HUMAN RIGHTS, STATE SOVEREIGNTY AND SECURITY INTERVENTION IN THE SOUTH WEST REGION: AN ASSESSMENT OF SECURITY AGENCIES ENGAGEMENT IN THE REGION
International law began as a system governing the relations among sovereign states, and states have always been the primary legal entities affected by international law. As the global system has become more complex, international law has come to recognize and regulate international organizations, businesses, nonprofit entities, and individuals. The emergence of international human rights law and, more recently, international criminal law reflects the fact that individuals today are direct subjects of international law in certain respects.
The issue of justice and sovereignty was memorably formulated by Hobbes. He argued that although we can discover true principles of justice by moral reasoning alone, actual justice cannot be achieved except within a sovereign state . Justice as a property of the relations among human beings (and also injustice, for the most part) requires government as an enabling condition. Hobbes drew the obvious consequence for the international arena, where he viewed separate sovereigns inevitably facing each other in a state of war, from which both justice and injustice are absent . What creates the link between justice and sovereignty is something common to a wide range of conceptions of justice: they all depend on the coordinated conduct of large numbers of people, which cannot be achieved without law backed up by a monopoly of a particular force. Hobbes construed the principles of justice, and more broadly the moral law, as a set of rules and practices that would serve everyone’s interest if everyone conformed to them.
The only way to provide that assurance is through some form of law, with centralized authority to determine the rules and a centralized monopoly of the power of enforcement. This is needed even in a community where most its members are attached to a common ideal of justice, both in order to provide terms of coordination. However, it should be noted that it doesn’t take many defectors to make such a system to disintegrate. The kind of all-encompassing collective practice or institution that is capable of centralized authority in the primary sense can exist only under a sovereign government. It is only the operation of such a system that one can judge to be just or unjust. The gruesome facts of inequality in the world economy are familiar. Roughly 20 per cent of the world’s population lives on less than a dollar a day, and more than 45 per cent live on less than two dollars a day, whereas the 15 per cent who live in the high-income economies have an average per capita income of seventy-five dollars a day.
A political community that exercises dominion over its own citizens, and demands from them allegiance and obedience to its laws, must take up an impartial, objective attitude toward its people, and each of its citizens must vote, and its officials must enact laws and form governmental policies, with that responsibility in mind. Equal concern is the special and indispensable virtue of sovereigns. On either the cosmopolitan or the political view, global justice would require global sovereignty. But there is still a huge difference between the two views in the attitude they take toward this conclusion. On the political view, the absence of global justice need not be a matter of regret; on the cosmopolitan view, it is, and the obstacles to global sovereignty that pose a serious moral problem.
Sovereignty of a state over a territory has been defined in the Island of Palmas case per Judge Huber thus “sovereignty in relation to a portion of the surface of the globe is the legal condition necessary for the inclusion of such portion of in the territory of any particular state.” While in Corfu Channel Case (UK v Albania), it was noted that “by sovereignty, we understand the whole body of rules and attributes which the state possesses in its territory, to the exclusion of all other states . . . ” Crawford however furnished a more detailed definition of sovereignty when he stated that:
In its most common modern usage, sovereignty is the term for ‘the totality of international rights and duties recognized by international law’ as residing in an independent territorial unit—the State. It is not itself a right, nor is it a criterion for statehood (sovereignty is an attribute of States, not a precondition). It is a somewhat unhelpful but firmly established, description of statehood; a brief term for the State’s attribute of more-or-less plenary competence.
The principle of territorial integrity of states is a corollary to sovereignty. It is a norm prohibiting interference in the internal affairs of other states. The obligation to respect territorial integrity of existing states is explicitly referred to by the UN Charter which in Article 2 (4) stipulates that “all members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations”. Territorial integrity arose out of the need for stability and finality in boundary conflicts and questions which much has been experienced already and this has been adumbrated even in case laws.
The state has been at the foundation of the world order and international law since the 1648 Peace treaty of Westphalia based on the principle of sovereignty which is the most visible characteristic of a state and it is turn founded on territory. Sovereignty denotes the internal and external supremacy of the state over its territory. Granting states total power over a particular territory emphasizes the status of territory as one of the most fundamental concepts of international law which is affirmed by the legal rules safeguarding its inviolability. A further classic definition of Sovereignty is expressed as the State exercising sole authority on its territory; having monopoly of legislation; monopoly of constraint on its nationals; and monopoly of jurisdiction.
