DSS, IPOB and The Abia Shallow Grave

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The DSS statement betrays its primary responsibility of national security

The Department of State Services (DSS) recently issued a sensational statement, accusing the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) of kidnapping and killing five Fulani herdsmen in Abia State.

The DSS said the victims were buried in a shallow grave along with 50 other unidentified corpses at a forest called Umuanyi. “How did DSS come to the conclusion that it was IPOB members who perpetuated the said crime?” an IPOB spokesman who queried the statement asked, before adding, “Why was it so easy to identify the five Hausa/Fulani men by their names while they were unable to identify the name of at least one person out of the other 50 victims?”

However, shedding more light on the tragedy last week, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia and his Imo counterpart, Rochas Okorocha, said the killing was an act of kidnapping carried out by miscreants. “On the issue of the killing of five Fulani men that has caused tension, the culprits have been arrested and will be dealt with under the law,” they said in a joint statement. “Information reaching us reveals that it is not just five Fulani men as there are two corpses believed to be Igbos from the area, so it is not a direct attack on any ethnic group.”

Whatever may have been the motivation, we consider the statement by the DSS and its obvious sectional and inciting undertone most unfortunate and reckless. It is even more so coming from an agency whose primary responsibility is the protection of national security through managing and deterring threats to the unity and peaceful co-existence of our country.

As yet, the details of the mass grave found in Abia State remain sketchy. Again, nobody is aware that a proper autopsy or forensic examination of the human remains found at the location has been carried out. We are also not aware that relations of the deceased have been interviewed, categorised or verified in terms of who they are, their gender, etc. In an age of DNA testing and other identity sciences, for the DSS to rush to an obviously preconceived conclusion and make such unscientific public statement is a grave national embarrassment. It is also injurious to our national peace and security.

A pan Igbo intellectual group, ‘Aka Ikenga’, indeed, last week, said it was puzzled at how the DSS came about its conclusions. “If the bodies are decomposing and no autopsy has been done, how can anybody describe the deceased as Fulani?” it asked. “Is it by their wears? Many Igbo people wear Hausa Fulani clothes. Secondly, how did the DSS come to the conclusion that the Indigenous People of Biafra group was responsible for the death of those men? The press release is a smoking gun in that it can incite other tribes against Ndigbo.”

We align ourselves with that position while urging the leadership of the DSS to be careful with the kind of statements they dish out, especially at a time like this in the life of our nation. What is at issue in this case is the nature of the crime, the motives of the criminals as well as the identities of all the victims, not just that of five. We are talking here about citizens of our country who were probably victims of extra-judicial execution, regardless of where they come from or their ethnicity.

What is particularly worrying in the DSS statement is that making public announcement about criminal matters rather than conducting investigations and bringing culprits to trial is fast becoming the norm in our country. If the DSS is in possession of material evidence of IPOB or any other illegal association engaging in mass killings, it should ordinarily arrest the culprits and arraign them in court to press charges. Brandishing statements that are capable of inciting ethnic violence and disrupting public peace is, to put it mildly, most unbecoming of an agency like the DSS.

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In an age of DNA testing and other identity sciences, for the DSS to rush to an obviously preconceived conclusion and make such unscientific public statement is a grave national embarrassment. It is also injurious to our national peace and security