It was a negative laughing moment all through in a teleconference room of the team of Int’l Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law following the release of the Report of a kangaroo probe panel of the Nigerian Army (Special Board of Inquiry), constituted on March 8, 2017 by the COAS, Lt Gen Yusuf Tukur Buratai to look into grave allegations of widespread/gross human rights abuses in the course of its counter insurgency operations in Northeast Nigeria as well as its undemocratic and unconstitutional involvement and violent crackdown on nonviolent and peaceful assemblies in Southeast and parts of South-South Nigeria.
The grave allegations of gross human rights abuses were contained in special reports issued by leading international and local human rights organizations including Amnesty Int’l, Human Rights Watch, Int’l Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law and Southeast Based Coalition of Human Rights Organizations. Specifically on mass killing and maiming of unarmed and defenseless members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) and Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and other pro Biafra campaigners; there are at least three special reports from Amnesty Int’l, Human Rights Watch and Intersociety. Intersociety’s report was released on March 12, 2017 and titled: Welcome to Bleeding Republic of Nigeria: a Land Flowing with Blood and Tears.
The sum total of the reports and allied media and research publications has since put the Nigerian Army and its master government or the Buhari Administration at crossroads; forcing same to desperately look for an escape route as well as other crooked and mischievous means of impunity. Internationally and diplomatically, serious concerns have been raised leading to serious debates and temporarily stoppage or suspension of sale of a number of strategic weapons of war to Nigeria and non issuance of travel visas to a number of serving and retired Nigerian senior military and other security personnel by US and UK.
The present Federal Government’s official policy of falsehood, propaganda and smear campaigns has also been heavily brought to bear as an escape strategy, leading to hiring of rented crowds to demonstrate against Amnesty Int’l, etc. Some conformist writers, “NGOs” and uninformed legal opinions have been procured as well by key elements within the Nigerian Army to further demonize and castrate the referenced reports. Totality of these has been marked with colossal failure.
As if these failed efforts were not enough, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai hastily and questionably constituted a board comprising veteran and serving members of the Nigerian Army to investigate itself. The Nigerian Army, following our criticism and total rejection of the constituted board and its militarist and lopsided composition; later brought in an amenable staff of the integrity crisis ridden National Human Rights Commission, named Barr Tony Ojukwu and another named Barr Olawole Fapohunda to give same a (failed) legitimacy outlook. The integrity and independence challenged Nigerian Army’s Special Board of Inquiry (SBOI) concluded its watery and partiality ridden assignment and submitted it on May 31, 2017, leading to its release to the media on June 15, 2017.
The major fatality of the said Army’s Special Board of Inquiry and its findings is its gross incoherent and inconsistency with the fundamental principle of natural justice; rested on its twin pillars famously expressed in Latin as; nemo judex in causa sua and audi alterem partem which has its English translation to mean; no one should be a judge in his own case and hear the both parties. Any fact finding or criminal finding rested outside the confines of the foregoing is of no effect, null and void.
Specifically, we had on March 9, 2017 issued a detailed statement rejecting in its entirety the setting up of the Nigerian Army and its COAS (Lt Gen Turkur Buratai)’s Special Board of Inquiry to look into gross rights abuses of the Army under complaint. Our major ground for rejection of the Army’s kangaroo panel was rested on its gross inconsistency with the above named two pillars of natural justice.
We had insisted and still insist that the Nigerian Army can never be allowed to be a judge in its own case or in a case in which itself and its key personnel including COAS Lt Gen Turkur Buratai and others are vicariously and operationally accused of grave involvement and complicity in their unwarranted and violent crackdowns on nonviolent and peaceful assemblies of the pro Biafra self determination movements in the Southeast and parts of South-south Nigeria between August 2015 and May 2016.
We also saw the Military’s Special Board of Inquiry as nothing but a kangaroo probe with a clear intention of destroying profiled and documented pieces of human, material, manual/paper and electronic evidence. The outcome of the so called Special Military Board of Inquiry has totally vindicated us at Intersociety.
It was on account of the foregoing that we suggested and called and still suggest and call for setting up by the Federal Executive Council of Nigeria of a dual special civil and criminal probe boards comprising a special criminal investigation board to be headed by the Deputy Inspector General of Police for Criminal Investigations in conjunction with the office of the Attorney General of the Federation with other members drawn from NBA, Nigerian Association of Criminologists, SSS and DMI; as well as setting up of a special judicial commission of inquiry by the Federal Executive Council.
