Leading Igbo think-tank, Nzuko Umunna, has warned that state actors may face prosecution at domestic and international fora if they fail to stem arbitrary killings in the South East.
In an open letter to the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru, signed by its Executive Secretary, Mr. Ngozi Odumuko, the influential Igbo group noted that the shoot-at-sight order by President Muhammadu Buhari “has been roundly criticized as unconstitutional,” adding that the military high-command has “failed, refused or neglected” to debunk allegation of execution of the order in the South East. Titled “Shoot-on-sight order and ongoing extra-judicial killings in the South East Zone,” the open letter stated that the group, which is made of the cream of Igbo intelligentsia, technocrats and professionals, is “highly concerned about a reported shoot-on-sight directive issued to troops in the South East and directed at citizens within the zone.
“The reported directive has caused severe panic and commotion among residents in the zone, leading some residents especially within the Orlu axis to flee their homes.”
The group described as “more worrisome” the fact that several days after the reported directive, “the military high command has failed, refused or neglected to rebut this troubling report in order to reassure the residents of their safety,” adding that “This has tended to lend credence to the veracity of the report.
“What is more, reports of several killings allegedly perpetrated by state actors within the Orlu and Owerri areas give further vent to the veracity of the reported shoot-on-sight directive.”
The Igbo think-tank noted that aside from the criticism that has trailed the president’s shoot-on-sight order, “killings arising from such directive are not only arbitrary and unconstitutional, but breach sundry United Nations conventions and international instruments to which Nigeria is a signatory, especially the Rome Statute.”
Warning that state actors found to have ordered or facilitated such killings may be dragged to domestic and global forums for prosecution, the group said: “In fact, such killings may verge on genocide and crimes against humanity, for which all persons directly and remotely involved may be prosecuted even decades later. The directive and attendant killings may be deemed as a declaration of war on the zone.”
It observed that the South East remains the most peaceful zone in the country, adding that “Aside from pockets of security challenges in the South East zone which could effectively be dealt with by the Nigeria Police Force, there is no justification for the current state of massive militarization and arbitrary killings in the zone, coming on the heels of the shoot-on-sight order.”
The group urged the Army high-command “to clear the air on this troubling reported directive. This will go a long way to reassure the distraught citizens of their safety and welfare.
“Further, we urge you to set up a high-level panel to investigate the reported arbitrary killings in the zone especially in the last few weeks and bring the perpetrators to justice.”
Noting that it condemns “all acts of violence and urge all citizens to commit to peaceful co-existence,” Nzuko Umunna warned that “actions which detract from strict observance of the rule of law are bound to exacerbate centrifugal forces and expose the promoters ultimately to liability.”
It urged the Army chief to “use your good office to stem the bleeding and extra-judicial killings currently ongoing in the zone. A stitch in time saves nine.”
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