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Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA have on Sunday, urged some of the relevant human rights and judicial committees in both chambers of the National Assembly to make sure that they instigate a judicial panel of inquiry which would be used to probe the outrageous onslaught and alleged killings of some of the civilians in the South-East geopolitical zone.
HURIWA had also noted it is also worried by the spate of well-coordinated kidnappings by suspected armed herdsmen on Imo River Bridge near Umuna Okigwe, Enugu/Lokpanta/Okigwe Roads, and the many instances of kidnappings in Owerri and some of the other urban centres of the Igbo-speaking South East.
HURIWA’s National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, in a statement, said from military exercises to other independent onslaughts, military men have allegedly committed extrajudicial killings in the South-East geopolitical zone, going by accounts of witnesses.
“One of such horrific executions is that of about 14 youths at Awo Omamma in the Oru East Local Government Area of Imo State on July 17, 2022. Whilst members of the community and eyewitnesses said operatives of the state-owned Ebubeagu security outfit shot dead the victims identified as wedding guests, the Imo State Government alleged that the victims were ‘bandits’ engaged in a gun duel with security agents.
“The Department of State Services however erroneously labelled the victims as members of the Eastern Security Network of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra. Already, according to reports, more than 300 persons killed in 2021 in the zone alone.
“Like the DSS, the Nigerian Army, the police, and other state actors have been accused by eyewitnesses and family members of the victims of executing their people,” HURIWA said.
HURIWA said it wouldn’t want to join issues with the military and the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety) but takes exception to a statement by Director Army Public Relations, Brigadier General Onyema Nwachukwu that Intersociety’s claims were concocted alongside so-called collaborators.
HURIWA’s Onwubiko said, “The military must face reality and painfully face the truth about extrajudicial killings by its officers deployed in the South-East, especially in the last two years.
“Amnesty International captured the extrajudicial killings in the South-East when it said at least 115 innocent persons were tagged ‘militants’ and killed by security forces between March and June 2021 in the five states in the zone.
“Also, Intersociety alleged in January that state actors including police, soldiers, DSS operatives, amongst others, killed about 1,400 residents and torched about 1,000 homes in 100 South-East communities within 14 months. There are other scores of unreported cases.
“These are allegations made with empirical evidence just as what is required is for a proper investigation to be carried out to ascertain the veracity or otherwise, and if established as being factually accurate, then the perpetrators in uniform be identified and made to face the wrath of the law, so impunity is not institutionalised.
“HURIWA tasks relevant institutional platforms such as the National Assembly’s committees on public petitions, Judiciary and Human Rights to institute an independent judicial commission of inquiry so that the panelists can cross-examine witnesses, including families of victims and eyewitnesses, to get to the roots of the groundbreaking allegations of extraneous killings by the military, police and the DSS in the South East over the past seven years as reported by Intersociety, Amnesty International and others.
“Also, the law enforcement agencies and the respective state ministries of justice should activate mechanisms to prosecute in line with extant law any suspected arsonists accused of involvement in the killings of security agents and the destruction of strategic national security assets in the South East of Nigeria.
“The military has truly not provided satisfactory information to counter these allegations, and such crimes against humanity must never be covered under the carpets. Those who kill illegally must answer for their crimes, and it is not a fluke to say that there are too many killings of civilians in the South East of Nigeria.
“Instead of killing innocent youths allegedly tagged ESN operatives, the military should rather take defenceless suspects into custody for interrogation and onward prosecution and fair trial in a court of competent jurisdiction if found guilty. Any other approach is an illegality of the highest order.
“Again, why destroy the Eastern Security Network that is going after armed Fulani terrorists but these federally funded armed forces destroying the self-styled Eastern Security Network are even accused of collaborating and conspiring with Suspected Armed Fulani herdsmen to continue to carry out organised kidnappings, maiming, and decimation of travellers passing through major highways in the South East of Nigeria.
“We need answers to these issues that are creating doubts about the sincerity of the Federal Government to address these security concerns.”
The rights group also reiterated its advocacy on the urgent need for governors, political stakeholders, and traditional institutions to collectively brainstorm and work out implementable measures to check the growing threats to the security of South East of Nigeria by suspected armed Fulani terrorists.