The Southeast Based Coalition of Human Rights Organizations (SBCHROs) has blamed Anambra State Governor, Chief Willie Obiano, and Inspector General of Police, IGP Solomon Arase, for the killing of unarmed pro-Biafra protesters in the famed commercial town of Onitsha.
The group in a statement issued on Thursday 3rd Dec. 2015 in Onitsha said it was “in total compliance of Governor Willie Obiano and IGP Arase’s militarist orders that the Joint Security Taskforce, particularly the soldiers of the Onitsha Military Cantonment, stormed the Gateway with riffles loaded with live bullets and opened fire on innocent and peaceful protesters.”
The statement was signed by Emeka Umeagbalasi for International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Intersociety); Comrade Aloysius Attah for Anambra State Branch of the Civil Liberties Organization (CLO); Comrade Peter Onyegiri for Center for Human Rights & Peace Advocacy (CHRPA); Comrade Samuel Njoku for Human Rights Club (a project of LRRDC (HRC); Justus Uche Ijeoma, Esq. for Forum for Justice, Equity & Defense of Human Rights (FJEDHR); Comrade Chike Umeh for Society Advocacy Watch Project (SPAW); Obianuju Joy Igboeli, Esq. for Anambra Human Rights Forum (AHRF); Comrade Alex Olisa for Southeast Good Governance Forum (SGGF); Jerry Chukwuokolo, PhD, for International Solidarity for Peace & Human Rights Initiative (ITERSOLIDARITY); and Evelyn Chinwe Eze, Esq. for Street Law Africa (LawAfrica).
In it, the Southeast rights activists said they were “alarmed, shocked and dismayed over the killing on Wednesday (2nd December 2015) of peaceful and non-violent protesters in various parts of Onitsha particularly along the Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu’s Gateway at Onitsha Niger Bridge and the Obodoukwu Road in Ogbaru LGA of Anambra State; which led to the death of at least ten (10) innocent members of the public and injuring of scores of others.”
According to them, “While six peaceful protesters/picketers were killed at the Ojukwu Gateway (Niger Bridgehead) by soldiers, four others including a mai suya (hit by a stray bullet) were killed by SARS and Mobile Police squads along Obodoukwu Road in the nearby Ogbaru Local Government Area. Among the ten peaceful protesters violently killed by members of Governor Willie Obiano’s Joint Security Taskforce was late Miss Anthonia Nkiruka Ikeanyionwu; 21 years old student of the Federal College of Education, Technical in Umunze, Orumba South LGA of Anambra State. She hailed from Adazi-Nnukwu in Anambra State. Another person was earlier shot and killed by soldiers at the Gateway in the night of 1st December 2015 after a brief interrogation. He was an Igbo driver of a long truck parked in support of the vigil/picketing. He was dragged down from his steering, briefly interrogated and shot dead.”
Continuing, the coalition said: “We wish to recall that tens of thousands of peaceful protesters coordinated by the leaderships of two self determination pressure groups: the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and a splinter body of the Movement for Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) led by Comrade Uchenna Madu had on Tuesday, 1st December, 2015, converged at the Niger Bridgehead (Ojukwu Gateway) in Onitsha for a three day peaceful vigil/picketing to press for the unconditional release of director of the Radio Biafra London (RBL) and head of the IPOB, Citizen Nnamdi Kanu, who has been held extra judicially and unconstitutionally by the DSS since 14th October 2015.
“The Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu Gateway made up of the Onitsha Niger Bridgehead and the Onitsha Upper Iweka axis is considered a freedom square by teaming and ardent followers, supporters and students of late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu and had in recent time served as a square for free speech. The federal approval for renaming of the area after late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, was secured by former Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State in 2012 leading to its commissioning with the erected statue of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu by former President Goodluck Jonathan on 30th August 2012.
“The teeming supporters of the two self determination agitation groups had peacefully observed their vigil/picketing without molesting anybody except blockage of the Gateway for hours to pressurise the Buhari administration to release their leader. The vigil drew overwhelming sympathies and supports leading to other members of the public donating and sending cartons of bottled water, gala and short breads as well as foods to them. The vigil/picketing remained peaceful and lasted from Tuesday, 1st December to around noon of Wednesday 2nd December, 2015 when Governor Willie Obiano directed members of his Joint Security Taskforce made up of soldiers, mobile police, navy, SARS and civil defence corps to storm the Gateway and forcefully disperse the peaceful picketers and clear them off the Gateway. Governor Obiano’s militarist directive was further reinforced by another militarist order of the embattled Inspector General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase; who ordered his sub commanders in the Southeast and the South-south zones, composed of senior police officers of northern origin; to “maximally” (excessive force/shoot-at-sight) clamp down on the peaceful protesters.
