UN End Of Visit Release On Arbitrary Killings Of Pro Biafra Activists & Bystanders: Putting The Record Straight
Onitsha, Eastern Nigeria: Monday, 9th Sept 2019: The recent two-week visit to Nigeria by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extra Judicial, Arbitrary and Summary Killings or Executions, Dr Agnes Callamard is commendable and deeply appreciated, but we are seriously concerned over some missing points found in the UN Chief’s End of Visit Statement, released in Abuja on 2nd Sept 2019. The statistics as presented was acutely below factuality and inconsistent with the realities on the ground.
It is totally reprehensible and immorally damning to misrepresent or under-represent the numbers and names of the defenseless citizens or nationals killed or maimed or traumatized outside the confines of universally standardized State or non State actor excuses or defenses. It amounts to setting fire on their cosmic world and mocking and disrespecting the dead; particularly those violently sent to their early graves by the atrocious State actors. Recognizing them in dead by their names and numbers is one of the best ways of immortalizing them and reminding the posterity that they once existed and paid supreme price for safety, security and decency of human society.
The above was the position of Int’l Society for Civil Liberties & Rule of Law, Intersociety, as contained in a statement issued today, 9thSept 2019 and signed by Lawyers Obianuju Joy Igboeli, Head of Civil Liberties & Rule of Law, Evangeline Chidinma Udegbunam, Head of Campaign & Publicity Dept, Ndidiamaka Bernard, Head of Int’l Justice & Human Rights and Emeka Umeagbalasi, a Criminologist & Graduate of Security Studies and Board Chair of Intersociety. Intersociety is led by professionals and grassroots activists including criminologists, security studies experts, lawyers, journalists and peace and conflict resolution practitioners, etc.
Intersociety States As Follows:
1. That Dr. Agnes Callamard’s visit to Nigeria in spite of all odds; was a courageous and bold step and timely in the right direction. Her team’s findings as contained in her End of Visit Statement are just a tip of the iceberg compared to what is actually on the ground. That is to say two weeks are not enough to unearth litanies of state actor and non state actor atrocities enveloping the country in industrial scale.
2. That it is recalled that Intersociety had during the UN Chief’s visit made an oral presentation before her (Dr. Agnes Callamard) specifically on Wednesday, 28th August 2019. The presentation bordered on extra judicial, summary and arbitrary killings or executions; specifically on the ‘Nigerian Military Massacre Operations In Eastern Nigeria: 30th August 2015-14th Sept 2017” and was backed up with some written research reports and findings made by Intersociety.
3. That however, we felt deeply concerned over some missing points found in the UN Chief’s End of Visit Statement, released on 2ndSept 2019. We also rose in strong disagreement concerning the UN Chief’s statement, implying that “the broad nature of the country’s legal provisions particularly the existing 1999 Constitution have made it possible for the perpetrators to exploit such loopholes or ouster clauses to kill and maim defenseless and unarmed citizens at will and go scot free”. This is contained in Paragraph 57 of the referenced statement.
4. That we totally disagreed and still disagree with the UN Chief on this and make bold to say that “Nigerian laws do not support killing and maiming of defenseless and unarmed citizens including those in religious sanctuaries or those in peaceful street protests or those in religious processions or those inside perimeter fenced compounds singing and praying or those in their sleep, etc. Concrete facts to support this are provided below.
5. That as it concerns the Arbitrary Killings of Members of the Indigenous People of Biafra, contained in Paragraphs 47-52 of the UN Chief’s End of Visit Statement, the statistics given with respect to casualty figures were brutally under-represented. It must be pointed out that our opinion on this and the correct position as it ought to be; have since been transmitted to the UN’s Anti Extra Judicial Killings Chief, for purpose of having them reflected correctly in her subsequent reports as well as guiding her factually to take correct positions on the subject matter.
6. 480 Deaths & 500 Injuries In All, Not “250”: That the UN Chief had in her statement said the following: “Between 2015 and 2016, it is alleged that law enforcement officials killed at least 100 IPOB members in different events in Aba (Abia State) and, Awka and Onitsha (Anambra State). On 29 and 30 May 2016, during a demonstration, the Nigerian military opened fire on IPOB members and bystanders in Onitsha. At least 60 persons were killed and over 70 injured, mainly shot in the back. The exact number of deaths remains unknown. Between 12 and 14 September 2017, IPOB followers gathered at the family home of their leader, Nnamdi Kanu, in Afara-Ukwu (Abia State) to take part in a peaceful vigil. The military operation (as part of Python Dance II) carried out in the afternoon of 14 September 2017 is alleged to have resulted in the killing of 150 persons”.
