Deborah Samuel: HURIWA Drags Governor Tambuwal To ICC

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Prominent Civil Rights Advocacy body:- HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has instituted a petition to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hagues,  Netherlands, demanding the arrest, prosecution of Aminu Tambuwal, Sokoto State governor over his wilful failure to arrest and prosecute for gruesomely crude murder by Islamic extremists that stoned to death the Christian student Miss Deborah Samuel Yakubu in Sokoto.

Dated May 23rd 2023, HURIWA through the petition signed by Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, the National Coordinator, stated that the criminal refusal to bring the killers of Deborah Samuel to justice is a crime against humanity just as the Rights group asked the ICC to use the service of InterPol to arrest Mr. Tambuwal immediately he entered Europe.

The excerpts of the petition which has been sent to the ICC in Netherlands, HURIWA wrote as follows:

PETITION TO THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT (ICC) THROUGH THE OFFICE OF THE PROSECUTOR OTP, BY HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA), FOR THE ARREST AND PROSECUTION OF THE GOVERNOR OF THE SOKOTO STATE OF NIGERIA MR AMINU TAMBUWAL, FOR THE NON ARREST AND PROSECUTION OF THE MURDERERS OF DEBORAH SAMUEL IN SOKOTO ONE YEAR AFTER.

It is with utmost respect that we at the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria HURIWA, a foremost human rights protection group in Nigeria, send the following petition to the International Criminal Court, through the Office of the Prosecutor, OTP, which is responsible for initiating investigation of alleged genocide or crimes against humanity, upon receipt of concrete to reasonably support such allegations. This petition therefore, is in pursuance of the attainment of the basic and fundamental objective of the setting up of the International Criminal Court ICC, whose establishing legislation, the Rome Treaty, made it quite clear that its essence, was to end impunity in respect of four critical genres of serious crimes including genocide and crimes against humanity. This is particularly so, in situations where the perpetrators of such crimes are state actors, who are constitutionally supposed to stamp out the commission of such crimes.

Before going into the petition proper, it might be necessary to preface it with a recent release of your office on Nigeria, as follows, so as to put the subject matter of this petition, in proper perspective;

“On December 11, 2020, the Prosecutor announced the conclusion of her preliminary examination of the situation in Nigeria, having concluded that there was a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes and crimes against humanity were committed. The next step in the judicial process is to request authorisation from the pretrial chamber to open an investigation into the situation in Nigeria. In the interim, the Office continues to take measures to preserve the integrity of any future investigation into the situation in Nigeria.

The Preliminary Examination into the situation in Nigeria was made public on 18th November, 2010. The Office of the Prosecutor, OTP, had received numerous communications under Article 15 of the Rome Statute, in relation to the situation in Nigeria. The Office had examined information regarding a wide range of alleged crimes committed on the territory of Nigeria, since 2010. While the Office’s Preliminary Examination had primarily focused on alleged crimes committed by Boko Haram, since July 2009, and by the Nigerian Security Forces, since the beginning of the non International armed conflict between the Nigeria security forces and Boko Haram, since June 2011, it has also examined alleged crimes, falling outside of this conflict.  Since 2015, the Preliminary Examination also focused on the existence and genuineness of national proceedings in relation to these crimes. The Office found that the alleged crimes identified will currently be admissible and there would be a reasonable basis for investigation, subject to judicial authorisation”.

Against the background of the above explicit report of the International Criminal Court ICC which has clearly indicted Nigeria and her state actors, the justification and the need for urgent action by the Court on the extant petition, becomes inexorably obvious. This is because the said report has unambiguously confirmed that the security and human rights situations in Nigeria is indeed very grim and dire and that the subject matter of this petition, demands immediate, serious and thorough consideration.

It is equally pertinent to point out that government officials do not enjoy immunity nor is the Statute of Limitations applicable here. This is why erstwhile powerful state actors like Charles Taylor of Liberia and Slobodan Milosevic of Bosnia Hezegovina, were ultimately apprehended and brought before the International Criminal Court to face justice, for their many atrocities and crimes against humanity. Even for the not so powerful state and non state actors, obedience to superior orders are no defense to crimes covered by ICC.

