The leadership of International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law; supported by the Southeast Based Coalition of Human Rights Organizations (SBCHROs), is saddened, shocked and alarmed over the report of burning to ashes of 13 murdered members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) whose corpses were dumped in a burrow pit located in Asa area of the Aba-Port Harcourt Road in Abia State. Three more corpses were also discovered recently in another burrow pit behind a Mosque, which is between the Timber Market and the Arewa Onions’ Market, near Uratta Junction along Aba-Port Harcourt Road in Abia State. The corpses were covered with leaves and soaked with chemical substances strongly suspected to be a mixture of raw acid and embalmment chemicals; for the purposes of disfigurement, erasing traces and making the corpses odorless. They are also strongly suspected to be murdered members of IPOB in Abia State and environs.
It is recalled that members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), numbering hundreds had on 9th of February 2016 converged at the National High School in Aba, Abia State, for the purpose of embarking on prayer procession within the School for the release of their leader, Prince Nnamdi Kanu; the Prince of Umuahia Kingdom in Abia State who had been detained and denied release since 15th of October 2015 on the orders of Retired Gen Muhammadu Buhari. Thirty (30) minutes into the prayer procession, a combined team of Army, Navy and Police violently stormed the arena in over ten hilux vans and minutes later, hell was let loose on the peaceful IPOB members and 22 of them were gunned down and violently killed while over 30 others got critically injured.
The killer-soldiers of the 144 Battalion under the command of Lt Col Umar Kasim Sidi picked up the corpses of seven IPOB members and five critically injured others as well as some married women and took them away till date. The coordinators and organizers of the prayer procession including Citizens Ikechukwu Ugwuoha, Amos Ezekiel, Okechukwu Nnebedum Nkume, Donatus Okeke and Joseph Okolie were before the shooting, arrested and taken away by the Abia State Police Command and later arraigned for “treasonable felony”. The five IPOB activists alongside 15 others are presently remanded in Aba Prisons. Video clips of the carnage are available. In the non-violent and peaceful protests organized by IPOB members in the same Aba on 18th and 29th of January 2016, the same soldiers of the 144 battalion opened fire on them, killing scores of them and critically injuring others. The corpses of those killed and some critically injured ones were also reportedly taken away by the soldiers till date.
On Friday, 12th of February 2016, an alarm was raised and immediate attention of the IPOB leadership in Aba drawn by some scavengers that 13 murdered corpses were seen in a burrow pit located in Asa, along Aba-Port Harcourt Road in Abia State. The IPOB members mobilized to the site and saw the corpses themselves. Our team also visited Aba including the site on Friday, 12th, Sunday, 14th and Monday, 15th of February 2016. The research team of Amnesty International, UK, visited the site on Thursday, 18th of February 2016. One of the shocking discoveries made on the spot by Amnesty International team per Comrade Justus Ijeoma; witnessed by some IPOB surviving members who attended the bloody prayer session of 9th of February 2016; was how some of the murdered IPOB activists dumped in the burrow pit were tied with pieces of “Biafra flag” with their hands tied behind their backs. Further independent investigations into the carnage have since continued.
On 21st of February 2016, the Nigerian Army publicly claimed via its Provost Marshal, Big General Ayuba Tedman Hamman; reported by the Sundiata Post; an online media outfit that it had dispatched an investigative team to Aba to ascertain the veracity or otherwise of the 9th of February 2016 massacre of 22 members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and dumping of 13 of them in Aba-Port Harcourt Road Burrow Pit. On 22nd of February 2016, we issued a public statement welcoming the announcement of the Nigerian Army; “provided it is not a cover-up mission”. We also listed conditions under which such “investigative mission” can be acceptable to us and deemed “credible”. Sadly, neither IPOB, nor victims’ families or Intersociety/SBCHROs had been contacted by the so called “army investigative team” till date. Also as we write, the authorities of Nigeria’s Ministry of Interior and Defense Headquarters of the Nigerian Armed Forces, whom we addressed “a two-in-one” letter containing statistical details (including pieces of pictorial and video clip evidence) of the Onitsha and Aba IPOB massacres and associated deadly use of State violence, leading to grave maiming of at least 170 IPOB members and their sympathizers since 30th of August 2015, are yet to respond or reply us despite our confirmation of successful delivery of the letters of ours under reference, dated 16th of February 2016.
