Torturing of Civilians to Death by Military

Within two weeks, Nigerians witnessed the torturing to death of a member of civilian staff of the Ministry of Defence attached to Nigerian Navy hospital in Lagos by navy personnel, as well as a hotel manager in Abia State and a pregnant lady in Enugu State, by soldiers. Ejiofor Alike reports that these incidents have demonstrated the growing notoriety of soldiers for torturing innocent civilians to death over minor disputes

Why do Nigerian soldiers always torture and kill civilians over minor disagreements? This is one question many Nigerians often ask each time this happens.  

On many occasions, rather than halt this barbaric and cruel act, military authorities chose to live in denial, covering up erring soldiers in some cases and sanctioning others in cases that cannot be swept under the carpet.

Responding to the criticisms of the military’s alleged killing of civilians in Okuama community in Delta State in retaliation to the killing of 17 soldiers in the area, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Christopher Musa had told the ARISE TV that: “We are not animals and we are not barbaric and we are not an irresponsible military that will go about killing people; but the truth is that if they had not tempered with our own gallant soldiers, we would not have come out in the first place.” 

While the figure of casualties arising from the military’s invasion of Okuama community have not been ascertained, the Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri, last Wednesday confirmed that at least 20 youths were killed in Igbomotoru community in Bayelsa State, by soldiers who invaded the community in search of the killers of the 17 military men brutally murdered in Delta State.

But contrary to the position of the CDS, the Nigerian military has over the years killed or tortured civilians to death not only over alleged killing of soldiers but also for minor offences such as disagreements over failed relationships, traffic-related offences, tenancy and land disputes, as well as failed business agreements. 

In cases where military personnel are not directly involved in a dispute, what the party who has access to soldiers needs to do to have his or her enemies murdered in cold blood is to go to the barracks and procure the services of soldiers.       

That was the fate of a civilian staff of the Ministry of Defence, Mr. Ifeanyi Onuamegbu, who was attached to the Laboratory Department of the Nigerian Navy Reference Hospital (NNRH) in Ojo, Lagos, since 2009.  

Onumaegbu died on March 31, 2024 in his office after being tortured by some personnel of the Nigerian Navy whose services were procured by a civilian lady with whom he had an altercation.  

Though the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice-Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla, had ordered an investigation, how this investigation will bring him back to life or prevent similar barbaric behaviour by some notoriously lawless naval personnel in the future remains to be seen.                         

Nigerians were yet to recover from the news of Onuamegbu’s death when some personnel of the Nigerian Army tortured to death the Manager of Hotel Royal Damgrete, Umuahia, Abia State, Mr. Achimugu Etubi, on April 13 following the drowning of an Air Force cadet, Emmanuel Onyemereche, in the hotel’s swimming pool.

In what has become a ritual, the Nigerian Army has also ordered an investigation, according to a statement by its spokesman, Onyema Nwachukwu, a major general. 

In Enugu, a pregnant lady, Miss Hauwakulu Tabra was also murdered in a most gruesome manner and her body dumped around the division’s officers’ quarters by Private Mohammed Adamu of the 82 Division (Airborne and Amphibious) Division of the Nigerian Army in Enugu. 

Adamu is said to be a repentant Boko Haram fighter who joined the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) before he was recruited into the Nigerian Army.           

Between 2020 and 2021, the Nigerian Army had reportedly absorbed 400 members of the civilian JTF into its fold to assist in prosecuting the war against terrorists.         

It is common knowledge that some northern states recruit repentant Boko Haram fighters into the CJTF to help fight the terrorists.  

Therefore, it is not surprising that many of the repentant Boko Haram fighters later found themselves in the army and continued their atrocities. 

In Ikorodu area of Lagos, a commercial motorcyclist, Saheed Isa, was lucky to survive after he was stabbed on April 13 with a gun-like Jack Knife in the abdomen by a Nigerian Army lance corporal attached to 159 Battalion in Yobe State.

Lagos State Police Command’s spokesperson, SP Benjamin Hundeyin confirmed the arrest of the soldier last Monday.                          

In what seems like a threat to the much-cherished esprit de corps, Private Yahaya Sani, a soldier attached to the 74 Supply and Transportation Brigade, 82nd Division of the Nigerian Army also reportedly stabbed his colleague, Private Aliyu Musa for allegedly accusing him of stealing his phone last Monday in Enugu metropolis.

Some soldiers were also allegedly involved in the case of stealing of armoured cables at Dangote refinery in Lagos last week.

The Nigerian Army had in a statement admitted that the two soldiers were hired by a civilian contractor simply identified as Mr. Smart, who claimed he wanted to recover some armoured cables he had left behind on the refinery’s premises.

It is increasingly worrisome that soldiers are hired for fraudulent escort duties and by those who want to settle scores over disputes.

Before these latest incidents, similar atrocious acts carried out by soldiers had also resulted in the killing of policemen and civilians. 

 In November 2023, soldiers of the 23 Armoured Brigade in Adamawa State invaded the police headquarters in Jimeta-Yola and killed a police operative following a disagreement that led to the shooting of a soldier by police officers attached to Jimeta Division, who were conducting routine checks on the road at target junction via Yola North Local Government Area.

The military later mobilised armoured trucks and attacked the state police headquarters.  

Many believe that a more responsible military would have utilised constitutional means to avenge the shooting of its personnel by a sister agency instead of resorting to acts of barbarism and lawlessness.

In August 2022, soldiers at the Ojo Military Cantonment in Lagos had also tortured and killed an inspector serving with the Lagos State Police Command, Monday Orukpe, over traffic-related issues.

Men of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) had also in July 2021 stormed the Ladipo Spare Parts Market in Lagos and shot at traders, following a disagreement over a motor spare part purchased by a soldier.

No responsible military personnel torture and kill policemen and civilians at the slightest provocation like the Nigerian soldiers who believe that they were trained to kill without any consequences.  

President Bola Tinubu should end this barbarism being perpetrated by Nigerian soldiers against the civilian population, which successive administrations failed to address.

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