CHIDINMA CYNTHIA IGBOKWE writes that the Southeast Based Coalition of Human Rights & Democracy Organizations, SBCHROs has accused the official security providers in the Southeast part of Eastern Nigeria, dominated by senior open and secret police and military officers of the Northern Muslim population of circumstantially adopting and institutionalizing militia policing and hate violence including killings and criminal labelling on the ground of tribe and religion as a modus operandi in the Region.
SBCHRO’s stated this today in a joint statement issued in Onitsha, Anambra State of Eastern Nigeria.
The Governors of the Southeast also appear to have collectively and individually compromised the security of the Region for purpose of “securing and finishing second term in office” in exchange for mortgaging the security of their own people and that of the entire Region, SBCHROs added in its joint statement.
SBCHROs are a coalition of 22 Rights and Democracy groups operating in the Southeast part of Eastern Nigeria. The joint statement is signed on behalf of SBCHROs by Emeka Umeagbalasi (Intersociety), Aloysius Attah (Southeast CLO), Jerry Chukwuokoro, PhD (Inter-Solidarity for Peace & Rights Initiative), Barr Chidinma E. Udegbunam (Intersociety) and Prof Justice Chidi (Southeast Academia).
Group-members of SBCHROs are: (1) Int’l Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Onitsha), 2. CLO, Southeast Zone (Enugu), 3. CLO, Anambra State Branch (Onitsha), 4. Forum for Promotion of National Ethos & Values (Enugu), 5. Igbo Ekunie Initiative (United Kingdom), 6. Int’l Solidarity for Peace & Human Rights Initiative (Enugu), 7. Foundation for Environmental Rights, Advocacy & Dev (Aba), 8. Society for Economic Rights & Social Justice (Aba), 9. Human Rights Organization of Nigeria (Onitsha), 10. Center for Human Rights & Peace Advocacy (Onitsha), 11. Southeast Good Governance Forum (Awka), 12. Society Watch & Advocacy Project (of Intersociety) (Onitsha), 13. Initiative for Ideal Dev & Emancipatory Leadership in Nigeria (Aba), 14. Igbo National Council (Owerri), 15. Anambra Human Rights Forum (Awka), 16. Voice of the Voiceless Int’l (Awka), 17. Easy Life Initiative for Rural Youths (Aba), 18. Community Empowerment Network (Aba), 19. Southeast Movement against Transactional Politics & Profligacy (Awka), 20. Prof Justice Chidi (Southeast Academia) and 21. Neighborhood Environmental Watch Foundation (Abakiliki) and 22. Citizens for Righteousness & Social Justice (Owerri).
The release stated in part: ‘’The general security of lives and properties of the People of the Southeast Region is so threatened and undermined that the official security providers in the Region are widely perceived on daily basis as apparently not in the Region to provide genuine security but to target the innocent citizens of the Region and their properties for hate labelling and hate killing or hate destruction. These are clearly evidenced by their body languages, policies, utterances and conducts.
‘’In theory, their daily noises rent the air of being in the Region to provide “security”, but in reality, they are in the Region not only for provision of official insecurity, but to further provide cover for perpetrators of non state actor insecurity particularly the Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen and other criminal entities. It is so shocking and alarming going by various research findings that out of every five communal forests or bushes forcefully occupied by Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen in Southeast and the entire Eastern Nigeria, four, if not all of them have permanent or temporary (i.e. checkpoints or routine patrols) police or military formations stationed near each of them.
‘’Apart from being official highway or roadway armed robbers by turning their rifles and uniforms into instruments of robbing road users on daily basis through criminal act of roadblock extortion, coded in various formats; the official security providers in the Southeast are also by their security policies and conducts, breeders of the citizens’ militancy, self help and radicalization.
‘’These are done by wickedly, tribally and vindictively turning their guns, official uniforms and positions against law abiding citizens of the Southeast Region-by way of frame-ups, criminal labeling, racial profiling, discriminatory enforcement of the law and prosecutorial vindictiveness (i.e. unlawful arrest and detention and slamming of spurious capital offense charges against citizens whose civil expressions or actions constitute no or minor infraction of the criminal law). The security providers under reference also engage in raising constant false insecurity alarms and use them as a cover to visit unspeakable amount of state violence or maximum use of instruments of state coercion against the citizens of the Southeast Region and their properties.
‘’The likes of the Chief of Army Staff appears to be so vindictive and contemptuous of the peaceful state of the Southeast Region that he hardly rests without raising false alarms of the existence of “indigenous terrorism” in the Region, upon which he routinely drafts soldiers to “go and quell”, resulting in targeting, shooting, maiming and killing in their hundreds of innocent and defenseless citizens of the Southeast part of Eastern Nigeria. Till date, there is no single indigenous armed opposition group existing in the Region; except the Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen, protected and aided by the same military and security formations in the Region.
‘’In all these, the Southeast Governors who parade themselves as “the Chief Security Officers” are nowhere to be found. The security of the Region is so porous, compromised, endangered and undermined that the daily menace of the Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen is hardly reported; no thanks to the Governors’ censorship. Various parts of the Region including Anambra East, Anambra West and Ayamelum LGAs in Anambra State and Uzo-Uwani LGA in Enugu State, etc have become no go areas owing to unchecked sundry violent criminal activities of the Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen.
