BEING THE TEXT OF AN INTERNATIONAL PRESS CONFERENCE ON THE VICIOUS HAPPENINGS IN IGBO LAND, THE INCESSANT KILLINGS, AGITATIONS AND INVASION OF YOUTHS BY FEDERAL SECURITY FORCES IN NIGERIA ORGANISED BY IGBO WOMEN ELDERS COUNCIL AND HELD IN AWKA, ANAMBRA STATE ON TUESDAY, APRIL 27, 2021.
Gentlemen of the press.
You are welcome to this all-important International Press Conference on the state of security crisis in all Igbo speaking communities in Nigeria. The situation has gotten to the climax in recent time that we can no longer afford to stand astride and look while the security situation in Nigeria, particularly in the South East region, continues to deteriorate due to complicity and obvious compromise by security forces in the country on the assumed instructions of powers that be who have remained silent while Igbos are being maimed in their own country.
Since 2015, there has been a renewed systematic attacks on the peace and tranquility that have over the years existed in the South East region with attendant economic hardships on the citizens. In most cases, there have been some deliberate attempts to provoke the people of Igbo extraction in Nigeria.
Due to incessant organised terrorist activities in the south east spearheaded by armed herders, the negative impact on the economy in the eastern region has become very evident. In recent report on poverty level by Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the South East states performed very poorly and extremely below expectations.
Sadly, in the South East, Ebonyi State was rated the poorest with 80%, which was described as poor. Enugu took the second position with 60% of its citizens on the poverty level and Abia State was rated 31%, Imo State 29%, and Anambra State 15%. This is the glaring economic reality in five South East states. So, beyond the visible marginalization of South East region from the Federal Government in appointments and federal projects, the organised attacks on the economy of Igbo speaking communities in Nigeria is getting to the crescendo as farmers are now abandoning their farmlands to armed herdsmen in our region.
At the moment, there are glaring state actors-structural violence in the South East. This structural violence, promoted and sustained by the present Federal government of Nigeria has taken roots in the South East region and its outposts, especially since 2015. This can clearly be seen in the appointment of heads of top security formations in the Region and its outposts or gateway neighbours, especially the heads of Army and Police formations and systematic exclusion of the citizens of the region from such choice security positions. These skewed and grossly lopsided arrangements have put the security and safety of the Igbos, their properties, including lands at high risk. This has also made herders, who are mostly foreigners, residing in our forests and farmlands to be more secured and protected than the indigenous citizens of the Igbo land.
In a recent study conducted by the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety), and made available to us at the time of this compilation, the following findings were made:
South East Gateway States: in Benue State, a major gateway into the Southeast, the Commander of Operation Whirl Stroke is Major Gen Yekini Adeyemi (South West Muslim), the Commander of 401 Special Forces Brigade, Makurdi is Brigadier Gen Samai’la Mohammed Uba (Fulani-Hausa Muslim), the Commanding Officer of 72 Special Forces Battalion, Makurdi is Lt. Col. A.D. Alhassan (Fulani-Hausa Muslim) and the State Commissioner of Police is Audu Madaki. In Edo State, another major gateway into the South East, the Brigade Commander of 4 Brigade, Benin is Brigadier Gen MA Sadiq (Fulani-Hausa Muslim) and the State Commissioner of Police is Aliyu Ogbadu.
In Delta State, the State of origin of large outpost Igbo population, the Brigade Commander of 63 Brigade; Asaba is Brigadier Gen. A. Idris (Fulani-Hausa Muslim) and the State Commissioner of Police is Ari Mohammed Alli (Fulani-Hausa Muslim). In Rivers State, a major gateway into the Southeast, the GOC, 6 Division, Port Harcourt, is Major Gen. Sambo G Mohammed (Fulani-Hausa Muslim). In Cross River State, a major Southeast neighbor, the State Commissioner of Police is Sikiru Akande (South West Muslim) and in Akwa Ibom State, another South East gateway, the Brigade Commander of 2 Brigade, Uyo is Brigadier Gen Faruk Mijinyawa (Fulani-Hausa Muslim). The Police Zonal Commands in Calabar and Benin are also as at weeks back headed by Fulani-Hausa Muslims (AIG Zaki Ahmed incumbent AIG for Zone 6 and another is for Zone 5). In neighboring Bayelsa State, Air Vice Marshall Aliyu Bello (Fulani-Hausa Muslim) is the Air Officer Commanding Nigerian Air Force Base in Yenagoa.