Worried and saddened by “silence of the graveyard” maintained by the authorities of the Government of Abia State particularly the dumping and abandonment of 16 corpses of suspected IPOB members in two burrow pits in the State, we caused a detailed letter to be addressed to the Governor of Abia State, Okezie Ikpeazu, PhD. The letter was dated 2nd of March 2016 and referenced and tiled: Intersociety/001/03/016/ASG/UM and Dumping & Abandonment Of 13 Murdered IPOB Activists In A Burrow Pit: A Demand For Appropriate Action To Be Taken By Your Government. A copy of the referenced letter is attached below.
On Friday, 26th of February 2016, Comrade Justine Ijeomah, Executive Director of Human Rights Social Development & Environmental Foundation (Hursdef) and research attaché at Amnesty International reached out to us and some victims of gunshot wounds as well as some members of the dead victims and sought to meet the above named. Part of his mission is continuation of Amnesty International’s investigation into the carnage including the burrow pit dumping of 13 murdered IPOB members in Aba. The internationally respected rights group had already announced publicly that “it is investigating the strong allegations of excessive application of force by the Nigerian security forces (Police, Navy and Army) against peaceful and nonviolent IPOB protesters during their protests in Anambra, Enugu and Abia States”. The group’s research team had earlier on Thursday, 18th of February 2016, visited the site and took photograph and video coverage of the 13 dumped murdered IPOB members.
It was on account of the foregoing that Comrade Justine Ijeomah visited Aba on Wednesday, 2nd of March 2016. Comrade Justine Ijeomah also visited the first burrow pit (where 13 corpses were dumped) same day at about 6:10pm, in company of some IPOB activists. Shockingly he met the corpses going up in flames with thick smokes; suggesting that they must have been set ablaze by malicious agents of the Nigerian Government after midnight of 1st of March 2016. He also observed that other than premium motor spirit (fuel) poured on them, some quantities of coal tar (a thick black liquid produced by the destructive distillation of bituminous coal) were also used, for the purpose of ensuring long burning and total burning and destruction of their fleshes, skulls and bones or skeletons. Their remaining skulls and skeletons as well as oozing fumes or smokes were recorded and videoed by Comrade Justine Ijeomah.
We are not surprised a bit over the foregoing desperation of the authorities of Nigeria’s security forces and President Buhari’s administration to apply “damage control” so as to shamelessly, remorselessly and heartlessly cover up their atrocious acts against innocent and nonviolent members of the IPOB and their sympathizers. The latest burning to ashes of the 13 murdered IPOB activists amounts to “meta atrocity” on the part of the Government of Nigeria against non violent and innocent members of the Igbo Ethnic Nationality in Nigeria. It is also executively sanctioned and executed. In the composition of the present security forces in Nigeria particularly the army lies commissioned ethnic cleansers and hate killers. By the heartless burning of the corpses of murdered innocent and unarmed Nigerians under reference, it is no longer in any iota of doubt of the inescapable culpability of the Government of Nigeria and its security agencies.
If the Government of Nigeria and its security forces are not deeply culpable, they would have publicly condemned the carnage and fished out those security elements responsible, for purpose of punishing them severely. They would have also protected or taken the corpses to safe custody and conducted credible medical examinations to be witnessed by core stakeholders especially the surviving victims and dead victims’ families as well as the group-victim (IPOB) and civil rights groups involved in advocacy campaigns. But, till date, none of the foregoing has happened and the Government of Muhammadu Buhari has continued to maintain “silence of the graveyard over the carnage” till date.
