They called on the Chief of army staff to immediately stop the mass arrests.
The Professor George Obiozor led Ohanaeze in a statement signed by its spokesman, Alex Ogbonnia said: “The attention of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide has been drawn to ongoing massive arrests of Igbo youths by the Nigerian Army.
The report indicates that “the military personnel, suspected to be led by the 34 Artillery Brigade, Owerri since Sunday have been arresting male residents and youths, particularly in Oguta and Ohaji communities and clamping them into vans and taken to unknown destinations”.
“The report adds that the army are “busy, carrying out raids, discreet searches and arrests of youths and residents who are suspected to be linked to the Indigenous People of Biafra and its security arm, the Eastern Security Network”.
“For the avoidance of doubt, Ohanaeze Ndigbo led by Ambassador Prof. George Obiozor is unequivocal about the use of firearms by unauthorized persons, bodies or groups. Democracy, all over the world vests the absolute authority for the legitimate use of force in government. We had admonished that the exclusive indulgence of AK 47 to the Fulani herdsmen as canvassed by Governor Bala Mohammed is antithetical to the ethos of a decent society.
“For the armed forces to arrest the Igbo youths without evidence of arms, means of violence or crime is cowardly, uncivilized and mostly unacceptable to Ohanaeze Ndigbo. It runs contrary to every sense of natural justice and rights of citizenship for the army to invade some Igbo communities in search of youths; most of whom are brilliant university graduates whose society has denied employment and sense of belonging. This is adding salt to festering injury.
“Ohanaeze Ndigbo does not just wax lyrical about Igbo youths of all categories or dispositions.
“We condemn crime irrespective of the source. On the other hand, we stand on a firm wicket that it is ruthless to arrest any Igbo in the guise of membership of a terrorist organization unless there is sufficient evidence of crime or unlawful possession of firearms.
“We call on the Chief of Army Staff, Major General Ibrahim Attahiru to urgently stop the wave of arrests before it gives impetus to the proposal by the United Kingdom Visas and Immigration (UKVI) to offer asylum to person who actively and openly supports IPOB and likely to be at risk of arrest or detention, and ill-treatment which is likely to amount to persecution”.
■Acknowledges formation of Judicial Panels afterwards
The United States government has exonerated the Nigerian Army of any killings during the #ENDSARS protests in Lekki Tollgate, Lagos State on October 20, last year.
According to the just released US Department of State’s 2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Nigeria, it noted that the US government did not believe that Nigerian soldiers killed protesters at the Lekki Tollgate incident.
Following the Lekki incident, some Nigerians on Social media had falsely claimed that the Nigerian Army had opened fire on unarmed protesters who had gathered at the Lekki toll gate, killings several protesters.
The Nigerian army rejected these claims, stating that soldiers only fired blank bullets, and not live bullets into the crowd of protesters.
However, despite evidence from the Nigerian Army that it had fired only blank bullets, many critics kept up the narrative with sensational hashtags like #LekkiMassacre #LekkiGenocide.
The US report also rubbishes the claims by several international media and organizations like Amnesty International and Cable News Network (CNN) that many had died during the Lekki tollgate incident.
The US government also acknowledged the formation of the Judicial Panels to investigate cases and complaints of SARS and police brutality. Following the #EndSars protests, the National Economic Council chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had recommended the establishment of state-based judicial panels of inquiry to also ensure justice for victims and families affected. Eventually more than 30 States including the FCT set up such panels and some redress already being put in places.
In the section titled, “Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings”, the report gave a background to the Lekki incident, but stated categorically that “no other organization was able to verify the claim” that some persons had died during the incident.
The report read, “On October 20, members of the security forces enforced curfew by firing shots into the air to disperse protesters, who had gathered at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos to protest abusive practices by the Nigerian Police Force’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). Accurate information on fatalities resulting from the shooting was not available at year’s end.
“Amnesty International reported 10 persons died during the event, but the government disputed Amnesty’s report, and no other organization was able to verify the claim. The government reported two deaths connected to the event. One body from the toll gate showed signs of blunt force trauma. A second body from another location in Lagos State had bullet wounds. The government acknowledged that soldiers armed with live ammunition were present at the Lekki Toll Gate. At year’s end the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution continued to hear testimony and investigate the shooting at Lekki Tollgate.”
The US report added that, “demonstrations were largely peaceful, but some protests turned violent after criminal elements infiltrated the protests and security forces fired at protesters at the Lekki Tollgate on October 20.” (Vanguard News Nigeria)
Eastern Nigeria’s Rights and Intelligentsia Coalition says the Nigerian Army’s statement signed by an anonymous officer denying the execution of 6 igbo Christian soldiers a clear case of ‘purposive admission of criminal responsibility’
Twenty five human rights group under the aegis of the Coalition yesterday, 2nd February, alleged that the just retired Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai orderd the secret execution of six Igbo Christian soldiers attached to the Armory Department of the Nigerian Army, Abacha Barracks in Abuja.