7. That contrarily, by the account of AI Report, issued on 24thNov 2016, ‘150 IPOB Members were killed and others injured’. The UN Chief said “between 2015 and 2016, not less than 100 killed”. It must be noted that the Amnesty International Report covered only 9th Feb 2016 killings in Aba and 30th May 2016 massacre in Onitsha and Nkpor and did not include 2015 killings (i.e. 2nd and 17th Dec Onitsha killings), Asaba spillover killings of 30th May 2016, the Pro Donald Trump Rally killings in Port Harcourt on 20th Jan 2017 and the Army Python Dance 11 massacre in Abia State on 12th, 13th and 14thSept 2017.
8. That broadly, by the account of Intersociety research-investigations, covering 30th August 2015 (Onitsha, Awka, Port Harcourt, Yanagoa, Uyo and Asaba killings), 2nd and 17th Dec 2015 (Onitsha killings), 18th and 29th Jan, and 9th Feb 2016 (Aba killings) and 29th and 30th May 2016 (Onitsha, Nkpor, Ogidi and Asaba massacre); a total of not less than 250 (including 25 added dark figures of crimes) IPOB activists, bystanders and others were killed and 300 maimed.
9. That also between 20th Jan (pro Donald Trump rally killings) and 12th-14th Sept 2017 (Army Python Dance massacre in Abia State), not less than 200 (excluding 30 additional dark figures of crimes arising from injury-deaths) were killed and 200 others maimed; which brings to not less than 480 killed and over 500 maimed or wounded in the entire killings and injuries between 30th August 2015 and 14thSept 2017.
10. That it is therefore not correct for the respected UN Chief to have concluded that “the exact number of death remains unknown” rather, it is likely correct to say that ‘independent research sources (i.e. Nigeria’s Intersociety report) put the total deaths and injuries in the shootings and killings to not less than 480 and 500, respectively’.
11. Breakdown Of The Casualty Figures (From Intersociety Report): That not less than six (6) deaths were recorded in the 30th of August 2015 protests at Awka and Onitsha, nine (9) in the Uyo and Port Harcourt mega protests of 30thAugust 2015, twenty-five (25) in the 2nd and 17thDecember 2015 protest and jubilation killings at Onitsha Niger Bridgehead and environs.
Others are: fifteen (15) in the 18th and 29th January 2016 killings in Aba, thirty (30) in the 9th February 2016 massacre at Aba National High School, one hundred and ten (110) in the 29th and 30thMay 2016 Biafra Heroes Day massacre at Nkpor, Ogidi and Onitsha and thirty (30) in the Asaba spill over massacre of same 30th May 2016. The rest are: twenty (20) in the 20thJanuary 2017 pro Trump Rally in Igweocha or Port Harcourt, 180 in the 12thand 14th September 2017 Army Python Dance 11 massacre in Aba, Asa-Ogwe, Isiala-Ngwa and Afara-Ukwu, all in Abia State; and sixty (60) deaths arising from those who later died of injuries and associated complications after being shot and critically injured by the military and the police, totalling 485 deaths.
12. That it is not only that the Nigerian Government refused and failed to treat the wounded in the killings, numbering over 500, but also dozens have died as a result of untreated injuries with dozens more crippled for life. It was also documented in the report how Nigerian security forces particularly Police SARS and Army personnel invaded at late night and in broad day light the hospitals and clinic treating the wounded, disrupted their treatments and abducted them to unknown destinations, without traces till date. The wives and children of the victims have not only been abandoned by the Nigerian Government to wallow in abject poverty and deprived of education or access to same, but also the Government has refused and failed to offer commensurate compensations to the survivors including the wounded and nuclear family members of the slain.