Apart from our total rejection of the Nigerian Army’s kangaroo probe team, the leadership of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) also rejected the Army probe, boycotted same and came down heavily on the Army in its attempts to use the questionable probe to escape local and international justice in due time. The IPOB’s position was contained in a statement issued and signed by Dr. Ikenna Chinaka and Iyom Grace Ukpai and its link is HERE.
We are therefore not surprised at the June 15, 2017 media briefing held by the Nigerian Army during which it absolved itself and its key commanders and personnel including its COAS of any vicarious and operational culpability and complicity in its atrocious involvement in the massive extra judicial killings and maiming in the Southeast and parts of South-south Nigeria; leading to death of over 270 unarmed and nonviolent pro Biafra campaigners and near death or torture and injuring of over 370 others.
The mass killing and maiming under reference took place in at least ten different occasions and locations on: August 30, 2015 (Awka, Igweocha, Onitsha and Asaba), 2nd and 17th December 2015 (Onitsha Niger Bridgehead and Onitsha Upper Iweka and their environs), 18th and 29th January and 9th February 2016 (Aba and its environs), 29th and 30th May 2016 (Nkpor, Onitsha and Asaba and their environs) and 20th January 2017 (Igweocha or Port Harcourt and its environs). Similar killings and maiming also took place within the periods in Akwa Ibom, Port Harcourt, etc. There were also a series of dark figures of crime or those that went unreported and undocumented till date.
It, therefore, may most likely be correct to say that the present Nigerian Army and its leadership has been caught up and afflicted by Lai’s Lying Virus or Diarrhea of the Mouth; making it an award winning in military-civil propaganda and falsehood; to the extent that even when caught red handed or point blank, the Nigerian Army is still lying and denying. The latest denials by Nigerian Army have also made same a contestant and an entrant into the World Guinness Book of Records of Negativities.
The most annoying part of it all is the Nigerian Army’s unpardonable denial to the effect that “nobody was killed during the pro Biafra protests in the Southeast and parts of South-south Nigeria”. This is even when the same Governor Willie Obiano that the Nigerian Army openly quoted as telling its kangaroo probe team that “nobody was killed at Nkpor and Onitsha on 29th and 30th May 2016” is busy going about and bombarding web, social and print media with news headlines: “Gov Obiano was not involved in the killing of IPOB members at Nkpor”; meaning that the killings took place but he was not vicariously involved.
In the Amnesty Int’l Report in which it stated that “not less than 60 people were killed during 2016 Biafra Heroes Day Anniversary at Nkpor”; pictures and videos of soldiers and their military trucks conveying dozens of dead pro Biafra campaigners to destinations only known to the Nigerian Army were included.
The pictures and video clips were technologically and manually verified and traced to the crime scenes and perpetrators with matchable dates and places of their shots or recording. In one of AI’s manual pictorial verification investigations, this organization was contacted for clarification and authentication and the source was successfully traced and the taker/recorder of the picture/video linked up and internationally interviewed by the AI team.
Despite the failed efforts of the Nigerian Army, Nigeria Police Force and the Obiano Government of Anambra State to seal and erase the identities of the slain, over 60 names were successfully traced and verified. We still have it on good authority that the slain were shallowly and criminally interred in one of the two existing cemeteries inside the Onitsha Military Barracks in 1st June 2016 and the stench oozing therein made life very unbearable for nearby residents for weeks.
Some pictures and names of those slain and maimed in the Nkpor, Asaba, Onitsha and Aba Military/Police massacres of unarmed and nonviolent IPOB led pro self determination assemblies of 2nd and 17th December 2015 as well as 18th and 29th January and 9th February and 29th/30th May 2016 are graphically and descriptively contained in our special report of 12th March 2017.
Despite the Nigerian Army’s litany of naked denials, the Army and the Obiano Government of Anambra State constitutionally, mandatorily and inexcusably owe Nigerians a duty in due time to disclose where they criminally buried those slain unarmed and defenseless pro Biafra activists caught in verified pictures and videos being conveyed in military trucks belonging to Onitsha 302 Artillery Regiment and its 82nd Division.
