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2016 Pro-Biafra Killings: Intersociety rejects ‘pro-military’ commission of enquiry

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Babatunde Opalana 

The International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law (Intersociety Nigeria) on August 11, 2017 a right activists group on Friday rejected Federal Government’s panel of judicial enquiry saddled with the responsibility of looking into the alleged killings of some Pro-Biafra protesters in Anambra State between May 29 and 30, 2016.

 

The group asserts that the membership of the panel is pro-military.

Intersociety had in a memo written to the Presidency protesting the August 4, 2017 constitution of a Seven-man Judicial Commission of Enquiry by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo to look into an alleged “gross rights abuses by the Nigerian Army and the 9th August 2017 open confession of Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State over the 29th and 30th May 2016 massacre in Nkpor, Onitsha and Asaba of 140 unarmed and defenseless pro-Biafran Campaigners by the Anambra State Joint Security Taskforce.”, insisting that the constitution of the committee has a sinister motive.

The groupBoard Chairman Emeka Umeagbalasi on Friday, claimed that most of the killings were carried out by the Nigerian Army operationally led by then Major (now Lt Col) C.O. Ibrahim of the Nigerian Military Police. Lt Col Ibrahim is the present commander of the Military Police Unit of the Onitsha 302 Artillery Regiment/Military Cantonment.

Intersociety Nigeria recalled that Nigerian Army had on 8th March 2017 set up “a special board of enquiry” to investigate itself over grave allegations of rights abuses leveled against it by leading local and international rights and media groups including our organization (Int’l Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law) and the UK based Amnesty International. The Army kangaroo panel later on 15th June 2017 released its so called findings; exonerating itself and claimed falsely that “nobody was killed in the pro-Biafra violent protests”. The said kangaroo panel also admitted its kangaroo nature by “recommending to the Federal Government to set up another panel” to look into same grave rights abuse complaints.

“Members of the Army kangaroo panel or “special board of enquiry” were composed of Maj-Gen. AT Jibrin (rtd)-President, Barr Olawale Fapohunda-Member, Col PC Izukanne (rtd)-Member, Barr Tony Ojukwu-Member, Brig-Gen A Dadan-Garba (rtd)-Member, Brig-Gen. OL Olayinka-Member, Col LB Mohammed-Member, Col UM Wambai-Member and Lt Col CM Akaliro-Secretary.

“It is further recalled that our Organization (Intersociety) had on 6th July 2017 sent a 17-page comprehensive memo to Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, demanding for a Special Judicial Commission of Enquiry to revisit the litany of complaints and public outcries trailing the Nigerian Army’s gross rights abuses, among other gross abuses by other State and non-State coercive agencies and bodies including the Nigeria Police Force, the Nigerian Air Force (i.e. Rann IDP bombing of January 2017 and killing of 236 IDPs) and armed Islamist Fulani Herdsmen. These gross rights abuses by the security forces especially the Nigerian Army are divided into gross rights abuses in internal violent conflict/insurgency areas (war crimes) and peacetime gross rights abuses or killings, maiming, torture and enforced disappearances during nonviolent public assemblies in Nigeria (i.e. Shiite Muslim processions in the Northwest and pro Biafra public assemblies in Southeast and South-south Nigeria). We also demanded that the Judicial Panel should sit publicly and move around especially to the victims’ groups and members’ geographical locations.

It also said that its memo was successfully delivered to the Acting President who received same on 11th July 2017 in which Intersociety specifically requested that the Special Judicial Commission of Enquiry should be ratified by the Federal Executive Council with its members drawn from the Government, security agencies, human rights groups especially those of Southeast, Northeast, Kaduna and Abuja; representatives or nominees of international rights groups (i.e. Amnesty International) and victims’ groups (i.e. Shiites, IPOB, MASSOB, and Southern Kaduna, among others. “These are to ensure equity, fairness, independence, impartiality, all-inclusiveness and popular participation and acceptable outcome”.

 

But to its surprise the  Acting President Yemi Osinbajo 4th August 2017 announced a “Seven-Man Judicial Commission of Enquiry into alleged rights abuse by the Nigerian Army”; with three months mandated to submit its report alleging that members were selectively and lopsided.

“Our investigation of the composition, membership, and circumstances of the said Osinbajo Judicial Panel has not only revealed the sinister motives and contradictions behind same or contained in it but also exposed the insincerity of the Acting President and members of the Buhari Administration in holistically and acceptable redressing the gross rights abuses complained of. The pattern and trend of the Federal Government’s response to these gross rights abuses particularly since June 2015 have not only made the approaches look suspicious but also cabalistic. The other day, it was the administrative headship of the same Nigerian Army (Defense Headquarters) that issued another mushroom report clearing the Nigerian Air Force of any culpability in the Rann IDP bombing of January 2017 that killed 236 IDPs. The report was not only leprous but also mired in contradictions. Till date, no single officer of the Nigerian Air Force has been apprehended or punished for the massacre.

“In 2016, the same Nigerian Army hurriedly connived with integrity challenged National Human Rights Commission to issue a leprous report, tactically shielding the Chief of Army Staff over the Zaria Shiite Muslims’ massacre in which up to 1000 were massacred between 12th and 14th December 2015. The leader of the Shiite Muslim and his beloved wife who were shot and battered; have remained detained without trial since 14th December 2015 to date; a period of twenty (20) months. The so called Army/NHRC “report”; condemnable and despicable, had indicted the Shiites for “provoking the Nigerian Army to open fire on them”. The COAS, Lt Turkur Buratai who was physically present during the massacre; with a bogus claim of “assassination attempt” on his life; was totally absolved, the group claimed.

It therefore described the Osinbajo Judicial Panel as another kangaroo exercise designed not to holistically, conscientiously and popularly redress the container-load of gross rights abuses and other forms of regime atrocities in Nigeria especially since June 2015 adding that the Judicial Panel is on a mission with a predetermined outcome; which some say, includes misleading Nigerians and specifically getting members of the international community to de-blacklist key members of the present Federal Government particularly its military chiefs from international armament and diplomatic arenas.

 


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