The Human Rights Violation Investigation Commission (HRVIC), set up by President Olusegun Obasanjo began sitting on October 27, 2000, to investigate all crimes committed nationally between the years 1984 and 1999. Chaired by Justice Chukwudifu Oputa and with Father Mathew Kukah as the Secretary, the reconciliation commission went all out to actualise most of their goal of trying to heal the nation. Whether they succeeded or not is a different ball game entirely.
The commission was initially given all the federal support it needed but because it did not have the enforcing fiat a government institution would have enjoyed, certain individuals frustrated holistic efforts of the panel for mitigating issues.
Some of the mandates the Oputa panel had were to acquire information about human rights violations via victim accounts; identify those involved in committing these crimes; as well as gain a better understanding as to why the crimes were committed in the first place.
It was recorded that this patriotic reconciliation exercise was very useful in resolving age-long conflicts between warring communities in the country, and that was all about that. Recommendations were also made for reparations to be paid to victims of these crimes which occurred during the military rule. Whether these recommended actions were taken by the government eventually or not, nobody actually knew; but at least the panel carried out its assignment dutifully while the commission lasted.
At the end of the commission’s hearing, the panel submitted the report in 2000. Controversial personalities such as Major Al-Mustapha, Brig. Gen. Ishaya Bamaiyi and even the president, Olusegun Obasanjo, had already appeared at the tribunal and given testimony to either what they took part in, witnessed or felt abused about.
The report of the Oputa panel never saw the light of day. Despite two Civil Society Organisations making the document public, it was still never allowed to be directly reachable by the general public. This was mainly due to the fact that Badamosi Babangida, an ex-president of the country, took the Obasanjo government to court about the exercise. The supreme court finally declared that only state governments have such constitutional powers to set up a commission of inquiry let alone the federal arm of government release such a report.
This situation begs the question why such a great opportunity and moment to reconcile a largely divided and badly hurting nation was suddenly lost to the winds.
It is on record that on being released from jail, the legendary Nelson Mandela of South Africa instituted the Truth and Reconciliation Committee which oversaw a large number of amendments and restitutions concerning wrongdoings in their apartheid experience. This commission no doubt set up post-apartheid South Africa for greatness and engineered the prosperity of the country under Mandela.
The Nigerian government either choked along the way with the court issue with Babangida or it just could not stomach the weight of responsibilities it will have to bear restituting victimised Nigerians. One certain thing, however, is that in a largely variegated country like Nigeria, citizens must not be quick to hate, should be ready to forgive at all times and must always be our brother’s keeper no matter the ethnic differences to have the country of our dreams, and against all odds.
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