- Army denies report
Senator Iroegbu in Abuja and Ejiofor Alike in Lagos
A new investigative report by the Amnesty International has accused the Nigerian security forces, led by the military, of embarking on a chilling campaign of extrajudicial executions and violence resulting in the deaths of at least 150 peaceful pro-Biafra protesters in the south-east of the country.
The report, which was the result of the analysis of 87 videos, 122 photographs and 146 eye witness 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.
Amnesty 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.
The Interim Director of Amnesty International Nigeria, Makmid Kamara, said the deadly repression of pro-Biafra activists was further stoking tensions in the South-east.
“This reckless and trigger-happy approach to crowd control has caused at least 150 deaths and we fear the actual total might be far higher. The Nigerian government’s decision to send in the military to respond to pro-Biafra events seems to be in large part to blame for this excessive bloodshed. The authorities must immediately launch an impartial investigation and bring the perpetrators to book,” Kamara said.
The report noted that since August 2015, there has been a series of protests, marches and gatherings by members and supporters of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), who have been seeking the creation of a Biafran state.
According to the report, tensions increased further following the arrest of IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, who has remained in detention since October 14, 2015.
Amnesty International said on September 30, 2016, it shared the key findings of this report with the Federal Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, 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.
According to the organisation, responses were received from the Attorney General and Inspector General of Police but neither answered the questions raised in the report.
Giving the details of the massacre, Amnesty International stated that by far the largest number of pro-Biafra activists was killed on Biafra Remembrance Day on May 30, 2016 when an estimated 1,000 IPOB members and supporters gathered for a rally in Onitsha, Anambra State.
The report added that on the night before the rally, the security forces raided homes and a church where IPOB members were sleeping.
“On the remembrance day itself, the security forces shot people in several locations. Amnesty International has not been able to verify the exact number of extrajudicial executions, but estimates that at least 60 people were killed and 70 injured in these two days,” the report explained.
Amnesty International said it had also reviewed videos of a peaceful gathering of IPOB members and supporters at Aba National High School on February 9, 2016, stressing that the Nigerian military surrounded the group and then fired live ammunition at them without any prior warning.
Citing eyewitnesses and local human rights activists, the report stated that many of the protesters at Aba were rounded up and taken away by the military.
On 13 February, 13 corpses, including those of men known to have been taken by the military, were discovered in a pit near the Aba highway.
“It is chilling to see how these soldiers gunned down peaceful IPOB members. The video evidence shows that this was a military operation with intent to kill and injure,” Kamara said.
However, the Nigerian Army has denied the report describing it as a biased campaign of calumny.
The Director of Army Public Relations (DAPR), Col. Sani Usman, debunked the insinuation the Nigerian troops perpetrated the killing of defenceless agitators.
According to Usman, this is an outright attempt to tarnish the reputation of the security forces in general and the Nigerian Army in particular, for whatever inexplicable parochial reasons.
He said: “The attention of the Nigerian Army has been drawn to a planned release of a report by Amnesty International on an unfounded storyline of mass killings of MASSOB/IPOB protesters by the military between August 2015 and August 2016.
“For umpteenth times, the Nigerian Army has informed the public about the heinous intent of this non-governmental organisation which is never relenting in dabbling into our national security in manners that obliterate objectivity, fairness and simple logic.
“The evidence of MASSOB/IPOB violent secessionist agitations is widely known across the national and international domains. Their modus operandi has continued to relish violence that threatens national security. Indeed between August 2015 and August 2016, the groups’ violent protests have manifested unimaginable atrocities to unhinge the reign of peace, security and stability in several parts of the South East Nigeria,” he added.
Usman stated that a number of persons from the settler communities that hailed from other parts of the country were selected for attack, killed and burnt.
He said such reign of hate, terror and ethno-religious controversies that portend grave consequences for national security have been averted severally through the responsiveness of the Nigerian Army and members of the security agencies.