South East Region: Major Gen Toareed Lagbaja, GOC, 82 Division, Enugu (Southwest Muslim), Brig Gen GS Mohammed (Fulani-Hausa Muslim) and Commander, 82 Division Finance Corps, Brigadier Gen Ibrahim Tukura (Fulani-Hausa Muslim) and Brigade Commander, 34 Brigade, Obinze, Brig Gen M. Ibrahim (Fulani-Hausa Muslim) and Brigade Commander, 14 Brigade, Ohafia), Col Abdulsalam Abubakar Sambo (Fulani-Hausa Muslim) and Cantonment Commandant of the 302 Artillery Regiment, Onitsha, Lt Col O. Sadiq (Muslim) and Commanding Officer, 24 Army Support Engineering, Navy Commodore Suleiman Haruna Abdullahi, Commandant, Navy School of Finance and Logistics, Owerrinta, Abia State, Abakiliki, Nasiru Mohammed, Commissioner of Police, Imo State (Fulani-Hausa Muslim), Aliyu Garba, Commissioner of Police, Ebonyi State (Fulani Hausa Muslim), Mohammed Aliyu, Commissioner of Police, Enugu State Command (Fulani-Hausa Muslim).
The rest are: Monday Bella Kuryas, Commissioner of Police, Anambra State (Hausa Christian) and Janet Agbede, Commissioner of Police, Abia State. Police Zones 9 (Umuahia) and 13 (Ukpo-Anambra) are also in the hands of same Fulani-Hausa Muslims and as at weeks ago, were headed by AIGs Zana Mohammed Ibrahim and Hafiz Mohammed. In all these, the only Igbo found among top security headship in the Region is the newly posted Air Officer Commanding (AOC) Air Force Ground Training Command, Enugu, Air Vice Marshall Frank Oparah who took over from Air Vice Marshall Idi Amin (Fulani-Hausa Muslim).
We have observed, just like the Intersociety noted recently and as known to most South Easterners, that the state actor insecurity in South East Nigeria can clearly be understood within the context of structural violence, physical violence and cultural violence. Through Government policy of structural violence, the South East Region, especially since 2015, has been a victim of sustained exclusion and segregation in the appointment of top security and judicial officers. The Region is also facing enduring exclusion in top federal ministerial, agency and department appointments.
These are to the extent that no officer of the South East is presently among the 25 serving Assistant Inspectors General of Police or Army’s General Officers’ Commanding. No officer of the region is also among the head of the country’s 17 Police Zonal Commands headed by AIGs. The number of Igbos or South East citizens in the country’s Armed Forces and police high command positions is shrinking day in day out. As part of the present Federal Government’s policy of exclusion and segregation, little or zero efforts have been made to redress the gross imbalances. The situation is worsened by the conspiracy or lukewarm attitude or deafening silence of the present Governors of the South East. Specifically, the number of Igbos in the ranks of Police CPs, DCPs, ACPs and CSPs is going down chronically so also their counterparts or equivalents in internal and external spy policing and paramilitaries. As it stands, the number of South East Police CPs with upward of two years to retire is not more than five, out of over 110 serving Commissioners of Police in Nigeria.
The Intersociety also recently observed that in top duty postings across the country done by Nigerian Army back in January 2021, involving 47 Major Generals, 163 Brig Generals, 450 Colonels, 309 Majors, 251 Captains and 322 Lieutenants, totaling 1,546 Army officers; it was shocking to note that out of the 47 Major Generals, North took 32 including 27 Muslims and South took 15 involving: South West – seven, including Muslims, South-south – five, and South East got only three.
In the list of 163 Big Generals deployed across the country, North took 110, including 84 Muslims, while South took 53 involving South West which got 23 including Muslims, South-South 20 and South East got only 10. A further peep into the remaining postings involving 450 Colonels, 309 Majors, 251 Captains and 322 Lieutenants also showed the same gross Northern Muslim domination and control and shrinking of the South East slots in a federal system.
