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The Award winning judgment of the year 2021 in Nigeria

 The Award winning judgment of the year 2021 in Nigeria Self-determination is a fundamental right…that cannot be subjugated – Justice Akinto...

 The Award winning judgment of the year 2021 in Nigeria

Self-determination is a fundamental right…that cannot be subjugated – Justice Akintola

Agitations for self-determination are not new. They started long ago as people who speak the same language and perhaps share the same faith and boundary resolve to come together as one. Their common affinity is the sole determinant of their struggle for a common entity. The struggle is usually long and tortuous wherever this set of people seeks to quit a nation state. In some cases, the state labels them as rebels and go all out to kill their struggle. At times, the agitators too pay with their lives. Is there anything wrong in agitations for self-determination? No, says Justice Ladiran Akintola of the Ibadan High Court, in his verdict on the case of Yoruba Nation Agitator Chief Sunday Adeyemo popularly known as Sunday Igboho against the Federal Government.

Nigeria was virtually drowned in the wave of such agitations in the outgoing year. Groups and people rose in some parts of the country, demanding that they be allowed to go. The agitations were pronounced in the Southwest and Southeast. That of the Southeast, however, took a different bent with government clamping down on the agitators. 

The arrowhead of the campaign, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, wanted United Nations supervised referendum, which Nigeria government sees as terrorism and a call to break Nigeria. Kanu, who is in custody facing treasonable felony trial, found support in the youths, who have been holding the region down, with a weekly sit-at-home order by IPOB.

Are self-determination and secession the same thing? A thin line runs through them. Self-determination is a peaceful agitation to leave a country, while secession is forceful separation from an entity. People resort to secession where they are oppressed by wicked government. Since the history of Nigeria, a call for self-determination has been demonised and seen as terrorism by government, in many occasions the Nigeria government meets the peaceful agitators with heavy handedness.

In 2017 Amnesty International reported how Nigeria security killed over 45 peaceful IPOB Biafra agitators celebrating Biafra day, According to Amnesty International 

"The Nigerian security forces must exercise restraint when policing demonstrations marking the 50th Anniversary of the end of the Biafra War on 30 May, and avoid a repetition of the bloodbath caused by their heavy-handed response last year when more than 60 people were gunned down, said Amnesty International today." 

“Last year’s heavy-handed response against pro-Biafra activists further stirred up tensions in the south east of Nigeria. The reckless approach to crowd control favoured by the security forces when policing peaceful pro-Biafra protests has left more than 150 dead since August 2015, not to mention cases of enforced disappearance and unlawful detention,” said Osai Ojigho, Director of Amnesty International Nigeria."

"During peaceful Biafra Day celebrations last year in Onitsha, Anambra State, soldiers shot people in several locations. Amnesty International research concluded that at least 60 extra-judicial executions were committed in the space of two days, with a further 70 people injured. The real number is likely to be higher." 

“Despite overwhelming evidence that members of the Nigerian security forces fired live ammunition with little or no warning to disperse pro-Biafra gatherings, resulting in the death of at least 150 people, no person suspected of criminal responsibility has been brought to justice,” Amnesty International

 Igboho hit the limelight with his exploits in Igangan, a community in Oyo State, in the heat of the herders and farmers skirmishes. He took sides with the farmers to chase out herders said to be wreaking havoc on the community. Igboho, who is battling for his release from custody in Cotonou, Benin Republic, ran into trouble with the government, which saw him as an existential threat.

His home in Soka, Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, was invaded by security operatives in the wee hours of July 1. Some of his properties, including vehicles, were destroyed. One of his cats was also taken away by the security agents who believed that it was Igboho who turned into a cat! Igboho fled the country, but he was arrested in Cotonou on his way to Germany. His arrest and detention over there did not stop him from challenging the legality of the invasion of his home. He also sought the determination of the propriety of the Yoruba’s struggle for self-determination. He won on both counts. Justice Akintola declared the agitation for self-determination as legitimate.

According to him, ‘’Chief Sunday Adeyemo and his group have a right to self-determination and are free to hold their rallies as long as they are peaceful. Self-determination is one of the fundamental human rights of the citizens that cannot be subjugated’’. His finding was premised on Igboho’s request for:

A declaration that he and his Yoruba indigenous people have unquestionable and/or inalienable fundamental right to peacefully campaign and seek self-determination of Yoruba tribe in Nigeria and lobby the legislature to amend the 1999 Constitution as guaranteed by Article 20 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Right (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Laws of the Federation 2010, and Articles 3, 4, 7 & 18 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous People, thereby insulating campaign for self-determination from criminal culpability.

A declaration that the respondents’ resolve to prevent the applicant from propagating his belief in association with other like-minds in creating a Yoruba Nation and/or Oduduwa Republic for his Indigenous Yoruba People and hunting him with gun with a view to arresting him dead or alive when he has not called for war in achieving same is against his fundamental rights to freedom of thought, conscience and association since campaign for self-determination is recognised by law and international treaties of organisations to which Nigeria belongs.

Originally from The Nations, Edited by Family Writers Press International .

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