For the second time in as many months, the Nigerian army and rights group, Amnesty international, are on a collision course on the same issue, the death of pro-Biafra activists.
In June this year, Amnesty reported that security officers in Nigerian, including the Army killed unarmed people in the lead up to a protest by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in Onitsha, Anambra State. The group in a latest report stated that some 150 protesters have been killed since August last year.
In June 2016, the group called for urgent and independent investigations into what they described as extra judicial killings tasking further that ‘’… anyone suspected of criminal responsibility must be brought to justice.”
For umpteenth times, the Nigerian Army has informed the public about the heinous intent of this Non-Governmental Organisation which is never relenting in dabbling into our national security in manners that obliterate objectivity, fairness and simple logic.
The army in a response to Amnesty, have accused them again of a campaign of calumny in a strongly worded statement titled, ‘Amnesty international’s Campaign of Calumny Against the Nigerian Army,’ on its website.
The November 23 statement read in parts: ‘‘We wish to debunk the insinuation that our troops perpetrated the killing of defenseless agitators. This is an outright attempt to tarnish the reputation of the security forces in general and the Nigerian Army in particular, for whatever inexplicable parochial reasons.
‘‘For umpteenth times, the Nigerian Army has informed the public about the heinous intent of this Non-Governmental Organisation which is never relenting in dabbling into our national security in manners that obliterate objectivity, fairness and simple logic,’‘ the statement said.
The Army also insisted that all their actions were in line with acceptable standards. They also stated that their personnel have been the target of violent attacks by protesters leading to the death and injuries of some security personnel.
The Amnesty Report
Amnesty said their 60-page report was based on an analysis of 87 videos, 122 photographs and 146 eye witness testimonies relating to demonstrations and other gatherings over a one year period – (August 2015 and August 2016.)
They said evidence showed that the military fired live ammunition with little or no warning to disperse crowds. It also finds evidence of mass extrajudicial executions by security forces, including at least 60 people shot dead in the space of two days in connection with events to mark Biafra Remembrance Day.
“This deadly repression of pro-Biafra activists is further stoking tensions in the south east of Nigeria. This reckless and trigger-happy approach to crowd control has caused at least 150 deaths and we fear the actual total might be far higher,” said Makmid Kamara, Interim Director of Amnesty International Nigeria.
Amnesty also bemoaned the fact no investigations had been opened into the deaths despite being widely reported. Whiles reiterating its call for a probe, the group also tasked the government to ensure that reparations are paid to families of the bereaved.
‘‘They should end all use of military in policing demonstrations and ensure the police are adequately instructed, trained and equipped to deal with crowd-control situations in line with international law and standards. In particular, firearms must never be used as a tool for crowd control,’‘ a summary of the report said.
Some of the documented instances of clashes that led to the deaths include:
- Head Bridge at Onitsha on December 2, 2015 – six people killed (three men, three women) 12 others injured
- Head Bridge at Onitsha on December 17, 2015 – five people killed and some 20 injured
- National High School in Aba, Abia State on February 9, 2016 – Four people confirmed dead, 10 dead provided by activists. On February 13, 2016 – thirteen corpses found buried in a barrow pit.
- IPOB Remembrance in Onitsha, Anambra State between 29 to 30 May, 2016 – 60 people killed and 70 others injured
About the Biafra secession fight
The late Biafran leader, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu declared the secession of the Republic of Biafra from Nigeria on May 30, 1966.
The indigenous people of Biafra movement (IPOB) has never stopped demanding the secession of this region mainly populated Igbo, one of three major ethnic groups in Nigeria, aggrieved by the central government in terms of infrastructure, health and education.
The attempted secession of Biafra launched in 1967 resulted in a civil war that killed about one million people.
The arrest in October of Nnamdi Kanu, Chief IPOB and director of Radio Biafra, and his detention pending trial provoked a wave of protests across the southeast and revived calls the independence of Biafra.
According to Amnesty, its research shows that since August 2015, there have been at least five similar incidents in Onitsha alone where the police and military shot unarmed IPOB members and supporters.
In June, Amnesty said their inability to settle on a definite number of casualties stemmed from the fact that the Nigerian army took away corpses and some injured people.