By Chimezie Godfrey
As the insecurity in Nigeria deepens, the Igbo Elders Council (IEC), FCT chapter has called the attention of the American Ambassador to Nigeria, Amb. Mary Leonard on the “senseless” killings of the Igbos, especially the youths in the South East by the Security agencies.
This was disclosed in a statement signed by eminent members of the group which include, former Governor of Anambra State, Chukwuemeka Ezeife; former Minister of Education, Prof. Ihechukwu Madubuike; Prof. C.E. Nwekeaku; Bar Onwu Arua Onwu and HRM, Eze Ibe Nwosu which has been sent to over 30 embassies and foreign missions in Nigeria.
The group decried the current militarization that has caused the region loss of lives and properties and untold hardship in the land, which it condemns without any reservation and therefore called on the American Ambassador to Nigeria and the international community for urgent intervention.
The group further expressed its displeasure in the continuous constitution of illegal checkpoints against the directive of the National Security Adviser, adding youths are searched in the most dehumanizing manner and sometimes taken away to unknown destinations and they do not return to their families, all in the guise of fishing out criminal elements
The statement reads, “We write to draw the attention of Your Excellency, the American Ambassador to Nigeria and the International Community on the unprecedented bloodletting, Carnage and senseless killings of the Igbos, especially the youths in the South East by the security agencies, and appeal for urgent intervention for the sake of peace and stability of the country.
“The current militarization and wide spread carnage in the South East have precipitated unprecedented fear, tension and untold hardships on the people in the zone, thereby aggravating the security challenges in the land.
“We condemn without any reservation the destruction of public property in the South East because it is not in our character to indulge in arson and brigandage. We believe, however, that it is not fair and just to use a sledge hammer to kill harmless flies as many victims of this joint security agencies onslaught are hapless and innocent Igbo youths and other citizens, who have become victims of circumstances.
“Information available to us says that despite the recent directive of the National Security Adviser, Gen Baba Gana Mungono, to dismantle all checkpoints throughout the federation, the security agencies in the South East still stop motorists at illegal checkpoints, search them in most dehumanizing manner in the guise of fishing out presumed members of Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, and Eastern Security Network, ESN, arrest the youths, especially boys and march them away to unknown destinations, most of whom never return alive.
“Also, security agencies now indiscriminately invade private homes at odd hours in the same guise of fishing out presumed IPOB and ESN members. They arrest, maim, and sometimes shoot innocent and the helpless youths, and cart away their corpses to unknown destinations, thus denying them the opportunity of burial. The Igbo tradition values burial rites for the repose of the soul of the dead, yet our young victims of the military onslaught are denied that opportunity.”
According to the statement, over 5,000 Igbo youths have been killed and more than 10,000 are being detained without being tried and convicted, these and several other killings the IEC said, contravenes any known rules of military/security engagement.
The Elders lamented over the IGP’s statement as carried by a national daily newspaper that security agents should shoot anyone with an AK 47 and ignore the media, describing the steady deployment of security agents since the directive as a reminiscent of the notorious “Operation Python Dance” which has caused the region damages in the past.
“The case of Bar Ifeanyi Ejiofor, whose house in Anambra state was invaded at 2.30 am, and was promptly arrested and taken away to unknown destination, while his personal assistant was gunned down. Till now no person has brought any charges against Mr. Ejiofor.
“Earlier on Friday, May 28, 2021 five innocent Igbos died instantly when Nigerian Air force personnel allegedly opened fire on motorists and other passers-by at the Nekede/Naze junction, along the Owerri-Aba road over the death of their colleague in the hands of the unknown gunmen. Three days later, on Monday, May 31,2021, a 42-year old German based Oguchi Unachukwu, from Umuomumu, Umueze, Mbieri in Mbaitoli Local Government of Imo State, was shot dead at the tollgate of the Sam Mbakwe Airport by the personnel of the Air Force personnel 211 Regiment Group. The deceased, who was short in the presence of his wife and children, was on his way to Lagos en route to his base in Germany.
