It is the position of the Int’l Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law that the authorities of the Nigerian Army have admitted involvement in the killing and disappearance outside the law of thousands of defenseless citizens of mostly Igbo Judeo-Christian Faith origin and razing of their dwelling houses in Eastern Nigeria. Having carefully read and analyzed the two different reactions of the Nigerian Army issued within 24 hours on 19th/20th January 2022, they are conclusively nothing short of self indictment and admission of responsibility in the heinous conduct atrocities. Intersociety further wishes to state that the reaction of the Ebonyi State Government is not worthy to be responded to. The State Government, apart from lacking technical and structural expertise in the subject matter, cannot morally exonerate itself of mountainous security challenges facing the State including its inability to account for the whereabouts of five field Engineers and scores of security personnel that were abducted and disappeared in Effium, Ohaukwu Local Government Area on 3rd Nov 2021 and afterwards in connection with the construction of the all-important AfDB funded Ring Road Phase 2 Project.
However, the authorities of the Army deserve commendation for speaking out and wittingly or unwittingly admitting responsibility. As it has chronically become part of the Army in addition to its culture of impunity and incorrigibility, the Army’s two reactions were filled with irrelevancies, frivolities, false labeling, stigmatization, distraction and diversion of the core issues. Intersociety as an Organization reputable in forensic facts finding and corporately statistical has no time for such. As knowledgeably and statistically contained and explained in our Special Investigative Report, the Nigerian Army and other relevant security forces or operatives failed woefully in ensuring that their operations in Eastern Nigeria are grounded in due processes and procedures contained in written laws including the Laws of Nigeria and several regional and international Treaty Laws willingly acceded to by the Federal Republic of Nigeria and inescapably binding on Nigeria.
Other than the Nigerian Army’s wittingly or unwittingly admission of operational culpability, the NA also failed to provide answers to the following 24 Critical Questions: A. based on intra and inter agency intelligence available to the Nigerian Army, if any, how many groups of “Unknown Gunmen” exist in the Southeast and what is their numerical strength? B. are all the 4800 arrested/abducted in the past 14 months armed ESN members or “Unknown Gunmen? C. in the unbiased opinion of the Nigerian Army, how many Easterners had been ‘arrested’ in the past 14 months and where are they? D. how many of them have been freed, if any, and how many have been handed over to the Police, if any, and as legally required? E. by the extant Laws in Nigeria including the Armed Forces Act 2004, can Nigerian Army detain, investigate and prosecute arrested civilian citizens who are not subject to the Armed Forces Act of 2004? F. going by our Special Investigative Report, “who and what are the names of those killed or abducted and disappeared in Eastern Nigeria in the course of the Army and security forces’ operations in the past 14 months? G. how many of them were killed and abducted? H. what are the whereabouts of those abducted and bodies of those killed openly and in custody? I. when, where and why were they killed or abducted? J. who killed them and abducted others?
Others are: K. is it also part of the Nigerian Army’s “Rules of Engagement” under UN System to abduct civilian citizens alive and disappear or kill them in custody? L. are they also part of the Army’s use of force, proportionality of same and legitimate self defense under the same UN System? M. who killed 110 residents at Obigbo in Rivers State between 21st October and 18th November 2020? N. who abducted and bundled away over 700 civilian residents of the area including over 50 non-menopausal women? O. which law authorizes the Army to abduct civilian residents of Obigbo in the hours of the Blue Law and secretly held them for more than one year in far away Northern Nigeria without trial? P. who sexually molested about 70% of the over 50 abducted Obigbo women? Q. who killed over 40 of the Obigbo abductees in custody? R. who set ablaze or burnt down or razed or destroyed civilian dwelling houses, sanctuaries or sacred places of worship and their symbols and livelihoods in Eastern Nigeria in the past 14 months? S. how many dwelling houses, sacred places of worship and livelihoods in villages or communities in the Muslim North have soldiers of the Nigerian Army set ablaze or burnt down in reprisal for killing of soldiers including Generals?
The rest are: T. when has it become a military tradition and art of modern warfare for the Army to kill or permanently disappear citizens arrested or abducted alive and taken into custody alive? U. under International Rules of Engagement in inter state armed conflict involving Nigeria and another, can Nigerian Army or Armed Forces kill in custody its captured Prisoners Of War (POWs) or surrendered rival combatants or wounded others? V. when has it become a military tradition or art of modern warfare or policing of turbulent Civil Space for Army to engage in wanton destruction of civilian dwelling houses including sacred places of worship especially in Eastern Nigeria? W. is the present day Nigerian Army truly “Nigerian Army” with compositional reflection of the country’s multi ethnic and religious groupings? X. when was the last time the Nigerian Army impartially investigated allegations of professional or operational misconducts or gross misconducts against its personnel and superior officers in conformity with the Int’l Law Principles of Complementarity and No Impunity?
Finally, contrary to Nigerian Army’s welcomed reactions, Intersociety’s Special Investigative Report was thorough, statistically grounded and objective. For instance, the Report, apart from containing the civilian casualties of the security forces and Jihadist Herdsmen killings also included the estimated number of defenseless citizens killed by “Unknown Gunmen” as well as the number of security operatives and members of the “Unknown Gunmen” that also lost their lives. The Report further condemned in strongest terms the use or resort to offensive violence by both state and non state actor armed groups. In all, our major grouse against Nigerian security forces particularly the Army is ‘killing outside the law’ and abduction and disappearance of unarmed citizens as well as burning or destruction of civilian homes and their sacred places of worship and livelihoods using ethnic and religious profiling fueled by false labeling and absence of detective policing intelligence and investigation. As the Nigerian Army was effortlessly explaining itself, its personnel of the 144 Battalion at Ukwa West in Abia State were busy two days ago burning citizens’ houses and properties in Owaza Community, a boundary community between Abia and Rivers State over a report of killing of some military personnel in the area by suspected oil thieves.
The Nigerian Army’s generalization of its butchery and arsonist operations in the East in the past 14 months and description of their slain, injured, tortured, abducted, disappeared and property victims as “belonging to criminals and criminal entities or irredentist groups or callous criminals or cannibals masquerading as freedom fighters” is sad and unfortunate. It further speaks volume of the Army’s un-repentance and remorselessness in its rapacious use of false labeling and jungle justice soldiering through which thousands of innocent souls have been sent to their early graves in the country especially in Eastern Nigeria. We make bold to say that we at Intersociety are only sympathetic and strongly supportive of principles of International Law under UN System including due processes and procedures and we owe no one or group any apology for such bold step or position. For the avoidance of doubt, the link to Intersociety’s Special Investigative Report (Massacre In Eastern Nigeria: Security Forces, Jihadists Killed 1,400 Defenseless Citizens, Arrested/Abducted 4800, Disappeared 1000, Attacked 100 Igbo Communities, Raided 1000 Homes And Burnt Down Or Razed Or Destroyed N40B Properties), dated Wednesday, 19th January 2022 is here: https://intersociety-ng.org/massacre-in-eastern-nigeria-a-special-investigative-report/
Emeka Umeagbalasi, Chinwe Umeche Esquire and Chidimma Udegbunam Esquire
For: International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law