Amid increasing insecurity that’s enveloped the Southeast area, stakeholders are increasing concerns within the Presidency’s directive of”shoot on sight” order. The issues especially arose over the sequence targeted at protesting Igbo youths, especially against the background of posting of northern troops to quell the disturbances in addition to their way of engagement in the zone.
Observers said the Presidency’s directive followed related killings of safety officials and attacks on safety facilities in the zone. Many safety officials are mowed down, while unknown gunmen attack their facilities in the region over a previous couple of months, thus increasing strain.
Early in the week, apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, raised new worries over the directive to contain the tension when it condemned the”shoot on sight” order, insisting it clearly confirms the uneven handed manner the Federal Government had been handling matters affecting the people of the zone.
It was reported on May 8, Ohanaeze insisted the manner and way soldiers were carrying out their duties at the zone at the guise of ideology, indicated that a plot was afoot that could activate” another pogrom and genocide from the zone”
“The pattern of installation of northern army officers to the southeast lends credence to the above report. It was revealed in preparation for the aforementioned, the Nigerian military has posted Northern Muslims as Commanders over its operations and brigades from Anambra, Imo, Abia, Akwa Ibom, Enugu, Benue, Edo, Delta and Rivers countries.
This is truly debilitating”, Ohanaeze had stated.
Another Igbo group, Human Rights Advocates, took the issue further by alleging that besides those deployed into the zone recently; the army formations, such as Navy; Customs are saturated with officials in the northern part of the country. The group revealed that in addition, northern soldiers, among other patrol actions, man military checkpoints in the zone.
Ohanaeze Ndigbo, which seemed convinced about the reason for the”shoot on sight order”, said the alleged move would start from Orlu, Imo State in the upcoming few days, cautioning that Federal Government ought to learn from history by not fighting an unwinnable war against nationalism.
Ohanaeze rather advised the Buhari-led government to”seek potential peaceful choices as the only solution that guarantees national unity and peaceful co-existence”, as it observed that the dream of Nigeria’s motto was receding and fading fast with violence, disasters and conflicts.
Denial, stall on toes
THE Nigerian Army had nevertheless, promptly denied that it was deploying just commanders of northern extraction to quell tensions in the Southeast, stressing that the allegation was targeted at stirring discord and disunity among peace-loving Nigerians, who’d refused to encourage attacks on security apparatuses from the area.
In a statement, Director, Army Public Relations, Brig-Gen Mohammed Yerima, said postings were routine exercise based on specialist competencies, including that the military does not train, deploy or function along ethnic, religious or regional divides.
He stated that while General Officer Commanding 82 Division, Enugu; Major Gen. Taoreed Lagbaja is from Southwest; the Commander 34 Brigade Owerri, Brig Gen. Raymond Utsaha is from north-central; General Officer Commanding 2 Division Ibadan, Maj Gen Gold Chibuisi, is of Southeast extraction, adding that Brig Gen. Farouk Mijinyawa was never the Commander of all 16 Brigade of the Nigerian Army.
Burnt police station
Even with the denials, there are fears that such orders are slowly being implemented in the zone by the soldiers and might have given rise to the clashes and alleged additional judicial killings taking place at the zone.
Last week, a movie clip that went viral online revealed a distraught lawyer, who had been held by soldiers patrol in Owerri, Imo State, for allegedly mounting a Biafra flag inside his car. The lawyer, whose car was eventually damaged by the officers until they allow him off the hook, had claimed that his offence was”placing Biafra flag in my vehicle.
“One of them explained, he’d have killed me, but for the fact that I am a lawyer”. While bemoaning the mental torture he received during the incident, the wailing attorney wondered why there was”no freedom no more in Nigeria.”
Noel, the operator of Shawarma Zone in Owerri, was killed by army guys in the Amakohia flyover at Owerri at roughly 10 pm for allegedly”violating check stage rules”.
It was gathered that the soldiers, who snuffed life out of him at the Checkpoint had dumped his remains in the Federal Medical Centre, morgue, Owerri, took his badly shattered car to the police station and forced an entrance that his relatives must stop by the health facility and maintain his body.
Noel was said to have obtained a new Camry automobile and had gone to fall his friend that fateful night. He left a four-month pregnant wife, a two-year-old son and a four-year-old daughter.
His sudden death at the hands of military officers was followed by the killing of a first-year student of Imo State University, Divine Nwaneri, at a military checkpoint near the Imo State governor’s office. Nwaneri was stated to be riding with her friend when soldiers supposedly swooped on them, killing and shooting her onto the guise that a similar vehicle used to commit a crime earlier had been on their trail.
