By Emmanuel Onwubiko
The idea behind the formation by members of the human society of a body of governors in their distinctive societies is so that the rights, privileges and entitlements that naturally belong to the citizens are safeguarded and thereby preventing the operationalization of the chaotic ideology of might is right.
In all recorded history and with specific reference to how the ancient Greeks set up to institutionalize what they termed democracy, the welfare and wellbeing of every member is at the core and heart of the formation of this governmental platform for the promotion of the public good of the people.
Abraham Lincoln, one of the earliest presidents of modern day United States of America, was behind the contextual definition of democracy to mean government of the people, by the people and for the people.
Right form 1948 when the specific rights that naturally belongs to each and every one of the member of the human race were codified into the universal declarations of human rights, most nations have had to also domesticate these distinctive rights including the right to life.
Nigeria is in no way an exception. This is so because at independence from British rule in1960, Nigeria took less than a year to be enlisted as a member of the United Nations and by this membership, Nigeria is a signatory to the universal declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Nigeria also subscribe to the African Human and Peoples Rights which basically is a miniature of the UDHR. Nigeria also has domesticated many UN treaties, conventions and Humanitarian laws.
Nigeria also operates a Grund Norm which dedicates a whole chapter to the fundamental rights of everyone including section 33 (1) of chapter 4 that prohibits absolutely, the use of extralegal killing by government as a tool of governance. The Constitution unambiguously confers this fundamental right to life and stated that unless there is a final determination of the courts of competent jurisdictions, on no account should life of a citizen be terminated on the whims or caprices of political office holders.
However, this sacred mandate encapsulated in chapter 4 of the Nigerian Constitution and especially the imperative safeguarding the right to life is being flagrantly violated by Mr. Hope Uzodinma who was made Imo State governor by the supreme court of Nigeria in Abuja in 2019. Imo under his administration has become the graveyards for Igbo youths. I don’t want to believe that Mr. Hope Uzodinma who is a very progressive member of my Roman Catholic Church is the same whose government is committing unmitigated atrocities and crimes against humanity. This horrendous executions of Igbo youths under his watch will inevitably not go unpunished. The sad thing is that the frequency of the public execution of Imo State’s youths by members of Northern dominated armed forces of Nigeria has become frightening.
The dimension of these violations of these sacred human rights has reached a very frightening height with the Sunday’s event that is now described as the genocide of the wedding guests in Orlu senatorial zone and Awomama specifically.
Tried as they are doing to sway public opinion, both the Department of State Services or what is lawfully known as SSS and the Imo State governor Hope Uzodinma, are swimming against the tides of transparency, accountability and honesty on what truly transpired.
The eye witnesses from the scene of the incident have clearly accused the Imo State government of deploying the Ebubeagu security network that undertook the execution style killing of score of wedding guests. Against the backdrops of these groundswell of accusation of extra judicial killings, the DSS and the governor Uzodinma are singing different tunes and are attempting to obfuscate the facts of what transpired which is said to be a straight forward public illegal execution of young Igbo youths who were returning from a wedding.
How governor Uzodinma and the DSS think they can fold peoples’ eyes to go with their tales by moonlight on this genocide in Awomama, is indeed one of the surprises of the world in this 21st century. The Nigerian government through the relevant investigative bodies must unravel why Imo State government authorized the public execution of Imo State citizens on very nebulous gound.
Dissatisfied with what it calls tales by moonlight issued by both Imo State governor Mr. Hope Uzodinma and the Department of state service (DSS) in Imo State on the alleged killings of scores of wedding guests by Ebubeagu, the National Assembly’s public petitions committee has been tasked to investigate the alleged massacre on their own for the interest of public good.
“We are hereby asking the committees on the public petitions of both chambers of the National Assembly to suo moto initiate open, transparent and publicized independent investigation into the alleged killings by ebubeagu of over one dozen wedding guests in Awo-omama, Imo State, South East of Nigeria The Senator representing the people should also act swiftly to stop the massacre from being swept under the carpets.
HURIWA said it is totally obscene and unconstitutional and indeed unconscionable that the Imo State governor and the DSS are both narrating a different version of the killings which the villagers have alleged were killings done in public execution style by the Ebubeagu but both the governor and the DSS claimed that those killed by members of Eastern Security network. Going by the deep gulf between all the claims about the killings, the need has therefore arisen for the lawmakers in Abuja to act to safeguard human right.
The prominent civil Rights body said it is shocking that days after the alleged wedding guests were allegedly murdered, the DSS is reported to have made a claim that those killed died during exchange of fire which is contrary to the claims made by the villagers who raised the alarm in the first place. The Rights group said it is now imperative that the nation is informed of what truly took place just as HURIWA said that Nigeria is the only Country in the World whereby armed security operatives kill citizens at will and may brand the victims as bandits or just conjure up any story and there is no independent agency funded by tax payers to forensically ascertain if the killing was justifiable. HURIWA said that in most civilised societies the National Assembly provides such a safeguard but wonders why many incidents of suspected extramural executions of citizens by secure forces are happening and there is no reassuring institutional methods of accountability.