The Army in the statement debunked a report that six Igbo Christian soldiers were secretly executed on 25 January 2021, on the instruction of the immediate-past Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai.
The Nigerian Army says it is not part of its tradition, nor a culture of the Nigerian military to secretly try erring personnel and officers.
But, the Coalition in a statement signed by 28 rights group , said the statement is not a credible reply and should not be taken seruius.
“As a matter of fact, the Nigerian Army has ended up indirectly admitting criminal responsibility in the matter”, the statement read.
It added that the army did not provide answers to key questions in its statement
The statement read in part
“The Coalition makes bold to say that uploading montage pictures of the slain soldiers with “Fake News” written over same or hiring a consultancy firm to write a statement signed by “an anonymous senior Army officer” is in no way a credible and concrete reply and ordinarily should not be taken serious; but owing to psychological terrorization and chronic censorship which media practitioners in the country have undergone and are still undergoing, any crab from the Army or Government is now capable of making big headlines. That is to say that the Nigerian Army has not issued any concrete and provable denial statement as far as the Coalition is concerned. As a matter of fact, the Nigerian Army has ended up indirectly admitting criminal responsibility in the matter. The Coalition also did not issue that aspect of the statement for Nigerian Army to accept or deny because falsehood, lying, cover-ups and evidence destruction have been its routine and modus since 2015.
“Even after massacring hundreds of defenseless Easterners in 2015 and 2016, the same Nigerian Army set up a kangaroo panel in 2017 and in the end claimed that “no single citizen was killed in the East”. Same Nigerian Army has kept mute over its abduction of over 400 Obigbo residents in Rivers State. This is despite concretely evidential court processes and decisions including the release of 145 of the abductees, secretly and inhumanly thrown into solitary captivity for more than three months or since 21st Oct and early Nov 2020. Till today, the Nigerian Army has refused to speak or release the remaining abductees unconditionally or remorsefully apologize to the victims and Nigerians and hold the perpetrators tightly accountable. On the other hand, the Army is hereby mockingly ‘commended’ for not declaring the names of the slain soldiers as “fake names”, “not belonging to Nigerian Army”; or declaring their pictures as having “originated from Congo DRC or Central African Republic or Burundi”.
“Defining Secret Trial Or Court Martial
Contrary to Nigerian Army’s gross ignorant with regard to ‘secret trial or court martial’, this is when like in military setting, service personnel are accused with malicious or premeditated and hateful intents and arraigned in a trial with a predetermined outcome; during which all ingredients of fair hearing and trial are set aside or stifled-and these include: denying the accused access to defense lawyers of their choice, denying them access to their family members and physicians, conducting their trials outside official publicity and public knowledge, blocking or denying them right of appeal to Civil Courts (Court of Appeal and Supreme Court) and carrying out secret execution of the court-martial convicts outside the law including without recourse to Nigeria’s existing National Moratorium on Death Penalty.
“13 Key Questions Nigerian Army Failed To Answer
The Nigerian Army has not provided concrete answers to the following: (1) whether the six slain Igbo Christian soldiers and their names, religion and ethnicity exist in the Army or on its records, (2) whether the four pictures as produced belong to the ascribed serving personnel of the Nigerian Army, (3) whether they were made to undergo any form of trial within the Army, (4) whether they were tried in any manner with the stated allegations, (5) whether their trial, if true, was conducted in the presence of their family, legal and medical representatives including allowing them access to lawyers of their choice, (6) whether the six Igbo soldiers were defended by lawyers of their choice, (7) whether they were allowed to exercise their right of appeal to Court of Appeal and Supreme Court and (8) whether the Nigerian Army issued any public statement concerning their trial or notified their beloved ones and the public.
“The rest are: (9) if they were executed, whether it was done secretly or in the open and if in the open, whether their lawyers, physicians, faith priests and family members were present-these, if true, should have been attached with audio-visual evidence showing same, (10) where the Nigerian Army and its immediate past COAS, Retired Lt Gen Tukur Buratai derived powers to order the execution, whether in secret or in the open, of soldiers including the six slain Igbo Christian soldiers (unjustly and wickedly convicted), convicted by Army Court Martial, (11) if they are still alive and detained as ‘death row inmates’, where they are being held, condition of their health and circumstances leading to their present fate, (12) why the Nigerian Army failed to produce them publicly, if they are still alive, hale and hearty and (13) why Nigerian Army, in furtherance of the above, did not update Nigerians as per whether it has also secretly executed or still keeping alive another Igbo soldier convicted and sentenced to death by firing squad in Maiduguri, Borno State in Jan 2021, by name: Trooper Azunna Mmadubuchi.”
