Ogonis Killed By Nigerian Military-Need For Independent Inquiry Commission

Recent reports in the media, oral accounts and evidence of dead bodies on the streets and compounds indicate the Nigerian Military unlawfully invaded Ogoni on February 22 and 23 respectively. Although it’s said Mr. Solomon Ndigbara, who is an ex-militant, was the target of the military. There was no crisis or conflict in Ogoni at the time of the invasion, which killed more than 40 innocent Ogonis and non-Ogonis including Igbo traders.

Considering the spread of the unprovoked attacks and casualties there is urgent need for the federal government/Muhammadu Buhari to set up an Independent Judicial Inquiry Commission (IJIC) to look into these killings. All those indicted should be brought to bear the brunt of the law. The commission’s work, when formed should be able to investigate and find out what really happened and who is behind the invasion. Buhari should without delay order the formation of this commission the same way he thoughtfully ordered investigation into the Benue killings in a press release published on Premium Times Online of Feb. 28, 2016.

It’s important to note that Mr. Ndigbara and some Ogonis are accusing Sen. Magnus Abe, Barry Mpigi and other officials of All Progressives Congress of Nigeria (APC), of the deadly operation. Meanwhile Abe has denied having any knowledge, though some have said he posited prior to the invasion that APC will win the forthcoming National Assembly election re-run, which he’s a candidate by any means.

It’s also reported that he, Mpigi and APC stalwarts in Rivers State, especially in Ogoni sponsored thugs prior to the invasion to threaten and terrorize as a sign of what may be coming. A South-South (Port-Harcourt zone) Civil Liberty Organization’s report published on Ogoninews.com on Feb. 25, states that Mr. Mpigi allegedly disguised in military uniform leading the killing team which ransacked Ogoni.

Mr. Nyesom Wike, current Governor of Rivers State and Chief Security Officer is as well accused by some who believe he may have hand in the invasion considering the fact that he’s in charge of security and military. The argument is that he can’t claim or pretend not to know how the military came into Ogoni with deadly government equipment such as armor tanks and other sophisticated guns and ammunition.

Wike, who according to media reports said he wasn’t aware of any plans to invade Ogoni nor gave any order to the military, and claimed politicians are trying to create security to justify a state of emergency in the state has called on Ogonis who deserted their homes in the wake of the attacks to come back. He requested that Ogonis cooperate with the military presently occupying Ogoni because he brought them there for their security and safety. The question then is what’s the difference between the military which illegally invaded and killed Ogonis and the one he currently stationed in the area; is he alleging that the military which killed came from Abuja or elsewhere while the one he sent came from Rivers State under his command?

Meanwhile, giving the conflicting accounts and fact that Abe, Mpigi and the governor denied having any knowledge of the massacre, the fact that the federal government/Buhari (and his party-APC) hasn’t condemned the military action nor ordered investigation as he did in the Benue Killings cited above. Setting up an unbiased and incorruptible truth commission in the form of an Independent Judicial Inquiry Commission (IJIC) will be the best measure aimed at finding and knowing the truth, then seek means to prevent further occurrence.

This commission will investigate; invite the Rivers State military and public for interview. It will seek evidence (look for witnesses); question those mentioned: Messrs. Abe, Mpigi and Wike. Any other person (s) that may have been seen during the operation and suspected to be involved, or anyone who may have seen something that may point to the direction of the operators and planners should be invited. Anyone willing to volunteer information that may help find those with the knowledge or played any role in the massacre should be invited for questioning and direction. This should be a collaborative and honest (not witch-hunting) task.

These dastard yet cowardice acts must not have been the madness of the military alone without someone in power who has the authority or influence capable of seeking, ordering or granting such military action. If it isn’t the handiwork of the military or APC officials, including Abe and Mpigi, or the state government, the commission should be able to investigate without sparing anything nor protecting any individual or institution no matter how highly placed or valued.

In addition, if the federal government isn’t behind this unlawful and unprovoked, barbaric invasion, and Buhari isn’t trying to signal Ogonis that they must listen to and accept whatever his government (APC) and $hell shall impose during the proposed cleanup of oil-based degradation caused deliberately by the government and oil companies. Then he must wade in immediately; reassure the people of Ogoni like he did the people of Benue; work with the state authorities, where the state isn’t the mastermind, and immediately withdraw all military presence, set up recommended inquiry commission and resolve this unsavory episode.

As part of the solution, the federal and state government should send formal condolence messages to Ogoni people, particularly the bereaved families. Adequate compensation should be paid to the families, estate of those killed to help assuage their suffering even though money can’t bring back the dead. There is urgent need for government to set up educational trust fund to sponsor children of the deceased (those who have children) through school and other training.

MOSOP/Ogonis have a duty to cooperate in making sure government measures in bringing pragmatic and feasible solutions hence peace are achieved in a timely manner. MOSOP should as a matter of duty conduct its own independent and verifiable investigation. It should pressure Buhari and his government to set up recommended commission and work with the government and other agencies to prosecute those found wanting and indicted (military officers included) for their roles in the massacre.

Alternatively, where the government refused to act and play the usual “I don’t care” game, MOSOP/Ogonis should be prepared to mobilize, organize and duly file law suits against Rivers State and federal government, the military, with Wike and Buhari/APC as Co-defendants. Ogonis can’t continue to watch, play safe while Nigeria and its successive government at state and federal levels disrespect, ignore meaningful development and capacity building for community empowerment, degrade Ogoni environment and refused to restore it as promised, then physically kill innocent citizens. It’s time Ogonis take decisive action for their survival.

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Articles by Ben Ikari