13. Number And Names Of The Slain & The Injured Cited: That out of the not less than 480 death tolls cited, 110 names were mentioned including 16 lifeless bodies dumped in two burrow pits along Aba-Port Harcourt Road, Aba in February 2016 and four persons that later died in Dec 2015 of gunshot wounds at a Hospital (names withheld) at Nkpor in December. The remaining 370 names, in addition to said sixteen lifeless bodies found in Aba-Port Harcourt Road burrow pits, constitute those killed and taken away or buried or dumped in undisclosed secret graves or sites by soldiers, police and other security personnel.
The referenced number of the slain and the maimed was credibly obtained from several sources including discreet hospital and mortuary sources, eyewitnesses and survivors as well as some concerned security officials who wish not to be named. Those pieces of credible information were obtained in the course of our field trips, scene of crime visits and general research-investigations, conducted between Dec 2015 and Dec 2018. It is our firm belief that the names and number of those killed or wounded will surge and be fully identified when the time is apt or appropriate for the constitution of panels or judicial commissions of enquiry by relevant government authorities or international inquiries by concerned international bodies.
A typical case in point was the setting up of Hon Justice G.C.M. Onyiuke Tribunal of 1968 that looked into the Igbo pogrom of 1966, which later found that “... between 45,000 and 50,000 civilians of former Eastern Nigeria were killed in Northern Nigeria and other parts of Nigeria from 29th May 1966 to December 1967; with estimated 1,627,743 (IDPs) Easterners fleeing back to Eastern Nigeria as a result of the 1966 pogrom.”
Difference Between Amnesty Int’l & Intersociety Reports: That the AI Report was narrower in coverage, space, time and casualties; having covered the 9th Feb killings in Aba and 30th May 2016 massacre in Onitsha and Nkpor. On the other hand, the Intersociety Report broadly covered phase one involving the 30th August 2015 (Onitsha, Awka, Port Harcourt, Yanagoa, Uyo and Asaba killings), 2nd and 17th Dec 2015 (Onitsha killings), 18th and 29th Jan, and 9th Feb 2016 (Aba killings) and 29th and 30th May 2016 (Onitsha, Nkpor, Ogidi and Asaba massacre); and phase two involving the 20th Jan 2017 (pro Donald Trump rally killings in Port Harcourt) and the 12th-14thSept 2017 (Army Python Dance massacre in Abia State).
14. Locations Of The Killings Including Seven Graveyards As Contained In Intersociety Report: That we had in the course of our investigations identified the ten killing or massacre locations as (a) Asaba (Delta State), (b) Onitsha (Anambra State), (c) Nkpor/Ogidi (Anambra State), (d) Aba (Abia State), (e) Umuahia (Abia State), (f) Isiala-Ngwa (Abia State), (g) Asa-Ogwe (Abia State), (h) Port Harcourt (Rivers State), (i) Uyo (Akwa Ibom State) and (j) Awka (Anambra State). The seven significant graveyards or dumping sites identified in the course of our investigations are (1) Asaba Swamps, (2) River Niger (Onitsha), (3) Onitsha Military Cemetery, (4) Umuahia Forests, (5) Isiala-Ngwa Forests, (6) Umu-Ura (Ogwe) Forest and (7) Aba National High School/Aba-Port Harcourt Road Burrow Pits.
15. Local Laws Do Not Support The Killings: That contrary to Your Excellency’s position as contained in Paragraph 57 of Your Excellency’s End of Visit Statement, local laws led by the 1999 Constitution do not empower the security forces to open fire and kill or wound unarmed and defenceless citizens in Nigeria including those in religious sanctuaries, places of work or those in perimeter fenced compounds signing and praying or those engaged in peaceful street protests. From our monitoring and findings, the pro Biafra and Shiite Muslim street protests and processions are the most peaceful and best organized in Nigeria; yet the security forces open fire at close range, killing and wounding them in their hundreds at each of such protests.
16. That exceptions provided in Section 33 of the Constitution in the context of use of force have nothing whatsoever to do with shooting and killing those classified above. The exceptions are strictly meant for violent criminals who are violent in the time of their arrest or in custody (i.e. suspected armed robbers, kidnappers, arsonists or murderers, etc). Others that fall into this category include violent criminal entities such as armed opposition groups (i.e. Boko Haram and Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen) or battlefield combatants in the circumstances of internal conflict or insurrection. Totality of the above is also governed by proportionality of force and military necessity. By Section 1 (3) of the Constitution, any local legal provision or supplementary provision such as Police Order 237 which is inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution is instantly unconstitutional, null and void.