‘’During a recent seminar on Peace and Conflict Resolution organized for grassroots Women and Youths by the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution of the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, held in Onitsha on 8th May 2019, a group of women cried out over the jihadist activities of the Fulani Herdsmen in Ayamelum and Anambra East and Anambra West LGAs and the State Government’s seeming helplessness; to the extent that some schools have already been shot and children withdrawn and locked in their parents’ houses.
‘’A number of people have also been kidnapped in the Area without being reported till date. In Enugu State sometime last year, an Onitsha based Businessman went to his village compound and land and met Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen destroying his farm crops, forcing him to call his relative who is a principal officer of the Enugu State House of Assembly, only to be told that “it is the directive of Governor Ugwuanyi that Fulani Herdsmen must not be disturbed from their movement no matter what”.
‘’Anambra, Imo, Abia and Ebonyi States are also not exempted. Their Governors appear to have issued similar secret directives, accompanied by media blackouts, so as to impress the Presidency and “be allowed to have and finish their second tenures”. The media report of the killing by Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen of six Christian villagers in Anambra West LGA in April 2019 was independently found to have leaked to the press before the State Government got wind of same; forcing it to offer a fire brigade media statement or response. The State Government had reportedly wanted the killings not to be reported publicly, a pattern appears to have continued till date.
‘’The patterns and trends of the official and non state actor insecurity in Southeast Nigeria may, therefore, be safely likened to the 4th December 2017 attacks on Numan rural Christians in Adamawa State where Amnesty Int’l reported that “while Nigerian Air Force jet fighter was in the air raining bullets on the population, forcing them to run amok in different directions, armed Fulani Herdsmen were on the ground macheting and shooting them; resulting in no fewer than 85 deaths (50 killed by the war jet and 35 by Fulani Herdsmen)”. This was also corroborated by the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN.
‘’That is to say that the People of Igbo Nation are presently facing official insecurity from security providers and non state actor insecurity from Jihadist Herdsmen. The worst is that the Governors have joined hands in making the Region very insecure by compromising the Region’s collective security on the altar of “securing and finishing their second tenures in office”. The Governors are also so weak and inactive that they cannot even challenge or speak out boldly against gross ethno-religious imbalances or lop-sidedness inherent in the postings or identities of those manning top field security formations in the Region; from police SPs to Army Lt Cols and above and their equivalents in other branches of the Armed Forces and Paramilitaries.
‘’Our speaking out therefore and as aptly captured above is sequel to renewed violent crackdown on nonviolent, civil and constitutionally expressive citizens by the Army and Police in the Region. On Wednesday, 22nd May 2019, no fewer than two citizens were shot dead, ten injured and 15 arrested by the Anambra State Police Command at the Ogbaru side of Onitsha Upper Iweka Flyover. The shooting took place around 2am early morning of same day when some pro Biafra activists loyal to Mr. Raphael Uwazurike (MASSOB-BIM) were hoisting their flags to mark its 19th anniversary later in the day. The early morning timing for hoisting the flags was to avoid attacks. From murderous security personnel.
‘’The State Police Command patrol teams had stormed the scene in three hilux vans loaded with armed police personnel who opened fire and killed on the spot the duo of Citizens Innocent Okoye and Uche Ezenwanne. Among the ten shot and injured on the spot are Citizens Clifford Nwankwo, Ndubuisi Ikpeazu and Aloysius Ibeh and among the arrested and detained are Citizens Emeka Umunokwe, Amara Obiagwuna, Chibuike Nwagwu, Ambrose Igwe, Chima Ugwu, Ifeanyi Opiaka and Ndubuisi Mbam. They were later taken to the Awka State CID and clamped into detention without trial till date after being labeled “IPOB terrorists”.
‘’Also on same Wednesday, 22nd May 2019, no fewer than 140 unarmed and defenseless citizens comprising 130 males and ten females including the aged, going for a funeral ceremony in Nsukka part of Enugu State were stopped and barricaded by the Enugu State Joint Security Patrol teams. They were thoroughly searched, together with their four 608 buses and in the process, some “Biafra insignias” (flags and bangles) were found in possession of some; leading to mass arrest of the whole and their transfer to the Enugu State CID-where they were detained till next day.
The release concluded: ‘’They were arraigned on Thursday, 23rd May 2019 before an Enugu State Chief Magistrate Court and slammed with phantom capital offense charge of “terrorism” (planning to violently unseat the President or Enugu State Governor). The panicky Chief Magistrate declined jurisdiction but fearfully remanded them in the Prison until “they are taken to the High Court and charged appropriately”. Other than media report of the two cases, the victims; likewise the Attorney Gen of Anambra State who must also do same in the case of the detained pro Biafra activists of MASSOB-BIM version whenever they are arraigned in Court. The AGs of the five Southeast States must also rise to the occasion by ensuring that the Police and other security agencies are not allowed to use the legally dead “holden charge” or phantom “terrorism” charge or accusation to oppress the innocent and defenceless citizens of the Region; not to talk of being allowed to be arresting, detaining, killing or maiming other innocent and defenceless citizens at will and with impunity’’.