DIPLOMATIC IMMUNITY: Buhari shields former service chiefs from ICC

President Muhammadu Buhari, on Thursday, asked the Senate to confirm the immediate past service chiefs as ambassadors.

The nominees are: Gen Abayomi G. Olonisakin (Rtd ), Lt Gen Tukur Y. Buratai (Rtd), Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas (Rtd), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar (Rtd), and Air Vice Marshal Mohammed S. Usman (Rtd).

The service chiefs had resigned, or been sacked, and their replacement announced. The news of their exit was so refreshing Nigerian soldiers sang and danced.

Before the service chiefs left, they also reportedly awarded themselves juicy retirement packages on Nigeria’s dime.

It now appears as if these men will remain in the country’s “service” for longer.

Former chief of army staff Tukur Buratai had been reported to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged crimes against humanity.

Under Buratai, Nigerian soldiers allegedly killed hundreds of Shiites whose leader Ibrahim El-Zakzaky remains incarcerated. The alleged massacre happened in Zaria of Kaduna State in 2015, the same year Buhari was first elected president. Over 300 civilians were allegedly killed.

Under Buratai, Nigerian soldiers, on the mantra of “Operation Crocodile Smile” allegedly killed Biafra separatists led by Nnamdi Kanu who managed to escape.

In October of 2020, Nigerian soldiers, under Buratai, stormed Lekki Toll Plaza and allegedly opened fire on anti-police-brutality protesters who were waving the nation’s flag.

In the wake of the alleged massacre which Buratai, his subordinates and his political enablers continue to deny, the former chief of army staff told involved troops not to be afraid of international prosecution.

ICC recently confirmed it was investigating Buratai for alleged crimes against humanity. But Buhari’s decision to name Buratai and the other former service chiefs ambassadors will frustrate that probe.

If confirmed as ambassadors, the former chiefs will have diplomatic immunity. This means that they cannot be arrested or prosecuted by most countries with whom Nigeria maintains official relationship. They can only be expelled if unwanted.

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