June 20, 2024

CSOs petition NHRC on systemic human rights violations in Southeast

human rights violations

By Dennis Agbo

A coalition of nine Civil Society Organizations, CSOs have petitioned the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, on the alleged federal government’s induced systemic human rights violations in all parts of the southeast region using the military.

Leader of the coalition and Chairman of Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre, RULAAC, Mr. Okechukwu Nwanguma in the letter to the commission said that the civil society organizations and other concerned groups and citizens, have been alarmed by frequent incidents of organized attacks, killings, extortion, sexual violence, and destruction of properties in the Southeast, portending far-reaching human rights violations and feel compelled to call on the NHRC to deploy all necessary instruments available to it, which may include the appointment of a Special Investigation, to inquire into the alleged incidents.

The group said that it is concerned by the oppressive atmosphere of siege, impunity and fear partly engendered by the federal government’s single narrative that narrows insecurity in the southeast almost exclusively to the activities of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).

“This single narrative explains why the federal government ignores other drivers and dimensions of insecurity and the need for a holistic and multidimensional approach. It also informs federal government’s tendency to solely deploy force in its response to insecurity, and its neglect of community engagement and dialogue, as well as addressing the socio-economic and political root causes and drivers of crime and insecurity. This approach has contributed to escalating insecurity, fuelling the cycle of violence and resulting in gross human rights violations.

“The federal government’s penchant for deploying “special military operations’’ such as ‘’Operation Egwu Eke (Python dance)’’, Operation Crocodile Smile, as well as special police peration, ‘Operation Restore Peace’ for the southeast underscores this narrative and its shortcomings. We recall that while launching the special police operation in Enugu in 2021, the then Inspector General of Police Usman Alkali Baba directed police officers thus: ‘Don’t mind the media shout; do the job I command you. If anyone accuses you of human rights violation, 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.’

“The IGP in issuing that reckless directive said it was in compliance with President Buhari’s previous ‘shoot-on-sight’ order issued to security forces against IPOB. The outcome of these orders has been a floodgate of mass raids and indiscriminate arrests and detention in inhuman and degrading conditions; torture, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions. There are also indications that security agents exploit the opportunity for self-enrichment, including extortion of huge sums of money from family members of detained victims. The ubiquity and widespread presence of security checkpoints along all interstate highways and inner city roads across states in the southeast contribute to the atmosphere of militarisation, siege and shrinking civic space,” the group lamented.

They cited instances of recent impunities such as, the invasion of Igga Community in Enugu State; Killings in Nimbo Community in Enugu State; arising from persistent Ezza-Effium and Ezza- Ezeilo conflicts in Ebonyi State; Sacking of several communities in Orsu Local Government Area of Imo State; Extortion and Harassment of citizens at numerous checkpoints; Killings by non-state actors, as few case studies.

“It is in the context of the rising and increasingly systematic abuse of human rights in the Southeast, the violation of well-established legal standards and the failure of human rights duty bearers that we call on the National Human Rights Commission to investigate the state of human rights in the Southeast, including incessant killings and destruction of individual and communal property,” the coalition demanded.