Groups representing the interests of Igbo people in the Diaspora, Coordination of World Igbo Congress (WIC), Igbo World Assembly (IWA) and Nzuko Umunna have strongly condemned the shoot-on-sight order given by the Acting Inspector-General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba to policemen in the South-East region.
The police boss last Tuesday, launched a new special operational action plan code-named, Operation Restore Peace, to clamp down on members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and its militant arm, Eastern Security Network (ESN), over the uprising in the region.
The police said in a release that the IGP launched the special operation at the Michael Okpara Square, Enugu as part of efforts targeted at returning the southeastern region to its historical pride of place where its people were known to be peaceful, tolerant, innovative, industrious and entrepreneurial.
It also said partly, “The IGP, while appreciating the individual and collective efforts of all the South-East governors and other critical stakeholders in the region towards supporting the police in restoring security and strengthening national unity, assured the nation, that in the coming days the special operation will be extended to other parts of the South-East region to confront criminal elements, take the battle to their doorsteps and re-order our cherished national values in the region.”
The groups in a statement jointly signed by Prof Anthony Ejiofor, Chairman, World Igbo Congress; Dr Nwachukwu Anakwenze, Chairman, Igbo World Assembly; Sir Ngozi Odumuko, Executive Secretary, Nzuko Umunna and Elder Amadiebube Mbama, Coordinator, Joint Action Committee said the response of the Federal Government to the rising insecurity in the region is odious and ominous.
The groups described the utterance of the IGP as capable of turning the region into a war zone rather than bring peace, stability and development.
They also called on the Federal Government to embrace the 12-point agenda recently adopted by Southern Governors, especially on restructuring, state policing and its ban on open grazing of cattle. This, they believe, will bring a lasting solution to the insecurity challenge in the region.
The statement read, “The entire Igbo Nation in the United States of America under the Coordination of World Igbo Congress, Igbo World Assembly and Nzuko Umunna reaffirms the bond and oneness of the Ndigbo in the Diaspora and have resolved to act as the coordinating point of Ndigbo in the US. We are unanimous in our strong condemnation of the reported shoot-on-sight order issued by the Inspector General of Police against Igbo youths.
“As an umbrella organisation that is not only vested in the interests of Ndigbo in the US but with deep roots in Nigeria, we are aware of socio-cultural, economic and political developments in our fatherland. To this end, we are not unaware of worsening security challenges in Nigeria and the concerted efforts by both state and non-state actors to arrest the situation.
“The country has witnessed how terrorism, killer herdsmen and banditry that have ravaged some parts of the north and is gradually descending to the Southern part of the country, especially the South-East and South-South regions–the Igbo heartland. Noteworthy is the fact that until recently, South-East was the most peaceful and stable region in Nigeria.
“While this is troubling and a great source of concern for Nigerians in general and Ndigbo in particular, what is more worrisome is the posture of the Federal Government and response by the law enforcement agents to the situation.
“For some reasons that seem odious and ominous, the utterances from the Presidency, government and law enforcement officials are laced with a desire to turn the region into a war zone rather than seek its peace, stability and development. The worst-case scenario was the latest comment credited to the Inspector-General of Police.
“On Tuesday, May 18, 2021, Nigeria’s number one law enforcement officer was quoted to have said: ‘If anyone accuses you of human rights violations, the report will come to my table and you know what I will do. So, take the battle to them wherever they are and kill them all. Don’t wait for an order’.
“This statement if true, is a call for genocide, extrajudicial killings and human rights violations against people of the South East and South-South regions.
“We have waited to be sure that the Police boss was either misquoted or had a Freudian slip that would be denied and clarified but none of that was done. Not only are we shocked that the IGP Baba did not deny and disassociate himself from such a murderous statement but we are equally surprised that the Presidency failed to call him to order and reassure the people of the zones who are already traumatised by such order that this is not the case. We want to believe that this is not a state policy that continues to designate the old Eastern region as an occupied territory since the end of the Biafra-Nigerian civil war.
“Against this backdrop, Ndigbo in the Diaspora condemns in strongest terms, the shoot-on-sight order given by the IG of Police and the military chiefs as part of their Rule of Engagements (ROE), which violates every fabric of Geneva convention on war crimes and on laws protecting civilians in conflict.
“Consequently, Ndigbo in the United States have commenced actions to hold the police chief to account and the Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces for declaration of war on citizens of Nigeria, particularly in the South-East and South-South regions.
“For emphasis, we want to bring the attention of the IGP, Service Chiefs and Presidency that the international conventions and international rules are not being followed in the latest rules of engagement for their operations in Igboland and therefore, constitute acts or intent to commit genocide.
“As an organisation that believes in peace anchored on equity, fairness and justice, we urge the government to explore dialogue as an avenue to lasting peace in the regions and not a military-era shoot-on-sight order. We are asking the government to embrace dialogue, engage with the people and leaders of these regions to assuage their grievances, which borders on marginalisation and systemic discrimination.
“We are also using this opportunity to inform the international community and human rights organisations that if the government and law enforcement agents continue with the bloodletting, then President Muhammadu Buhari and his service chiefs will have cases to answer at the International Criminal Court.
“Finally, for a sustainable solution to the myriads of problems bedevilling the country, which have been exacerbated by the sectional and clannish nature of the current administration, we call on the Federal Government to embrace the 12-point agenda adopted by the governors of Southern Nigeria, especially on restructuring, state policing and ban on opening grazing of livestock.”