By Chinedu Adonu
ENUGU-IGBO Civil Society Coalition, CISCO, has lambasted the Nigeria Army for allowing their officers to be used in the management of civil matters and killing of civilians during the demolition of Ekeukwu Owerri market last Saturday.
The group urged the president of Nigeria, Muhammad Buhari and National House of Assembly to stop using Nigeria Army in the management of civilian matters to reduce unwarranted killing of civilians in the country.
In a statement signed by the National Coordinator of ICSCO, Prof. Obasi Igwe, and issued to pressmen in Enugu, the group urged Inspector General of Police and Chief of Army Staff to immediately commence investigation and prosecution of their men involved in the shooting of unarmed men in Owerri.
The statement condemned the continuous menace by Nigeria Army which was used by Imo State governor, Richas Okorocha to violate the rule of law as in the case of the market which case is still in the court.
The group cautioned the security agencies to stop using live bullets on the live of the civilians which they are supposed to protect.
“We strongly condemn the shooting of unarmed civilians by a combined team of soldiers and policemen during the demolition of Ekeukwu Owerri Market last saturday.
“Firstly, Rule of Law is the bulwark of democracy. As such, the State Government ought not to have proceeded with the demolition, if there was a subsisting court order. It is indeed the height of illegality to achieve development through extrajudicial means.
“Also, we condemn the willingness of the Nigerian Army to allow its officers and men to be involved in the management of civilian protests despite the recent assertion by the Speaker, House of Representatives that such was in contravention of its constitutional role as stipulated in Section 217 of the 1999 constitution. That, according to him made the Army “to become the civil authority itself” rather than aiding the civil authorities.
“We urge the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari as well as the National Assembly to prevail on the Armed Forces to leave the management of civilian protests to the Nigerian Police so as to reduce unwarranted loss of lives.
“Equally, we condemn the continued use of live bullets by the police in quelling civil protests, in clear contravention of the Geneva Convention regarding crowd management.
“ICSCO wishes to state emphatically that human lives, especially Igbo lives matter and should not be wasted wantonly. The primary duty of the Government through the security agencies is to ensure the security of citizens. It is therefore unfortunate that the same security agencies, for any reason whatsoever should spray live bullets at civilians, resulting in the death of at least one person, Somtoochukwu Ibeanusi, a ten year old boy (who was shot in the head) with several others seriously injured.
“Therefore, we urge the Chief of Army Staff and the Inspector General of Police to carry out an investigation so as to fish out those of their men involved in the extra judicial shootings/ killing(s). We are saddened that such is occuring again despite several cases of extra judicial killings and human rights abuses hanging around the neck of the Chief of Army Staff, especially the case instituted against him and nine others in the US under the Alien Torts Act by Attorney Bruce Fein (A former US Attorney General under President Richard Nixon) over the killing, torture and continued detention of Pro-Biafran protesters.
“This is not time to play politics. Therefore, we expect Nigerians across party lines and ethno-religious divides to condemn this heinous act. Anyone can be a victim tommorrow as stray bullets can hit anyone, including children, relatives or friends of Governors, Senators and even the President.
“We call for the immediate investigation of these extra-judicial shootings/ killing(s) and for the culprits to face prompt and diligent prosecution.
This will indeed serve as a deterrent to officers and men of Nigerian security services to stop being ” trigger happy”,” the statement maintains.
ICSCO expressed disappointment with human rights activists from Imo State and civil society organizations in the state for not forming a common front to pursue justice for Late Somtoochukwu as well as other victims of the unfortunate incident.