Human rights writer and activist, Emmanuel Onwubiko, issues a statement on behalf of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, and it examines the Igbo Heroes Day Massacre which left at least 30 young Igbo youth dead, at the hands of Nigerian troops.
by Emmanuel Onwubiko
We are shocked at the reported high casualty rate at the 30th May, 2016 event (peaceful march in commemoration of the 49th anniversary of defunct Republic of Biafra) by members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPoB) and the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB).
From credible sources that were on ground in Onitsha, Anambra State, scores of protesters were killed by armed security forces, even as there were reports that about 10 worshippers were allegedly killed by soldiers inside a Catholic Church in Nkpor, Anambra State. This violent suppression of the constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom of speech, peaceful assembly and movement by armed security forces is undemocratic and unconstitutional. We hereby condemn these killings and call on the Nigerian government to take credible, verifiable and transparent measures to ascertain why peaceful marchers were killed without provocation.
From available body of evidence, both groups IPOB and MASSOB are not known to bear arms, so the claim by a spokesman of the 82 Div of the Nigerian Army claiming self-defense as the reason for the soldiers to have opened fire with live bullets into crowds of marchers is not tenable. This incident must be thoroughly investigated. We have resolved to approach the Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen Tukur Buratai and Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Alhaji Abubakar Malami (SAN), to investigate these killings and bring perpetrators to justice.
The repercussions of allowing this impunity to remain unattended to is that individuals who hold direct command responsibilities such as the General Officer Commanding 82 Div, in all the security forces whereby these illegal killings of civilians have happened would be dragged to the International Crimes Court for prosecution over crime against humanity.
Over time we have had cause to commend the Army chief over his bold decisions to mainstream respect of human rights in all internal military operations. We believe that as a gentleman that he truly is, Lieut-Gen Buratai will not over-look these allegations that his GOC in charge of 82 Div authorised the shooting to death of several unarmed Igbo protesters. We will approach the COAS for redress.
All those who are currently issuing threats against civilians, such as the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Mr Solomon Arase, should learn a lesson from the ordeals of a certain Yusuf Abdi Ali and ex-Chadian president, Hissene Habre, who after several years that they were accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity are now being made to face criminal justice internationally. Hissene Habre has just been sentenced to life in jail.
On his part, Commander Yusuf Abdi Ali is accused of “overseeing some of the most incredible violence that you can imagine.” He has been quietly living in the US for 20 years. He passed a background check to work at Dulles International Airport near Washington, DC. CNN broke the story that Yusuf Abdi Ali served as a commander in the Barre regime and is accused of terrorising the Isaaq people, torturing clan members, burning villages and conducting mass executions.
Several villagers described these atrocities in a documentary that aired on the Canadian network CBC in 1992. One witness claimed Ali captured and killed a family member.
“He tied (my brother) to military vehicle and dragged him behind. He said to us if you’ve got enough power, get him back,” the villager recalled. “He shredded him into pieces. That’s how he died.”
CNN found that, today, Ali is living a normal suburban life just outside of the nation’s capital, in Alexandria, VA. He shares an apartment with his wife and works as a security guard at Dulles, one of the busiest airports in the country.
As a result of CNN’s investigation, Ali has been placed on administrative leave.
Ali’s employer, Master Security, has a contract with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) to provide unarmed security services. Ali passed a “full, federally-mandated vetting process” that included an FBI background check and a TSA assessment.
Those who are today misusing the security forces in Nigeria must prepare to face justice, even if Nigerian justice system denies their victims of justice.
John Rawls stated as follows:
*The key to a fair society is a just social contract between the state and individuals
*For a social contract to be just, the needs of all individual parties to it must be treated equally
*To ensure equal treatment, social institutions must be just; they must be accessible to all and redistribute where necessary
*Only just institutions can produce a fair society
*Principles of justice must be based on more than just individuals’ morality; the entire framework of society must be taken into account when formulating a system of justice
*Economic and social inequalities can lead to injustices that favour rich, privileged individuals or corporations over the less-advantaged
*This imbalance must be corrected by the rules that govern our social institutions, such as the healthcare system, the electoral system and the educational system.
HURIWA recommends the above mentioned as the panacea to the troubling episodes of systemic injustice against the South-Eastern Nigeria. The South-East is, indeed, marginalised by the Muhammadu Buhari’s administration in all facets and this administration has shown high propensity for deliberate hatred of the South-East. The constant deployment of armed security forces to kill protesters is a subtle plot by Buhari’s administration to decimate Igbo population and instigate social imbalance and anarchy in Igbo land. This must be resisted by all means and by all people of good will to save Nigeria from an imminent implosion.
This article is the text of a press briefing in Abuja on Thursday, June 2, 2016.
Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko is a columnist, an activist and former federal commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission. He is the national co-ordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA). He can be reached by email HERE.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.