By Casmir Igbokwe
The South-East has remained a conquered territory since the Nigerian civil war ended over 50 years ago. Oftentimes, security operatives harass, intimidate, extort, torture and even kill innocent youths under different guises. Some of the incidents are reported. Some are not. The people appear caged. But there is always an end to every season.
For now, we are in the season of extra-judicial killings. International human rights organisation, Amnesty International (AI), in a recent report, chronicled the most recent killings in the region. According to the organisation, security operatives killed over 115 civilians between March and June this year.
AI added, “Nigerian security forces have committed a catalogue of human rights violations and crimes under international law in their response to spiralling violence in southeast Nigeria, carrying out a repressive campaign since January, which has included sweeping mass arrests, excessive and unlawful force, and torture and other ill-treatment.”
President Muhammadu Buhari had warned, a few months ago, that troublemakers in the region would soon have the shock of their lives. He made allusion to his civil war exploits and said his government would treat such people in the language they understand.
“We are going to be very hard sooner than later,” he said.
Perhaps, this civil war language is what is playing out now. Otherwise, why would any sane soldier kill Mr. Oguchi Unachukwu, a German-based Nigerian who was unarmed and posed no threat to anybody? The man was on his way to Owerri Airport to catch a flight en route from Lagos to Germany on May 31, 2021, when the officer of the Nigerian Air Force shot him dead at a checkpoint in Owerri.
In the same Imo State, soldiers also killed a 45-year-old man, Matthew Opara, who was going home from work at a place called Orji near Owerri in May this year. This man was the breadwinner of the family. But one moment of military madness has left his family traumatized.
This siege did not start today. In December 2015, soldiers killed about 12 youths and wounded many others at Head Bridge, Onitsha, in Anambra State. The crime of the victims was that they trooped out to jubilate after they heard that a court had ordered the release of the detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mazi Nnamdi Kanu.
In February 2016, some unarmed members of IPOB went to a school compound to hold a prayer session in Aba, Abia State. Some minutes after they started clapping and singing, security agents swooped on them. By the time the operation ended, 22 IPOB members were confirmed dead and over 30 others wounded.
In 2017, the military hierarchy launched what it called Operation Python Dance to consolidate the siege of the South-East. Although the intention was to restore sanity and security in the region, soldiers ended up intimidating and even killing people at random. Then, it became extremely risky for anyone to have a tattoo or to be seen with any insignia of Biafra. It could lead to one’s death. Some newspaper free readers and vendors, tricycle riders, artisans and passers-by were victims.
The security situation in the region worsened from January this year when security men became targets of attacks. In Imo State, about 21 policemen were killed. In Anambra, Abia and Ebonyi, dozens of security agents were also killed. Media reports attributed the killings to unknown gunmen. But Nigerian authorities believe the culprit is the Eastern Security Network (ESN), an armed wing of IPOB.
The ESN came about in the wake of the rising spate of insecurity, especially attacks by criminal herdsmen in the South-East and elsewhere. Security operatives were unable to contain such attacks. The South-East governors dilly-dallied on their promise to establish a regional security outfit. By the time they came up with Operation Ebubeagu to coordinate the security of the region, it was too late. Apart from Ebonyi State that has sewn a uniform for the outfit, Ebubeagu appears dead on arrival.
Besides, IPOB warned Igbo youths to steer clear of the government security outfit or risk joining their ancestors. The Nigerian government sees this and other activities of the ESN as an affront. Recall that the Federal Government had declared IPOB a terrorist organisation.
But in a bid to clamp down on the Biafran agitators, security operatives, most times, disregard the rules of engagement. Rather than go after identified criminals who are killing people and destroying private and public properties, they unleash their anger on innocent citizens.
Perhaps, the South-East is suffering this injustice because it has nobody to speak for it in top security circles. In the security hierarchy of this country, the Igboman is missing. When a decision is being taken at that level, nobody represents his interests.
Anarchy is what reigns in a society that cannot guarantee justice and security for its citizens. It has happened in Somalia, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan and some other places. It is happening in Tigray region of Ethiopia. Nigeria is coming close to it, as life in Africa’s most populous country has no value anymore. Herdsmen, bandits, hoodlums, terrorists, security operatives kill at will. The government we elected to protect life and property is handicapped and overwhelmed.
We must learn to stop doing things with impunity. All those found culpable in the extra-judicial killing of innocent citizens must be brought to justice. That is one major way the traumatized family of the victims will find some peace. And that is how to put a check on such killings.
There is crime in every society. But what makes the difference between an advanced democracy and a crawling one like ours is adherence to the rule of law. Derek Chauvin, the police officer who killed a Black American, George Floyd, in the United States of America in May 2020, did not go free. He was prosecuted for the crime he committed and sentenced to 22 years and six months in prison in June this year. If I may ask, what has happened to the security agents that killed some youths in Onitsha, Aba, Owerri and elsewhere? Have they been tried and made to pay for what they did?
