By Clifford Ndujihe
LEADING Igbo intellectual think-tank and socio-cultural group, Nzuko Umunna, has written the Chief of Army Staff, CAS, Lt. Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru; the United Nations, UN; and European Union, EU, among others over what it described as ongoing extra-judicial killings in the South-East geo-political zone.
Lamenting that the killings were getting to the level of genocide, the group in the open letter to the CAS, said the killings arose from the shoot-on-sight given to Army troops in the zone.
The letter, signed by Dr Ngozi Odumuko and Dr P. Mbanefo, was copied by the Chief of Defence Staff; Minister of Defence; Chief of Staff to The C-in-C; United Nations Agency on Human Rights, Human Rights International; United States Embassy; High Commission United Kingdom; French Embassy; Russian Embassy; Amnesty International; Nigerian Human Rights, Commission; Congressional Black Caucus; Embassy of China; and European Union Mission.
The letter read in part: ”We feel duty-bound to inform you (CAS) that there is palpable fear over a ‘Shoot-On-Sight’ directive reportedly given to Army troops in the South-East in recent days, a scheme for which new batches of men were moved over the weekend.
”By some accounts, this directive seems to have been given unofficially in a hush-hush manner, making the situation all the more ominous.
A Shoot-On- Sight directive is tantamount to an order to extra-judicially exterminate innocent citizens as there is no telling who might be part of the collateral, unintended casualties. Throughout history, such military strategies or policies have always run the risk of going contrary to all accepted conventions and protocols on the rules of engagement, particularly the Rome Statutes
In fact, it can be read as Genocide whereas in this case, there is a clear and evident danger of such action resulting in high casualties.
”If the speculation of a Shoot-On-Sight order were to bear any atom of truth, then it amounts to a declaration of war on the area. However, even if, for any reason, the Federal Government is minded to declare war on the South-East or a part of it, there are standard international conventions and protocols that must be observed. One of such is the requirement to publicly and unambiguously declare that a war situation has arisen in such a place so that those who wish to, especially the civilians and innocent citizens, can withdraw from such a place. That has not been done.
”But it is our well-considered contention that there does not exist in the South-East of Nigeria any particular situation which does not exist in even worse forms in other parts of the country to warrant or justify such a Shoot-On-Sight order.
And we put whoever thinks to the contrary to the strictest of proof. Based on these, our position is that it is in the overall interest of the country that you use your good offices to not only clear the air on this very disturbing issue but also counter any such directive in case it has, by some fluke or stroke of overzealousness, been issued.
We most respectfully urge you to use your good offices to intervene, as a matter of urgency, in this very critical matter to douse the tension and apprehension in the region arising from rumours and the expectation that the killings and unnecessary waste of human lives will escalate.”