The statement was signed by
Emeka Umeagbalasi (M.Sc.), Board Chair, Int’l Society for Civil Liberties & Rule of Law
· Prof Anthony Ejiofor-Chairman, World Igbo Congress (USA)
· Prof Uzodimma Nwala-President, Ala-Igbo Dev Foundation (ADF)
· Prof Justice Chidi-President, Concerned Elites for Better Society Initiative
· Prof Justin Akujieze-Board Chairman, Ekwenche Research Institute (USA)
· Dr. Moses Nwaigwe-President, Biafra Genocide Survivors Group (USA)
· Austin Okeke, Esq.-Global Leader, Igbo Board of Deputies (UK)
· Kanayo K. Odeluga, MD., MPH-Executive Director, Igbo League, Inc.(USA)
· Mercy Alu, MBA, PhD-Executive Coordinator (Research), the Int’l Association of African Authors & Scholars (USA)
· Dr. Onyenkachi Orjiako, Esq.-Rep, Int’l Society for War Against Lawlessness (USA)
· Mazi Obi Okoli-Coordinator, Congress of Igbo Leaders UK & Ireland
· Dr. Law Mefor-Rep, Igbo Bu Igbo (IBI)
· Dr. Okezie Kelechi-ED, Neighborhood Environment Watch Foundation
· Dr. Jerry Chidozie Chukwuokoro-Rep, Int’l Solidarity for Peace & Human Rights Initiative
· Comrades Chilos Godsent & Zulu Ofoelue-Reps, Igbo National Council
· Ezekwike Chekwube Violet, Esq.-Founder, New Home Mentoring & Dev Initiative
Not a few residents of Ketu-speaking villages in Yewa North Local Government Area, Ogun State were brutalised by soldiers who escorted herdsmen to graze in the communities, prompting residents and monarchs to cry out to the military and state government for help, KUNLE AKINRINADE reports. Seye Mulero panted like a rat that had just escaped the claws of a ravenous cat. He could hardly acknowledge the sympathy offered by the kinsmen that surrounded him, urging him to take heart and seek medical treatment in hospital as he pulled up his shirt to show his badly hurt body at Ubeku village in Yewa North Local Government Area, Ogun State.
“Sorry,” said some of the women repeatedly in Yoruba as Mulero pulled up his shirt to show the wounds from the flogging on his muscular body, urging him to go to the hospital for treatment.
Mulero, one of the young men in the rustic village, had drawn the ire of some soldiers by speaking truth to them. The soldiers, numbering 10, had escorted some herdsmen on a mission to intimidate the villagers after they resisted an attempt by the herders to graze their cattle in the community after alleged repeated attacks and killing of farmers who dared protest the destruction of their farms.
The herdsmen, who had departed the village after their continued presence was rejected by the villagers, had suddenly resurfaced at about 2 pm on December 19, 2020 with a handful of soldiers from the 35 Artillery Brigade, Alamala, Abeokuta.
The soldiers headed straight to the palace of the traditional ruler of the community, Chief Olaleye Adigun, calling out the villagers and warning them against preventing the evicted herdsmen from returning to the village. It was in the middle of this strange encounter that Mulero told the soldiers that the herders would not be allowed to remain in the community because of their brutal killing of residents and the destruction of their farmlands in recent times.
Mulero said: “Everyone was frightened by the action and utterances of the soldiers but I summoned courage to tell them how a Geography teacher Mr. Yomi Akinola and two students of Community High School, Ibeku, among others, were killed by the herdsmen while our women were raped and killed on their ways to the farm.”
Mulero’s blunt comments enraged the herdsmen who immediately asked the soldiers to deal with him. The military men allegedly responded by promptly seizing, kicking and flogging the young man mercilessly, leaving him serious injuries.
Recalling the ugly experience, Mulero said: “Before I knew it, the herdsmen had motioned to the soldiers who immediately pulled me out of the audience and flogged me mercilessly with a wire whip. It was as if I stole something valuable.
“As I speak, my body still aches because of the wounds, even after I had been treated in a hospital.
“Numerous other villagers were subjected to the brutal act as the soldiers escorted the herdsmen from one village to another all in a bid to intimidate us into allowing them to graze on our farms.”
