The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court is set to seek authorisation from the Pre-Trial Chamber of the court to open an investigation into cases of abduction of school children in parts of northern Nigeria, closure of schools, and the persistent failure of Nigerian authorities at both the federal and state levels to end the abduction.
This is just as a tally revealed that at least 2,000 school children have been abducted in the North since the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), assumed office in May 2015.
Buhari had while delivering his inauguration speech on May 29, 2015, promised to rescue the 276 school girls abducted in Chibok during the President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.
However, about 111 of the girls have remained in captivity since their abduction seven years ago while more have been abducted from schools.
It was observed that since the Chibok incident, at least 2,000 schoolchildren have been kidnapped by insurgents, leading to the closure of several schools and the shutting down of telecommunication services in some northern states.
The first notable abduction on Buhari’s watch was the Dapchi incident on February 19, 2018 where 110 schoolgirls aged 11–19 years old were kidnapped by the Boko Haram terrorist group from the Government Girls’ Science and Technical College. While five schoolgirls died on the same day of their kidnapping; Boko Haram released everyone else in March 2018, except the lone Christian girl, Leah Sharibu, who refused to convert to Islam.
About 344 schoolchildren of Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina, were abducted on December 11, 2020 while 80 pupils of Islamiyya School, Mahuta, Katsina, were taken on December 20, 2020.
On January 24, 2021, seven children were abducted at Rachael Orphanage Home for Abaji, Abuja.
No fewer than 27 boys at GSS College, Kangara Niger State were kidnapped on February 17, 2021 while 317 schoolgirls of Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe, Zamfara State, were also abducted on February 26.
On March 11, 2021, gunmen attacked Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, Afaka, Igabi LGA, in Kaduna State and kidnapped 39 students. Shortly after, 20 students of Greenfield University were on 20 April 2021, kidnapped in Kasarami village, Chikun LGA, Kaduna State. Five of the students were later killed.
No fewer than 128 students were abducted on July 5 at the Bethel Baptist School in Kaduna. In May, 200 pupils and teachers of Tanko Salihu Islamic School, Tegina, in Rafi Local Government area of Niger State were abducted. They were released by their abductors around Kebbi State.
Meanwhile, the prosecutor of the ICC is set to seek authorisation from the Pre-Trial Chamber of the court to open an investigation into cases of abduction of schoolchildren in several parts of northern Nigeria, closure of schools, and the persistent failure of Nigerian authorities at both the federal and state levels to end the abduction.
The ICC prosecutor’s decision followed a petition sent to the court by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project.
This development was disclosed on Sunday in a statement by SERAP’s Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare.
SERAP, had in the petition dated September 4, 2021, urged the ICC prosecutor, Mr Karim Khan, to “push for those suspected to be responsible and complicit in the commission of these serious crimes, to be invited and tried by the ICC.”
In the petition, SERAP argued that, “The severe and lifelong harms that result from depriving children the right to education satisfy the gravity of harm threshold under the Rome Statute.”
Responding, the ICC prosecutor in a letter with reference number OTP-CR-363/21, and dated October 22, 2021, confirmed to SERAP that “the criteria for opening an investigation into a string of abductions and closure of schools in some parts of Nigeria have been met.”
The letter signed on the prosecutor’s behalf by the Head of the Information and Evidence Unit, Mark Dillon, read in part, “On behalf of the Prosecutor, I thank you for your communication received on 13/09/2021, as well as any subsequent related information.
“The preliminary examination of the petition is considered complete. Under Article 53 of the Rome Statute, the next step in the judicial process is for the Prosecutor’s Office to prepare and submit a request to the Pre-Trial Chamber for authorisation to open an investigation on Nigeria.
“Once submitted, the request will be made publicly available on the court’s website: www.icccpi.int.
“Your communication will be forwarded to the relevant team to be analysed, together with other related communications and other available information, in the context of any future investigations. We thank you for your interest in the ICC.”
SERAP said by this decision, the ICC prosecutor has taken a significant step toward ensuring that those suspected to be responsible for grave crimes against Nigerian schoolchildren are exposed, and held to account.
“The victims of these crimes deserve justice. Impartial justice and reparation will deal a decisive blow to impunity of perpetrators, and improve access of Nigerian children to education. SERAP will work closely with the ICC to achieve these important objectives,” SERAP said.
SERAP’s petition to the ICC prosecutor stated that senior government officials ought to know that their failure to prevent crimes will violate the children’s human rights and dignity
“The absence of any tangible and relevant investigation or prosecution in Nigeria suggests that the authorities are unwilling or unable to carry out genuine investigation or prosecution of those suspected to be responsible for and complicit in the abduction of students,” the petition read.
In the petition, SERAP stated that consequences of persistent abductions of students, closure of schools, and the failure to provide safe and enabling learning environments despite federal and state authorities yearly budgeting some N241.2billion of public funds as “security votes”, are similar to those of the offences in Article 7(1).