The leadership of International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Intersociety) is still deeply shocked and alarmed concerning the continued detention under solitary or incommunicado circumstances of key IPOB activists in Aba, Abia State and other parts of the South South and the South East Nigeria. To the extent that the authorities of the DSS now go about riotously, abducting, shooting, torturing and detaining IPOB activists outside processes and procedures laid down in the 1999 Constitution; further shocks and worries us.
We had two days, August 26, 2016, raised alarm concerning the renewed violent crackdown by DSS and ors against IPOB activists and other Pro Biafran activists and supporters across the country particularly in the Southeast and the South-south parts of Nigeria.
We had in our last statement under reference recalled that Citizen Chidiebere Onwudiwe, who is Nigeria’s National Coordinator of IPOB and a trained Mechanical Engineer with lawful means of livelihood, is still in solitary detention without trial after 64 days of his late night arrest by the authorities of DSS in Rivers State. Engineer Chidiebere Onwudiwe was trailed and traced to his residence near Port Harcourt in the evening of June 22, 2016; after which his residence was violently attacked about seven hours later, leading to his violent arrest and incarceration till date. He was also arrested in his sleep and till date, he has not been put on trial in any court in Nigeria.
We recall further that the authorities of the DSS also trailed and traced Citizen Justice O. Udeh (an official of IPOB in Aba, Abia State) to a place he had gone to pass a night and violently arrested him in his sleep. The raid took place in the late night of July 13, 2016 near Port Harcourt in Rivers State. Since his violent arrest; a period of 43 days today, he is neither released nor put on trial.
Again, the ordeal of Citizen Sunday Chukwuka Obasi during his violent arrest is the crudest and most shocking of it all. He is the Nnewi-Ichi Coordinator of IPOB. He was trailed by the DSS from Port Harcourt where he had gone on a trip and in the late night of August 16, 2016, his residence at Amuwo-Nnewi was violently attacked while he was sleeping. It was in the process that the DSS operatives that came on a marked government vehicle opened fire on him and shattered his two legs before he was whisked away. It has been technically established that the DSS operatives that stormed his residence must have been composed of Rivers and Anambra States Directorates. Till date, the condition of his gunshot wounds has not been ascertained and he has remained in DSS custody without trial.
Amnesty International, based in UK, has already raised an international advocacy alarm and launched an “urgent action appeal” on his behalf.
The latest of the DSS violent crackdown on unarmed and nonviolent IPOB activists particularly in the Southeast and South South was violent and riotous attack on 12 passengers that boarded a commercial Hummer Bus belonging to FG Onyenwe & Co in the morning of Thursday, August 26, 2016 at about 7am. The attack by the authorities of DSS, Abia State Directorate, also involved Army and Police operating under the “Abia State Joint Security Task Force”. The commercial bus was returning from Gwagwalada-Abuja via night route when it was violently attacked and impounded at about 7am at Ugba Junction near Aba in Abia State. The bus was obviously trailed from its point of departure and had on board a DSS informant as one of its passengers. The trailing must have started from the Kuje Prison where the arrested IPOB activists went to visit IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu (POC). The operation must have also resulted from intelligence sharing between the FCT and Abia State DSS authorities, who alerted other law enforcement agencies in Abia State.
Further updates gathered from our investigation show that the bus had on board a total of 12 passengers including the driver, four married women (including a heavily pregnant woman) and seven men including a suspected DSS informant, a Hausa indigene and five arrested IPOB activists. The names of five arrested IPOB activists are Citizens Ikechukwu Ugwuoha (Abia State Coordinator of IPOB), Asochukwu Ugochukwu, Sunday J. Okafor, Ekene Onuoha and Joseph Okorie (Ogbuawa); among them were those released from Aba Prisons on August 11, 2016 following the directive of the attorney general of the federation that charges against them and other Pro Biafra activists in Nigeria should be dropped. They were remanded in prison custody since February 2016 after they were spuriously charged. The Nigerian Army and others had on February 9, 2016 massacred 22 of their members at a prayer procession held at the Premises of the National High School at Aba.