The Cold Blooded Murder of Miss Deborah Samuel:

About a year ago, a young and defenseless Christian female student of Shehu Shagari College of Education in Sokoto, Sokoto State, Nigeria, Miss Deborah Samuel, was gruesomely murdered and lynched in broad daylight by a mob of male Muslim fanatics, said to be students of the same Institution. Her purported offense termed blasphemy by the hoodlums, was her glib and careless reference to Islam as “this nonsense religion”, following a minor argument with some of her classmates. In fact, when the situation got out of hand, the helpless young lady ran from the classroom the venue of the initially minor altercation, to the security post for her dear life, but the depraved bloodhounds followed her in a hot pursuit, got hold of her and despite her desperate plea for mercy, mercilessly slaughtered her like an animal. The beastly killers did not make any attempt to run away or even hide their faces and were caught on camera and could have been quite easily apprehended for necessary prosecution, if the relevant authorities were interested in doing so.

The governor of Sokoto state, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal, under whose direct jurisdiction the crime took place and whose duty it was to arrest and prosecute these criminals, was clearly unenthusiastic to carry out his constitutional duties in this respect. Obviously, with the general elections a few months away at the time, the governor was clearly not ready to incur the wrath of his largely Muslim population by appearing to support the act of ‘blasphemy’ against holy prophet Mohammed.

It was therefore not surprising that this senseless gruesome killing of an innocent defenseless young lady which led to a lot of uproar all over the country and even in the international community, was not officially treated with the seriousness that it deserves by the responsible state actors.

In Nigeria as well as in other parts of the civilized world, the crime of murder is treated very seriously, with the least punishment being life imprisonment but can attract death sentence in some cases. Many states and the federal government in Nigeria, still have the death penalty for murder and in those states that do not, the maximum punishment is life in prison as aforementioned, without the possibility of parole.(LWOP).

To further illustrate the seriousness with which the Law views the offense of murder and killing of any sort, the supreme law of the country Nigeria, from which all other laws derive their legitimacy, known as the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, made copious provisions on the Right to life under section 33, as follows;

33(1).Every person has a right to life and no one shall be deprived intentionally of his life, save in the execution of the sentence of a court, in respect of a criminal offense of which he has been found guilty in Nigeria.

(2). A person shall not be regarded as having been deprived of his life in contravention of this section, if he dies as a result of the use, to such an extent and in such circumstances as are permitted by law, of such force as is reasonably necessary;

  1. For the defense of any person from unlawful violence or for the defense of property.
  2. In order to effect a lawful arrest or to prevent the escape of a person lawfully detained or
  3. For the purpose of preventing a riot, insurrection or mutiny.

Going through the reproduced provisions of section 33 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria above, it is clear that Miss Deborah Samuel did not deserve to die, most certainly not at the time, way and manner of her needless and cruel death. Her demise therefore ought to have called for an immediate pursuit of justice for her, by the various agencies of the state, led of course by the governor of Sokoto state, who like his counterparts in other states, goes by the sobriquet/title of the Chief Security Officer of his state, Sokoto state.

Both the Penal Code with jurisdiction in Northern Nigeria and the CriminalCode of Nigeria operative in Southern Nigeria, dealt extensively with the offense of murder. In fact the Criminal Code devoted the whole of sections 300-329 to the issue of the the taking of human life, in various forms. For instance, section 306, says it is unlawful to kill any person unless such a killing is authorized, justified or excused by law.

The Penal Code which is operative in Northern Nigeria as indicated earlier, have similar provisions, with a few inconsequential differences of nomenclatures, here and there. For instance, whilst the Penal Code uses the terminology Culpable Homicide to describe intentional killing, the Criminal Code describes the same offense as Murder, but the ingredients needed to prove the two offenses are exactly the same. See the case of Amina v. S(k289 of 2013).

Therefore like noted earlier, it is not surprising that the gruesome killing of Deborah Samuel led to a major uproar all over the country and internationally amongst ordinary people, when it appeared that the relevant authorities, such as the police, the Federal and state governments including the Sokoto governor himself, appeared lethargic in their reactions to the heart wrenching tragedy. Spontaneous protests sprang up in different parts of the country, against the gruesome killing, with vociferous calls for not only for justice to be done, but to be clearly seen to have been done in this particular case.

