It was a battle of wits Monday between the federal government and civil society organisations (CSOs) in the country over the visit of Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir to Nigeria. The Sudanese presidnet is in the country to attend the HIV, Malaria and Tuberculosis Summit of the African Union (AU). The drama started when CSOs under the auspices of the Nigerian Coalition for the International Criminal Court (NCICC) approached a Federal High Court in Abuja for an order compelling President Goodluck Jonathan to arrest his Sudanese counterpart the minute he steps foot in the country and surrender him to the trial chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands. But in a swift response to the growing clamour for Al-Bashir’s arrest, the federal government reaffirmed its stance to the AU resolution in 2009 not to enforce the ICC warrant issued for the Sudanese president’s arrest following his indictment in 2009 and 2010 by the international court for alleged genocide and crimes against humanity. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru, who is currently attending the Nigeria-Brazil Joint Commission in Brazil, said in a message to the media yesterday that although Al-Bashir was in Nigeria at the instance of the AU for the HIV Summit, Nigeria’s commitment to the AU resolution remains firm. “The Sudanese president is in Nigeria at the invitation of AU for the HIV/Malaria Summit. Remember AU in 2009 passed a resolution not to cooperate with the ICC indictment of President Al-Bashir. He is not in Nigeria at our instance, Nigeria’s commitment to the AU remains firm,” the minister said.
In spite of the federal government’s position on the issue, a suit was filed yesterday by the Chairman, Steering Committee of NCICC, Mr. Chino Obiagwu, who asked the court to issue a provisional warrant of arrest against Al-Bashir pursuant to the warrant of arrest issued by the ICC dated March 4, 2009 and a second warrant of arrest issued by the ICC dated July 12, 2010. In an affidavit attached to the originating summons, the group said Nigeria being a state party to the Rome Statute of the ICC and pursuant to Articles 89(1) and 91 of the Rome Statute and Article 26 of the Vienna Convention on the Laws of Treaties, had an obligation to enforce the warrant for the arrest of Al-Bashir.