By Section 315 of the same Constitution, such Laws of the Federation and of the 36 States and their Supplementary Provisions or Enactments are subject to and must be brought under the existing Constitution of the country. Nigeria is also a Party to a litany of international rights treaty laws, duly ratified and domesticated variously by the country. In all these, no derogation is allowed. In other words, Nigeria is not an animal kingdom, but democratic country. Its leaders’ conduct-policies and conduct-actions as well as the provisions of its laws must conform at all times with the international best practices under the UN System.
17. That it is also important to point out the following: By extrajudicial executions, they are defined by international law as unlawful and deliberate killings carried out by policing and other security agents including soldiers by order of a government or with its complicity or acquiescence.
18. That by unlawful killings, they involve killings resulting from excessive use of force by law enforcement officials, which violate right to life guaranteed by Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution (S.33), the Int’l Covenant on Civil & Political Rights (Article 6.1) and the African Charter on Human & People’s Rights (Article 4), ratified and domesticated by Nigeria on 26th June 1983 (African Charter).
19. That by summary or arbitrary executions, they are executions in which persons are accused of a crime or crimes and immediately killed without benefit of a full and fair trial.
20. �� That by enforced disappearance(s), it is a situation where a person or persons are arrested, detained, abducted or otherwise deprived of liberty by the authorities or their agents, or people acting with their authorization, support or acquiescence, but the authorities do not acknowledge this or conceal the abducted persons’ fate or whereabouts, placing them outside the protection of the law. These are stated in the UN Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, signed and ratified by Nigeria on 27thJuly 2009.
21. That by torture,it is any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.
22. That by the provisions of international criminal and human rights laws as well as Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution and its subsidiary criminal laws, a criminal is anybody that has attained 18yrs of age and above who violates the criminal laws of a country or a defined political territory such as Nigeria. Under such circumstances, the accused is not a criminal and must not be treated so until he or she completely goes through due processes of arrest, investigation, prosecution, fair trial, conviction and sentencing. A child usually under the age of 12, who is in conflict with the criminal law, is regarded by same as a delinquent and treated under juvenile delinquency law.
23. That in other words, any citizen arrested by security forces including soldiers and taken into custody and got killed by torture or starvation or any prejudicial or extrajudicial means, clearly amounts to a victim of extrajudicial, arbitrary or summary execution/killing and torture; while unarmed and defenseless citizens killed at the scenes of religious processions, peaceful street protests or rallies, picketing, meeting, night vigils, at sleep, workplaces, etc; all amount to victims of unlawful killings and extrajudicial executions.
24. That those arrested or abducted and taken to undisclosed locations with their whereabouts unknown to their families and lawyers are victims of enforced disappearances. Under Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution, any person arrested and taken into police or security custody including military custody on accusationof crime of whatever gravity is presumed innocent until found guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction. This is contained in Section 36 (5) of the Constitution.
25. That citizens arrested and detained in policing or military custodies are also exempted from torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment. This is contained in Section 34 (1) (a) of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution, now criminalized by the newly enacted anti Torture Act of 2017. By Section 1(1) and 1(3) of the Constitution, “Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution is supreme and above any other law created or deemed to have been created by the National Assembly of Nigeria or States’ Houses of Assembly”.
26. That therefore, all forms of killings and maiming contrary to or in gross breach of the above local and international due processes and laws are technically or legally referred as extra jus (beyond the law), extra-legal (beyond what the written criminal law provides) and extrajudicial (beyond court or judicial pronouncement or verdict).
27. That that is to say that any killing of unamed or defenseless human being, rightly or wrongly accused of being in conflict with criminal law, by a State actor or official security operative, official or officer of the law without the completeness of such unarmed slain citizen being subjected, before his or her killing, to the processes of arrest, investigation, prosecution, fair trial, conviction and sentencing by a criminal court of competent jurisdiction inexcusably amounts to extra jus, extra-legal and extrajudicial killing.
28. That by Section 36 (8) of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution, nobody shall be held to be guilty of a criminal offence if such act or omission did not constitute a criminal offence as at the time of his or her arrest and detention and no penalty heavier than that in force as at the time the alleged offence was committed shall be imposed on him or her. By Section 36 (12) of the Constitution, nobody shall be convicted of a criminal offence if the act or omission is not defined and the penalty, therefore, is prescribed in writtenlaw.
