It is the new finding by the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law, a leading research and investigative rights group that no fewer than 2000 law abiding citizens of Eastern Nigeria have since January 2021 been abducted by soldiers of the Nigerian Army and operatives of the Nigeria Police Force, Nigerian Navy, Department of the State Security Service and others; and out of this number, at least, 500 have disappeared or feared killed in secret custody of the Army or made victims of unlawful executions who will never return alive. The abduction involved the victims being secretly arrested at ungodly hours, falsely and criminally labeled without conclusive investigations; held secretly amidst torture and other degrading treatments or punishments; and treated ‘extra jus’ detention without fair court trial and access to the victims by their families, physicians and lawyers. It is also our finding that out of no fewer than 140 killed in the two regions by the named security operatives especially soldiers and police since January 2021, at least 120 are independently found to be combatively uninvolved or victims of extra-judicial killings. The military and police killings involved not less than 40 killed in Imo, 30 in Akwa Ibom, 20 in Abia, 15 in Rivers, 13 in Anambra, 10 in Ebonyi, 8 in Cross River, 5 in Enugu and none in Delta. All the States mentioned are collectively the victims of the military abductions and disappearances.
The above findings followed our recent review of the ongoing ethnic and religious profiling and cleansing embarked upon by Nigerian military in the East particularly in the States of Imo, Abia, Rivers, Ebonyi, Anambra, Akwa Ibom, Enugu, Delta and Cross River States; discreditably and questionably code-named: Operation Restore Peace”. The new review shows that Imo State topped the list of the abductees with no fewer than 500, followed by Abia, Ebonyi, Rivers and Akwa Ibom with average of 300 abductees; Anambra 200 and average of 100 abductees each Cross River, Enugu and Delta States. These abductions, killings, maiming, torture and disappearances by military and police also bear stark evidence of persecution, hate and crude policing and solidering as 99% of the victims cutting across the three heinous crimes are members of Christian faith with most of them belonging to Igbo Ethnic Nationality. Intersociety did not find any evidence showing that such violent clampdowns are also extended to members of Fulani Muslim population resident in the East whose jihadist elements have since 2016 killed over 400 rural and urban Igbo Christians and their neighbors and forcefully occupied over 500 of their farmlands, bushes and forests. Further checks also indicated that the non indigenous Muslim population in the regions are pampered and treated sacredly by the drafted Muslim dominated and controlled security heads. I
In the area of inter-agency responsibility as regards to the abductions, killings, and disappearances, etc; soldiers of the Nigerian Army are the most crude, brutish and unprofessional; accounting for many of the killings and most of the disappearances. In Imo State alone, soldiers accounted for many, if not most of the 40 deaths including ten passersby or residents of the State killed at Army roadblock checks and during patrols. Soldiers also accounted for most of not less than 20 killings in Abia State; falsely labeled “IPOB/ESN members”. In recent repelled “unknown gunmen” attack at Army roadblock in Aba, for instance, soldiers including members of the reinforcement military squads opened fire and killed scores of passersby including Keke riders and later labeled them “IPOB/ESN members”. This was after the attackers had retreated safely having been out-gunned. During the recent Orlu shootout between soldiers and the “unknown gunmen”, out of eleven bodies displayed and labeled as “slain IPOB/ESN gunmen”, at least six were not combatively involved; same was the case in another attack that took place few days ago in Awka-where out of seven displayed slain bodies of “IPOB/ESN gunmen”, at least five were not combatively involved. Soldiers also shared same responsibility with police and SSS (DSS) in the area of late night house raids and instant killing of sleeping or resting citizens and their abduction. A clear case in point was in Iriebe, Rivers State where soldiers and police raided a house at late night and opened fire killing a single mother of two and three others and labeled them “IPOB members”. Instances are many to mention.u
Soldiers also took the lead and accounted for over 90% of the 500 disappeared persons. This they did by abducting large number of lawful citizens at roadblocks and during late night raids, etc and hatefully labeled them as “IPOB/ESN members”. The soldiers after abducting the citizens are found on several occasions to have refused to hand them over to the Police as required by Nigerian Law, but abduct them to unknown locations where they run high risks of being killed and buried in secrecy. Till date, soldiers are still holding 110 abducted Obigbo residents in far away Nigerian Army Commando Base in Bida, Niger State; and out of the number; two have been tortured or starved to death. The victims were abducted in Obigbo, Rivers State since October/November 2020 or since past seven months.
Soldiers, police and DSS shared responsibility for abducting no fewer than 2000 Easterners since January 2021. This they jointly did through late night house raids, house-to-house search, stop-and-search and other forms of operational patrols. While police personnel abducted and kept most of the abductees alive amidst torture and other inhuman treatments including detention without trial; soldiers and DSS are notoriously known to abducting and taking the abductees to their secret dungeons where access to their families, physicians and lawyers is totally blocked and denied. DSS operatives and soldiers including personnel of the Nigerian Navy are also noted for holding their captives for several months or years outside public knowledge, official records and court trial. The most shocking of it all was our recent discovery of secret transfer of between 300 and 350 abducted Eastern citizens to Makurdi Prisons (Correctional Facility) in Benue State. They were among those abducted in Imo, Abia, Anambra and Ebonyi, etc and held in secrecy for months before secretly transferred to the named Prison facilities. The abductees also represent bulk of those abducted by Police. Information concerning the whereabouts of those abducted by soldiers and DSS including the estimated 500 disappeared citizens has remained unavailable; thereby raising serious concerns over their safety including whether they are still alive or not. Survivors among them, likely in their hundreds are strongly suspected to have been secretly transferred to secret military dungeons in the North using hired rogue commercial transport companies.
Finally, apart from soldiers of the Nigerian Army being at the forefront of the ongoing killings in Christian Eastern Nigeria, they are also responsible for many of the referenced abductions and most of the disappearances. These killings, maiming, torture, abuses, abductions and disappearances are fueled by domination and control of the officer corps of the military formations in the two regions by Muslims who wantonly exhibit jihadist and hateful attitudes towards the general citizens of the two regions including seeing and treating them as “infidels”. In Delta State, such killer military operations are coordinated by 63 Brigade under same domination and control of Muslim officers and non indigenous others. Same goes in Anambra State under Onitsha 302 Army Artillery Regiment and Ogbaru Navy Base, Imo State under 34 Brigade Obinze, Abia State under 14 Brigade Ohafia and 144 Battalion at Asa and Aba and Navy School of Finance and Logistics at Owerrenta; Rivers State under 343 and 5 Battalions, Elele and 6 Division in Port Harcourt; Akwa Ibom and Bayelsa States under 2 Brigade, Uyo and 16 Brigade, Yenagoa; Cross River State under 13 Brigade and its 130 Battalion and 341 Artillery Regiment in Ogoja; Ebonyi State under 24 Army Support Engineering, Abakiliki; and Enugu State under 82 Division and its 103 Battalion, Awkunanaw.
Barr Chinwe Umeche
Barr Obianuju Igboeli
Barr Chidimma Udegbunam