“On April 30, 2021 soldiers shot and killed one Noel Chigbu, a businessman at a checkpoint in Amakohia, Owerri for allegedly violating ‘’ checkpoint rules.That dastardly act was committed barely five days; soldiers had shot and killed Mr. Devine Nwaneri, a first year student of the Imo state University, at a checkpoint near the Government House, Owerri.
“The list is endless. So far, over 5000 [five thousand] Igbo youths have been killed in the South East, while more than 10,000 [ten thousand] others are languishing in horrible detention camps in different parts of the country under questionable circumstances. Yet, none of these victims was a member of IPOB and ESN.
“There were not even members of the unknown gunmen. Both IPOB and ESN have severally distanced themselves from the current terror and tension in the South East, yet countless innocent citizens are killed in the name of fishing out presumed members of IPOB, ESN and unknown gunmen.
“The conduct of the security agencies in the South East and some parts of South South is in contravention of any known rules of military/security engagement.
“The newly confirmed Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba was quoted to have directed the police officers to be brutal in dealing with the suspected members of IPOB and ESN as their [police officers] actions would never be questioned by any person or authority.
“The Daily Independent newspaper of May 19, 2021 quoted the IGP, while launching the “ Operation Restore Peace,’’ captured Mr. Baba’s threats thus:
‘’Don’t mind the media shout; do the job I command you. If anyone accuses you of human rights violation, the report will come to my table and you know what I will do. So, take the battle to them wherever they are and kill them all. Don’t wait for any other order.
‘’What other order are you waiting for when Mr. President has ordered you to shoot anybody carrying an AK-47 rifle? Quote me, even a dead policeman can be tried and be dismissed from the force and his family will not get his benefits.
“Since the above directive, the Federal Government has maintained a steady deployment of troops and heavy military equipment to the South East with a brazen candor reminiscent of the notorious operation ‘’ Python Dance’’ of 2017 in the same South East zone.
“There were also brutal security operations in Oyigbo, Rivers State in 2020. The South East zone is yet to recover from those heinous operations characterized by unprecedented extrajudicial killings, bloodletting, disappearance of people, especially the youths, arbitrary arrests and detentions of innocent citizens, rapes of our women and young girls,” the Council stated.
According to the elders, it beats the imagination of any unbiased observer to explain why the Federal Government has not visited Boko Haram, herders and other terrorist groups since the “shoot at sight” order of Mr. President.
The IEC therefore, appealed to the American Ambassador to Nigeria and the international community to intervene as dialogue remains the solution to the insecurity in the S/E and the current military onslaught against the region will not ensure the peace and stability the region and Nigeria needs.
“It beats the imagination of any unbiased observer to explain why the Federal Government has not visited Boko Haram and other terrorist groups in various parts of the North, who have not only attacked, maimed, raped women and girls, sacked some communities, but also hoisted their own flags on different parts of the Nigerian territory.
“The Fulani herders still roam forest in different parts of the country with AK-47 and other heavy weapons, but nothing happened to them despite the so-called shoot at sight order of Mr. President. Who is deceiving who in this our own country?
“The current military onslaught against the Igbos will not bring the much needed peace and stability in the South East in particular and Nigeria in general.
“Dialogue, consultations, conferences , respect for the rule of law and fundamental human rights, democracy, accountability, transparency and good governance, as well as immediate restructuring of the country, resource control, equity, justice and fairness in all government policies, programs, projects and appointments in the public service are the most feasible path to sanity, peace, unity and progress of Nigeria,” they demanded.
They added,”We, therefore, call on President Muhammad Buhari, the United Nations, the European Union, African Union, ECOWAS, United States of America, United Kingdom, Russia, China and the entire international community to take urgent and necessary actions to stop the current genocide against the Igbos in the South East and parts of the South South in the interest of peace, stability and unity of Nigeria.
“The use of force, military force, has never restored peace anywhere; hence the need to explore dialogue and other effective strategies that have worked elsewhere. The Igbo Elders are available and ready to be part of this process if given the opportunity to participate. ‘A stitch in time saves nine’ is a utilitarian adage in this context and at this time.”