Vincent Kalu; Musa Jibril
The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) has hailed the recently released US State Department report indicting the Federal Government and security agencies over alleged killings of pro-Biafra agitators as a welcome development. While expressing its displeasure over the calibre of sources cited by the report and the omission of casualty figures, the separatist organization in setting the record straight claimed Nigerian security agents had killed a total of 1, 247 of its members since 2016.
The 2017 Country Report on Human Rights Practices released by the U.S. State Department on April 20 indicts the Federal Government for its failure to decisively investigate, curb and punish perpetrators of reported widespread human rights abuse and impunity in the country. The report, particularly, spotlighting extra-judicial killings perpetrated by Nigerian security apparatus––especially the Nigerian Army––specifically mentioned the Shiite and IPOB as victims of such impunity and abuse.
Reacting to the report, IPOB’s media and publicity secretary, Comrade Emma Powerful welcomed the report “insofar as it drew the attention of the civilised world to the heinous atrocities being perpetrated by key actors in the Buhari regime, namely heads of security agencies and Fulani herdsmen.”
He said: “It also confirmed the widely held assumption that all the killings and atrocities taking place in Nigeria, either state sanctioned-like military crackdown on civilian populations (IPOB and Shiite) or the unofficial carnage of terrorists are being undertaken by one ethnic group. The ever-present factor in all the mass killings so far recorded is that they were all perpetrated by one specific ethnic group.”
He reiterated IPOB’s decision to remain peaceful in its approach but warned that continued brutalisation and excessive force might compel them to have a rethink. “We know that after the ethnic cleansing in Benue State, the next target will be the heartland of Biafra and Enugu/Ebonyi to be precise,” he alleged. “It’s an eventuality we must be prepared for because Ohanaeze Ndigbo and South East governors are mere slaves to the north.”
Nevertheless, the group considered the report flawed on many grounds. The report mentioned a possible clash between the army and IPOB members in Abia and Rivers State at the height of Operation Python Dance II sometimes around September 15, 2017, that led to the death of a police officer. “This is factually inaccurate,” said Powerful, “because it was the army that invaded our land to kill us.”
No clash ever took place between security personnel and IPOB, he avowed. “People were running for their dear lives as army opened fire on them.”
He put down the story of a clash as government’s propaganda, designed to cast IPOB in a bad light before the world and to justify the movement’s later proscription. “The Nigerian Army came into our land to kill us, albeit, at the invitation of Ohanaeze Ndigbo and South East governors led by Dave Umahi,” he averred.
The IPOB spokesman also kicked against the report’s silence on the number of people killed so far by government security apparatus. “The report failed to mention in specific details the gruesome murder of 28 people during the invasion of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu’s residence,” he railed. “We are not happy about the omission of such crucial piece of evidence.”
Powerful set the record straight on the IPOB casualty, of its members, killed, missing or in detention since the group revved up its agitation for an Independent State of Biafra.
“We don’t have accurate figures because some of the bodies of those killed between September 10 and 14 2017 were carted away by the army never to be seen again. A lot of victims were bathed in acid in Aba so identifying them has proved almost impossible. It would be fair to say that we have lost over a thousand people through summary executions, abductions, illegal detention and kidnapping. Until a comprehensive audit of all the detention facilities is carried out including DSS headquarters in Abuja, arriving at an accurate figure will be almost impossible.”
Tallying the records of all the massacres that happened in 2016 and 2017 variously at Mbiama River (Bayelsa State), Enugu, Nkpor (Anambra), Aba and Umuahia (Abia State) and at the Trump Solidarity Rally at Igweocha in Port Harcourt (Rivers State), he put the casualty figure at a conservative estimate of 1,247.
“These are the people we know of and can account for because we physically counted the bodies at the various killing fields,” he said. Many bodies, according to him, were difficult to identify because they were badly decomposed beyond facial recognition. “There are many more that are unaccounted for buried in mass graves inside Onitsha Army barracks and Asa barracks in Ngwa Abia State,” Powerful claimed.
He reasserted IPOB’s unwavering commitment to its principles of non-violence in its pursuit of self-determination. “Only a referendum can settle the matter once and for all,” Powerful concluded.