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Nigerian Military And Their Gross Lack Of Respect For Civilians: Are We Back To The Military days?

Most Nigerians could recall the music by the legendary Afro Jazz musician and maestro Fela Anikulapo Kuti about the ill treatments by the Army officers on Nigerian citizens. As a strong social-political activist, he was very wary of social and political injustice and he used his music to express just that.

The various incidents around the country is bringing back to memory of Fela’s messages against disturbing treatments of our citizens in the hands of the security forces. The heavy handedness and sometimes very abject human rights violations are very disturbing indeed.

One  could recall the incident which took place in Zaria between the religious group, Islamic Movement of Nigeria and the Nigerian Army. It was reported that the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen. Buratai was stopped from passing due the annual religious procession by the group.

Allegedly the bloody confrontation between the Shiites and the Nigerian Army took many lives, including those of the six sons of the leader, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky. Many other members sustained various degrees of injuries and some are still in hospital in Zaria. Their leader himself was seriously injured and was recently flown to France for medical treatment before being returned to the country. This didn’t happen until intervention of the former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, and the Sultan Of Sokoto Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, who warned of consequent security dangers if their leader dies in custody.

Another incident which occurred earlier before this, was the unprovoked attacks and indiscriminate shootings of lawful and no-violent protest by the Independent People of Biafra in their various states in Biafra region. In these attacks, the protesters were expressing their views with regards to their demand for the release of their radio director, Mr Nnamdi Kanu. They were not armed and did not throw stones or attack the security forces. But the security forces, shot into the crowds and several people were killed at the scene. Several others were taken to hospital were they were pronounced dead.

The Republican News has earlier last week written a detailed report on the numbers of deaths from indiscriminate attacks by Nigerian security forces on the Biafrans in several cities in many states in Biafra. Some the states include Port Harcourt in Rivers state, Aba in Abia state, Yenagoa in Bayelsa  and Asaba in Delta state and many others, including Lagos state in South West.

Documented statistics available at our disposal clearly indicate that massive application of State violence outside local and international norms to violently suppress the pro Biafran nonviolent protests in Nigeria between 30th August 2015 and 18th January 2016; a period of less than five months, have led to gruesome murder by security forces of at least 50 Nigerian citizens. These included four citizens killed in Awka and Onitsha on 30th August 2015; 13 killed in Onitsha on 2nd December 2015; 12 killed in Onitsha on 17th December 2015 (eight were killed on the spot and four others died in hospital following gunshot wounds); and eight killed in Aba on 18th January 2016. Scores of innocent citizens have also disappeared in the hands of Nigerian security forces particularly the Nigerian Army and the Nigeria Police Force. Citizens are routinely arrested by Police on allegation of being “MASSOB or IPOB members” and killed secretly and buried in undisclosed shallow graves; likewise those shot and killed by soldiers and police while embarking on peaceful protests. Once their bodies are taken away by their killer security operatives, they will never be accounted for or released to their families for befitting burials”.

Further, over 120 citizens were shot and critically injured with gunshots in Delta, Rivers, Anambra, Abia and Enugu States between 30th August 2015 and 18th January 2016. Of these, over 40 citizens were critically shot and injured in Anambra (30th August, 2nd and 17th December 2015); 30 in Abia State (18th January 2016 alone), 21 in Rivers State (30th August 2015); 10 in Delta State (30th August 2015) and 6 in Enugu State. These exclude scores of others critically shot and injured in related nonviolent protests in those States as well as Bayelsa State.

In another unprovoked attack by the Nigerian Army officers against the innocent citizens took place in Amaekpu Ohiafia in Abia state. It was reported that residents of this town were observing their annual cultural festival. This festival like many across the country, whether religious or traditional, sometimes involve processions. In this case it involved procession by indigenes and some masquerades. A very peaceful and traditional event.

The soldiers of the Nigerian Army clamied that the procession by the citizens and their traditional masquerades blocked the road. They started whipping everyone at sight. The unprovoked flogging  provoked the youths, who then engaged the officer in defense. This is a very peaceful community and conducting a very peaceful annual festival. The soldiers then got very physical beating up both old and young in the crowd.

 

Then the soldiers started shooting sporadically and innocent citizens, who were observing their annual festival, ran for their lives. It was reported that there were some casualties though that has not been confirmed yet.

In another case in Lagos state, the governor Gov. Ambode  and his convoy stopped two Nigerian Air Force officers from kidnaping their victim. They flogged the hell out of the innocent victim, and then stuffed him into their car booth. If not for the intervention of the governor, who was passing with his convoy and spotted the incident and moved in to free the hapless young man from the hands of these Air Force officers, he would have been taken away. They would have tortured him further in their barracks or house, away from the sight of the public.

These incidents are worrying indeed and they are not unprovoked. Even the case where they are provoked the ugly way various officers have responded to them raise fears of the military era in the country. It brings back to memory of the murky military days, where citizens were at the mercy of the officers. I hope that the president and those in government would look into these cases and put an abrupt stop to them.

 

By Ike A. Offor (IkeA.Offor @yahoo.com)

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