*Rights body calls extrajudicial execution of IPOB members horrendous and unacceptable:
Leading Civil Rights Advocacy body in Nigeria:- HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has again raised alarm to World’s leaders to caution President Muhammadu Buhari to stop his government’s deadly persecution of unarmed members of the indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB). HURIWA carpeted the armed security operatives for carrying out extealegal execution of members or suspected unarmed members of the now proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra just as the Rights group said the penalty for belonging to a banned group us not state sponsored illegal murder.
HURIWA lamented that hundreds of thousands of young Igbo persons from South East of Nigeria, have had to escape out of Nigeria for fear that they would be killed if found to belong to IPOB. The Nigeria Police and the Nigeria Army regularly brief the press boasting of how many IPOB members they have killed and often brand them as armed hoodlums without any shreds of empirical evidence.
HURIWA lamented that Anambra and Imo States have become the killing fields of members of IPOB with Onitsha and Orlu becoming the epicenters. No part of the South East is spared of these persistent military actions by Nigeria.
Around November 6th 2015, one person was shot dead while commercial and other activities were Friday grounded in Onitsha the commercial city of Anambra state and its environs by members of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB who were protesting the continued detention of their leader Mr. Nnamdi Kanu.
Vehicular movements were also disrupted along the Onitsha Enugu Expressway, Onitsha Owerri Road, Uga Atani Ogaru Local Government Road, Onitsha Aguleri, Nsugbe, Nkwelle Ezunaka Roads, Old and New Market Roads, Nkpor, Ogidi, Obosi Roads, thereby causing traffic gridlocks on all the roads within and outside Onitsha.
Markets in Onitsha and its environs were all shot between 7am to about 2.30pm when some traders were seen loitering around their markets to see if they will be allowed to open, while some decided to go home for the day as they were also afraid that they may be attacked.
Although the Anambra State Government had announced through the market leaders who also exchanged text messages to ensure that their markets were open but the traders seemed to be unwilling to go to their markets as most of them who normally leave in the morning for their markets were sighted on their streets discussing the protest which IPOB declared earlier in the week they will embark on.
Onitsha Main Market, Ochanja Central Market Onitsha, New Tire Market Nkpor, New Auto Spare Parts Market Nkpor, Building Materials Market Ogidi, Ugwuagba Market Obosi, Electronics Market Onitsha, Bridge Head Market Onitsha that has over 21 markets attached to it and other small markets in and outside Onitsha, were all shut down.
Even shop along the streets of Onitsha, and its environs, including Awka Road, New Market Road, Old Market Road, Oguta Road, Limca Road, Iweka Road and Modebe Road, DSokoto Road and Haruna Street lock up shops were also seen under lock and keys.
The IPOB members numbering over 30,000 were earlier seen gathered at Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu Statue by Niger Bridge Head, also known as Odumegwu Ojukwu Gateway, Niger Bridge Head Onitsha chanting and dancing Pro Ojukwu and Biafran songs, from where they marched peacefully to down to Upper Iweka Flyover.
They were seen marching from Upper Iweka Flyover to Onitsha Owerri Road, to Nkpor Junction, Ochanja Central Market, Onitsha Main Market, Old and New Market Roads Onitsha, chanting anti Federal Government, Police, Army and Navy songs, demanding the release of Mr. Kanu, whom they said is being incarcerated for over three weeks now, and the continued arrest and detention of their members and actualization of Biafra activists.
There was unusual presence of the police on the major roads and streets of Onitsha, but their presence did not deter the protesting IPOB members who were also cautious of the behavior of their members to the road users and petty traders who wanted to cash in on the closure of markets and big stores and shops to do brisk business.
IPOB members who wanted to be unruly on the road users were promptly shouted on and cautioned by their leaders to behave well, that molestation and dispossessing people of their property and goods, looting of people’s shops and property was not part of their agenda.