Nevertheless, the right to self-determination purports to vest on all peoples the right to freely determine their political, social, cultural and economic status. And it has been recognized that a component part of a state can constitute a people. The right to self-determination serves as both a shield and a sword in respect of sovereignty and territorial integrity. Maya writes that the right to self-determination has a relationship of complementarity with other fundamental norms of international law such as sovereignty, the equality of States and territorial integrity. The states in this regard remain the foremost subjects of international law hence the contemporary international law is centered on the principle of sovereign equality and territorial integrity of states. Conversely achievement of self-determination by peoples challenges the extant principle of protection of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of existing states. Hence, Maya observes that “with self-determination as a slogan minorities or indigenous groups raise claims of either secession from an already sovereign State entity or independence and freedom from foreign domination.”
The effect of these two situations is that there is now an inherent dilemma that causes much controversy among States and groups within the state. The state wants to safeguard the sanctity of its borders upon which the current world order is built with the politicians throwing in everything to retain grip on power, yet the right to self-determination has raised the hopes of these groups that they are entitled to govern themselves or determine who and how they should be governed. There is therefore the need to balance these two competing interests. The preamble of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is breached by virtue of that singular act because it is the fulcrum upon which federalism was adopted in Nigeria. The preamble states thus:
We the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria: having firmly and solemnly resolved to live in unity and harmony as one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign Nation under God dedicated to the promotion of inter-African solidarity, world peace, international co-operation and understanding: and to provide for a Constitution for the purpose of promoting good government and welfare of all persons in our country on the principles of Freedom, Equality and Justice, and for the purpose of consolidating the Unity of our people: do hereby make and give to ourselves the following Constitution.
International law has developed through increased co-operation among sovereign States in recent years as, for example, in the European Union, the African Union and ECOWAS.
The very notion of the State has these essential components:
(a) a permanent population,
(b) a defined territory,
(c) government, and
(d) capacity to enter into relations with other States (Montevideo Convention on Rights and Duties of States of 1933, Article 1).
Human Rights in Nigeria
Hitler had written a book, “Mein Kampf” outlining his views and his vision for Germany, and the German population elected him even after he had told them about his plan. Why was he voted in? Although many books have been written on the subject, it is still difficult to know.
Why didn’t other countries stop Hitler when he first started to treat the German Jews so terribly? One reason could be that countries believed in the idea of “state sovereignty” , which means that each country – or “state” – has the absolute power to make decisions about whatever goes on within its boundaries. The scope of absolute state sovereignty, authority over all matters as presented by Hobbes, cannot effectively correspond to existing global problems. The subsistence of the people living in the state is necessary for its existence and therefore the sovereign powers of the state should be limited so that the powers cannot be used to infringe the fundamental interests of the people.
The protection of human rights can be derived from this rationale because for maintaining sovereignty the state must preserve the subjects that comprise it or are the very reason for its existence. If sovereignty of the state is understood to exist for the people, then gross human rights violations endanger the purpose of the state sovereignty – the interests of the people. In order to efficiently guarantee the protection of the fundamental rights of the people, to prevent and punish violations, there must be enforcement mechanisms in place, thus the need for rules criminalising conduct detrimental to those rights, and eventually, to the notion of state sovereignty.
Sovereignty, properly defined, is not a defence for breaches of gross violations of fundamental human rights. It has never been such, and today it is less a defence than ever. The Vienna Declaration and program of action, which was drawn up pursuant to the world conference on human rights (1993), advanced human right to be inalienable indivisible and interdependent. Inalienability simply means that human being cannot lose his right except he cease to be a human being. Indivisibility simply means a man cannot be deprived of a right because such a right is ‘less important” or non-essential”. Human right can be seen within the context of human dignity. In this case, human right are those basic standards without which people cannot live in dignity. To advocate human right is to demand that the human dignity of all persons be respected.
In Nigerian Constitutions, beginning from the post-independence constitution, due attention has always been given to the issue of human rights. In the 1960 independence Constitution, 1963 Republican Constitution and 1979 Constitution, provisions were made for human rights protection. Further, in the 1999 Constitution (as amended) two Chapters , spanning 26 (twenty six) sections are devoted to human rights subject. The need for constitutional provisions for human rights cannot be over-emphasized because, it is the state, with its various institutions is primarily responsible for guaranteeing the implementation and enforcement of these rights in respect of its citizens. Often, the primary institutions, the legislature, the executive and the judiciary are set up in the constitution. The protection of human rights in any national constitution is a recognition and part fulfillment of the international obligation of the State to take joint and separate action in cooperation with the UN for the achievement of universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms. While the need for the guarantee and protection of human rights in national constitutions cannot be questioned, it is important to do a critical content-analysis of these constitutional provisions with a view to seeing their real value against the concept of universality, interrelatedness and interdependence of human rights.
