Samuel Obukwelu

Since 2003 when President Obasanjo granted Charles Taylor refuge in Nigeria, a good number of Nigerians have been asking on what basis does the butcher of Liberians deserve this refuge. Is Charles Taylor in Nigeria at he behest of the President? Nigerians, constituting the biggest democracy in Africa deserve to be told why they should accept Charles Taylor in their midst. Mr. Charles Taylor does not deserve to be harbored by any African nation because of the atrocities he committed in his country. During his reign, as the President of Liberia, between 150,000 and 200,000 Liberians lost their lives and, over 1.5 million Liberians fled their homes for the neighboring African nations. How on earth can such a person deserve any country's sympathy by granting him any asylum?

Asylum is not an act performed by only the President of a country, especially a democratic country like Nigeria. Such a request should have been tabled before both houses of Representatives for a very comprehensive debate. This writer is saying this because Nigeria is not running an autocratic government whereby the President can hoist any criminal on the neck of Nigerians.  It is not only morally right but it is also administratively indispensable that the Nigerian public opinion should have been sought by the President before granting Mr. Charles Taylor an asylum in Nigeria. This action of the President begs for decor and decency even if it is not enshrined in the constitution of the country. Why should Nigeria give asylum to a President whose soldiers killed hundreds of Nigerian soldiers? Mr. Charles Taylor massacred his people and devastated his country, therefore, it is the responsibility of his people to deal with him. Does Nigeria owe Mr. Charles Taylor anything? If so, Nigerians would like to know what it is. Otherwise, the President owes the nation a bundle of apologies for wasting our meager financial resources on the butcher of Liberians and, an international criminal. Mr. Charles Taylor's continued stay in Nigeria constitutes a security risk.

Charles Taylor or UN Security Council?  

The United Nations is undergoing a very serious reorganization, chief among which is the increase in the membership of the Security Council. The African continent has been allotted two spots and, Nigeria is a very serious contender for one of these spots. For Nigeria to have a chance, she must have the backing of the United States of America. Now, the United States has made it absolutely clear that Nigeria will not expect her vote as long as she, Nigeria, continues to harbor one of the world's most dangerous criminals, Charles Taylor. What choice should Nigeria make? Continue to keep Charles Taylor and, incur the wrath of United States of America and the entire world, or to release him to the United Nations to deal with him. In my humble opinion, Nigeria, without hesitation, should surrender the tyrant to the United Nations. For Nigeria to secure a seat at the Security Council will be one of her biggest achievements in her forty five years of independence. This is a golden opportunity which Nigeria cannot afford to miss. Being a member of this exclusive club is a recognition of Nigeria's strength, economic and strategic importance, and political maturity. Despite all her other shortcomings, Nigeria has emerged as the biggest democracy on the continent, and where freedom of the press reigns. The President's current crackdown on corrupt officials is being seen both by Nigerians and the outside world as a big plus for the country. However, Nigerians would urge the President to take it a step further by seizing all the physical assets and, freezing all known bank accounts of the suspects, while the trials go on.

Both Nigerian and United States Houses of Representatives have overwhelmingly voted in favor of Nigeria handing over Charles Taylor to the United Nations Criminal Court to answer charges of 17 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. In fact, Nigeria Houses of Representatives should have, ab initio, resisted the President's arrangement of granting Charles Taylor an asylum. The President might argue that removing him from Liberia was to save the Liberians from further bloodshed. However, sending him to another African country could  not have been the most prudent solution. The President's action amounted to one head of state trying to save the neck of another head of state, in this case, a tyrant. The sooner African Heads of States realize that protecting another head of State who has victimized his/her subjects amounts to complicity, the better for the continent. Any African head of state who has ravaged his/her country through warfare, or looted the country's treasury should be dealt with by the world body or the courts of that country. It is high time the African heads of states stopped using their subjects as pawns in political games.

The Nigerian government should, without hesitation, hand over Charles Taylor to the World Criminal Court for prosecution, and return all his dependents living in Nigeria to their country, Liberia.