PDP raises the alarm over alleged plan for more military action in Ogoniland
Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt abd Gboyega Akinsanmi in Lagos
A human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, on Tuesday asked President Muhammadu Buhari to investigate the extra-judicial execution of criminal suspects by officers of the Nigeria police and alleged unlawful killing of unarmed civilians, including children and women, by officers of the Nigerian Armed Forces.
Falana said if the perpetrators of the killings “are not prosecuted, the federal government is likely to continue to pay damages in billions of naira awarded by the courts.”
He made the call in a statement he signed, noting that many highly placed officials of the government might be tried or prosecuted before the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity if the federal government does not prosecute the perpetrators of ‘unlawful’ killings.
In his statement, Falana pointed out the military invasions of Odi in Bayelsa State in 1999, Zaki Biam in Benue State in 2001 and Gbaramatu in Delta State in 2009, noting that the federal high court “condemned the illegal involvement of armed soldiers in the maintenance of internal security.”
Consequently, he said the court awarded a total sum of N166 billion as compensation “to victims of the illegal military attacks. Also, the federal high court has awarded about N25 billion against the Nigerian police for unlawful killing of unarmed citizens and other human rights abuses in several parts of the country.”
Falana acknowledged Buhari’s commitment “to end the entrenched culture of impunity in the country, though there have been reported cases of gross abuse of human rights of the Nigerian people.”
He explained that having undertaken the move to end impunity and violations of human rights, Buhari’s administration “owes it a duty to ensure that the life of every person living in Nigeria is respected at all times.”
The senior advocate thus noted that he was compelled to request the Buhari administration “to institute an inquiry into the reckless killing of people by security forces with a view to prosecuting the culprits.”
He cited different cases of extra-judicial execution and brutal killings allegedly perpetrated by officers of the Nigeria Police and Nigeria Armed Forces, which he said, took place before, during and after the 2015 general election.
Falana acknowledged that the 2015 general election was successfully conducted, though it was on record that scores of people were killed in political clashes in different parts of the country.
He thus cited a report, which the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) authored, showing that over 100 people “were killed in Rivers State alone. The recent rerun legislative elections in the state also witnessed wanton killings and destruction of property.
“Apart from thugs and militants who have continued to unleash mayhem on innocent people, the Joint Task Force has been indicted in the unlawful killing of members of the public. On February 22, a platoon of soldiers invaded Ogoniland in Rivers state and killed three unarmed youths.”
He said violent clashes between herdsmen and farmers “have resulted in mass killings in the last few months. For instance, in Benue and Taraba States not less than 500 farmers were recently killed by armed herdsmen due to negligence on the part of security forces.”
He noted that the federal government should be commended for the success recorded so far in prosecuting the war on terror, but the failure to sanction the army officers and soldiers who allegedly engage in the unlawful killing of innocent people in the North-east region “has been condemned locally and globally.”
Meanwhile, Rivers State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has said it has uncovered a plot by some All Progressives Congress (APC) politicians of Ogoni extraction to cause the military to use helicopters to bomb some parts of Ogoni communities suspected to be hideouts for those perceived to be opposed to their political ambitions.
The PDP alleged that some APC stalwarts in the state held a meeting with top leadership of the party in Abuja, demanding that the Presidency approves the use of military helicopters to bomb areas suspected to have provided cover for certain individuals considered not cooperating with them.
In a statement issued in Port Harcourt yesterday on behalf of the state Chairman, Felix Obuah, by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Jerry Needam, the party said the real motive was to eliminate those opposed to their political ambitions.
“The information has it that the operation will be carried out in the guise of raiding criminal hideouts but the actual motive is to target and eliminate those perceived to be stumbling blocks to the realisation of their political aspiration and victory of the APC in the area,” the statement said.
The PDP also said, “While we, as a responsible and law-abiding political party will do nothing to jeopardise the peace and security efforts of government in the state and across the nation, we condemn the reckless, illegal and selfish politically motivated military raids in parts of the state by self-seeking political actors.
“We also condemn the APC politicians using their privileged access and relationship with the federal authorities and government to continue to cause violence and insurrection in parts of the state when there is no need for such action.”
The PDP also noted that the police had not failed in their efforts to secure and rid the state of criminals “as to warrant the use of military war helicopters, as required in Sambisa Forest or in Afghanistan”.
It therefore called on the military authorities to consider the possible colossal effects of such operation in an area where the mess from the February 22 and 23 carnage and the consequences of their deployment during the March 19 re-run elections in the State are still on ground.
“In our view, using military helicopters in clearing the communities when the situation can still be handled by the Police will do the people of the area no good but would cause more woes and anguish for the people.
“It is also important we draw the attention of President Buhari to the sanctity of lives of innocent and law abiding citizens living around the target areas and the need to protect them and their properties while considering taking such actions,” the PDP stated.