that after the fighting ceased soldiers from the army camp requisitioned a large private boat onto which they loaded an unknown number of bodies from near the village marketplace. The boat owner, Mohammad Zubair, identified the soldier who seized the boat as Staff Sergeant Baju from an army camp just south of the market occupied by Light Infantry Battalion 564. Zubair said he watched the soldiers load the bodies, some of which he recognized as young Rohingya men from the area.

Killings of villagers by soldiers

Witnesses told Human Rights Watch that after the militant attacks, several hundred frightened Rohingya villagers from the surrounding area fled to the compound of Badrudduza and Zahid Hossain, two well-off men in Maung Nu village, seeking safety and shelter. The large property is less than 200 meters from the main road that runs in a north-south direction through Buthidaung Township. Within the compound were a large two-story, mud-walled structure, several smaller buildings, and a large rectangular pond. Most of the men sought shelter upstairs while the women and most of the younger children crowded onto the ground floor. The witnesses said they gathered together hoping there would be safety in numbers.

Witnesses said about two dozen Burmese soldiers arrived at the crowded property late in the morning on August 27. One soldier, identified by many witnesses as Staff Sergeant Baju, led several soldiers into the courtyard and began calling to the people hiding in the house in the Rohingya language. Villagers said Baju had lived at the nearby military base for 15 years and spoke Rohingya. Several overheard Baju trying to convince the men and boys inside the house that they would not be killed if they left the buildings.

Villagers inside the courtyard as well as some who managed to escape and were observing from hillsides overlooking the compound, said that soldiers brought Rohingya men and boys into the courtyard. The soldiers bound their hands behind their back. Then they beat them, stabbed and slashed them with long knives, and shot them.

Abdul Jabar, 60, said the soldiers made the men kneel down as they struck them with the butts of their rifles and kicked them repeatedly before killing them: “[T]hey killed people from the back with machetes and they also fired on them with their guns.”

Mohammad Ayas, 29, said that he managed to hide in the rafters of the house and saw soldiers kill numerous people: “They are slaughtering them just like they are clearing the jungle with their thin, sharp, and long knives.”

Muhamedul Hassan, 18, said that a dozen soldiers, led by Staff Sergeant Baju, took him and two male relatives, Mohammad Zobair and Foyas, from their house to Zahid Hossain’s nearby courtyard. Hassan said that when they got there, there were hundreds of men and boys tied up. He said:

Four soldiers took [me and my relatives] to the corner of the courtyard and shot us each twice in the back. I lost consciousness. When I woke up, I saw many men still tied and [the soldiers] were still killing people. Many were stabbed to death. When I tried to flee I was shot in the chest but was able to escape.

Muhamedul showed Human Rights Watch his bullet wounds. He said that in addition to the two executed beside him, nearly 30 more male relatives were killed that day.

Witnesses also described seeing children executed. Khotiaz, 28, recounted the killing of her nephew: “When Baju entered the room, there was my nephew, Mohammod Tofail. He was 10 years old. He was a student of class two. First Baju shot him in the head, his skull shattered into four pieces. Then he fell down. I saw there were brain and blood on the floor.”

Mustafa, 22, said: “There was a pit with [the bodies of] 10 to 15 children, all under 12 years old. They were all young children hacked to death. I recognized four of the bodies: Hakim Ali, 9; Naim, 8; one child from Pondu Para, who was about 10; and Chau Mong, who was 7.”

Witnesses said that after the killings, the soldiers gathered the bodies on green tarps and loaded them onto pushcarts, then brought the bodies to military vehicles. The removal of bodies took hours, several witnesses said.

“I saw outside that there were piles of dead bodies.” Mustafa said. “I could see the soldiers using carts [to move the bodies] and I recognized one of the carts was mine.” Mustafa said he heard the sounds of the trucks and vehicles for four hours.

Sexual Assault

Human Rights Watch received credible reports that soldiers subjected women to invasive body searches, non-consensual touching, and sexual assault at the compound in Maung Nu.

