• Igbo group drags Arewa youths, others to ICC
From Obinna Odogwu, Abakaliki and Godwin Tsa, Abuja
In spite of withdrawing an October 1, 2017, quit notice on Igbo living in the North, two organs of the United Nations (UN) have denounced the ultimatum issued by members of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum.
The two UN bodies also condemned death threats targeting members of Nigeria’s Igbo ethnicity.
The agencies also demanded official investigation of the incitement to violence, in order to unmask the perpetrators for prosecution and punishment.
The global bodies said those to be identified must include “the people behind the ultimatum and those responsible for the creation, publication, and circulation of the hate song and audio message.”
The UN experts, who authored the statement, included Mr. Mutuma Ruteere, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Mr. Fernand de Varennes, Special Rapporteur on minority issues and Miss Anastasia Crickley, Chairperson of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
Following the UN experts’ report, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination held its 93rd session between July 31 and August 25, 2017.
Acting under it’s “Early Warning and Urgent Action Procedure,” the committee said it was deeply concerned “by the rise of racist hate speech and incitement to violence against the Igbo people, including through the recording and wide distribution of a song and audio message in Hausa language which describe the Igbo in hateful and derogatory terms.”
It added that the committee was “alarmed by the public ultimatum issued by a number of northern youth groups, forums, and coalitions on June 6, 2017, calling all Igbo in northern Nigeria to leave their homes by 1 October 2017,” noting that the ultimatum “may have been recently withdrawn.”
The committee decried “reports that other local elders and leaders have endorsed the ultimatum and expressed their support for such racist hate speech targeting and threatening the Igbo,” adding that it was “deeply worried by the information that some Igbo families have already started moving out from their villages and homes in northern Nigeria to avoid any possible harm to their personal integrity.”
The UN body drew attention to Nigeria’s membership of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and of the African Union (UN) as well as a State party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. It stated that Nigeria must “increase its efforts in systematically rejecting and condemning, including by high-level and local public officials and leaders, any form of racist hate speech, incitement to hatred and violence, and the dissemination of ideas of ethnic superiority.”
The body recommended that Nigeria “takes immediate action to stop and prevent the continued circulation and dissemination of the hate song and audio message mentioned above,” and “to exercise due diligence to halt, prevent and investigate acts of racist hate speech and incitement to hatred and violence against the Igbo people, in accordance with international human rights standards, with a view to bringing perpetrators to justice, punishing them adequately if convicted, and compensating victims.”
Despite calls by Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State, for the arrest of those who issued the quit notice to Igbo in the North, the police and other security agencies declined to act.
Last week, Arewa Youths Forum formally withdrew the ultimatum, with some of its members citing pressure from President Muhammadu Buhari for soft-pedaling.
However, in a statement released in Geneva, Switzerland, on August 25, 2017, the office of the UN Human Rights described the ultimatum to the Igbo to flee the North as a matter of “grave concern.”
Meanwhile, an Igbo group, Alaigbo Development Foundation (ADF), has said it would drag the leadership of Arewa Youths to the International Criminal Court (ICC), The Hague, and a Nigerian court, to answer questions on its quit notice to Igbo living in the North.
Also to be included in the proposed suit are their sponsors, including undisclosed top government officials in the north.
The group said the legal action was aimed at mounting judicial pressure “to restrain Arewa youths, their sponsors and supporters, including officials of the Northern governments, from executing their threat of quit notice and take-over of property owned by Ndigbo in the Arewa territories by October 1.”
In a statement issued to newsmen in Abakaliki and signed by its President, Prof. Uzodinma Nwala, Secretary, Prof. Nath Aniekwu and Chairman, Media and Publicity Bureau, Chief Abia Onyike, the Igbo leaders warned that any attack on any Igbo man, linked to the threat by Arewa groups, will be interpreted by Ndigbo as an announcement for the final dissolution of the Federation.
“ADF is assuring all that never, again, will any Igbo or Biafran property be declared abandoned or confiscated by any authority or group of persons in any part of the country.
“ADF and Ndigbo will fight that in accordance with international laws and conventions.
“ADF insists the only thing that will convince Ndigbo and Biafrans that the federal government is genuinely interested in protecting our lives and property in the North is the immediate enactment of a law by the National Assembly prohibiting confiscation or declaration as abandoned property of Ndigbo or any Nigerian for that matter in any part of the federation before October 1, 2017.
“ADF stands for a peacefully re-negotiated federation based on the principles of self-determination, truth, justice, equity and equality or a peaceful dissolution of Nigeria if the above is not feasible. This is a matter of extreme urgency.”