Foundation for Environmental Rights Advocacy and Development, FENRAD, a human and pro-democracy rights group laments concernedly the militarisation of the Southeast and the fact that daily citizens in that part of Nigeria are brought under fear due largely to heightened war-grade military operations and presence therein. This unfortunate development in the Southeast if not mitigated could turn the region to a killing field where citizens are used for target practice by those who are supposed to protect them.
FENRAD, heretofore, has condemned all the incendiary and other forms of attack on or against security formations and agencies in the region said to be carried out in large part by unknown gunmen or in some cases separatists. That condemnation, to FENRAD, still stand. Where, however, to avenge, the security agencies stationed in the Southeast go after civilian populace, as graphic and detailed reports show, goes against the rules of engagement and as well all international law protocols and rights instruments to which Nigeria is an undersigned and signatory.
FENRAD has been keeping abreast, keenly, with all the happenings in the region, and have as well obtained an independent reports – from International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law and from other verified sources – which detailed the horror said to be unfolding in Southeast where no fewer than hundreds have been disappeared and killed in recent time. FENRAD condemns this ugly development flatly. According to the obtained detail:
‘These (disappearances and killings) have led to not less than 170 open killings, secret abduction and permanent disappearance or feared unlawful execution in custody of no fewer than 550 and general arrest/abduction of not less than 2100’. [Emphasis is FENRAD’s].
This is sheer and gross rights abuse, as FENRAD understands it. As alarming as that gory detail is, a more fearful part of the report hinted further: ‘The arrested/abducted are presently held in different open and secret dungeons located… in Benue State where over 300 have been found and kept’, the report further said.
This, FENRAD says, is not the first time such reports or claims of forceful disappearance and population transfer of some perceived secessionists are being advanced. This is a huge rights concern given that the thirty-month genocidal war which President Buhari’s tweet threatened to repeat, in addition to mass atrocities, was marked by population transfer – mostly of Igbo daughters, as available records show. Is this a repeat of 1967-70 Buhari promised, FENRAD asks?
Even on the surface, it does appear, FENRAD says, that martial law has superceded constitutional order in the Southeast. In places like the border between Arondizuogu and Akokwa, citizens are ordered by army officers attached thereto to alight from their vehicles and walk hands raised up for a long distance. This drill is done regardless of age or physical condition of commuters; also in Owerrinta of Abia State and elsewhere, this applies. Whipping and torture have followed a perceived noncompliance. Ebonyi, Anambara, Enugu all are not without similar experinece. This was the condition of the country in 1984 and so FENRAD sees no reason for such harrowing and insufferable punishment on a civil population.
Bishop Anthony J. V. Obinna of Owerri had issued a release where he urged the governor and stakeholders in Imo State to do their job ensuring that the state does not slide further into anarchy. The clergy made a startling revelation that in Federal Medical Centre Owerri are deposited some 35 yet-to-be identified corpses of some youth likely to have been those murdered by the security agencies – the police and the army combinedly. FENRAD urges the state government to, as a matter of urgency, identify those corpses and
begin the process of having their owners (families) reclaim their remains for proper internment if found to be indigenes of the state.
People are no longer safe given military activities in the once calm region. The worst of illicit activities carried out by the Nigeria Army was the invasion of the house of counsel to IPOB, Ifeanyi Ejiofor in the wee small hours of Sunday, June 6, 2021 at the lawyer’s home country of Oraifite in Ekwusigo LGA of Anambra State. The said joint operation by the army and police was followed by abduction of four persons related to the lawyer and killing of his aide, so much similar to a December 2, 2019 at the lawyer’s home. The truth, FENRAD believes, is that the Nigeria Police and Military are some of the times – if not most – the aggressors, in view of all this. Nothing could be further from the fact.
Government actions against the proscribed want-away secessionist IPOB do not measure in tandem with those meted on a deadly terror group like Boko Haram which the government amnestied and reintegrated through its own deradicalization programme. But in the Southeast, government seems to be opening old wounds, threatening to even aggravate it after a little over half a decade through a baleful tweet.
Having said and seen all of this FENRAD is willing to petition the Buhari-led federal government before the European Union, African Union and ECOWAS with firsthand details of gross abuses, mass atrocities, carnage and genocidal threat the federal government is carrying out in the Southeast in the pretext of fighting terror. FENRAD will stop at nothing in enforcing this issue.
comrade Nelson Nnanna Nwafor Executive Director
Foundation for Environmental Rights, Advocacy & Development (FENRAD)
Barr. Olusegun Bamgbose
Head Legal Team