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Ambassadorial appointments do not grant immunity to ex-service chiefs, says Odinkalu


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CHIDI Odinkalu, a professor of law and former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), has said that the announcement of former service chiefs as Nigerian ambassadors does not grant them immunity from criminal charges.

Odinkalu said this on Thursday in a series of tweets in reaction to the appointment of the former service chiefs as ambassadors by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Speaking on concerns by some Nigerians that the service chiefs were appointed in order to escape prosecution from the International Criminal Court, Odinkalu said there was no such immunity yet.

The former NHRC chairman said to enjoy the immunity that came with ambassadorship, another sovereign country had to accredit them.

“Briefly, this isn’t exactly good news for the former service chiefs. To begin with, to enjoy Sovereign Immunity (that’s what it’s called) in international law, they have to be accredited to another sovereign as Nigeria’s ambassadors. Carrying a diplomatic passport isn’t enough,” Odinkalu said.

He added that due to allegations levelled against some of the former service chiefs, a few credible countries would not accredit them.

Odinkalu noted that, for example, a member-state of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) would likely not take the former service chiefs as ambassadors.

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“In any OSCE country, for instance, any effort to deploy them as ambassadors would almost be guaranteed to end up in a raucous domestic and diplomatic mess and will be resisted seriously. In all likelihood, they will not pass muster with those countries,” he stated.

According to him, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court had already decided to initiate formal processes for an investigation into atrocities in Nigeria, including possible or alleged crimes by the Nigerian Army under the command of both Tukur Buratai, former chief of army staff and Abayomi Olonisakin, former chief of defence staff.

On Thursday, Femi Adesina, special adviser to President Buhari on media and publicity, announced that all the former service chiefs who ‘resigned’ only 10 days ago had been nominated to the Senate as non-career ambassadors.

The retired service chiefs include: Olonisakin; Ibok-Ete Ibas, former chief of naval staff;  Sadique Abubakar, former chief of air staff; and Mohammed S. Usman, former chief of defence intelligence.

During their watch as Nigerian Service Cheifs, there were several allegations of high-handedness by military officers.

In November 2020, the International Criminal Court confirmed that it received petitions over the killings of peaceful protesters during the #ENDSARS protests by men of the Nigerian Army. Buratai, particularly, was accused of ordering the killings of Shiites and young members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).

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