The protest was largely peaceful as there were no information of any clash between the Police and the protesting IPOB members, until around 2.30 pm when Vanguard gathered that one person was shot at the Ochanja Roundabout by the police.
On August 9, 2017 Onitsha in what looked like an attempt to set the records straight about the much publicized killings of members of the Indigenous People Of Biafra, IPOB, at Nkpor in Anambra state on May 30, 2016 during the remembrance ceremony of
Biafra Heroes who died during the 1967 – 1970 Biafran war, the governor of Anambra state, Chief Willie Obiano Wednesday tendered an unreserved apology to IPOB members.
He said it was not only regrettable that such a number of Biafra agitators were massacred but also sad that the impression held in some quarters that he was responsible for the massacre could not be substantiated.
The governor who spoke when he received the members of Biafran War Veterans led by Gen. Joe Achuzie (Air raid) at Governor’s Lodge, Amawbia, who paid him a condolence visit over the death of his mother, Mrs. Christiana Obiano (Adinije), said that he could not have ordered the killing of those who voted for him in 2013 election.
Obiano stated that he has a mentality that guides him in issues of conviction which made him against all opinions and vehemence from federal authorities to still go ahead to bury those that died during the civil war, less than a year into the life span of his administration.
“Abuja was against my plan to bury the victims of the Biafran war, there was a lot of opposition to it from security agencies but I went on to bury our dead war heroes. As a young boy during the war, I knew what happened. I saw many dead bodies and I know the importance of according proper burial to the departed even more so those that departed in the painful and regrettable way as they did”.
“So, I had to embrace all odds to bury them in an elaborate ceremony on the 12th of January 2015, less than one year into my administration. How then will I contemplate killing their off springs for the same reason of Biafra. I didn’t do that, I’m innocent of the name calling”.
Gov. Willie Obiano further said that the report the security agencies made available to him on the incident showed that nobody was killed but that when he visited the hospitals; Menax hospital and St. Charles Borromeo hospital all in Onitsha, among others to see the victims and to provide succor to them, that he was told at the hospitals that people were killed and that some of those killed and the injured were taken out of the state to neighbouring states as very many of them came from outside Anambra state”.
The then governor said that he volunteered to pay the hospital bills of the victims but some of them refused his offer. He said that he is profoundly sorry for what had happened and affirmed that he has since then been battling to ensure that such doesn’t happen again in Anambra state.
While regretting the actions and inactions that led to the current agitation for Biafra, the governor said that he had told the President, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, that if what is being done for the Northeast or close to it was done for the Igbos after the war that there would have been no agitation for Biafra today.
He said the impassable federal roads in the southeast, the issue of 2nd Niger Bridge and general lack of federal presence as viewed by the youths of Igboland made the longing for Biafra a recurring decimal.
The governor said that he has directed that history about Biafra should be taught in schools in the state: “Our children need to know what happened. There are about four or more very good books on Biafra. It is important that our children are told of what happened and I have directed that Biafran history be taught in our schools in Anambra state”.
He told the Biafran Ex-servicemen that he appointed a liaison officer for the Biafran war veterans in order to ensure that issues affecting them and by extension pro-Biafra groups are better handled and that he is the only one that created such office.
Giving insight into what happened when Boko-Haram convicts were brought to the state, Gov. Obiano revealed that they were the worse set of Boko-Haram, adding that they were brought all the way from Njamina (Chad Republic) and one of the nine convicts came with his nine (9) wives and fourteen (14) children.
Exactly on 13th June 2016, one amongst the many IPOB members that escaped being killed is Ekenma Daniel Ifeanyi. He is understood like thousands of other endangered people of Igbo nationality to have escaped into exile fearing for their lives.
He disclosed that he had to struggle to get them out of Anambra state and southeast because their presence was a psychological trauma to Ndigbo. He further appealed to members and the leadership of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB and other pro-Biafra groups to maintain decorum, reminding them the maxim that says: “talk is cheap but war is expensive”.