Like Ubeku, like Asa, others But Mulero and Ubeku village were not the only person and area that tasted the bile of the soldiers who escorted the herdsmen in a military patrol van from one village to another. Innocent indigenes of Iselu, Ibeku, Agbon-Ojodu, Asa and other villages were also harassed and assaulted by the soldiers at the instance of the herdsmen.
After leaving Ubeku, the herders and the complicit soldiers moved to neighbouring Asa, where they reenacted the Ubeku scenario, causing the hapless villagers to panic.
At Asa, the herders sighted Mulero’s brother, Gabriel Mulero, accusing him of being among the crowd that jeered them after his brother was beaten up. There and then, the soldiers seized the young man, giving him some deafening slaps and kicking him mercilessly before whisking him away to a neighbouring village, Agbon-Ojodu, where they dropped him off after elders of the community pleaded for his release.
At Agbon-Ojodu the hapless villagers would not utter a word, having heard how the soldiers harassed and assaulted the Muleros. But despite their foreboding silence, some of the residents received severe beatings from the soldiers for keeping mum.
Gabriel (Mulero) said: “I was returning from a party at Asa with one of our friends named Mathew Adaramaja when my elder brother told me on the phone that some soldiers had led herdsmen to our village and brutalised him.
“To avoid trouble, we stayed away from the scene and sat near some commercial motorcycle operators. Suddenly, one of the herdsmen named Ali led the soldiers to the spot where we were seated and accused us of being one of the people that were opposed to them.
“The soldiers descended on us with fan belts and flogged us severely. They tied our legs and pushed us into their patrol, van threatening to shoot us if we tried to jump down and run away. They said they were taking us to their barracks at Alamala. They accused us of preventing the herdsmen from grazing on our farms and vowed to teach us a lesson.
“However, when they got to Agbon-Ojodu village, elders of the community pleaded with them to free us. We were badly brutalised and we had to visit Ibeku Health Centre for treatment.”
Read Also; Arrest me if you can, Sunday Igboho dares Makinde Sorrow, tears, blood from attacks by soldiers About 29 villages in the area had been attacked in recent times by terror herdsmen who were said to have camped at Eggua, a neighbouring town, from where they moved with their hordes of cattle, ravaging farmlands within the Ketu-Yewa communities, which share borders with the Republic of Benin.
The villages include Ateru, Moro, Ologun, Agbon, Igbota, Ogunba-Aiyetoro, Oke-Odo, Ibore, Gbokoto, Iselu, Ijale, Ohunbe, Igbeme, Owode-Ketu, Igan-Alade, Lashilo, Oja Odan, Ateru, Moro, Ologun, Iyana Meta, Igbooro, Egbeda and Kuse.
The armed herdsmen, who usually lead their flock in search of pasture because of the rich vegetation in the Ketu-speaking villages, have also been fingered in the destruction of cash crops belonging to natives, attacks, killing and raping of women who are mostly natives of the communities.
On January 10, 2020, herdsmen reportedly hacked 70-year-old, Pa Sola Ilo to death, and chopped off his son, Abidemi’s hand in broad daylight at Agbon village. Worried by the incident, villagers from the 29 communities staged a rally in protest and declared the herders persona non grata.
One person was reportedly killed on Tuesday May 5, 2020 when suspected herdsmen abducted a policewoman and injured two others in separate attacks in Ayetoro area of Yewa North Local Government.
The herdsmen who had laid siege to the road were said to have shot dead the driver of a commercial bus commuting from Abeokuta to Ayetoro, while the unidentified female police officer attached to the Police Area Command in Ayetoro was abducted and the car she drove was abandoned at the roadside.
The herders also allegedly stabbed one Segun Ileyemi at Olorunda village several times while trying to rob him of his belongings, and he had to be rushed to Ayetoro General Hospital for treatment.
The lawmaker representing Yewa North and Imeko-Afon Federal Constituency, Hon. Olaifa Jimoh, had condemned the spate of attacks, urging security agencies to save the villagers’ lives.
Jimoh said: “It is no longer news that the dastardly act of the Fulani herdsmen in my constituency is legendary as records are available at various offices of security agencies. But for how long will this continue?
“The herdsmen mostly lay siege to the roads as they wait for my constituents, to either rob them of their belongings or kidnap them outright.”
With the assistance of the local vigilance group and operatives of the state police command, suspected herdsmen involved in the killing of one Olabisi Afolabi and attacks on some women at Moro and Eegelu villages in December were apprehended.
One AK47 rifle, pieces of 0.8mm live ammunition, 26 live catridges and two machetes were recovered from the suspects-Mohammed Bello (40), Muhammed Momoh (30) and Yisau Umoru (18).
Although, the suspects were paraded at the state police command in Eleweran, Abeokuta by the then Commissioner of Police, Ahmed Illyasu, their prosecution never saw the light of day.
