‘We’ll publish original Oputa report’ – Fayemi of CDD
Assistant Editor, Politics
Saturday, December 11th, 2004
Vexed by the decision of the Federal Government to withhold the report of the Human Rights Violation and Investigation Commission (HRVIC), otherwise referred to as Oputa panel, about three years after it wound up, a pro-democracy group, which worked with the government to design and set up the commission, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), has threatened to release the full report to the public.
The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Chief Akinlolu Olujinmi (SAN), had in a press interview penultimate week declared that the Federal Government would not release the report of the Justice Chukwudifu Oputa-led panel, saying the decision was in compliance with the judgement of the Supreme Court which ruled that the panel was unconstitutional.
But speaking in an interview with our correspondent, the Director of the CDD, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, said it was painful that over three years after the commission finished its work, the report had not been made public.
Stressing that the members of the public, especially, in Nigeria had the right to know the outcome of the probe into the cases of human rights violation, he warned that his group would make the report public damning whatever consequence.
His words: “I’m pretty disappointed; even angry that we don’t have the result of the Oputa panel’s work. And they did a marvelous job with all the difficulties at their behest. Seven volumes of report! Extensive recommendations on how to institutionally correct this cankerworm. I am disappointed that the recommendations have not seen the light of day.
“We have agonised whether it is not worth our while to actually release the report of the Oputa Commission to the Nigerian public because we have the report. We are one of the few people who have the official report of the Oputa Commission. And we may well get to a point of releasing it to the Nigerian public and let the government, may be, charge us to court for violating official secret act or whatever offence. At that stage, we would deal with that. We are hoping that the government will see the need to stop hiding behind this business of court order by Babangida and his ilks and release the report of the Oputa commission. I don’t think it will be a violation of the orders that set up the commission.”
Wondering why former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida, went to court to protest the summon by the commission for him to appear over a case of human rights violations, he said Babangida should not have worried over the outcome of the work of the commission as he did not appear before it.
He, however, said that he believed that one day, the hand of the law would catch up with all those who perpetrated evil in the annals of the country.
“I am hopeful that as I see what is happening in Argentina today, 25 years after they disappeared, generals, admirals are being called back to account for what they did years before; as I sit back to watch what is happening in Chile, I believe those who had perpetrated these monstrosity against Nigerians will be hunted down even if it is a hundred years from now. Those who inherit their baggage of atrocities will be hunted down,” Fayemi said.
Set up by the federal government in June 1999, the Oputa panel was fashioned after the Truth Commission in South Africa to probe cases of human rights violation in the country from 1966 to the period the commission was inaugurated.
But following their summon to testify before the commission, former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar and former military president, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida went to court to challenge the summon.
The two leaders won their cases, thus nullifying the invitation by the commission.