Sinister motives and contradictions abound in the 4th August 2017 summary constitution by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo of a Seven-Person Judicial Commission of Enquiry into gross rights abuses by the Nigerian Army and the 9th August 2017 open confession of Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State over the 29th and 30th May 2016 massacre in Nkpor, Onitsha and Asaba of 140 unarmed and defenseless pro Biafran Campaigners by the Anambra State Joint Security Taskforce. Most of the killings were carried out by the Nigerian Army operationally led by then Major (now Lt Col) C.O. Ibrahim of the Nigerian Military Police. Lt Col Ibrahim is the present commander of the Military Police Unit of the Onitsha 302 Artillery Regiment/Military Cantonment.
It is recalled that Nigerian Army had on 8th March 2017 set up “a special board of enquiry” to investigate itself over grave allegations of rights abuses leveled against it by leading local and international rights and media groups including our organization (Int’l Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law) and the UK based Amnesty International. The Army kangaroo panel later on 15th June 2017 released its so called findings; exonerating itself and claimed falsely that “nobody was killed in the pro Biafra violent protests”. The said kangaroo panel also admitted its kangaroo nature by “recommending to the Federal Government to set up another panel” to look into same grave rights abuse complaints.
Members of the Army kangaroo panel or “special board of enquiry” were composed of Maj Gen AT Jibrin(rtd)-President, Barr Olawale Fapohunda-Member, Col PC Izukanne(rtd)-Member, Barr Tony Ojukwu-Member, Brig Gen A Dadan-Garba (rtd)-Member, Brig Gen OL Olayinka-Member, Col LB Mohammed-Member, Col UM Wambai-Member and Lt Col CM Akaliro-Secretary.
It is further recalled that our Organization (Intersociety) had on 6th July 2017 sent a 17-page comprehensive memo to Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, demanding for a Special Judicial Commission of Enquiry to revisit the litany of complaints and public outcries trailing the Nigerian Army’s gross rights abuses, among other gross abuses by other State and non-State coercive agencies and bodies including the Nigeria Police Force, the Nigerian Air Force (i.e. Rann IDP bombing of January 2017 and killing of 236 IDPs) and armed Islamist Fulani Herdsmen. These gross rights abuses by the security forces especially the Nigerian Army are divided into gross rights abuses in internal violent conflict/insurgency areas (war crimes) and peacetime gross rights abuses or killings, maiming, torture and enforced disappearances during nonviolent public assemblies in Nigeria (i.e. Shiite Muslim processions in the Northwest and pro Biafra public assemblies in Southeast and South-south Nigeria). We also demanded that the Judicial Panel should sit publicly and move around especially to the victims’ groups and members’ geographical locations.
Our said memo was successfully delivered to the Acting President who received same on 11th July 2017. We had in the memo, specifically requested that the Special Judicial Commission of Enquiry should be ratified by the Federal Executive Council with its members drawn from the Government, security agencies, human rights groups especially those of Southeast, Northeast, Kaduna and Abuja; representatives or nominees of international rights groups (i.e. Amnesty International) and victims’ groups (i.e. Shiites, IPOB, MASSOB, Southern Kaduna, etc). These are to ensure equity, fairness, independence, impartiality, all-inclusiveness and popular participation and acceptable outcome.
Surprisingly and without recourse to any of the above, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo woke up on 4th August 2017 and announced magisterially and summarily the constitution of a “Seven-Man Judicial Commission of Enquiry into alleged rights abuse by the Nigerian Army”; with three months mandate to submit its report. He further named selectively and lopsidedly members of the Judicial Panel and gave their names as: Justice Biobele A. Georgewill (chairman) and Major-General Patrick Akem, Mr. Wale Fapohunda, Mrs. Hauwa Ibrahim, Mr. Jibrin Ibrahim, Mrs. Ifeoma Nwakama and a representative of the Office of the National Security Adviser as members.
The Osinbajo’s Panel also got the following as its “terms of reference”: “By its terms of reference, the Commission is empowered to review extant rules of engagement applicable in the Armed Forces of Nigeria and extent of compliance thereto. It is also empowered to investigate alleged acts of violation of international humanitarian and human rights law under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), Geneva Conventions Act, African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act and other relevant laws by Nigerian security agencies.