Residents, monarchs protest, write military authorities Palpable fear has since taken over the area with residents deserting many of the communities for fear of falling victim to the marauding herders, who are being backed by military escorts.
Panicky villagers told The Nation of their plans to leave their communities for fear of reprisals by herdsmen who have been emboldened by the support from soldiers to forcibly storm their villages and further destroy their crops and attack them.
Oluwafemi Adeyemo, an indigene of Asa, said the incident was an insult to the villagers who ordinarily deserve adequate protection from the military.
Adeyemo said: The intention of the herdsmen is to exterminate us and take over our villages, but we resisted them because they have killed many people around here and ravaged our farms for too long.
“It is thus an insult for soldiers to lead them to our villages in an attempt to coerce us into allowing them to live in our midst and further perpetrate their evil.”
Rafiu Alade, a native of Ibeku said the action of the soldiers was a violation of the rights of the indigenes.
He urged the state government and military authorities to call the soldiers to order to prevent the indigenes from resorting to self-help in order to protect themselves from herdsmen.
“How can soldiers back herdsmen to invade our community? Yet, the soldiers flogged and beat up those singled out by herdsmen as opposing their stay in the communities. That amounts to a violation of people’s fundamental human rights and a nod for perennial lawlessness displayed by the herdsmen in our villages.
“It is high time the state government and military authorities called these soldiers and herdsmen to order. Otherwise, the villagers could resort to self-help to protect themselves against the hoodlums.”
Worried by the development, monarchs of the affected communities petitioned the Nigeria Army over alleged connivance of its men with herdsmen to assault and harass villagers.
The monarchs are the Oniggua of Iggualand, Oba Micheal Adeleye Dosumu; the Eselu of Iseluland, Oba Akintunde Ebenezer Akinyemi; and the Alademeso of Igan Alade, Oba Gabriel Olukunle Olalowo.
The petition titled ‘matter of urgency’ dated January 7, 2021 signed by their lawyer, Mr. Olaoluwa Folalu, was addressed to the Brigade Commander of 35 Artillery Brigade, Alamala, Abeokuta.
The petition reads in part: “Specifically around 2.00 p.m. of the same day, the Fulani herders and suspected soldiers entered Ibeku in a Nigerian Army pick-up vehicle and a private car wherein they proceeded to the house of the Baale (the traditional Head of the Ibeku community).
“The Baale was asked to gather his subjects and people from nearby villages, which he did. The suspected soldiers told the people that the purpose of their visit was to inform them that the Fulani herders would be coming into their communities to graze cows.
“Thus, the soldiers would ensure that there was no breakdown of law and order. After their address, they asked if anyone had question or comment to make in reaction to the information.
“Expectedly, One Mr. Seye Mulero responded by calling the attention of the soldiers to the inherent challenges of allowing the herders in their communities based on the sad previous experiences in the community.
“The said Seye Mulero further cited past killings, maiming and destruction of farms to buttress his point. Sadly, at this point, the soldiers seized him and mercilessly beat him up.
“In the same manner, the Fulani herders in company of the suspected soldiers left Ibeku for Asa, the adjoining village to address the Baale of Asa and his subjects as they had earlier done at Ibeku. Shockingly to the soldiers, after their address, the people refused to respond, having heard what transpired at Ibeku. “However, one of the Fulani herders sighted some people in the audience and picked on them as those that purportedly shouted on them at Ibeku while brutalising their victim (Seye Mulero). The herders asked the soldiers to also deal with them.
“On hearing this, the people took to their heels. However, one Gabriel Mulero, was not so lucky enough as the soldiers grabbed him and ruthlessly assaulted him.
“He was whisked away in their pick-up vehicle to Agbon-Ojodu, another adjoining village, where they compelled the Baale to assemble his subjects for a forceful briefing. It was at Agbon Ojodu that the said Gabriel Mulero was dropped off from the Army pick-up following pleadings by some community leaders.
“Kindly be informed sir that the alleged issue of procuring soldiers by herders to escort them to forcefully graze on the people’s farm, the attendant molestation of the innocent people by the alleged soldiers and the destruction of farms are known to the Police.
“On 3rd January 2021, the State Commissioner of Police (CP), Ogun Command brokered a meeting over the matter at the Police Divisional Headquarters, Eggua.
“During the meeting, some of the herders confirmed that they brought the soldiers that escorted them while grazing their herds on the people’s lands; a development that the CP himself strongly condemned.”
It will be recalled that the immediate past administration of Governor Ibikunle Amosun had initiated a committee in a bid to resolve incessant herders-farmers clashes.
