Amnesty accuses Nigerian security forces of killing 150 rebel group members….writes Francis Kokutse
Security forces led by the military in the West African state of Nigeria have been accused by the international human rights campaigner Amnesty International (AI) of embarking on a campaign of extra-judicial executions resulting in the deaths of about 150 peaceful pro-Biafra protesters belonging to the rebel Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) group in the south east of the country.
The IPOB emerged in 2012 and campaigns for an independent Biafran state. Almost 50 years ago, an attempt to establish a Biafra state led to a civil war from 1967 to 1970. Since August 2015, there have been a series of protests, marches and gatherings by members and supporters of IPOB. Tensions increased further following the arrest of IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu on October 14, 2015. He remains in detention.
Amnesty said in a report on Thursday that analysis of 87 videos, 122 photographs and 146 eye-witness testimonies relating to demonstrations and other gatherings between August 2015 and August 2016 consistently shows that “the military fired live ammunition with little or no warning to disperse crowds. It also finds evidence of mass extra-judicial executions by security forces, including at least 60 people shot dead in the space of two days in connection with events to mark Biafra Remembrance Day”.
“This deadly repression of pro-Biafra activists is further stoking tensions in the southeast of Nigeria. This reckless and trigger-happy approach to crowd control has caused at least 150 deaths and we fear the actual total might be far higher,” Amnesty International’s interim director in Nigeria, Makmid Kamara, said.
The report said by far the largest number of pro-Biafra activists were killed on Biafra Remembrance Day on May 30, 2016 when an estimated 1,000 IPOB members and supporters gathered for a rally in Onitsha in Anambra State. The night before the rally, the security forces raided homes and a church where IPOB members were sleeping.
“On Remembrance Day itself, the security forces shot people in several locations. Amnesty International has not been able to verify the exact number of extra-judicial executions, but estimates that at least 60 people were killed and 70 injured in these two days. The real number is likely to be higher,” it added.
The report said AI has also reviewed videos of a peaceful gathering of IPOB members and supporters at Aba National High School on February 9, 2016 which showed the Nigerian military surrounded the group and then fired live ammunition at them without any prior warning.
“On many of the incidents detailed in the report, including the Aba High School protest, the military applied tactics designed to kill and neutralize an enemy, rather than to ensure public order at a peaceful event,””it added
The report said all IPOB gatherings documented by Amnesty International were largely peaceful. In those cases where there were pockets of violence, it was mostly in reaction to shooting by the security forces.
“Eyewitnesses told Amnesty International that some protesters threw stones, burned tyres and in one incident shot at the police. Regardless, these acts of violence and disorder did not justify the level of force used against the whole assembly,””it added.
Amnesty said On September 30, 2016, it shared the key findings of this report with the Federal Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Army Staff, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Interior, Inspector General of Police and the Director General of the state Security Services. Responses were received from the Attorney General and Inspector General of Police but neither answered the questions raised in the report, AI said.