The South West region is which consists mainly of the Yoruba people and consists of Nigeria’s largest cities: Lagos and Ibadan. Lagos is conversant with a vast amount of political demonstrating. A riot of notoriety struck in January 2012, when the Federal reduced fuel subsidy, prompting some analysts to discuss the possibility of a ‘Nigerian Spring’. Across a range of poverty measures, the South West region performs relatively well. The region has an infant mortality rate of 59, the lowest of all national regions. The South West also has one of the lowest rate of respondents reporting no educational attainment whatsoever.348 In spite of Lagos’ status as a national and regional economic hub, many city residents struggle with poor living conditions. Nearly two-fifths of the population lives in overcrowded housing, and a quarter have no access to adequate sanitation. In 2006, Lagos was recorded as having a Gini coefficient of 0.64, making it among the most unequal cities in Sub-Saharan Africa.350
The population of the South West region is estimated at 32.5 million people. The region’s population is equally divided between Christian,and Muslims. The Yoruba ethnic group make up 21% of the national population. The population of Lagos is an estimated 10.7m. due to the large cosmopolitan nature of Lagos, it is prone to armed violence, especially by kidnapping and armed robbery. It is also note Lagos consists of over congestion and life-threatening poverty.
Armed violence in the South West region is concentrated in Lagos, where over 55% of the recorded conflict events in the region are located. Lagos is the second most conflict-affected state in Nigeria, aside from Borno State. It should be noted that policing requires adequate knowledge of what one is policing, while security itself is everybody’s business. Therefore an attempt to monopolize security and policing lay constitute insecurity and dysfunctional results. Unfortunately, the above stated position is not the Nigerian situation as security and policing is unilaterally exclusive for the central government by dint of the Second Schedule of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with the President as the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces respectively. This has yielded insecurity in the State. One notorious fact about the Nigerian Police Force is that it is bereft of swiftness to crime prevention, such as terrorist attacks, armed robbery attacks, and communal crisis. Sir Robert Peel (1788-1850), a former British Prime Minister, whom as the Home Secretary founded the Metropolitan Police Service, emphasized that the real key to policing was based on the idea that “the police are the people and the people are the police”. However, cases of terrorism can be considered as an exception, given that a joint military force could not quell terrorism completely in Nigeria as the Boko Haram are still stirring the Nigerian peaceful atmosphere. In fact, the Nigerian police are so vulnerable to insecurity to the extent that they inquire into the sophistication of weapons used by armed robbers and thieves before attending to pressing need. It has been observed also that there are insufficient police stations in the states, which is a clear impression that policing cannot be carried out by the central government because federal policing cannot reach some interior localities in Nigeria where most of these criminal activities are perpetrated.
Therefore, state policing is the best bet to curb the above mentioned challenges endemic in Nigerian security because they are part of the locality, hence the issue of distance, language barrier, geographical acclimatization and immediate response would have been resolved if state or regional policing is constitutionalized. There is therefore no doubt that regional policing will curb the incessant political excesses of the central government and acts as a watch dog for future elections in this country. In fact, state policing should be allowed so that during presidential election, regional policing would be used to monitor the election, while the central police force and regional police force be used concurrently to ensure transparency during states elections.
The rationale for state policing is for states dependency. The states would have a local force that they can depend on security-wise. The state can now be seen as an entrepreneur who can hire and fire. The state can be responsible solely for its intra security challenges, so that it can generate revenue through policing. States dependency strengthens jurisdictional approach to issues. That is to say, when the crime does not involve capital punishment, e.g. murder, such offence should fall under the purview of regional police jurisdiction, and if the offence is solely tortuous, the state police should be used for such arrest. In this way our customary courts and magistrate courts would be optimally viable as well. The key to confronting south western Nigeria’s security challenges rests on finding the right leadership that would exhibit good governance and political reforms in the following areas:
Decentralizing the Federal System
The spate of violent conflicts between nomadic herders against farmers in the south western regions has escalated and, threatens the security and stability in south western Nigeria. These conflicts in the south western states are, becoming as potentially precarious as the Boko Haram insurgence in north eastern Nigeria.