In the light of the foregoing protestations, the police made a few cosmetic arrests, obviously to calm frayed nerves all over the country and avert a possible breakdown of law and order. It was however clear at that early stage, that the police was never going to pursue the investigations of the incident with any degree of seriousness or diligence. The two apprehended suspects, were unbelievably charged with disturbing the public peace! Even this meaningless charge was not followed up by the police. It was therefore not surprising that the suspects were recently reported to have been discharged by the presiding magistrate for want of diligent prosecution.

The governor of Sokoto state, Mr. Aminu Tambuwal as the Chief Security  Officer of the state has the primary responsibility of protecting the lives and properties of residents of the state, as has been repeatedly pointed out. If he has had any constraints in doing so, it was up to him to reach out to the Inspector General of the Nigeria Police for logistical and personnel back up or even the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria himself for necessary backup, given the crass impunity

Of this cold blooded murder. The truth of the matter however, is that governor Tambuwal is clearly unwilling to pursue and secure justice for the late Miss Deborah Samuel, for fear of loosing the support of the predominantly Muslim population in the general elections that was just a couple of months away at the time.  Again, for these same reasons, the other state agencies of law enforcement, were also unwilling to do something about it.

It is for this reason that we at HURIWA decided to petition the International Criminal Court (ICC) to step into the matter, through the Office of the Prosecutor and do the needful by arresting and prosecuting the said errant governor, under the auspices of the Treaty of Rome, which came into force on the first day of July 2001.

The Statute of Rome and Domestic Criminal Impunity.

Violation of human rights and protection of individuals from such violations, require appropriate mechanisms of law enforcement. Ordinarily, the prosecution of the perpetrators of these crimes ought ordinarily to be handled by the security agencies and courts of the individual countries, but in situations such as we have in the case of the gruesome murder of Miss Deborah Samuel, where these national agencies are clearly unwilling or even unable to discharge their duties, the alternative will be to resort to the International Criminal Court, ICC, hence the need for this petition.

As pointed out earlier, the Statute of Rome which followed the initiative of the United Nations General Assembly UNGA, which conveyed a conference of Nations that led to the ratification of the Statute by 120 countries including Nigeria, on July 1, 2001, thus giving rise to the emergence of the International Criminal Court ICC, makes the intervention of this international court in Deborah’s matter, imperative. It should be noted that the ICC’s jurisdiction under the Statute of Rome, covers only serious crimes committed after its date of inception, as is the case herein.

Jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, ICC, Over the Killing of Deborah Samuel.

Just for the records, this case of the gruesome murder of Miss Deborah Samuel last year May, as already amply highlighted above, falls squarely under the jurisdiction of the ICC for the following reasons;

1) Nigeria is a signatory to the Statute of Rome, that gave rise to the the existence of the International Criminal Court, ICC. It signed the treaty on June 1, 2000 and deposited the instrument of ratification of the Rome Statute on September 27, 2001.

2) The murder of the young lady in this case took place in Sokoto, Nigeria.

3) The perpetrators of this heinous crime are also Nigerians.

4) Having ratified the Statute or Treaty of Rome as the case may be, both state actors, such as the aforementioned governor Aminu Tambuwal, and even non state actors, such as murderers of Miss Deborah Samuel, now come under the ICC jurisdiction.

The killing of Miss Deborah Samuel can easily come under the category of a crime against humanity, being “Acts committed as part of a widespread attack directed at a civilian population. It need not be linked to a war but can occur in peace time”. See article 7(1) of the Rome Statute.  Clearly in Sokoto State, as in most parts of the Muslim Northern Nigeria, the minority Christian population of those areas are clearly targeted for possible elimination by the fanatical Muslims. It is therefore a most appropriate case for handling by the International Criminal Court.

It is equally noteworthy to observe that the Office of the Prosecutor, OTP of the International Criminal Court ICC, had already concluded a Preliminary Examination which we cited at the beginning of this petition, showing that happenings in Nigeria makes it an appropriate place for urgent intervention by the ICC.

We, at HURIWA hereby most respectfully call on the Office of the Prosecutor OTP to immediately begin the processes that would ultimately lead to the arrest and prosecution of the governor of Sokoto state of Nigeria, for failing to arrest and prosecute the killers of Miss Deborah Samuel in Sokoto Nigeria, over a year ago.

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