“It is in total compliance of Governor Willie Obiano and IGP Arase’s militarist orders that the Joint Security Taskforce particularly the soldiers of the Onitsha Military Cantonment stormed the Gateway with riffles loaded with live bullets and opened fire on innocent and peaceful protesters. Some of those killed were shot and killed at close range. One of them is late Miss Anthonia Nkiruka Ikeanyionwu. Pictures of those lying critically injured in various private hospitals in Onitsha and its environs clearly showed how they were shot in various terminal parts of their bodies including chest, abdomen, lung, neck and head parts of their bodies. Some of the shot victims may not survive the wounds. The reckless shooting and killing of the unarmed picketers later resulted to civil disturbances including burning of tyres and blockage of intercity roads, etc.
“We had in our joint statement of 13th November, 2015 raised an alarm following lethal warning issued by the Nigerian Army against those protesting peacefully for the release of Citizen Nnamdi Kanu and assertion of their right to self determination. Our alarm followed age-long gross unprofessionalism inherent in management of the country’s military-civilian relationship particularly as it concerns crowd control and allowing members of the public to peacefully and nonviolently press home their grievances against the government and its policies; through universally approved methods such as picketing, vigil, procession or protest. We had in the same joint statement exposed the desperation of elements loyal to the Buhari administration to possibly plant hired elements through some amenable State Governors among the peaceful protesters so as to make such processions or peaceful protests turn or wear violent outlook for the purpose of hiding under same to crush and mass kill them. We also suspected deeply desperate plans or moves by the elements loyal to the Buhari administration to rope in Citizen Nnamdi Kanu through implanted felonies. This can come in the form of planting and commission of sinister acts for the purpose of heaping the criminal culpability on Citizen Nnamdi Kanu.
“This is more so when it is now clear to every Tom, Dick and Harry that the Buhari administration through its DSS has no indictable and convictable evidence to try Citizen Nnamdi Kanu both in its prosecutorial charge of criminal intimidation, managing and belonging to unlawful society and criminal conspiracy and its investigatory accusation of involvement in terrorism and terrorism financing. It sounds legally and prosecutorially laughable that a man campaigning for his group’s right to political self determination in far away United Kingdom, came to Nigeria through its southern border, governed by the Criminal Code (applicable in southern Nigeria) and got arrested in the south and taken to the north governed by the Penal Code (applicable in northern Nigeria) and charged for offenses contained in the criminal law (penal code) of the north. We see it as a height of trial by gambling or ordeal or trumped up charge.
“The case of late Ken Saro-Wiwa is still fresh in our memories. For want of indictable and convictable evidence, the Federal Government of Nigeria under the Abacha’s infamous military regime used “strawmen” to cause implanted felony of murder and related others and politically nailed the late Saro Wiwa and his associates. One of disrespected members of the Bench, called “Judge Auta” was ferried from the Bench to judicially cement their State murder, which was carried out in November 1995. Today, the like of Shell is yet to recover from its infamous corporate roles in the State murder. We shall not be surprised if such sore and sad history repeats itself in the case of Citizen Nnamdi Kanu. This is because the reign of State terror that was the order of the day then, is fully back in the present administration.
“In all these, the dastardly role of the embattled Inspector General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase, is not surprising to our Coalition. His resort to use of blood of the innocent and peaceful protesters to save his embattled office is not surprising to our Coalition as well. Intersociety had recently stated clearly that the emergence of a dictator or a tyrant under civilian democracy automatically leads to conversion and conformity of all State institutions and their headships according to the dictator’s whims and caprices. Any institution and its headship that refuses to be dictatorially shackled and manacled by the dictator, is automatically kicked out.
“We are compelled to hold that IGP Arase does not mind killing vicariously hundreds, if not thousands of peaceful and non-violent protesters or picketers of the Southeast Nigeria so as to save his embattled job. Having not been appointed by his new general overseer (President Muhammadu Buhari), we sympathise with IGP Arase over his stiff battles to save his job and be re-baptised Buhari Boy; but using vicariously the blood of innocent and peaceful picketers at the highly revered and idolised Ojukwu Gateway to achieve this sole ambition of his; amounts to turning himself vicariously into a merchant of death and human misery.