It is a serious and great challenge for a state such as Nigeria to embrace so many nations, diverse ethnicities, cultures and religious affiliations with multi-dimensional interest. A centralized federalist government may find it difficult to cope with the pressures from these diverse groups. The inelegant and centric nature of Nigeria’s federal structure is a primary precipitant of the numerous religious crises in the nation; therefore, there is a categorical imperative to structurally reorder the Nigerian federalism, such that powers are meaningfully devolved to the sub-national units of the federation. The present federalist arrangement in Nigeria, by the very negation of extant federalist principles that manifest in over-centralization and monopolization of power, is conterminous with divisive conflicts. This system has chronically underfunded the governance at the local level. To this end, the component nationalities of the state should enter into a renegotiation of binding social contracts between themselves and the Nigerian state, thereby restructuring opportunity for the grass-roots people to ensure equal representation among different zones in Nigeria. It is contended that in decentralizing the federal structure, wealth would be centralized to other tiers of governance and would grant equal participation in governance, which is seemingly denied to the local governments. It is also suggested that a decentralized federal structure would engender the establishment of networks in various local governments to observe and provide feedback mechanisms to the state and central governments in the event of crises.
It is important to note that the 1999 Constitution (as amended) calls for the federal government, its agencies, and its policies to reflect the ‘federal character’ of Nigeria in order to promote national unity and prevent the dominance of particular ethnic or other groups. This balancing effort is monitored and enforced by the Federal Character Commission. However, despite its intentions, the ‘federal character’ system often has the actual effect of subordinating national citizenship to ethnic identity, and even spurring ethnic tensions as different groups compete for resources. This explains the complexity involving the conflict between the herdsmen and the farmers. The problematic of the violence between the herdsmen and the farmers, is aptly described by Forbes:
While President Buhari is often praised for his fight against deeply rooted corruption in Nigeria and his pro-active approach to the atrocities committed by Boko Haram in northern Nigeria (although some of these pro-active steps are currently under investigation by the International Criminal Court), the conflict in the Middle Belt does not appear to gain the government’s attention or trigger decisive actions. This is of particular importance because of the militarization of the Fulani herdsmen and because of similar violence against Christian minorities in northern Nigeria (although conducted by a different actor). Considering the widespread use of AK-47’s by Fulani herdsmen, greater action from the Nigerian government would be expected. This is of increased importance in light of yet more news that Nigeria is home to over 350 million illegal weapons. Furthermore, the religious component cannot be neglected. Open Doors reported that between 2006 and 2014, 9,000 – 11,500 Christians were killed and over 13,000 churches destroyed in northern Nigeria.
One of the factors that can lead to cultural and religious based conflict is when one culture tries to impose its culture, belief or religious practices on another individual possessing another culture or religion. And, most important is when one group is competing for scarce resources from the other group. Another factor that can lead to religious conflict is when elites use religion as a smoke screen to mobilise the people of a group in order for the elites to enrich themselves by taking over resources or territory from another religious group. Cultural or religious conflicts have escalated as a result of ‘misinterpretation’ or perceived misinterpretation and misrepresentation of a cultural norm or practice. As a result of cultural norms or practice.
The Fulani herdsmen have been committed atrocities leading to the killing and wanton destruction of property in remote parts of the Northern Nigeria. Furthermore, the herdsmen have clashed with Christian indigenes in Plateau, Taraba, Zamfara, Kaduna, Enugu, Abia, Adamawa and Benue States and lately, in Osun State displacing indigenes of these locations from their familial homes.
The interplay of herders’ attacks on farming communities in south western Nigeria has fused a tense interplay of ethnicity and religion as Yoruba and Christian leaders gives the impression that the conflict is between Fulani Muslims from the North. These conflicts have the cloak of ethnic conflicts as members of other ethnic groups are the focus of target. In compounding this problem, In July 17, 2017, the governor of Benue State Samuel Ortom issued an order that the Fulani herdsmen should leave the state within 48 hours or risk being killed by security forces. In November 1, 2017 the Benue State government implemented the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law that outlawed open grazing in the state. The problematic here is that the Fulani herdsmen have the constitutional right to reside anywhere in Nigeria. The rational for this order is given the fact that the economy in Benue State depends on agriculture. On the other hand, Fulani herders’ have argued that they mount reciprocal attacks when farmers steal their cattle or kill members of their community. But on a deeper level this raises constitutional issues on the freedom of movement and the right of citizens to reside anywhere in Nigeria. It also portrays the complexity of ‘indigenes’ and ‘non-indigenes’ in the geo-political terrain of Nigeria.