Khotiaz, 28, said that soldiers targeted women hiding on the property, including the large building where she hid: “They entered the room and stripped some of the women naked. They snatched everything I had. They touched [me] everywhere and tried to take off my clothes.”

A 30-year-old woman said the soldiers were looking for money and other valuables. “One soldier put his hand inside my chest, and he took my cellphone and money, also,” she said. “Then he opened my thami [lower part of a woman’s dress]. And there was some gold and money [he found], which he took. Then he touched me everywhere.”

Witnesses said they fled the village when the military left the area. Many spent weeks trying to reach the Bangladesh border, where they crossed with thousands of other Rohingya.

In March, the UN Human Rights Council agreed to send a fact-finding mission of international experts to investigate the abuses, but the Burmese government said it would not allow the investigators to enter.

“Burmese military commanders cannot use the excuse of militant attacks to avoid justice and punishment,” Robertson said. “The UN fact-finding mission needs to investigate these atrocities, including commanders who ordered the attack or failed to punish those involved.”

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Anti-corruption war: Nigeria’s suspension from EGMONT group, a setback, says Dogara

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, has said that the suspension of Nigeria from the  EGMONT Group is a drawback for the Federal Government’s anti-corruption war.
The EGMONT group is an international body of Financial Intelligence Units, dealing largely on financial intelligence gathering and other economic crimes for sharing among key agencies of government in member nations.
The Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, an affiliate of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, was Nigeria’s representative on the body before it was suspended on July 5.
Nigeria was suspended from the group during a meeting of the heads of FIUs in Macao this year.
The international body was said to have punished Nigeria following a petition a former top official of the NFIU sent to EGMONT, alleging misdemeanours within the NFIU.
But, speaking in Abuja, Dogara noted that the development was a setback for the anti-corruption war of the current All Progressives Congress government.
His Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Turaki Hassan, in a statement on Sunday, quoted Dogara as expressing his pains when the Director-General of Inter-Governmental Action Group Against Money Laundering in West Africa, Col. Adama Coulibaly, visited him in Abuja.
GIABA is a unit under the Economic Community of West African States.
The speaker stated that the timing of the suspension was regrettable, especially that the APC government was committed to fighting corruption.
However, he assured the GIABA official that the National Assembly would do everything within its powers to ensure that Nigeria was re-admitted into the group.
Dogara added that the anti-corruption war could be easily won if countries cooperated with one another by refusing to serve as save havens for looted funds.
He also said similar cooperation was needed in the war against terrorism.
The speaker spoke further, “No nation can survive as an island.
“It will take the collective cooperation by agencies in different countries to combat both terrorism and corruption.
“Unfortunately, we are facing the two in Nigeria with the Boko Haram violence in the North-East.
“It is impossible to fight terrorism and corruption without a strong legal framework.”
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Reps seek removal of underage offenders from prisons

The House of Representatives on Tuesday urged Federal Government to build more remand institutions for underage offenders and remove them from  prisons. This was sequel to a motion by Rep. Afe Olowookere (Ondo-APC).Olowookere, while moving the motion, expressed concern over the high number of minors in prisons among adult inmates. He said some of the minors in prisons may be innocent victims of police raids who could not meet the conditions required to regain their freedom. The lawmaker expressed worry that the minors were being treated as adult offenders. He also expressed worry that the adult cell mates could influence the minors to become even more hardened criminals upon their release from prisons. The motion was unanimously adopted by members when it was put to voice vote by Deputy Speaker Yussuff Lasun who presided at plenary. The house urged chief judges of the various states to visit prisons more regularly to review cases involving minors held therein. It, therefore, mandated its committees on justice and interior to ensure compliance and report back within 12 weeks for further legislative action.

