Friday, 13 November 2015

Biafra: South-East activists spit fire, warn Nigerian Military Chiefs

The Coalition of Southeast Human Rights Organizations this morning reacted angrily to Wednesday night’s Riot Act to pro-Biafra campaigners by the Nigerian military, insisting that people have the right to campaign for self determination
provided they do so in a peaceful manner.

The activists faulted the military’s threat to viciously crack down on unarmed pro-Biafra protesters, pointing out that their protests do not amount to treason. They warned the military chiefs to prepare to go to jail for human rights violation if they should actualise their threat.

The position of the South-East activists was contained in a statement issued this morning in Onitsha. The statement was signed by Comrade Aloysius Attah for Anambra State Branch of the Civil Liberties Organization; Emeka Umeagbalasi for International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law; Comrade Peter Onyegiri for Center for Human Rights & Peace Advocacy; Comrade Samuel Njoku for Human Rights Club (a project of LRRDC); Comrade Justus Uche Ijeoma for Forum for Justice, Equity & Defense of Human Rights; Comrade Chike Umeh for Society Advocacy Watch Project; Obianuju Joy Igboeli, Esq., for Anambra Human Rights Forum; Comrade Alex Olisa for: Southeast Good Governance Forum; and Eze Eluchie, Esq., for PADDI Foundation. The statement reads in part:

“Our immediate and prompt attention has been drawn to a statement made by the Nigerian Army yesterday in Abuja, in which it issued a stern warning with vivid reference to millions of  Nigerian citizens who are peacefully and non violently asserting through non violence and peaceful assembly and association, their regional and international rights to self determination. Such rights are also constitutionally guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution in the form of rights to personal liberty and peaceful assembly as well as rights to freedom of association and movement and they are contained and enshrined in Sections 35, 40 and 41 of the Fundamental Human Rights Charter of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The Nigerian Army had in its statement, titled: “Reminder on Nigerian Army Rule of Engagement for Internal Security Operations”, stated: “the Nigerian Army would like to send an unequivocal warning to all and sundry, more specifically to all those threatening and agitating for the dismemberment of the country”. The statement is in vivid reference to the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) which has in the past one week grabbed global attention with sweeping marches in major cities of Nigeria and foreign countries. The army statement further said: “The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (FRN), 1999 (as amended) vide Sect 217 (2) (c) provides that the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) shall suppress insurrection and act in aid of civil authority to restore order when called upon to do so by the President, Commander-in-Chief. This provision is reinforced by Sect (8) (1) and (3) of the Armed Forces Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, (LFN) 2004. This presupposes that troops have to use necessary force to quell crisis resulting in deaths, injury and damages to properties”.

We wish to state firmly that the Army statement is totally incoherent with and unknown to the 1999 Constitution particularly its Fundamental Human Rights Charter. It is also a clear misinterpretation of the 1999 Constitution particularly its Section 217; which clearly states that “there shall be an armed forces for the Federation”; and not “the army for the Federation”. The “armed forces” include other recognized armed forces segments like navy, air force, DSS etc. That is to say that the view of “the Nigerian Army” cannot represent the collective view of “the Nigerian Armed Forces” and the Nigerian Army is not “the Nigerian Armed Forces”. The statement also failed woefully to understand the common meaning of “suppressing insurrection”. The word “insurrection” is a military act  of rising in revolt, rebellion, or resistance against civil authority or an established government or a range of violent behaviors aimed at destroying or taking over the position of an established authority such as a government, president,  governor, or political leader.

When compared with the activities of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB); a self determination pressure group, the stern warning or riot act so issued, is totally misguided, vexatious, shallow, dubiously intended and constitutionally incoherent. The stern warning or riot act was also grossly misdirected, as it ought to have been directed to the Boko Haram terror insurgents who have severally disclosed their intention to violently destroy the country’s existing socio-legal system and put in place radical Islamic theocracy.  Till date, the IPOB pressure group and millions of its supporters have not used or advocated violence. We see the stern warning or riot act as a clear declaration by the Nigerian Army of an intention to commit crimes against humanity by indicating its readiness to deploy and use brute force to “suppress” ongoing peaceful and non violent processions involving the IPOB pressure group and its teeming supporters. From the body language of the Nigerian Army, it may most likely stage-manage or create group violence, arson, vandalism and damages to property so as to find grounds to deploy and use brute force as well as justification of same.

We wish to warn and remind the leadership of the Nigerian Army not to forget that there still exists International Criminal Court and other formidable local and international mechanisms through which its commanding officers found engaged in “brutal suppression or quelling”  of ongoing peaceful and non violent protests shall be held accountable for crimes against humanity. Let the Nigerian Army also be reminded that during the recent economic meltdown in USA, some States agitated to secede from the United States, yet they were not tagged “insurrectionists” warranting “military suppression”. Even in the present United Kingdom, Scotland, which agitates for secession has not been militarily crushed. It is unarguably a case of “crimes against humanity” when brute force is deployed to crush a people asserting non-violently for fair belongingness and fortification of their ethnic identity”.

Beyond our alignment and total agreement with the referenced statement above, we wish to further demand for the immediate removal and replacement of the Service Chiefs particularly the Chief of Air Staff and the Chief of Army Staff. Their open threats and comments are attestation of desperation of their Commander-in-Chief to return Nigeria at all costs to closed and riotous society akin to present North Korea and Syria.

Having failed woefully owing to quack and crude military counter measures approaches to tame intractable atrocities of the dreaded Boko Haram insurgents and bloody menaces of the Islamic Fulani terror brigade (erroneously called Fulani Herdsmen) despite countless public assurances; all they could now do is to turn their coercive and lethal arsenals against millions of unarmed and non violent self determination activists protesting for the release of their extra judicially detained leader (Citizen Nnamdi Kanu). From every indication, further oiled by the referenced lethal threats, the Service Chiefs have conspired with their Commander-in-Chief to turn Nigeria overnight into a wilderness of brigandage powered by jungle justice; leading to arrest and extra judicial and incommunicado detention of the leader of the unarmed and non violent protesting citizens. We ask the Service Chiefs: can you ever beat a child and ask him or her not to cry?

We had expected the Service Chiefs to advise their Commander-in-Chief who has long lost touch with modern military science and approaches under civilian-democratic processes and get him further acquainted and mentored in clearly defined military roles in democracy (including respect for human rights such as rights to peaceful assembly and association, life, human dignity, personal liberty and movement; as well as crowd control), but we are totally disappointed at the country’s Service Chiefs. Not even their international exposures gotten from their participation in international Peace Operations (peacemaking, peacekeeping, peace enforcement, conflict resolution,  peace building and respect for human rights) have changed or affected their age-long military crudity and barbarism; presently under manifestation.  

Lastly, we wish to remind the country’s Service Chiefs and warn them too that they should individually and vicariously be held responsible locally and internationally in the event deaths or injuries arise from their crude and lethal handling  (as threatened) of future peaceful and non violent processions or protests in Nigeria or any part thereof. While other countries have advanced in their democratic processes to the extent of establishing liberty or freedom squares where their unarmed and non violent citizens  irrespective of their religious, ethnic and other social affiliations usually gather to register their democratic grievances against policies and actions of the governing authorities; Nigerian military is here and busy issuing lethal threats to un-lethal and harmless citizens protesting against the unconstitutional and detention above judicial bail or extra judicial detention of their leader.

We challenge the Nigerian Service Chiefs to make good and practical their panicky and cowardly threats against the unarmed and non violent protesting citizens and get ready to be condemned and rot in jail internationally for the rest of their lives.


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