These glaring exclusions constitute a grave violation of Section 14 (3) or regional and ethnic balancing, Section 10 or prohibition of adoption of a particular religion as a state religion, Section 217 (3) or reflection of regional or ethnic or religious balancing in the appointment of the officer corps of the Armed Forces and Section 42 or prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity, religion, gender, creed or class; all provided in the Constitution of Nigeria 1999, as amended.
The South East Region has also been gravely victimized by the atrocious state actors, especially the Nigerian Army and its appointing and supervising authorities, leading to the massacre of no fewer than 700 unarmed and defenseless citizens of the region between August 2015 and November 2020 and maiming of not less than 800 others.
Hundreds were also abducted by Nigerian security forces while dozens disappeared till date. The abductees include 550 citizens of Abia, Imo, Ebonyi, Anambra and Enugu who resided in Obigbo and environs in Rivers State, who were abducted between October and November 2020 and held secretly without trial in Northern Nigeria for over four months. While 283 of them were located and freed by the courts, over 270 are still held secretly till date. Many of the 60 women among the female abductees, between the ages 20 and 39 were sexually assaulted and abused during over four months of their captivity in Army and DSS facilities.
We cannot forget the killings and maiming by soldiers, police and other security agencies of the Federal Government in South East region.
Recall that on the August 30, 2015, 40 defenseless citizens of Judeo-Christian faith were brutally massacred during their peaceful self-determination protests in Onitsha, Enugu, Yenagoa, Uyo, Port Harcourt and Asaba.
On December 2, and 17, 2015 another 30 defenseless citizens of the same faith were massacred in Onitsha. On 18th and 29th of January 2016, 20 of same defenseless citizens of Judeo-Christian faith were killed during peaceful protests in Aba. On 9th of February 2016, those massacred were 30 unarmed protesters in the same Aba just as on 29th and 30th of May 2016, other 140 defenseless citizens of the same Judeo-Christian faith were also killed during the world Igbo Heroes Day in Onitsha and Nkpor, (where 110 deaths occurred in Onitsha and Nkpor, and 30 deaths in Asaba) and on 20th of January 2017, 20 unarmed protesters were killed at a pro-Trump rally in Port Harcourt.
Also, on 11th to 14th September 2017 there was the massacre of over 180 unarmed and defenseless citizens of Judeo-Christians faith in Ogwe, Aba, Isiala-Ngwa and Umuahia, all in Abia State. On 23rd of August 2020, the Army massacred no fewer than 30 Judeo-Christian worshippers and sports activists in Emene, Enugu State. As if that was not enough, in October 2020 the Army/Police killed over 50 civilians in the South East, and between October and November 2020, the Army equally massacred not less than 102 defenseless Igbo citizens in Obigbo, Rivers State.
In January this year (2021), the Nigerian Army in Orlu, Imo State, killed 10 defenseless residents, including six rural farmers.
Till date, despite all these killings, it is on record that no single perpetrator of these heinous atrocities against the people have been held to account or brought to justice while the victims have neither been compensated nor adequately taken care of. Scores have also died as a result of abandonment, hunger or lack of adequate medical treatments, and many of their children dropped out of school.
Since 2015, Igbos have suffered escalated ethnic hatred and have also consistently faced persecution for being Igbos.
Armed herders have been invading and violently seizing and occupying ancestral bushes, farmlands and forests belonging to the indigenous People of the South East Region and its outposts in neighbouring Kogi, Benue, Delta, Edo, Rivers and Cross River States.
The Intersociety, in its recent research, has revealed that not less than 700 farmlands, bushes and forests have been occupied or attacked by the Jihadist herdsmen in the region while no fewer than 400 rural Igbo Christians have been hacked to death by the same jihadists who masquerade as “cattle herders”. Scores have also been bribed or abducted and forced or hypnotised into becoming Muslims against their will.