Responding, the leader of the Biafran war veterans, Gen. Joe Achuzie said that Gov. Willie Obiano was innocent of the accusations as nothing before, during and after the incident suggested that the governor was culpable.
Achuzie who spoke extensively on the build up to the protest that led to the killings whose information he said he was privy to, recalled how he had spoken with the then Anambra State Commissioner of Police to request that they allow the agitators to stage a peaceful protest but noted that on the said day, the army who were not in the picture suddenly appeared and became trigger-happy in killing citizens they were meant to protect.
“Sadly enough, after attacking the IPOB peaceful protesters, a false report was forwarded to the state governor that nobody was killed, adding, let me assure you that giving the spread of the victims that he will also make a formal presentation to the Southeast Governors’ Forum for a concerted effort in assisting the victims in what will take the shape of “victim support” to cater for the families of those killed and injured..
He urged the people not to be misled by the callous and malicious insinuations that the Governor has a hand in the shooting but to rather face the federal authorities that authorized the killings.
General Achuzie who is the leader of Council of Elders of the Indigenous People Of Biafra pointed out that Governor Obiano has shown genuine commitment towards the people’s struggle by undertaking the burial of all Biafran soldiers that died during the Nigerian Civil, noting that such a man cannot carry out such despicable action against his own people as was erroneously held by some Biafrans.
He commended the governor for reaching out to the families of the victims and appealed to him to see to the up keep of those whose loved ones were killed and those who are still undergoing treatment.
Amnesty International reports that at least 115 people were killed by security operatives in the south-east from March to June 2021.
The human rights organisation said the country’s security forces deployed “excessive and unlawful force, and torture and other ill-treatment” to address the rising violence in the south-east region.
Since the beginning of 2021, the south-east has witnessed a series of violent attacks ranging from killing of security operatives, burning of government facilities — police stations and electoral commission offices —to other violent crimes.
The police authorities have on several occasions blamed the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and its security outfit, Eastern Security Network (ESN) for the violence.
TheCable, in a report, found out that killings in the south-east tripled after the security outfit was launched — but the group denies any wrongdoing.
Amnesty International, in a statement, said security operatives responded by killing “dozens of gunmen and civilians” in places where attacks occurred in the region.
The international organisation said it had documented 52 incidents of unlawful killings and 62 cases of arbitrary arrest and torture carried out by security operatives from January 2021.
The organisation narrated the ordeal of a 37-year-old man, who was arrested in Imo state in May 2021, because his colleague had a birthmark that the police claimed bore semblance with IPOB’s symbol.
It also narrated how Uguchi Unachukwu, a Germany-based businessman was allegedly killed by soldiers on May 31 near Owerri airport in Imo state on his way out of the country.
“Amnesty International documented at least 115 persons killed by security forces between March and June 2021. Many relatives of the victims told Amnesty International that they were not part of the militants that were attacking security agents,” Amnesty said.
“Many of the victims were deposited at government hospitals in Imo and Abia state. According to several hospital sources all the victims deposited by the police had bullet injuries.
“Eyewitnesses told Amnesty International that the security forces have engaged in excessive use of force, physical abuse, secret detentions, extortion, burning of houses, theft, and extrajudicial executions of suspects.
“Human rights groups estimated that the death toll of violence between January and June 2021 in Anambra, Imo, Abia, and Ebonyi states might run into the hundreds. The police said ESN fighters killed 21 of its personnel in Imo state alone.
“In May 2021, the Imo state government announced the arrest of at least 400 people allegedly linked to the violence. Amnesty International’s investigation indicates that most of them were randomly picked up in their homes and off the street and had nothing to do with ESN.
“Some victims told Amnesty International that they were arrested while walking in the street, at a public bar or simply for having birth marks or tattoos on their body.”
Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko:
Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA). August 2nd 2022. Abuja Nigeria.