The Commission also has a mandate to investigate factors that might be militating against a speedy resolution to local conflicts and insurgencies and advice on means of preventing violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in conflict situations”.
Our investigation of the composition, membership and circumstances of the said Osinbajo Judicial Panel has not only revealed the sinister motives and contradictions behind same or contained in it, but also exposed the insincerity of the Acting President and members of the Buhari Administration in holistically and acceptably redressing the gross rights abuses complained of. The pattern and trend of the Federal Government’s response to these gross rights abuses particularly since June 2015 has not only made the approaches look suspicious but also cabalistic. The other day, it was the administrative headship of the same Nigerian Army (Defense Headquarters) that issued another mushroom report clearing the Nigerian Air Force of any culpability in the Rann IDP bombing of January 2017 that killed 236 IDPs. The report was not only leprous but also mired in contradictions. Till date, no single officer of the Nigerian Air Force has been apprehended or punished for the massacre.
In 2016, the same Nigerian Army hurriedly connived with integrity challenged National Human Rights Commission to issue a leprous report, tactically shielding the Chief of Army Staff over the Zaria Shiite Muslims’ massacre in which up to 1000 were massacred between 12th and 14th December 2015. The leader of the Shiite Muslim and his beloved wife who were shot and battered; have remained detained without trial since 14th December 2015 to date; a period of twenty (20) months. The so called Army/NHRC “report”; condemnably and despicably, had indicted the Shiites for “provoking the Nigerian Army to open fire on them”. The COAS, Lt Turkur Buratai who was physically present during the massacre; with a bogus claim of “assassination attempt” on his life; was totally absolved.
We have also found that the membership composition of all the leprous panels especially those of Army/National Human Rights Commission, the Kaduna State Judicial Panel, the Army’s Special Board of Enquiry and the latest Osinbajo’s Judicial Panel is a total recycling of same conformist individuals or unrepentant apologists/stooges of some members of the present Buhari/Osinbajo’s administration. Some of them even to the extent of parading themselves as “rights CSO activists”.
For the avoidance of doubt, Mr. Wale Fapohunda nominated in the latest Osinbajo’s Judicial Panel was the same person that sat in the disgraced Nigerian Army’s Special Board of Enquiry. Barr Tony Ojukwu who was a member of the Military’s Special Board of Enquiry was also part of the Army/National Human Rights Commission’s leprous panel on Shiite massacre. Mr. Justice Biobele A. Georgewill, now of Court of Appeal, who chairs Osinbajo’s latest Judicial Panel was reportedly the chairman of Rivers State Judicial Panel of 2013 that was set up to look into the Rivers State House of Assembly crisis when Mr. Rotimi Amechi was the Governor of Rivers State.
The Commission was reportedly made inoperable on account of litigations over its suspected lopsided composition and vested interest of its inaugurating authority (the then Governor). Further investigations of other members of the Osinbajo’s latest Judicial Panel bear every indication of hopelessness and general integrity minus concerning the Judicial Panel, its members, and would-be outcome.
We are therefore compelled by the foregoing circumstances to hold that the Osinbajo Judicial Panel is another kangaroo exercise designed not to holistically, conscientiously and popularly redress the container-load of gross rights abuses and other forms of regime atrocities in Nigeria especially since June 2015. Every indication points to the fact that the Judicial Panel is on a mission with a predetermined outcome; which some say, includes misleading Nigerians and specifically getting members of the international community to de-blacklist key members of the present Federal Government particularly its military chiefs from international armament and diplomatic arenas.
The recent public statement of the IPOB Americas is a clear case in point. The IPOB had in its 5th August 2017 opposed the plans by the Buhari Administration to purchase from US Government of the Embraer EMB314 Super Tucano (A-29). The IPOB-Americas’ strong opposition stems from wide fears of misuse of same or possibility of the use of the sophisticated warplane to perpetrate more gross rights abuses especially against unarmed and defenseless populations of the Southeast and the South-south Nigeria. The IPOB also accused the Buhari/Osinbajo Administration of engaging in “overpriced and gold plated arms deal” to further impoverish Nigerians.