“It is also sad and shocking that when other Nigeria’s security chiefs like the Chief of Army Staff and Air Force and Defence Staff chiefs are busy visiting the insurgency war fronts in the Northeast, IGP Arase is busy visiting a federal minister of interior and threatening and ordering mass killing of innocent and peaceful self determination protesters and picketers. The Nigeria Police Force under IGP Solomon Arase has for long woefully and shamefully abandoned its constitutional duties of management of internal security; a strategic police function now virtually left in the hands of other members of the armed forces; whose roles in internal security management in Nigeria are constitutionally and statutorily supplementary. Despite being the largest officially armed body in Nigeria cornering over 30% of defence budgets every year, the NPF under IGP Arase has shamelessly failed Nigerians and continued to fail till date. If the Nigeria Police Force cannot control peaceful and non violent picketers without mass-killing them, is it the rampaging Boko Haram insurgents that it can control?
“It is sad and shocking too that Nigeria of 21st century under a Police IG with double university masters degrees still applies excessive or lethal force to control or disperse non violent and peaceful protesters and picketers. Storming picketing scenes with live bullets and guns and opening fire on defenseless protesters are a height of policing crudity under the headship of an educated illiterate IGP. By using the phrase “maximal clamp down on protesters” that literally means “shoot-at-sight”, Mr. Solomon Arase is unfit to continue as Nigeria’s Inspector General of Police. Despite the existence in the NPF of “the anti-riot police department” or “Mobile Police Force”, the latest mass murder has extensively exposed the Force as the Police Force of the Yore and incurable crudity.
“For the avoidance of doubt, there are various techniques and tools designed globally for crowd control or riot control as case may be; without resorting to use of deadly weapons, force or violence. Older tools or gadgets for crowd or riot control are batons and whips; which are still in use till date. Other modern crowd control tools or gadgets are tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets and electric tasers. There are also long acoustic devices, water cannons, armored personnel carriers, armored vehicles equipped with tear gas and mild hot water sprayers, aerial surveillance, police dogs, police horses, etc. Also part of the modern crowd control toolkits are protective devices such as riot helmets, face visors, body armor (vests, neck protectors, knee pads, etc) and gas masks and riot shields. A number of electronic security devices have also been designed for modern crowd control. They include closed circuit television, tracking and detective devices, etc. It is sad to observe that in the instant case, none of the forgoing was deployed and used. Instead, live ammunitions and open and close range shootings were “maximally applied” in accordance with IGP Arase’s murderous directive.
As for Governor Willie Obiano, his role in the bloody incident, which he confirmed and justified in his late night public broadcast; is not surprising to our Coalition. He has moved further from a report of encouraging mobilisation of mushroom and leprous groups for the purpose of disassociation of the People of the Southeast from the legitimate, peaceful and non violent agitation for political self determination, to mobilisation of his Joint Security Taskforce to mow down innocent picketers and protesters for no just cause. We have also read his executive statement and found in same an element of confirmation of our earlier disclosure of desperation of some elements loyal to the Buhari administration to implant felonies within the ranks of IPOB protesters so as to rope in Citizen Nnamdi Kanu and made the peaceful and non violent protests to turn violent and bloody.
“By the Governor’s assertion to the effect that among those killed in the protest were two police sergeants; we are still at loss as where, when and how the police sergeants were killed. We call on the Governor to publicly update and furnish Nigerians with concrete information regarding whether the “two police sergeants” were killed by gun shots, clubbing, fists, burning or lynching as well as who killed them, why they were killed and hospitals or mortuaries where their bodies were deposited.
“We also demand to know where and when they were killed as well as their photos and station(s) where they are attached to and their service particularly or identities. Failure of His Excellency, Governor Willie Obiano to furnish the public with the concrete information under demand in time of the white law and immediacy will expressly lend credence to our strong suspicion of some elements within the Buhari administration’s desperation to implant violence into the non-violent agitation so as to use it as an excuse to let loose in its use of deadly force against the non violent agitators as well as procurement of concocted evidence and compromised witnesses to get Citizen Nnamdi Kanu rot in jail at all costs and possibly exterminated in extra penal custody.
