Falana faults Nigerian Army’s claim on killed pro-Biafra protesters

Femi Falana
Femi Falana [Photo credits: Newsbreakers]

Human right lawyer, Femi Falana, has faulted the claim by the Nigerian Army that only five members of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, had died as soldiers quelled protest marches by the group.

Mr. Falana called on the federal government to investigate the killings, including those of Shiites killed in the north.

The Army had made the claim in its denial of the account by the Amnesty International that 150 IPOB members on peaceful protests were gunned down by  soldiers.

The army, in a statement by the Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, had said that five people were killed, eight wounded and nine arrested.

But Mr. Falana, in a paper entitled ”War Against Corruption-Issues and Challenges Confronting the Judiciary”, which he delivered at the 2016 Law Week of the Jos branch of the Nigeria Bar Association, called for a thorough investigation to unravel the truth.

He said since the Army had controverted the account of Amnesty International on the casualties, the federal government should set up a panel of inquiry to investigate the matter.

“Last week, the Amnesty International released a damning report on the brutal killing of 150 members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) by the Nigerian Army. Unsurprisingly, the army has denied the report”, he said in the paper, a copy of which he made available to Premium Times on Wednesday.

“It is curious to note that neither the national leadership of NBA nor any of its 109 branches has deemed it fit to condemn the crimes against hu­manity committed by the Army and the worsening human rights record of the federal government.

“But the NBA reacted angrily to the nocturnal raid of homes of seven judges who were arrested for alleged corrupt prac­tices last month by opera­tives of the State Security Service”, Mr. Falana said.

The senior lawyer also queried the methods being used in the fight against corruption, saying the anti-graft agencies “should put an end to the media trial of criminal suspects” while government should ensure “there is need for transparency”.

Mr. Falana said unless these were done, “Transparency and other western anti-corruption bodies will continue to justify the fraudulent stigmatization of the victims of grand corruption.”

He stressed: “To the extent that some funds have been recovered while a number of suspects have been charged to court, the fight against corruption may be said to be on course. But the government has to do much more to promote accountability and transparency in government”.

A new report by Amnesty International (AI) had alleged that extrajudicial execution and torture by Nigeria security forces, especially the Nigerian Army, led to the death of at least 150 pro-Biafra protesters across Nigeria’s south-east, between August 2015 and August 2016.

The report titled: “Bullets Were Raining Everywhere”: Deadly Repression of Pro-Biafra Activists, released on Thursday relied on the analysis of 87 videos, 122 photographs and 146 eye witness testimonies that revealed soldiers of the Nigeria military firing live ammunition to disperse protesters, most of them members of the separatist group, IPOB.

According to AI, at least 60 defenceless IPOB protesters were shot dead within two days leading to the Biafra Remembrance Day of May 30.

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But the Army issued a statement denying that soldiers killed and tortured defenseless agitators.

It stated that the report was an attempt to tarnish the reputation of Nigerian security forces and that of the army especially.

The statement by the acting director of army public relations, Sani Usman, a colonel, stated that IPOB members relished in the use of violence that threatens the security of the country.

It also claimed that IPOB members attacked and killed people from other ethnic groups in the South-east and injured several soldiers and policemen. The statement also claimed that the protesters vandalized military and police vehicles.

IPOB, which was formed by Nnamdi Kanu, seeks the restoration of Republic of Biafra, a secessionist state declared by the defunct Eastern Region of Nigeria on May 30, 1967. The declaration led to the Nigerian civil war, until the secessionists surrendered to the Nigerian federal authorities in January 1970. Over 1 million people died in the war.

Mr. Kanu was arrested on October 14 and is being tried for treason over his role in the fresh agitation for Biafra. His arrest provoked an increase in the agitation of pro-Biafra activists, some of whom have marched on the streets in cities mostly in the South-east region of Nigeria.

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