“The committee had comprised community and traditional leaders as well as the leadership of herdsmen in the state, but the modalities recommended by the committee, which included the registration and monitoring of herdsmen by community and traditional authorities, were never implemented throughout the tenure of Governor Amosun.
When The Nation contacted the Public Relations Officer of 35 Artillery Brigade, Major Osoba, he said that he would contact his ‘boss’ to revert to our correspondent on the matter.
“I will tell my boss about your enquiry and he would contact you and give you explanation,” he said.
He, however, had not done so at press time.
Also, the spokesman of Ogun State Police Command, Mr. Abimbola Oyeyemi, said he was in a meeting when our correspondent called him on his mobile phone. He too had not reverted as promised at press time.
Speaking with our correspondent Oba Akinyemi urged the state government to intervene and resolve the matter once and for all.
He said the soldiers had usurped the role of the police in the matter.
“Soldiers have no business escorting herders to graze on our farms; what they did is tantamount to usurping the police, who are statutorily mandated to maintain law and order.
“The state government should wade into this matter and ensure that justice is served as indigenes will not give up their farms and cash crops to be destroyed by herders.”
Oba Akinyemi noted that the herders were trying use the confrontation they had in Benin Republic to launch mindless attacks on his people, using soldiers.
He said: “The armed herdsmen were recently repelled in Oguba-Ayetoro, a Yoruba-speaking community in Benin Republic which shares boundary with my kingdom. They went into the village to graze, not knowing they were already in another country and the gendarmes (police) repelled them.
“Grazing is outlawed in the francophone country and authorities of Benin Republic had communicated this policy to their Nigerian counterparts, hence, the police there confronted the herders.
“Now, they are passing off the village for a Nigerian territory and using it to foment trouble everywhere.
“The state government should also empower and involve the local council areas in initiatives aimed at bringing peace and maintaining law and order in our communities to avoid clashes, as indigenes are tired of being terrorised by herders.” (The Nation)
■ The military personnel also urinated on the widow and the family after beating them for several hours.
A Nigerian Navy officer, Victor Owonam, allegedly led nine military personnel to the residence of a widow, Mrs. Esther Bassey, and her family in Cross River State, brutalising and dehumanising them.
The military personnel also urinated on the widow and the family after beating them for several hours.
SaharaReporters learnt that the incident occurred on Sunday, in the afternoon when Owonam, a Seaman, and his sister, also a navy officer, stormed the widow’s residence and dragged her and her four children out of the apartment.
In a petition, the Country Director of a civil society, Citizens’ Solution Network, Richard Inoyo, stated that the Cross River State Governor, Prof Ben Ayade, and the Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas, should investigate the assault and bring the erring officers to justice.
But there was nothing stated in the petition as the reason why the navy personnel carried out the alleged assault on the family.
Narrating the incident further, Inoyo said, “On December 27, a naval officer, Victor Owonam, led his sister, also a naval woman, and eight military personnel to the residence of Mrs. Esther Bassey, an aged widow with three daughters and a son. They gave this helpless family the harshest and most violent humiliation of their lives, after cowardly beating and torturing the aged widow and her kids for hours.
“At 10pm the same day, unsatisfied with the first robust beatings given to the woman and her family, Owonam returned with his military colleagues to the apartment, pulled down the burglary of her house, dragged her and her kids out. Before they could get dressed, the military men clamped them into a vehicle belonging to Operation Akpakwu (a new Security outfit in Cross River State) and took them to Bogobiri and began to beat this family again.
“They humiliated them, urinated on them after severe beatings, continued till about 3am the next day in the dead of night before they were asked to leave in excruciating pains and humiliation. One wonders if we are in the 21st century or some barbaric 4th century where humans were treated like animals.
“Today, in solidarity with Mrs. Bassey, her kids, we and 39 other civil organisations are demanding justice for the family and calling on the Chief of Naval Staff to recall, arrest and try Owonam, his sister and the eight other military personnel who cowardly inflicted such high-level form of torture on the aged widow and her three daughters and son.”
The group also called on the governor to “stand up and ensure this case doesn’t get swept under the rug.”
“We equally call on the highest echelon of the Nigerian Navy to ensure due compensation and apology is handed to the family of Mrs. Esther Bassey besides the dismissal of all the indicted officers.
“A country where men in naval uniforms will abuse their privileges and mercilessly beat a defenceless widow sends a dangerous and disgraceful message to both the Nigerian Navy and international community, hence the need to offer justice to these victims of naval brutality, so as to serve as a deterrent to other erring uniform men,” Inoyo added. (SaharaReporters)
Statement of the Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, on the conclusion of the preliminary examination of the situation in Nigeria
Today, I announce the conclusion of the preliminary examination of the situation in Nigeria.
