By Romanus Okoye, Lagos
An Igbo group, Nzuko Umunna, has called on Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen Ibrahim Attahiru, ‘that it is in the overall interest of the country that he uses his good offices to not only clear the air on alleged disturbing shoot-on-sight directive but also counter any such directive in case it has by some fluke or stroke of overzealousness, been issued.
‘We most respectfully urge you to use your good offices to intervene, as a matter of urgency, in this very critical matter to douse the tension and apprehension in the region arising from rumours and the expectation that the killings and unnecessary waste of human lives will escalate.’
In a letter signed by Dr N Odumuko and Dr P Mbanefo for Nzuko Umunna, a think-tank of Igbo intellectuals and professionals all over the world, the group stated: ‘We feel duty-bound to inform you that there is palpable fear over a Shoot-On-Sight directive reportedly given to Army troops in the South East in recent days, a scheme for which new batches of men were moved over the weekend.
‘By some accounts, this directive seems to have been given unofficially in a hush-hush manner, making the situation all the more ominous.
‘A Shoot-On- Sight directive is tantamount to an order to extra-judicially exterminate innocent citizens as there is no telling who might be part of the collerteral, unintended casualties. Throughout history, such military strategies or policies have always run the risk of going contrary to all accepted conventions and protocols on the rules of engagement, particularly the Rome Statutes.
‘In fact, it can be read as Genocide where as in this case, there is clear and evident danger of such action resulting in high casualties. If the speculation of a Shoot-On-Sight order were to bear any atom of truth, then it amounts to a declaration of war on the area. However, even if, for any reason, the Federal Government is minded to declare war on the South East or a part of it, there are standard international conventions and protocols that must be observed. One of such is the requirement to publicly and unambiguously declare that a war situation has arisen in such a place so that those who wish to, especially the civilians and innocent citizens, can withdraw from such a place.That has not been done.
‘But it is our well considered contention that there do not exist in the South East of Nigeria any peculiar situation which does not exist in even worse forms in other parts of the country to warrant or justify such a Shoot-On-Sight order. And we put whoever thinks to the contrary to the strictest of proof.’
The copy of the letter is made available to the Chief of Defence Staff, the Minister of Defence, the Chief of Staff to the CnC, the United Nations Agency on Human Rights, Human Rights International,
the United States Embassy, the High Commission United Kingdom, the French Embassy, the Russian Embassy, Amnesty International and the Nigerian Human Rights, Commission.