On 16 March, Sahara Reporters broke the shocking news that Justice Auta, the judge responsible for sentencing Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni activits to death is being appointed as Chief Justice of Nigeria.
Justice Ibrahim Auta, the judge who was handpicked by the Abacha regime to head the kangaroo tribunal that sentenced renowned environmentalists and minority rights activist Ken Saro-Wiwa to death by hanging, today became the Acting Chief Judge of the Federal High Court.
The Abacha regime set up the Auta Tribunal after it falsely accused Saro-Wiwa of orchestrating the death of four Ogoni elders. After prolonged abuse, torture and intimidation of Mr. Wiwa’s counsel by the Abacha regime, Justice Auta pronounced Saro-Wiwa and eight Ogoni activists guilty of a crime they never committed and sentenced them to death by hanging.
The Abacha regime swiftly ratified Auta’s verdict and thereafter murdered Saro-Wiwa and the eight activists before the period allowed for an appeal had elapsed.
PLATFORM researcher Ben Amunwa commented:
Justice Auta ought to be behind bars for orchestrating the “judicial murder” of Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni activists in 1995. Promoting him to Chief Justice is either a massive error of judgement, or a deliberate move by the Jonathan administration, which continues to grant impunity to those responsible for brutal repression in Ogoniland.
Despite the government’s best efforts to forget him, Ken Saro-Wiwa remains a global icon and the Ogoni struggle against Shell and the Nigerian State is ongoing. The struggle could intensify in the coming months, as the government imposes its decision to resume oil production in Ogoniland (in partnership with Shell), without seeking the consent of the Ogoni people.
Fifteen years after the execution of Saro-Wiwa, the Nigerian Senate cannot even honour his memory with a minutes silence. This speaks volumes about the government’s low regard for the Niger Delta region, and its reluctance to address issues at the core of the crisis – political autonomy, accountability, respect for minority rights amongst others.
Before they ratify the appointment of Justice Auta to one the most powerful positions in the Nigerian judiciary, the Senators should consider this: how do they want to be remembered?