HURIWA recalled that the Department of State Services (DSS) has made claims on the seven persons in Imo State, who were alleged to be wedding guests. In what it termed its clarification yesterday in Owerri, the Imo State capital, on what has been classified as “Awomama Killings”, the DSS said the victims were alleged members of the Eastern Security Network (ESN). The DSS insisted that the victims killed on Sunday were members of ESN and not guests coming from a wedding ceremony as against earlier reports.The agency made this known in a statement made available to newsmen when it paraded the suspect at the command in Owerri. The DSS said the victims fell during a fierce gun battle between a joint security team and the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and its armed affiliate, Eastern Security Network last Sunday.
HURIWA dismissed the claims of the Imo State Governor and the DSS as unsatisfactory and one sided and said it will on its own be sending a petition soon to the National Assembly if the public petitions’ committees wouldn’t on their own initiate a probe into this allegation of massacre of civilians, Imo citizens that has already circulated globally.
In a statement, HURIWA’S National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko said since Nigeria is a constitutional democracy and not the banana republic that both the Imo State governor and the DSS’S accounts of the incident have made the Country to be, there is the need for the National Assembly to step in immediately and transparently collate claims and counter claims on the incident and then reach a determination that will be satisfactory.
“Assuming without conceding that those killed were not wedding guests as claimed by Hope Uzodinma why should Ebubeagu fire their bullets to kill persons riding on motorcycles?What is lawful would have been for Imo State government to investigate the killing but sadly the governor even took sides before ascertaining what really happened. This is so cruel, inhumane, wicked, irrational and insensitive that the governor can dismiss the alleged mass shooting of Imo citizens on the excuse that they were ‘bandits’ even before any sort of forensic probe is instituted”.
HURIWA quoting several media channels, stated that there was considerable trepidation, unprecedented anger in Imo State on Monday after news filtered in that gunmen suspected to be operatives of Ebubeagu Security outfit allegedly killed 7 wedding guests in Awomama, Oru West Local Government Area of the state.
HURIWA gathered that the incident happened on Sunday while the victims were returning to their village in Otulu in Oru East LGA before the gunmen opened fire on them just as the President General of Otulu community, Nnamdi Agbor, told newsmen that seven persons died on the spot while others were missing. The community leader confirmed that the victims were on their way home when the gunmen opened fire on them.
HURIWA said the Community leader said thus: “As they were going home Ebubeagu operatives saw them in motorcycles and opened fire on them. As I speak to you, we have recovered seven dead bodies who are our people.“The monarch said that five are missing, while two are critically injured.” He said that the Commissioner of Police and the commander of the 34 artillery Brigade Command Obinze have visited the area. The Police Public Relations Officer, CSP Mike Abattam, confirmed the incident.
However, HURIWA expressed shock and consternation that rather than order a transparent and an independent judicial investigation of the alleged mass killings, the governor of Imo State, Hope Uzodimma said that government will not be deterred by propaganda and blackmail in her quest to protect the lives and property of Imo citizens.
The Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri reacted in a statement titled aptly: “THE BLOOD OF ABEL CRIES TO HIGH HEAVENS A PUBLIC STATEMENT ON THE AWOMAMA KILLINGS Issued BY MOST REV. LUCIUS IWEJURU UGORJI, METROPOLITAN ARCHBISHOP OF OWERRI, ON 22 JULY 2022”.
His Grace wrote thus: “The gruesome murder of some youths at Awomama in Imo State a few days ago has caused public outrage. Since this incident, there have been various narratives about who carried out this dastardly and abominable act, and why. While some members of the public blame government and her security outfit EbubeAgu for murdering unarmed and defenceless young men coming back from a wedding, the DSS Director, on the other hand, confirmed that his men carried out an operation in a camp, where those he described as “bandits were killed, as a means of ensuring public security.
Our aim is not to delve into this web of contradictory narratives, but to unequivocally condemn this mindless blood-letting, and similar senseless killings, which have bedevilled lgbo society, especially Imo State in recent times. Our soil has been defiled by the abominable shedding of innocent blood. We are becoming a society that has no regard for the sanctity of human life and are ready to waste human life at the least provocation. How many of our youths have been cut down in their prime?
No society can flourish or survive when her future leaders and productive sector of the population are mercilessly mowed down for mere suspicion. Like Abel’s blood (Gen 4:10), the blood of many slaughtered youths in our land is crying to high heaven. Similarly, like the lamentations of Rachel at Ramah (Gen 30:1), the lamentations of mothers, who have lost their beloved ones at Awomama, are inconsolable.
Law and Order are not synonymous with jungle justice. While no one should condone any form of banditry or lawlessness from any quarters, yet jungle justice and extra judicial killings cannot be a solution to the challenges of law and order. Let us reiterate here that we condemn all killings from all quarters, whether private or public, whether by overzealous, trigger-happy security men or by paramilitary or cults groups. As moral agents, no one should clearly aim at taking away human life no matter the circumstances.
The Awomama massacre should not be swept under the carpet. That slaughter, no matter the reasons is barbaric, offensive, and totally unacceptable. Enough is enough! We, therefore, call on government to undertake a thorough and transparent investigation in order to unearth the perpetrators of the heinous crime and bring them to book. For public accountability in this matter is the only way to assuage public anger on the merciless killing and stop dangerous rumours.
May God grant eternal life to the deceased and consolation to the bereaved!”
Need we say more? Certainly this case won’t go unpunished.
EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA and was NATIONAL COMMISSIONER of the NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF NIGERIA.