Nigerian government should take charge of the security of the nation. Those who kill extra-judicially should be tried and punished according to the law, if found guilty. Ultimately, dialogue and restructuring remain the best option to lasting peace in Nigeria.
Re: CAN and MURIC’s dangerous political game
Dear Casy, Prof. Ishaq Akintola is one among those so-called educated Nigerians who, after acquiring higher certificates, end up as religious bigots, extremists and promoters of religious conflicts and hatred in our country. We have read his rash and wicked opinion on the pages of some national newspapers for a long time now. Let’s not dignify his religious bigotry. Prof. Ishaq Akintola and his ilk are not the type of religious leaders we need now and in the future. Let’s ignore his nuisance.
– Eze Chima C., Lagos, +2347036225495
Dear Casmir, I hope for a government that will proscribe religious worship even for six months and establish National Agency on Fake Ministration (NAFAM). The aim will be to audition Christianity and Islam to remove all sentiments leading to unhealthy rivalry before unbanning them. Only God will save Nigeria.
– Cletus Frenchman, Enugu, +234 909 538 5215
Casmir, building of virile and progressive nation requires trust, peace and unity. A country where hatred, suspicion, distrust and disunity prevail will not be cohesive enough to produce the desired development. Nigeria, ab initio, was planted on deceit. That gave a certain religion and tribe the impression of dominance over others. That dominance trait has manifested in the form of impunity to the constituted authority as seen in various ways. It’s that impunity that showcased itself in infiltrating the polity with religion. It’s also the impunity that prompted a President to disobey the Constitution and ensure that one religion or ethnic group lords it over others in the name of appointments. It’s the same impunity that promotes insecurity as it’s witnessed today in this country.
For any meaningful development to be achieved, merit and healthy competition must be encouraged. Religion and politics are contraindicated in any progressive nation. In Nigeria, the way to achieve progress is promoting restructuring so that there will be no room for dominance but many rooms for ideological minds that will spearhead progress in every sector of the economy.
– Pharm. Okwuchukwu Njike, +234 803 885 4922
Dear Casy, from post-Independence to date, has it not been leaders of Christian or Islamic faith that have occupied the nation’s seat of power? The outcome? Progressive ruination! The current dispensation appears the climax! Why so? It is so because inside the religious garb our leaders put on is HYPOCRISY of monstrous dimensions neatly hidden. This hypocrisy drives their actions or inactions in statecraft beyond the boundaries of decency, which lands the nation in a whirlwind. Solution? (1) Vision, mission driven by capacity, competence, altruism, integrity and honesty should be the hallmark by our leaders. (2) Religious bigotry mixed with politics should be buried, as it has caused incalculable rupture in our national life. (3) The Abiola/Kingibe political ship of salvation, which the forces of retrogression torpedoed, should be a good reference in our nation’s political affairs.
– Steve Okoye. Awka, 08036630731
In the case of Moshood Abiola and Babagana Kingibe, religion was downplayed by Nigerians: and region – which you have submitted was the consideration – was also a non-issue. Rather, the personality of M.K.O. Abiola, his superlative performance at the political debate against Tofa’s poor showing and his (M.K.O) recurring acts of philanthropy largely accounted for his nationwide acceptance. The entire country was enveloped by the Abiola aura to the extent that Alhaji Bashir Othman Tofa even lost in his ward. When will Nigeria be blessed again with such a historic occurrence that was mindlessly wasted on the altar of tribal politics by Gen. Babangida and his cohorts? The Arise Television panelists should have asked Gen. Babangida if there would have been a coup if Tofa had won.
That was the era when some people would shamelessly say that ‘even a goat from the North will beat the best from the South’. Gen. Babangida and his ilk were of the belief that the sad episode would replay itself. It did not. Hence, the Abiola mandate was aborted in the still of the night. Lately, the precious votes of the people of Kogi were wasted on the altar of religion and politics for Alhaji Bello to become governor instead of Mr. Falake, who with the late Alhaji Abubakar Audu, attracted the votes and support of the people of Kogi State. That Nigeria is neck-deep in the murky waters of tribalism and religion is why our abundant human resources have not been exploited to our advantage.
– Edet Essien Esq., Cal. South, 08037952470
Let us put sentiment aside, what Nigeria needs in the 2023 presidential election is somebody that can put food on the table of Nigerians, irrespective of religion, tribe and what have you. Those saying that it is their turn to produce the next President in 2023 should stop that agitation and let all political parties pick their presidential candidates from the South-East region for equity, fairness and oneness.
– Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia.+2348062887535
- Also published in the Daily Sun of Monday, August 16, 2021