According to IPOB-Americas in their statement of 5th August 2017, signed by Dr. Clifford Iloanya and Barr Emma Nmezu, “from the commercial point of view, the DOS (of IPOB) is of the opinion that the procurement process/contract for this arms deal is riddled with fraud and corruption which will leave the citizens of Nigeria short-changed. This contract is said to cost $593 million for 12 units together with other support services but Chile bought the same number of units for $120 million with same support service but including advanced TOSS (Training and Operational Support System). Columbia bought 25 units for $234 million while Brazil had earlier purchased, directly from Embraer, 99 units of the same aircraft for $214 million. It is apparent that this aircraft contract was overpriced and gold-plated with the attendant corrupt enrichment typical of procurement officers in the Nigerian military. Such wasteful expenditures would be better applied to reactivating the collapsed infrastructures and moribund industries in Nigeria”.
We therefore make bold to say that this is not the Special Independent Judicial Commission of Enquiry we had and still call for. This is in addition to the fact that the terms of reference of Osinbajo’s Judicial Panel is unclear; deliberately and technically twisted, so as to stampede the victims’ groups and other affected persons and their technical assistants including lawyers, family members, and human rights groups. The motive of this may most likely be to find escape route to exonerate the accused maliciously by deliberately stampeding or making it very difficult for the former to come out and volunteer useful information and tender other crime scene linkable documents or materials
Further, the official admission by Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State of the killing on 29th and 30th May 2016 of IPOB led pro Biafra Campaigners during the 2016 Biafra Heroes Day Anniversary is a truth long held and concealed in official quarters. The Governor had during the reception of a delegation of ex-Biafra war veterans at the Awka Government on 9th of August 2017 said among other things that “the report the security agencies made available to him on the incident showed that nobody was killed but that when he visited the hospitals; Menax hospital and St. Charles Borromeo hospital all in Onitsha, among others (in early June 2016) to see the victims and to provide succor to them, that he was told at the hospitals that people were killed and that some of those killed and the injured were taken out of the state to neighbouring states as very many of them came from outside Anambra state”.
The governor further said that “he volunteered to pay the hospital bills of the victims but some of them refused his offer. He said that he is profoundly sorry for what had happened and affirmed that he has since then been battling to ensure that such doesn’t happen again in Anambra state”. We made extra effort to confirm the authenticity of the governor’s statement by calling the reporter of the story in the Vanguard Newspaper and he confirmed it and further said that “it was even the governor’s SA on Political and War Veteran Matters that sent it to his email box and followed it up with a voice call”.
Governor Obiano’s decision to make an open confession and reveal the officially hidden truth after several denials including telling the Nigerian Army kangaroo panel that “nobody was killed”; is apparently remorseless and willfully harbored and nurtured.
The truth behind the governor’s grossly belated open confession is doubly linked to his second term and pending civil suit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia with millions of dollars claims; filed by relatives of some slain pro-Biafra campaigners; where his name appeared as one of the sixteen (16) defendants.
The Court had through a Washington DC based law firm of Fein & DelValle PLLC, entered an order on June 2, 2017 authorizing ten (10) Biafran Plaintiffs to sue sixteen Nigerian government agents for complicity in the 2016 torture and extrajudicial killings of unarmed Biafrans. This order was made via a Civil Action No. 1:17-cv-01033 which has been assigned to United States District Judge Ellen S. Huvelle, appointed by President William Jefferson Clinton. We understand, from our latest investigation that most, if not all the defendants including Governors Willie Obiano of Anambra and Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State have been duly served.
For: Int’l Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law (Intersociety)
Emeka Umeagbalasi (Criminologist and Graduate of Security Studies)
Mobile Line: +2348174090052
Barr Chinenye F. Akubuilo
Head, Campaign and Publicity Department
Barr Obianuju Joy Igboeli
Head, Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law Program
Barr Chinwe Umeche
Head, Democracy and Good Governance Program