29. That by Section 35 (4) (a) of the same Constitution, nobody shall be arrested and detained for more than 60 days without trial or court bail in the case of any citizen or citizens credibly and circumstantially accused of committing capital offence such as in the offences of armed robbery or abduction or murder or rape or terrorism or terrorism financing or treason or treasonable felony; or 24hrs/48hrs in the case of any citizen or citizens accused of non capital and leniently bailable offenses.
30. That by Nigeria’s criminal laws and the Constitution, too, omission to act when the law so requires him or her to do so is a criminal offence; likewise aiding and abetting of crimes by public office holders. Put in place in Nigeria too, are the trio of code of conduct for personnel and officers of the Nigeria Police Force (for purpose of checkmating police corruption and brutality or rights abuses in the course of their official duties), the code of conduct and the rules of engagement for personnel and officers of the Nigerian Army, Air Force, Navy and SSS or all members of the Nigerian Armed Forces; principally designed to checkmate perpetration of human rights abuses and violations in the conduct of their official duties.
31. That therefore, we in summation make bold to say that the massacre of members of the Indigenous People of Biafra, bystanders and those in their places of work and religious sanctuaries, etc all amounted to crimes against humanity because there was no armed resistance or armed opposition group in the area affected by the military massacre. Which explains why there was no single loss of a soldier; yet hundreds were massacred and hundreds maimed.
32. That the massacre was also perpetrated outside the existing local laws (Constitution and its auxiliaries), regional (i.e. African Rights Charter) and international (i.e. ICCPR & ICESCR) laws, etc. None of the perpetrators, till date, has been brought or made to account for atrocities perpetrated. That is to say that whatever defense put up by the present Government of Nigeria as per the massacre is dead on arrival as it was perpetrated beyond excuses and defenses known to the local Constitution and international best practices.
33. That there also have been several cases of disappearances, incommunicado detentions, trumped-up charges, psycho-physical torture and other degrading treatments and long detentions without trial. Criminal cases filed in courts by the Federal Government against the arrested and long detained victims have been riddled with discontinuances or discontinuations, withdrawals and dismissals, etc, all for lack of evidence, diligent investigation and prosecution; to the extent that Government of Nigeria has not secured a single conviction against any of the vindictively arrested and accused victims since August 2015.
34. Use Of Terror Tag For Purpose Of Evading Local & Int’l Justice: That the Nigerian authorities apart from failing the litmus test of the int’l law’s principle of complimentarity and no impunity orinability and unwillingness to fish out and punish the perpetrators using the instrumentalities of the country’s municipal laws have also come up with reckless use of ‘terror tag’ against unarmed civil entities that have their unarmed and defenseless members including women and children (i.e. members of IPOB, IMN and innocent others) massacred or maimed in their thousands by the country’s security forces led by the Nigerian Army.
35. That specifically, the Nigerian Defense Headquarters had on 15thSept 2017 after receiving the intelligence reports that its soldiers had massacred many (later found to be over 180) unarmed and defenseless citizens in Abia State in execution of its ‘Operation Python Dance 11’, caused steps to be taken apparently to retroactively justify the massacre and escape or evade local and int’l justice by designating ‘IPOB’ as a ‘terror organization’ and on Sunday, 17th Sept 2017, President Muhammadu Buhari issued a proclamation tagging ‘IPOB’ a terrorist organization. This was followed by a retroactive ex parte court order issued by the now retired Justice Abdul Kafarati, then Acting Chief Judge of the Federal High Court in Nigeria. The court order ex parte was made on Wednesday, 20th Sept 2017.
36. Two years later, the same Federal Government of Nigeria on Friday, 26thJuly 2019 approached an Abuja Division of the Federal High Court presided over by Justice Nkeonye Maha. The ex parte application was made via Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/876/2019, urging the Court to proscribe ‘IMN’ or ‘Islamic Movement in Nigeria’ and declare same as ‘terrorist organization’. The Judge granted the application as unilaterally canvassed. Days later, the Nigerian Government pronounced Shiite Muslims as “terror group” and banned same; with consequent crackdown on their members including death in police custody of three of their bullet-injured members and invasion of hospitals treating the wounded and their abduction to unknown destinations, etc.
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