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Nigeria Prisons fails to produce medical reports of illegal arms importation suspects

Justice Ayotunde Faji of the Federal High Court, sitting in Lagos, on Wednesday, reinstated it earlier order mandating the Nigeria Prisons Service (NPS) to produce medical reports on the health status of four accused persons who were in prison custody for alleged illegal importation of firearms into the country.

The court reinstated its earlier order due to the inability of the prosecution to produce the medical report of the accused persons as earlier directed by the court following an application filled by one of the accused persons, Oscar Okafor.

At the resumed hearing of the matter, on Wednesday, counsel to the third accused told the court that the prosecution was yet to comply with the order of the court regarding the deteriorating health condition of his client.

But the prosecution represented J. I. Ajakaiye, told the court that the prosecution had taking step as directed by the court to obtain the medical report by writing the Comptroller General of Prison, but that the prison authority was yet to oblige the prosecution with the reports.

Ajakaiye pleaded with the court to grant them short adjournment for the prosecution to secure the report as directed by the court.

On the issue of the second accused, Salihu Abdulahi Danjuma, who had earlier hinted the court of his intention for plea bargain, the prosecution told the court that the process is on going, but still needed the rectification of higher authorities. The prosecution’s position was also confirmed by the lawyer to the second accused person.

While adjourning the matter for trial October 10, Justice Faji directed the prosecution to produced the medical report of the health status of all the accused persons in the next adjourned date.

It would be recalled that the federal government through the Office of Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), arraigned four accused persons before the court on charges bordering on conspiracy, importation of prohibited firearms, uttering of documents, forgery, corruption, and importation of prohibited goods.

Those arraigned before the court were: Mahmud Hassan, and Salihu Abdulahi Danjuma, Oscar Okafor, Donatus Ezebunwa Achinulo, and Matthew Okoye.

However, among all the five defendants, only Matthew Okoye was said to be at large.

AGF in charge number FHC/L/190c/17, alleged that the all the accused persons conspired with one another to illegally import into Nigeria 661 Pump Action Rifles.

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UN human rights chief urges probe into violence during referendum in Catalonia

2 October 2017 – The top United Nations human rights official urged today the authorities in Spain to ensure thorough, independent and impartial investigations into all acts of violence that took place Sunday during a referendum on the independence of Catalonia.

“I am very disturbed by the violence in Catalonia on Sunday,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in a statement.

According to media reports, police raided polling stations, and hundreds of people were injured.

“Police responses must at all times be proportionate and necessary,” Mr. Zeid said, stressing that the current situation should be resolved through political dialogue, with full respect for democratic freedoms.

He called the Spanish Government to accept without delay the requests by relevant UN human rights experts to visit.

Lagos simplifies domestic violence reporting

Lagos residents can report cases of sexual and gender based violence through a short message service, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode has said.

He spoke at a Commendation Night/Launch of Domestic and Sexual Violence Trust Fund & Resource Book by the Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT).

The governor, represented  Secretary to the state government Mr Tunji Bello, said this would be done through sustained awareness initiatives and amplifying the usage of a “6820” service.

He said the service provided by Airtel is a short message service code that can be used to report cases of sexual and gender based violence.

Governor Ambode said DSVRT would be set up in all council secretariats.

The governor said increase in DSVRT’s activities does not increase in cases of sexual and gender based violence.

“It is actually a measure of growing confidence by victims to speak out and seek justice.

“Our objective is to ensure that this criminal and reprehensible act is totally eliminated,” he said.

Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Adeniji Kazeem, said a new-inaugurated DNA and Forensic Centre was a significant step in the fight against crime, including rape and domestic violence.

He praised DSVRT members for their achievements.

A Director in the Ministry of Justice, Mrs Omotola Rotimi, said DSVRT played active role in the formulation of a legal framework for combating the vice.

She said anybody that comes in contact with a defiled child or attempts to shield an offender by not reporting it risks two years imprisonment.

According to her, the new policy has been ratified into law by the state house of assembly through an executive order.

She the team was also carrying out enlightenment programmes to sensitise the public and training students to make them aware of their rights.

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