NOVEMBER 24, 2016 – A chilling campaign of extrajudicial executions and violence has allegedly resulted in deaths of at least 150 peaceful pro-Biafra protesters in the Southeast.
In a report yesterday, Amnesty International said an analysis of 87 videos, 122 photographs and 146 eyewitness testimonies relating to demonstrations and other gatherings between August 2015 and August 2016 consistently showed that the military fired live ammunition with little or no warning to disperse crowds.
It also found 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.
Since August 2015, there has been a series of protests, marches and gatherings by members and supporters of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), who have been seeking the creation of a Biafran state.
Tensions increased further following the arrest of IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu on October 14, 2015. He remains in detention. IPOB emerged in 2012 and campaigns for an Independent Biafran state. Almost 50 years ago, an attempt to establish Biafra state led to a civil war from 1967 to 1970.
Amnesty International said it shared the key findings of its report with the Federal Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Army Staff, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Interior, Inspector General of Police and the Director-General of the State Security Services.
It further disclosed that responses received from the Attorney General and Inspector General of Police did not answer the questions raised in the report.
Governors of the Southeast geo political zone of the country would neither comment nor associate with agitation for the Republic of Biafra, despite the degree of attention the protests have attracted so far. The Guardian sought the views of the governors on the issue in which the agitators have also alleged the extrajudicial killing of their members by the military but none of the governors could volunteer a comment.
Contacted through his Chief Press Secretary, Emma Anya, Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi preferred that the issue be directed to Senator Emmanuel Onwe, who is the State Commissioner for Information and Orientation. But Onwe did not respond to enquiries on the issue.
Enugu, Abia and Anambra state governors preferred to keep mute on the development as their Commissioners and Chief Press Secretaries neither picked calls placed to them nor replied to the various text messages sent to their mobile lines.
But Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State expressed his belief in the unity of the country.
Speaking through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Sam Onwuemeodo, he said: “My governor is one elected by the people of Imo State and Imo State is one of the states in the country. I want to say that my governor believes in the country and its unity and that was why he vied for the office of the president at a time and later became a governor elected by the people. He remains Imo governor. Those agitating for Biafra know why they are doing so. I don’t have anything to say further.”
Meanwhile, the leadership of the Nigerian Army has come out strong against Amnesty. The acting Director, Army Public Relations (DAPR), Col. Sani Usman in a statement issued in Abuja said, the security operatives did not only adhere to the rules of engagement, “the military and other security agencies exercised maximum restraint despite the flurry of
provocative and unjustifiable violence, which MASSOB/IPOB perpetrated.”
He said AI’s report was an attempt to tarnish the image of the army in particular and that it was another manifestation of the group’s “heinous intent” to ridicule the nation’s security forces.