The Government aided jihadist killer herdsmen attacks and killings in the South East Region and its outposts are the first in recent times and occurred first in April 2016 at Nimbo-Uzouwani in Enugu State, where no fewer than 48 Igbo rural Christians were hacked to death. Another major killing of rural South East Christians took place in March in Ishielu Local Government Area of Ebonyi State and Eha-Amufu in Enugu State, where more than 30 rural Christians were hacked to death. There was yet another report in this April (2021) in some communities in Ohaukwu Local Government Area of Ebonyi State where not less than 13 rural Igbo Christians were killed by jihadist herdsmen who were hosted by the communities.
Weeks ago in Kibiya District of Kano State, nine Igbo Christians were tracked, abducted, hacked to death and secretly buried by suspected jihadist bandit assailants. Cases of other killings, abductions and sexual violence by the same jihadists have also been reported particularly since 2016 in different parts of the Region and its outposts, especially in Kogi, Benue, Delta, Rivers, Cross River and Edo States.
Since August 2015, South East Region and its major gateway neighbours have been under military and police siege, to the extent that as at December 2020, not less than 6,300 military and police roadblocks were independently found to have been mounted or maintained on the South East and South-South roads and between August 2015 and Dec 2020, not less than N335 billion was illicitly raised and pocketed by Police and Military personnel and their supervising authorities who engage in infuriating and unchecked roadblock corrupt practices.
These findings were according to research investigations carried out by Intersociety between October 2019 and December 2020. Citizens of the South East Region and their outpost brothers and sisters were also visited with indiscriminate clamped downs by drafted security forces, leading to many being detained without trial and scores either killed extra judicially or disappeared without traces till date.
These are just but a few observable anomalies bedeviling Ndigbo and have led to untimely deaths of our sons and grandsons, who are being killed extra judicially by federal government security forces.
• As an immediate remedial measure before the situation gets out of hand, the Federal Government must, without further delay, demilitarize the South East Region and its key outposts, including its named gateway neighbours by ending the current military and police siege in the region. We therefore demand immediate withdrawal of all the deployed military and police personnel on our roads, boundaries and other strategic locations in the entire South East.
• We call on the federal government to immediately end the policy of flooding our land and its outposts with compromised Muslim military and police commanders. This must be reversed while all the top officers we have identified above must be transferred out of the South East States and its boundaries. To ensure effective policing in any region, the percentage of non-indigenous Military and Policing officers, including senior officers, must be drastically reduced to 30% so as to allow indigenous officers to fill the remaining 70% of the total slots or positions and give the indigenous citizens of the region a true sense of security and safety.
• All killer herdsmen, clandestinely aided and protected by federal security forces who have now permanently settled in farmlands, bushes and forests in our land and our key neighbouring states must be moved out and relocated back to wherever they were brought from. Most of these killer herdsmen are foreigners, which President Muhammadu Buhari once confirmed that they are not Nigerians. If they are not Nigerians, why is the federal government’s armed forces protecting and guarding these killers? We therefore demand that the federal government must immediately begin repatriating these non-Nigerians to enable our farmers go back to their farms.
• The Federal Government must discontinue its clandestine policy of turning Southern and Middle Belt Nigeria into Sharia or Caliphate colony and respect the country’s secular status as enshrined in Nigerian constitution. All armed forces must therefore vacate their security cordons in all parts of Igbo land because we have discovered that the cordons by security agencies are part of the clandestine oppressive strategy to keep Igbo land occupied to ease penetration by some Jihadists elements to permanently occupy the land and a source of dishonest enrichment for security personnel manning these extortionist cordons.
• The Feral government must ensure that the constitutional rights of citizens to freedom of residency and movement, as well as ownership of property in any part of the country, is no longer misconstrued and misinterpreted as these guaranteed rights are only practicable in strict conformity with the country’s Criminal laws and procedures. The exercise of such rights must conform to Chapter four of 1999 Constitution and the ratified and domesticated African Charter on Human and People’s Rights Act of 2004, including rights of citizens of the country to peacefully and nonviolently reside in urban residential areas anywhere in Nigeria and to own moveable and immoveable properties. The Constitution does not guarantee any citizen right to live violently in another’s farmland or bush or forest and settle in same with small arms and light weapons and engage in terrorism and gang rapping of the residents.
