Chino Obiagwu, Lead Counsel, Legal Defence and Assistance Project, presented a paper on the theme, “Incorporating International Crimes into the Corpus of Criminal Justice System in Nigeria: Prospects and Challenges,” at the Law Week of the Nigerian Bar Association, Makurdi branch on the 23rd of April 2018. At the commencement of the presentation he highlighted the fact that this was an illustrious time to addressing this theme, as this year marks the 20th anniversary of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, a period that all peoples and nations are taking stock of world’s journey in the fight against impunity and accountability for atrocity crimes. He further recognised the importance of the presenting the paper in Benue state where innocent people are being killed daily in large numbers and there is little to no prosecution of the perpetrators.
The paper focused on examining, what the Nigerian government has done domestically to incorporate and implement international criminal laws, and to walk locally all her good talk internationally? To answer this question, the paper first expatiated on what is meant by International Criminal Law and its elements before going on to address the International treaties that Nigeria had signed to and those that have been domesticated.
He noted that although Nigeria, has ratified and domesticated the Genocide Convention, as well as the Geneva Conventions, the core provisions of these Conventions do not meet the threshold contained in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which Nigeria has signed in June 2000 but is yet to domesticate. This in turn means that Nigeria falls back on its common criminal codes and penal codes to deal with conducts that amount to international crimes. The three core international crimes are genocide, crime against humanity and war crimes. He stated that elements of the three core crimes are covered to some extent under the Nigerian Criminal Code and Penal Code – e.g. Murder, rape, physical attack, sexual assault, etc. are contained in Nigeria penal laws, however, the threshold of their elements differ under the Rome Statute.
During the presentation he stated that ‘’of course, the terrorists’ attacks, abduction and sexual slavery, pillaging, murder, attack of civilian population, enforced disappearances, torture all constitute crime against humanity and war crimes.’’ He emphasised this affirmation by pointing out that her 2017 Activity Report published on 4 December 2017, the ICC’s Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda stated she had facts to believe that Boko Haram, and in few cases, military operators, have committed crimes against humanity but the ICC had yet to take steps because the Nigerian government have taken steps to investigate.
He also stated that the violent attack by herdsmen constitute international crime. He however, noted that the 2017 report of the ICC’s Prosecutor, like her 2015 and 2016 reports, were silent on the issue of violent attacks by herdsmen in the middle belt area, as well as other locations across the country.
He concluded the presentation stating that there is a need for the Nigerian Bar Association, at national and branch levels, to take interest with the international crimes regime and framework for accountability for atrocity crimes in Nigeria. He further stated that in particular, the NBA should collaborate with relevant Civil Society Organisations and international partners to increase the potential for improving the regime of international crimes in the country.