PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari and two of his predecessors Dr Goodluck Jonathan and Chief Olusegun Obasanjo could be dragged before the International Criminal Court (ICC) over Nigeria’s failure to address the problem of 13m children being out of school.
At the moment, Nigeria has the highest number of out-of-school children in the world as a combination of insecurity, a lack of investment in education and nonchalance have led to whole communities abandoning education. Across northern Nigeria, the situation is chronic as millions of kids have become beggars and as they grow older, they become criminals, bandits, kidnappers or terrorists.
Fatou Bensouda, the ICC prosecutor, will today pore over a complaint filed by a Nigerian rights group against President Buhari and his predecessors Obasanjo and Jonathan and Nigerian state governors, past and present. To be determined and investigated is whether the officials have all committed crimes against humanity and violence against children by failing to address the perennial crisis of an estimated 13m out-of-school children.
Ms Bensouda is being asked to find out if this negligence does not fall within the jurisdiction of the ICC and whether it also does not resemble the Congo DR Lubanga case, where the ICC found that the interruption, delay and denial of the right of children to education is a crime within the jurisdiction of the court.
Non-governmental organisation Socio-Economic Rights & Accountability Project (Serap), submitted the file to the ICC and is pushing for the criminalisation of the negligence by the Nigerian leaders. Serap urged Ms Bensouda to push for those suspected to be responsible for this problem, including current and former presidents and state governors since 1999, who directly or indirectly have individually and/or collectively breached their special duty toward children, and are therefore complicit in the crime, to be tried by the ICC.
Serap deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, said: “Investigating and prosecuting high-ranking Nigerian officials and providing reparations to victims will contribute to serving the best interests of Nigerian children, the most vulnerable citizens in our country and ending the impunity that is denying them their right to education and a life free of violence and fear. These out-of-school Nigerian children have been exposed to real danger, violence and even untimely death.
“Senior Nigerian politicians since 1999 have failed to understand the seriousness of the crime of leaving millions of children out of school and have made an essential contribution to the commission of the crime. The ICC has stated in the Lubanga case that the interruption, delay and denial of the right of children to education is a crime within the jurisdiction of the court.
Serap believes that the reality for children living in the Ituri region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is similar to the reality faced by millions of out-of-school children in Nigeria, as the situation is depriving an entire generation of children of their right to education and human dignity. There is no immunity for crimes under the Rome Statute and the crime of leaving millions of Nigerian children out of school is an opportunity for the ICC to show the court’s commitment to effectively enforce its policy on children and other important statements of international criminal justice.”