The case was the same in Aba on February 9, 2016 at the IPOB prayer/rally held at the National High School during which not less than 30 defenseless pro Biafra activists praying and singing in the School compound were shot and killed by soldiers with over 40 others terminally maimed. The chief culprits again were soldiers of the 144 Battalion at Ukwa Ngwa, near Aba, which is a unit of 14th Brigade of the Nigerian Army at Ohafia in Abia State, Southeast Nigeria. The 144 Battalion then was commanded by one Lt Col Kasim Umar Sidi.
Thirteen lifeless bodies were later found on 12th February by local whistleblowers inside a burrow pit located along Aba-Port Harcourt Expressway near Aba. Three others were also found behind a Mosque near Aba. The thirteen lifeless bodies were suspiciously set ablaze by suspected Government agents on 1st March 2016, forty eight hours after we wrote the Governor of Abia State concerning the discovery and public health nuisance of the 13 lifeless bodies.
Amnesty In’l team also visited the burrow on February 18 after our visits of 14th and 15th of same month. It was during AI’s returned or second visit to the burrow pit on 1st March 2016 that they saw the corpses burning. The AI’s team had during their first visit manually found that the lifeless bodies were tied around their limbs and eyes with cut pieces of Biafra flags. The recorded video clip of the Aba massacre of IPOB activists was later played before President Muhammadu Buhari by the Aljazeera TV Crew sometime in 2016 during one of his overseas trip. Yet to Nigerian Army, nobody was killed in pro Biafra protests.
The sum total of the foregoing is that the Nigerian Army and its leadership is not remorseful and apologetic and can never be over its atrocities and crimes against humanity perpetrated and perpetuated against unarmed and nonviolent pro Biafra campaigners; likewise the nonviolent Islamic Movement of Nigeria and its teeming followers.
The Nigerian Army is only desperate to impossibly erase traces of its culpability and complicity and facilitate a criminal or offensive escape from local and international justice so as to desperately get UK, US and others to unban its key personnel and continue to supply and sale SALWs and other strategic weapons of conflicts including warplanes and allied others to further be put to use in perpetration of gross rights abuses against innocent and nonviolent civilian populations in Southeast and South-south Nigeria and any other part.
In the Shiite massacre that took place in December 2015 in Zaria part of Kaduna State, Northwest Nigeria, the Army reportedly got the lame duck National Human Rights Commission and a number of its conformist staff to issue it an unholy certificate of exoneration. The despicable patterns and trends have resurfaced again in the Army’s latest comic episode and litany of naked denials contained in its watery and laughable SBOI report which it released on 15th June 2017.
Similarly, in the recent public notice of intention to sue Buratai & 15 Ors instituted by ten families and relatives of the slain and tortured pro Biafra activists; issued by the US District Court for the District of Columbia, presided over by District Judge Ellen S. Huvelle, the Nigerian Army through its usual Hand of Esau and Voice of Jacob methods; decided to relocate to the media for media trial and smear campaigns; instead of waiting to be served with court processes to know exactly what the contents are all about and its sought reliefs/remedies.
In its usual militarist, dictatorial, tyrannical, undemocratic, panicky, guilty mind, smearing, uncultured, corporately illiterate and uncouth manner; the Army has through its Hand of Esau and Voice of Jacob methods, resorted to description of US District Court as illegitimate and alien.
The courageous and innocent plaintiffs and concerned sons and daughters of the Igbo Race resident in USA who initiated the anti gross rights abuse suit; likewise the law firm of Bruce Fein handling the matter are also labeled “terrorists”, “kidnappers”, “armed robbers”, “insurrectionists”, and so on by hired agents of the Nigerian Army.
For: Int’l Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Intersociety)
Emeka Umeagbalasi (Criminologist & Graduate of Security Studies)
Mobile Line: +2348174090052
Email: [email protected]
Barr Obianuju Joy Igboeli
Head, Civil Liberties & Rule of Law Program
Mobile Line: + 2348180771506
Barr Chinwe Umeche
Head, Democracy & Good Governance Program
Mobile Line: +2347013238673
Barr Ndidiamaka Bernard
Head, Int’l Justice & Human Rights Program
Mobile Line: +2348130821493