As I stated last year at the annual Assembly of States Parties, before I end my term as Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (“ICC” or the “Court”, I intend to reach determinations on all files that have been under preliminary examination under my tenure, as far as I am able. In that statement, I also indicated the high likelihood that several preliminary examinations would progress to the investigative stage. Following a thorough process, I can announce today that the statutory criteria for opening an investigation into the situation in Nigeria have been met.
Specifically, my Office has concluded that there is a reasonable basis to believe that members of Boko Haram and its splinter groups have committed the following acts constituting crimes against humanity and war crimes: murder; rape, sexual slavery, including forced pregnancy and forced marriage; enslavement; torture; cruel treatment; outrages upon personal dignity; taking of hostages; intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population or against individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities; intentionally directing attacks against personnel, installations, material, units or vehicles involved in a humanitarian assistance; intentionally directing attacks against buildings dedicated to education and to places of worship and similar institutions; conscripting and enlisting children under the age of fifteen years into armed groups and using them to participate actively in hostilities; persecution on gender and religious grounds; and other inhumane acts.
While my Office recognises that the vast majority of criminality within the situation is attributable to non-state actors, we have also found a reasonable basis to believe that members of the Nigerian Security Forces (“NSF”) have committed the following acts constituting crimes against humanity and war crimes: murder, rape, torture, and cruel treatment; enforced disappearance; forcible transfer of population; outrages upon personal dignity; intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population as such and against individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities; unlawful imprisonment; conscripting and enlisting children under the age of fifteen years into armed forces and using them to participate actively in hostilities; persecution on gender and political grounds; and other inhumane acts.
These allegations are also sufficiently grave to warrant investigation by my Office, both in quantitative and qualitative terms. My Office will provide further details in our forthcoming annual Report on Preliminary Examination Activities.
The preliminary examination has been lengthy not because of the findings on crimes – indeed, as early as 2013, the Office announced its findings on crimes in Nigeria, which have been updated regularly since. The duration of the preliminary examination, open since 2010, was due to the priority given by my Office in supporting the Nigerian authorities in investigating and prosecuting these crimes domestically.
It has always been my conviction that the goals of the Rome Statute are best served by States executing their own primary responsibility to ensure accountability at the national level. I have repeatedly stressed my aspiration for the ability of the Nigerian judicial system to address these alleged crimes. We have engaged in multiple missions to Nigeria to support national efforts, shared our own assessments, and invited the authorities to act. We have seen some efforts made by the prosecuting authorities in Nigeria to hold members of Boko Haram to account in recent years, primarily against low-level captured fighters for membership in a terrorist organisation. The military authorities have also informed me that they have examined, and dismissed, allegations against their own troops.
I have given ample time for these proceedings to progress, bearing in mind the overarching requirements of partnership and vigilance that must guide our approach to complementarity. However, our assessment is that none of these proceedings relate, even indirectly, to the forms of conduct or categories of persons that would likely form the focus of my investigations. And while this does not foreclose the possibility for the authorities to conduct relevant and genuine proceedings, it does mean that, as things stand, the requirements under the Statute are met for my Office to proceed.
Moving forward, the next step will be to request authorisation from the Judges of the Pre-Trial Chamber of the Court to open investigations. The Office faces a situation where several preliminary examinations have reached or are approaching the same stage, at a time when we remain gripped by operational challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, on the one hand, and by the limitations of our operational capacity due to overextended resources, on the other. This is also occurring in the context of the pressures the pandemic is placing on the global economy. Against this backdrop, in the immediate period ahead, we will need to take several strategic and operational decisions on the prioritisation of the Office’s workload, which also duly take into account the legitimate expectations of victims and affected communities as well as other stakeholders. This is a matter that I will also discuss with the incoming Prosecutor, once elected, as part of the transition discussions I intend to have. In the interim, my Office will continue to take the necessary measures to ensure the integrity of future investigations in relation to the situation in Nigeria.
The predicament we are confronted with due to capacity constraints underscores the clear mismatch between the resources afforded to my Office and the ever growing demands placed upon it. It is a situation that requires not only prioritization on behalf of the Office, to which we remain firmly committed, but also open and frank discussions with the Assembly of States Parties, and other stakeholders of the Rome Statute system, on the real resource needs of my Office in order to effectively execute its statutory mandate.
As we move towards the next steps concerning the situation in Nigeria, I count on the full support of the Nigerian authorities, as well as of the Assembly of States Parties more generally, on whose support the Court ultimately depends. And as we look ahead to future investigations in the independent and impartial exercise of our mandate, I also look forward to a constructive and collaborative exchange with the Government of Nigeria to determine how justice may best be served under the shared framework of complementary domestic and international action.
The Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC conducts independent and impartial preliminary examinations, investigations and prosecutions of the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. Since 2003, the Office has been conducting investigations in multiple situations within the ICC’s jurisdiction, namely in Uganda; the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Darfur, Sudan; the Central African Republic (two distinct situations); Kenya; Libya; Côte d’Ivoire; Mali; Georgia, Burundi Bangladesh/Myanmar and Afghanistan (subject to a pending article 18 deferral request). The Office is also currently conducting preliminary examinations relating to the situations in Bolivia; Colombia; Guinea; the Philippines; Ukraine; and Venezuela (I and II), while the situation in Palestine is pending a judicial ruling.
In her spirited efforts to combat insecurity across the nation, the Nigerian Army (NA) is set to commence simultaneous routine training exercises in the various Geo-political zones of Nigeria.
The exercises are Exercise AYEM AKPATUMA 11 in the North Central and parts of North Western States of Benue, Nasarawa, Kogi and Taraba as well as Kaduna and Niger States in 1 and 3 Divisions Area of Responsibilities (AOR) including Headquarters Command Army Records, Guards Brigade and 707 Special Forces Brigade.
Exercise EGWU EKE 1V which will be carried out in the South Eastern part of Nigeria comprising Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo States in 82 Division AOR.
While Exercise CROCODILE SMILE 1V will as usual take place in the South South and parts of South Western States of Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Lagos, Ogun and Rivers States in 2, 6, 81 and 82 Divisions’ AOR.
Similarly, Operation POSITIVE IDENTIFICATION will also be extended across the nation to checkmate bandits, kidnappers, armed robbers, ethnic militia, cattle rustlers as well as other sundry crimes across the various regions of Nigeria.
In the same vein, as part of Programmes inbued in to the exercises, – the Nigerian Army Women Corps, will stage a robust show of force/confidence building patrols in some selected locations in Nigeria.
Accordingly, in order to consolidate on the existing cordial Civil-Military Relations, an elaborate Civil Military Cooperation Line of activities in the areas of community outreaches such as free medical outreach, educational outreach, rehabilitation of identified dilapidated roads, hospitals, schools and old peoples homes in various selected communities in Nigeria.
Additionally, the Nigerian Army Officers’ Wives Association, will as usual, visit and donate to motherless babies homes and other identified disadvantaged groups in selected communities across the nation.
These exercises will start concurrently from the 7th of October to 24th of December 2019.
The NA, once again, use this opportunity to enjoin all Nigerians not to panic on seeing an increased presence of military personnel and other security agencies as well as movement of Military vehicles /hardwares.
The NA wishes to reassure the nation of her commitment and determination to secure the country, protect lives and properties of all Nigerians (which in addition to training of her personnel) is one of the basis for the exercises.
Acting Director Army Public Relations
25th September 2019
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SECURITY operatives have arrested 25 people in connection with the recent murder of three policemen in Taraba State who were shot by soldiers while they were taking notorious kidnapper Hamisu Wadume into custody.
In one of the biggest breaches of security ever known, the three policemen were shot dead by troops of the Nigerian Army who are suspected of being on the payroll of the kidnapper. After shooting the Intelligence Response Team (IRT) policemen in cold blood, the soldiers then set Mr Wadume free and he remains at large up until now.
Enraged by the incident, the Nigeria Police Force claim that the soldiers were in cahoots with the kidnappers and it has emerged that the army captains who ordered the shooting spoke with Mr Wadume on the phone 191 times. According to one source, Mr Wadume maintained and oiled a machinery of security operatives, including police and military personnel from across Taraba State, who fed him with information on movements and location of victims for kidnapping.
They were also said to have fed the kidnap kingpin with dossiers of those capable of paying good ransom fees as well as possible hideouts and escape routes. Through tracking and interception facilities, investigators were able to discover conversations which unravelled the roles of both the police and military personnel who were on the kidnappers’ payroll.
One source said: “I can tell you that over 20 military and police personnel have been arrested since this investigation started. They gave the kingpin coverage all these years the police have been looking for him, which is the reason it has taken this long to get him.”
The killing of the IRT members, including Assistant Superintendent of Police Felix Adolije, Inspector Mark Ediale, Sergeants Usman Danzumi and Dahiru Musa as well as civilian Olajide Owolabi, sparked off national outrage, with family members, individuals and groups calling on the federal government to ensure justice was done on the matter.
The joint investigation panel is headed by Rear Admiral Olaiya and has a representative each from the army, navy, air force, police, Department of State Service and the Defence Intelligence Agency.
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