There is no single cause of the conflict between the Fulani herdsmen and the indigenous farmers or to be precise a cultural-religious conflict. Rather, cultural-religious conflict is a context-specific, multi-causal and multi-dimensional and can result from combination different factors. The Fulani herdsmen are desirous to seek fertile land for grazing land and water for their cattle, they become cross-border nomads who live mainly in the forests without regard to State laws and the lands where they gaze their cattle. In their quest for fertile land the herdsmen usher in disruption and loss of lives of the indigenes of the land. Crucially, the origin of the herdsmen and farmers’ conflict is connected to the ‘substance’ needed for ‘sustenance’. It is about struggling to survive on ‘abundance of the land’. The Fulani herdsmen and indigenous farmers could arise as a result of either of this or the combination of the following:
i. Political and institutional factors: weak state institutions, elite power struggles and political exclusion, breakdown in social contract and corruption, identity politics
ii. Socioeconomic factors: inequality, exclusion and marginalization, absence or weakening of social cohesion, poverty.
iii. Resource and environmental factors: greed, scarcity of national resources often due to population growth leading to environmental insecurity, unjust resource exploitation.
Distribution of Resources
The economic paradox about Nigeria is that the more the country has in vast wealth and natural resources, the less the people have. In many ways, most of the problems at the root of religious crises in Nigeria are due to the abject poverty of the people and the nation’s poverty profile, which makes it malleable in the hands of ethnic and religious entrepreneurs. Consequently, the empowerment of the grass-root citizens and its institutions would go a long way in reducing, if not totally eliminating, the scepter of religious conflicts. Perhaps the truth then is that “wealth and population are not, indeed, absolute signs of prosperity in a state; they are only so in relation to each other. It is strongly recommended that there should be a restructuring on the imbalance in revenue sharing formular used in the polity. Presently, the Federal Government takes 55% of the revenue allocation, whilst the remainder is shared between 36 states and 744 local governments.
Good Governance & Accountability
Corruption and mismanagement of public funds is a debilitating crisis faced by the Nigerian state. As a result of this, the state has failed in its responsibility to its citizens. Given the rising scale of unemployment, generalized impoverishment, diseases, poverty and other social malaise that the state is unable to do anything about, the grass-root people are left with no other option but to resort to their different religious cocoons. Programs that would ensure the empowerment of the people and qualitatively improve their quality of lives should be put in place.
The government is to cater for the welfare of the people and to provide for the economic and social needs of the people. In the process of doing this, it should cooperate and work in harmony with religious bodies. Religious bodies may also come to the aid of the state in educational, health or other social matters. Religious groups and government should be not rivals but rather they should work together for the progress, peace and unity of the country. Government and religion are not to be regarded as mutually exclusive in their different functions.
Politics of Inclusion
State governments’ failed to encourage community-level dialogue that would procure conflict mediation, reconciliation and peace building between the herders and farmers. Thus, it is not surprising that herders and farmers are engaged in a bloodletting dispute. Moreover, both Federal and State governments are not protecting for both herders and farmers. The failure of the governments to seek for a political solution to the crisis has led to an escalation of the conflict. However, some state governments in the south west responses have established state and local peace commissions encourage herder-farmer discourse. Others, states such as Ekiti state has promulgated laws regulating grazing activities.
Objective Reporting By the Media
This study reveals that many non-Muslims regard Islam as a religion that promotes violence, terrorism and war. Several media outlets, such as particular TV stations, radio stations, newspapers and magazines, are influenced by their investors or owners who have certain political agendas. Other media outlets are simply after the ‘big story’ in order to make more profit. Others are simply ‘followers’ who only gather news from other sources, re-package it and try to sell it again purely as a sensational news.
In reporting religious conflicts, the media have usually reported conflicts with a blend of preconceived notions along their religious and ethnic pre-conceived notions instead of providing objective and informed analyses. The media should use its resource to curtail conflicts by promoting interfaith programmes and revealing areas of interfaith harmony. The effective role of the media in preventing conflicts could be used in preventing retaliatory conflicts such as the Kano ethnic riot and reprisal killings of July 22, 1999 and the reprisal attacks in the Igbo town of Onitsha in Anambra State, emanating from the Borno ‘Danish Cartoon’ riots in February 2006.
In the words of Mahatma Gandhi: “The golden rule of conduct … is mutual toleration, seeing that we will never all think alike and we shall always see Truth in fragment and from different angles of vision. Even amongst the most conscientious persons, there will be room enough for honest differences of opinion. The only possible rule of conduct in any civilized society is, therefore, mutual toleration.”