Angered with these developments, a Coalition of South East Youth Leaders (COSEYL), a week, accused the military of extrajudicial killings of both youths of the Southeast area, alleging a calculated strategy to cut back Igbo youths into nothingness.
In an announcement, Goodluck Item and Kanice Igwe, President and Secretary-general of the team, COSEYL explained: “All these killings and more that happened lately, are concrete evidence the military is on a secret mission to exterminate Igbo youths from the southeast. The killing of unarmed agitators and pampering of Boko Haram terrorists is a clear testament that Ndigbo has been marked for extinction by the military.”
Wondering why soldiers compensated from tax-payers cash would kill an innocent youth on the flimsy excuse of violating checkpoint rules, the team declared that this “is complete madness and has to stop forthwith. The truth is Noel Chigbu was killed by soldiers refusing to give them a bribe.
“The soldiers have made it compulsory that anyone that moves by their roadblock has to bribe them through their civilian proxies, who disguise as plantain chip sellers, or risk being murdered.”
COSEY said it was sad that the episode was coming to a couple of days following Divine Nwaneri was murdered by soldiers, who normally were supposed to protect her, and lots of others of her kind from society.
While the zone was to contend with those incidents, Police Officers started parading and arresting newspaper vendors said to be distributing newspapers carrying reports about the Native People of Biafra (IPOB) and Movement for the Actualization of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB).
In the process, she went through a cesarean surgery and delivered.
Newspaper vendors in Imo State proceeded to strike in protest over alleged incessant harassment by security agents in the state.
The letter signed by Dr. Ngozi Odumuko said that a”shoot-on-sight” directive sum to an order to extra-judicially exterminate innocent citizens as there was no telling who might be part of their security, accidental casualties.
“Through history, such military strategies or policies have always run the danger of going contrary to all accepted conventions and protocols on the principles of engagement, particularly the Rome Statutes. In reality, it can be read just as Genocide, in which as in this case, there’s the very clear and obvious danger of such actions resulting in high casualties.
“If the speculation of a Shoot-On-Sight arrangement were to bear any atom of fact, then it amounts to a declaration of war around the region. But even though, for any reason, the Federal Government is minded to declare war on the Southeast or a part of it, there are standard international conventions and protocols that have to be observed. One of such is the requirement to publicly and unambiguously declare a war situation has arisen in this location so that individuals who wish to, especially the civilians and innocent taxpayers can withdraw from such a place. That has not been done.
“But, it is our well-known contention that there does not exist in the Southeast of Nigeria any peculiar situation, which doesn’t exist in much worse forms from other parts of the country to warrant or justify such a Shoot-On-Sight purchase. And, we put whoever thinks to the contrary to the strictest test of proof,” the team stated.
AS the safety bureaus become the place to execute the shoot on sight order, National Leader of World Igbo Peoples Assembly (WIPAS), Mazi Chuks Ibegbu, told The Guardian, that nobody should underestimate the alarm increased by Ohanaeze Ndigbo within the directive. He announced that the evolution was an invitation to anarchy.
While hinting that the order wouldn’t be tolerated, Ibegbu decried the numerous extrajudicial killings happening in Imo, Anambra, Ebonyi, Abia and Enugu states, noting that a competent court of law might pass a death sentence on anyone.
Lamenting why such orders hadn’t been granted in the northern region, where Boko Haram fighters have been killing and kidnapping and making life intolerable for Nigerians, Ibegbu stated it was disheartening that”the arrangement by the President on these bearing AK-47 illegally has not yet been implemented by the security representatives, although the marauding herdsmen continue to carry firearms.”
The WIPAS pioneer noted that so far, the actions of the Army have become”suspicious,” especially through highhandedness on topics concerning Igboland.
His words: “The den of terrorism is in the north. The den of banditry is at the north. This place is peaceful except for the folks legitimately agitating. In the previous four or five years, the Nigerian military has continued to perpetrate additional judicial killings; they killed agitators in Aba, Onitsha and Port Harcourt (Obigbo), whereas the bandits in the north aren’t treated the same manner.
Since it is, they’re sectionalizing the army and it’s most unfortunate.”
Nonetheless, on their part, MASSOB pointed to the much-advertised May 30 remembrance anniversary for Biafra personalities as the cause of the present onslaught in the zone, stressing that no quantity of intimidation, killings, and highhandedness among others, would stop the realization of this project.