After the impoundment of their bus at Ugba Junction near Aba in the morning of August 26, 2016, leading to their torture and confiscation and seizure of their mobile phones; they were taken to the Ngwa High School temporary headquarters of the 144 Battalion of Nigerian Army, Aba where they were held and tortured for over three hours (7.30am to 11am). One of the four married women (Ugochi) was brutally tortured and bruised. The five IPOB activists named above were also inflicted with bruises and beaten to a pulp while the suspected DSS informant and a Hausa indigene were left untouched and unharmed. Mrs Ugochi also received bruises and beatings in her neck, eyes and ears regions and was labelled “wife of a Niger Delta Avenger, who keeps guns for her Avenger husband”. All the five arrested IPOB activists were labelled “Niger Delta Avengers” with a promise to parade them on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA).
The five arrested IPOB activists were later handcuffed and had their eyes and faces tightly covered with their shirts before they were transferred to the security trucks of the Abia State Joint Security Taskforce and driven out of the Ngwa High School alongside the seven other passengers and the driver of the bus. They were taken back to the point of their arrest where the Hummer Bus, its driver and the remaining five passengers were released and threatened with re-arrest if any of them discloses what happened to any third party. To this effect, all their mobile phones were not returned or given back to them. The suspected DSS informant was discharged at the Ngwa High School headquarters of the 144 Battalion of the Nigerian Army while the arrested IPOB activists were blindfolded, handcuffed, and driven away. Family sources of some of them later confirmed that “they have been traced to the Umuahia Directorate of the DSS, near the Abia State Government House and that as at this morning, August 28, 2016, they are still there”.
While we commend the authorities of the Amnesty International, UK, for their efforts in drawing the global attention to indiscriminate arrest, torture, killing, disappearance, and detention without trial as well as criminal stigmatization of IPOB activists and activism in Nigeria by DSS and other security agencies, we appeal to them to go a step further by taking a global and advocacy notice and action against the latest crackdown on IPOB activists and other innocent citizens who have never used or advocated violence against the Federal Republic of Nigeria or any part thereof.
The “urgent action appeal” launched by the globally respected organization against the shooting, wounding, abduction and disappearance of Citizen Chukwuka Sunday Obasi by the DSS is globally appealing and commendable, but we further appeal for inclusion in the global urgent appeal for immediate and unconditional release from the DSS dungeon of Citizens Chidiebere Onwudiwe (Nigeria’s National Coordinator of IPOB), Ikechukwu Ugwuoha, Ugochukwu Asochukwu, Sunday J. Okafor, Ekene Onuoha, and Joseph Okorie.
We also call on the authorities of the US based Human Rights Watch, which has its Nigerian research team led by Ms Mausi Segun Segun to rise to the occasion. Till date, we are yet to see or read any report of the HRW on systematic massacre of hundreds of unarmed and nonviolent IPOB activists and other Pro Biafran agitators as well as torturing, wounding, and disappearance of hundreds of others by the Nigerian security forces particularly the DSS, Army and Police. To the extent that human rights are indivisible and universal without any discrimination as to sex, age, tribe or religion, makes us worried the more as why some globally respected groups like Human Rights Watch, likewise the United Nations have chosen to remain silence despite having substantial presence in Nigeria and being in constant know of the rampaging regime atrocities.
We, therefore, appeal to all well meaning international rights and media organizations as well as internationally respected personalities to join us in rising in strong condemnation of the escalating rampancy of State abduction, arrest, torture, killing, disappearance and detention without trial of innocent and unarmed citizens of Southeast and South-south extractions. We must insist in collectivism that IPOB activists are not terrorists and common criminals and that terrorists and common criminals in Nigeria are most respected and well treated by the Nigerian State and its coercive agencies than those citizens who never use or advocate violence.
The authorities of the DSS in Nigeria must not only release all IPOB activists in their custody unconditionally, but must also stop all forms of crackdown on other IPOB activists including married women. As we speak, the likes of Mrs Ugochi Enyinnaya, Mrs Eunice Ada Omaka and numerous other married women in Aba and other parts of the Southeast and South South have since run out of their marital homes and gone into hiding; abandoning their young children and husbands, all because of DSS and Army renewed crackdown on IPOB activists and their families. We must collectively tell the DSS, Army and Police to retrace their violent and unconstitutional steps.
Enough is enough!
For: International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Intersociety)
Obianuju Igboeli, Esq., (LLB, BL)
Head, Civil Liberties & Rule of Law Program