Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Should The Massacre Of Pro-Biafra Activists Be Overlooked?

By Emmanuel Onwubiko
The Nigeria Army is once more in the eye of the storm due to the indiscretions and unprofessional conducts of some of her operatives   and officers with regards to internal military operations. Under the current dispensation the Nigerian Army has had several   face offs with International humanitarian groups over alleged   widespread killings of civilians.

The latest challenge to the public and corporate image of the   Nigerian Army is the alleged mass killings of over 150 unarmed   protesters thought to be members or sympathizers of the Europe   registered group known as the INDIGENOUS PEOPLES OF BIAFRA (IPOB).
IPOB has for two years now waged global wide peaceful advocacy   campaigns for self-determination of the people of South-East of   Nigeria.
The members of the Indigenous People of Biafra are absolutely   unarmed and are some of the most peaceful and peaceable advocates of   self determination Worldwide.
The British founded global human rights body known as AMNESTY   INTERNATIONAL has recently issued damaging but extensively   verifiable reports of the killing spree conducted by the Nigerian   Army in the South East of Nigeria in the last one year leading to   the slaughter through extra-legal means of unarmed civilians   belonging or exercising their sympathy for the messages of   self-determination being spread peacefully by IPOB.
This report has understandably generated considerable volumes of   reactions with the Army hurriedly denying any involvement but in   another breath said it was only defending her operatives from   violence. Which violence? One may ask.
The killings of civilians by the Army go against everything that   constitutional democracy stands for because extra-legal execution of   civilians is absolutely antithetical to civility and democracy.
For the better part of the last two decades, Nigeria embraced   civilian democracy and an essential ingredient of this system of   government is the constitutionally guaranteed right to peaceful   protests the citizens are entitled to.
Importantly, the attempt to sweep under the carpets these senseless   killings captured in audiovisuals and which are watched globally,   offends everything that make us rational and thinking beings.
The killings if tolerated would amount to overturning all the   efforts we have genuinely made to build a Nigerian nation whereby   the Rule of Law would become our national ethos.

Professor Isawa J. Elaigwu who contributed a piece in the   university of Jos Alumni Association Lecture series even alluded to the basic fact that impunity and cover up by government officials and all other relevant authorities would deny Nigeria the benefit of   becoming a civilized polity in line with global best practices.
His Words: “While laws, structures and processes are useful in the   operation of federalism as a mechanism of managing conflicts in the   process of nation-building, the human dimension poses the greatest   challenges to the polity. It does not matter what laws and   structures are in place, human beings must run the system. Human   operators must imbibe the values of justice, equity and   accommodation of opponents…”
I must say it straight away that the attempts by the Army’s   directorate of public relations and the Nigerian political   establishment in Abuja headed by President Muhammadu Buhari to sweep   under the carpets these serious allegations of mass killings of   members of IPOB by the Nigeria Army can only succeed in graphically   presenting our society as primitive, brutish, violent and blood   tasty.
Even in a state of nature the crude and primitive resorts to self   help measures and open use of lethal weapons as used by the Nigerian   Army against IPOB members made up of  unarmed men, boys, women,   girls and their babies amounted to grave crime against humanity.
The only option open to the CHIEF OF ARMY STAFF LIEUTENANT GENERAL   TUKUR BURATAI AND THE PRESIDENT, RETIRED MAJOR GENERAL MUHAMMADU   BUHARI is to dispassionately take legal notice of this large scale   evidence of mass killings as presented by Amnesty International,   arrest and prosecute the offenders or else the INTERNATIONAL   CRIMINAL COURT could be asked to step in.
It is a sacred fact that the Nigerian Army is not set up as a bunch   of some armed brutes on specific assignment of occupation,   domination and elimination of dissenting voices.
The constitution created the Nigerian Army to comply and to operate   in line with the rules of engagement which totally prohibits the   deployment of maximum force to kill off political or ideological   opponents of the government.
Not even under late Colonel Saddam Husseini or the Ugandan warlord   Idi Amin Dada will such malfeasance be expected to be swept under   the carpets and the perpetrators celebrated as heroes rather than   villains and war criminals.
Looking through the relevant sections of the Constitution   particularly Section 217(1), the Nigerian Army just like the other   segments of the Armed Forces was created to protect the people and   not to kill the people at the slightest provocation.
The Constitutional duty (217(2) (c)) of ‘suppressing insurrection’   as contained in the Constitution did not lift the ban placed on the   abolition of extra-legal killing which is the intendment of Section   33(1) thus: “Every person has a right to life, and no one shall be   deprived intentionally of his life, save in execution of the   sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which has   been found guilty in Nigeria.”
Besides, Chapter Four of the Constitution allows Nigerians to   assemble freely and associate with other persons just as the   fundamental freedom of expression is constitutionally guaranteed to   all citizens including supporters of the Indigenous People of   Biafra.
The recorded evidence whereby armed Nigerian Soldiers were seen   running helter skelter, and opening fire on unarmed members of IPOB   must be forensically investigated. The Nigerian Army must not view   these reports as direct indictment of Lieutenant General Tukur   Buratai but the individuals responsible ought to be identified,   prosecuted and punished in accordance with the Constitutional norms.         There’s therefore a constitutional imperative on the Chief of Army   Staff to ensure that those of his boys that violated the law are   sanctioned.
In fact the statements credited to both the Army and the Presidency   has made it necessary that only an Independent body such as the   International Criminal Court (ICC) or the United Nations Security   Council can be trusted to deliver justice to all the parties   involved.
In the report, Amnesty International stated thus: “By far the   largest number of pro-Biafra activists were killed on Biafra   Remembrance Day on 30 May 2016 when an estimated 1,000 IPOB members and supporters gathered for a rally in OnitshaAnambra State. The night before the rally, the security forces raided homes and a  church where IPOB members were sleeping.”
“On Remembrance Day itself, the security forces shot people in   several locations. Amnesty International has not been able to verify   the exact number of extrajudicial executions, but estimates that at   least 60 people were killed and 70 injured in these two days. The   real number is likely to be higher.”  
 “Ngozi (not her real name), a 28-year-old mother of one, told   Amnesty International that her husband left in the morning to go to   work but called her shortly afterwards to say that the military had   shot him in his abdomen. He said he was in a military vehicle with   six others, four of whom were already dead. She told Amnesty   International: “he started whispering and said they just stopped   [the vehicle]. He was scared they would kill the remaining three of   them that were alive… He paused and told me they were coming   closer. I heard gunshots and I did not hear a word from him after   that.     
“The next day Ngozi searched for her husband and finally found his   body in a nearby mortuary. The mortuary attendants told her that the   military had brought him and six others. She saw three gunshot   wounds: one in his abdomen and two in his chest, which confirmed her   fear that the military had executed him.
“Amnesty International has also reviewed videos of a peaceful   gathering of IPOB members and supporters at Aba National High School   on 9 February 2016. The Nigerian military surrounded the group and   then fired live ammunition at them without any prior warning.
“According to eyewitnesses and local human rights activists, many   of the protesters at Aba were rounded up and taken away by the   military. On 13 February 13 corpses, including those of men known to   have been taken by the military, were discovered in a pit near the   Aba highway.”
How on Earth should a civilisation deliberately overlook this   planned genocide as documented by this global organisation?  Only in   a Banana Republic will such large scale mass killings be consigned   to the dustbin of history.
*Emmanuel Onwubiko heads the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria

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