• The Nigerian Government must immediately begin reversal of the top security appointment imbalances and return to Constitutional Sections 10, 14 (3), 42 and 217 (3) in balancing the appointments and postings.
• We call on South East Governors to immediately begin consultations with critical indigenous stakeholders to draft an anti-open grazing and odd hours grazing prohibition bills and get them passed into law by the Houses of Assembly of the South East Region states.
• The South East states must institute a special probe panel to criminally investigate countless massacres in Igbo communities with a view to fishing out the perpetrators and bring them to book or hand them over to International Criminal Court (ICC) for international prosecution and victims of their atrocious activities adequately compensated.
• The Federal Government must immediately end the ongoing crackdowns on our sons and other innocent citizens who are being deliberately labeled as IPOB members and killed by security forces whereas the insecurities in Nigeria are creations of Nigeria’s 1999 constitution, which has continued to be a lie unto itself when it says “We the People….”.
Nigeria is ripe for a people’s constitution and true federalism.
• We demand the immediate release of all Igbos in secret detention facilities since 2020 and hundreds of citizens of Anambra, Imo, Abia, Ebonyi and Enugu States who are residents of Obigbo in Rivers State, including Citizen Elvis Chigbu and 109 others detained without charges since six months ago and presently held at the Nigerian Army Commando Base in faraway Bida, Niger State.
• South East Governors must genuinely enter into credible negotiations with Igbo youths to avert a major calamity waiting to happen in the South East if the current security situation is not handled with care. The governors of eastern region must convene a regional security dialogue with IPOB and all youth groups. If governors and Islamic clerics are meeting and dialoguing with bandits in the north, why is our governors not holding talks with unarmed citizens in the region to find lasting peace in the South East?
We therefore, call on the federal government to address reasons behind calls for agitations in the region and not to use force to suppress them.
The South East governments should stop the ongoing raping of women in the region by killer herdsmen. While this is going on, security agencies are killing our sons. This must stop!
We call on the federal government to meet our demands within the next 60 days while the South East governors are hereby given 90 days to meet their own part of our demands, including the passage and signing into law the anti-open grazing bill.
If our demands are not met within the stipulated time, Igbo women have their own way of tackling such crisis wherever they may be. If on the other hand, good sense prevails, and we hope and pray that the federal and State Governments adhere to this call and not push us, the South East women further to the wall, we will cooperate and work acidulously to bring peace to the South East region and Nigeria in general.
We, hereby, appreciate British government, for the recent asylum offer to the Igbo speaking people of Nigeria, but we, the Igbo women, have unanimously rejected the asylum by the United Kingdom in its entirety. The asylum offer was meant to remove the remaining Igbo men and open up our land for herdsmen to further occupy.
How come that Britain held a referendum and exited the European Union (EU) but refuses to support the self-determination agitation by Igbos or put pressure on the Federal Government of Nigeria to restructure the country?
Our demand from the British government is to pressurize the Federal government to immediately restructure the country and give all regions a sense of belonging and a level playing field.
We also demand for Igbo Presidency, where in 2023 all political parties must field an Igbo presidential candidate to offer the voters array of choices to make. The emergence of a President of Nigeria of Igbo extraction is the only peace and economic revival in Nigeria.
We call on President Muhammadu Buhari to as a matter of urgency relieve his Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Sheikh Isa Ali Pantami of the huge responsibility he is wielding to answer for all the atrocities committed against the Nigerian State. The Minister openly admitted that he was a fundamentalist at his younger adult age but today, he has reformed. No amount of reformation can bring a fundamentalist to reason correctly.
Nnamdi Kanu is our son, we cannot disown him or wish him away. We may not like or endorse his over aggressive style but no Igbo man can fault his demands for justice in the South East. Therefore, if Sheikh Gumi could negotiate with bandits who are terrorizing, maiming, killing, kidnapping people in the North, we can as well negotiate with our son, Nnamdi Kanu.
At this juncture, it must be understood that the unrest in the South East region is the aftermath of several years of marginalization and injustices against the people.
Thank you all and God bless.