Burning murdered and dumped IPOB members for purpose of erasing traces and escaping from culpability, on the part of the Government of Nigeria, has ended up indicting the Government of Muhammadu Buhari the more locally and internationally. Discovery of over a dozen corpses with most of them having their hands tied behind their backs with cottons bearing “Biafran insignias”; commonly shows that they were murdered by State terror agents; warranting immediate and inexcusable government intervention through its coroner’s inquest authorities, etc to ascertain further causes of their unnatural death (i.e. how they were killed) for the purpose of fishing out their murderers and making them face the full wrath of the law. But the same Government has failed woefully in its State and constitutional duties to do the foregoing. It is therefore, conclusively safe to say again that the killing was government sanctioned and executed.
The international community and members of international media and human rights organizations are hereby called upon to take diplomatic and advocacy notices of the latest bestiality of the Government of Muhammadu Buhari against members of the Igbo Ethnic Nationality, who have refused till date, despite repeated provocations by the Government of Muhammadu Buhari; to use violence to ventilate their well founded social angers against the Federal Government over age-long unleashing of structural, group and personal violence against the race particularly exterminable threats to their ethnic identity and existence.
Condemnation of Chief Victor Umeh’s Arrest: We condemn in totality the arrest of Chief Victor Umeh (former chairman of APGA political party) by the operatives of the DSS, reportedly for “sponsorship of Indigenous People of Biafra or IPOB”. Criminalization of Nigeria’s international and regional treaty rights by the Buhari Administration and use of same to haunt and hound citizens into arbitrary detention is a height of State terrorism in Nigeria and out rightly condemnable.
It is shocking and alarming that the Government of Nigeria which willingly acceded to these treaties rights and fully accepted their obligations as a “State party and their protector and enforcer” can turn around and resort to punishing its citizens for exercising and enjoying the same rights. Linking Chief Victor Umeh to the so called “sponsorship of IPOB”, is a height of political criminality and persecution on the part of the Government of Muhammadu Buhari. We have always maintained that social conviction leading to any nonviolent agitation for social or societal equilibrium is beyond what money can buy. It is conscientious and priceless!
Because Nigerian political leaders are rapaciously corrupt and immoral, they always believe that money answers all things. From our extensive investigations of the IPOB and its activities, it is found beyond any refutation that the group and its activities are internationally oriented with presence in over 80 countries including the brightest and darkest parts of the world. The IPOB and its activities are also beyond the reach, influence and control and sponsorship of Nigerian politicians of Igbo extraction. What some, if not many of them and other Igbo political traders do is to go to Aso Rock, impersonate and gamble with what IPOB is doing with intent to defraud their hosts. But in reality, they do not have an iota of access to the group and its leaders, not to talk of “sponsoring their activities”. The allegation of sponsorship of IPOB in non-existent in Nigeria and use of same to inflict political violence on innocent politicians of Igbo extraction should no longer be condoned; likewise politicians who take resort to same as their political weapons against their opponents.
We condemn all forms of political persecution in Nigeria under the Buhari administration. While calling for immediate and unconditional release of Chief Victor Umeh, we also urge his camp to thread softly and avoid making questionable allegations or guess opinions directed at some persons. Our condemnation of the arrest of Chief Victor Umeh and call for his immediate and unconditional release is strictly on the basis of an allegation that “he is sponsoring IPOB in Nigeria”. This we found to be infantile, witch-hunting, ill-conceived and politically motivated.
But if the purpose of his arrest has to do with credible allegations of “commission of offenses related to corruption” or “street crimes” or traditional and non politically related crimes or offenses, then our advocacy sympathy for him will be very limited and restricted towards ensuring that he fully enjoys all his pre-detention and prosecutorial rights. We have held and still hold that all private, corporate and public citizens including politicians in Nigeria must stay away from “white collar (corruption)” and “street crimes”, and in the event any of them is arrested or summoned by the appropriate authorities, we shall throw our full weight behind their arrest or summoning provided it is done in accordance with the rule of law and respect for human rights.
For: International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law
Emeka Umeagbalasi, Board Chairman
Mobile Line: +2348174090052
Obianuju Joy Igboeli, Esq.
Head, Civil Liberties & Rule of Law Program
Mobile Line: +2348034186332
Chinwe Umeche, Esq., Head, Democracy & Good Governance Program