“In all, we are not only demanding for immediate resignation of the embattled Inspector General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase for his murderous shoot-at-sight order and vicarious roles in the Onitsha Killings, but it is also important to inform that the Nigeria Police Force under him is already under the jurisdictional watch of the International Criminal Court as compilation and computation of cases of all police and military related extra judicial killings in the country are steadily in progress. For failing to heed our warning of 13th November 2015, we will be glad to ensure that IGP Arase and his named sub commanders are handcuffed and flown to The Hague soon for the purpose of making them to face international trial for crimes against humanity.
“On the other hand, we call on the IPOB and its teeming followers to remain peaceful, non-violent and law abiding at all times, not minding the State violence recently visited unleashed on them. They must also watch their back and be extremely vigilant so as to ward off sustained efforts of some commissioned elements within the Federal Government particularly its security establishments and stooges within the Southeast Governors Forum to implant elements of violence in their agitations so as to destroy their globally approved method of non violence and peaceful means and cash in on same for the purpose of deploying and applying deadly force or violence to further kill them in thousands and rope in Citizen Nnamdi Kanu on other trumped-up charges or sustenance of its current trumped up charge of terrorism and terrorism financing.
“The leadership of the IPOB is reminded again that our collective advocacy support to it will be withdrawn once it is discovered concretely that it has abandoned its peaceful and non-violence methods. In organising its future peaceful and non-violent processions, protests or picketing at any public place such as along Ojukwu Gateway, efforts must be made to lessen social hardships that may incur by road users; by not blocking main lanes of the Expressway. Such non-violent processions, protests or picketing should also be organised periodically and not repeatedly. The Nigerian security forces, particularly the Army and the NPF, must stop using deadly force or violence to control peaceful and non violent processions, protests or picketing. Modern methods and toolkits of crowd control highlighted above must be learned, procured and applied to the letter henceforth. Those who participated in the Onitsha Killings particularly members of the Onitsha Military Cantonment, the Ogbaru Navy outpost, Mobile Police personnel and the SARS must be fished out, dismissed, tried and jailed for unlawful killings and related unprofessional conducts.
“Finally, we are not unaware of reckless accusations, invitations and harassments of some leading citizens of the Southeast zone by the country’s secret and open police establishments whereby they are accused of “sponsoring our Coalition”. It baffles our Coalition to note the steady decay of the country’s intelligence establishments and other securitisation agencies to the extent that they now see critical and constructive advocacy positions being taken by our credible and independent rights based Civil Society Organizations in this era of global village or computerisation; for the purpose of collective interest and development of Nigeria and Nigerians, as “being sponsored or financed” by politicians. We are not surprised at this sad development. This is because we are in a country headed by a presidency that does anything to suppress merit and impeccability of character. A government that stenches in bribery, corruption, nepotism, favoritism and primordialism will always hold a view that everything is for sale; more so when billions of naira of the tax payers funds were recently deployed to hire and compromise mushroom, faceless and conscienceless groups and individuals to disassociate themselves and the people of the Southeast from the Zone’s agitation for legitimate political self determination.
“As we write, the website of our lead-partner; International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law was attacked and shut down penultimate Monday. It has remained shut till date. The site administrator when reached disclosed receiving a couple of emails from some suspected elements within the country’s intelligence establishments querying the rationale behind Intersociety’s advocacy campaign for the release of Citizen Nnamdi Kanu. We wish to publicly disclose to the DSS and the NPF that the sponsors of our researches and publications are cheapness and ease of internet or World Wide Web; and free of charge publication of our reports and publications by our ardent friends in the online and print media operating locally and internationally. The DSS and the NPF are also free to reach out to them and ask them how much we pay them to publish our press materials. We collectively resolute and firm! It is Aluta Continua!! Victoria Acerta!!!
“We pray the Almighty God to grant the immortal souls of the massacred innocent citizens including late Miss Anthonia Nkiruka Ikeanyionwu, who died tragically in the Onitsha Police/Military Killings; directed and vicariously coordinated by Governor Willie Obiano and IGP Solomon Arase, a permanent peace and resting place in His Heavenly abode. May the just and legitimate cause that led to their brutal killing remains the candle of hope for the enslaved, shackled and manacled citizens of Nigeria now and immortally!!!”