Global human rights watchdog, Amnesty International (AI), has advised Nigerian security agencies against reckless, bloody and counterproductive repression of agitators marking Biafra at 50 today across the country.
The group said that security forces had already started clamping down on pro-Biafra groups ahead of the formal anniversary and cautioned that such tactics could stir up further tensions in the South East and other parts of Nigeria.
In a statement issued by the group’s Media Manager, Mr. Isa Sanusi, Amnesty International recalled the brutal crowd control measures of the security forces last year where over 60 peaceful demonstrators were killed and more than 70 others injured.
It said that about 150 agitators have been killed between August 2015 and August 2016.
The AI statement said: “On 22nd May 2017, more than 100 members of the Movement for the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and Biafra Independent Movement (BIM) were arrested in Enugu, Ebonyi, and Cross Rivers States during similar celebrations.”
“We are calling for the immediate and unconditional release of all those who have been detained solely for peacefully expressing their political views or other exercise of their right to freedom of expression or peaceful assembly”.
Also, the Director of Amnesty International Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, stressed that “the Nigerian security forces must exercise restraint when policing demonstrations marking the 50th anniversary of the end of the Biafra War on 30th May, and avoid a repetition of the bloodbath caused by their heavy-handed response last year when more than 60 people were gunned down”.
Ojigho said: “Last year’s heavy-handed response against pro-Biafra activists further stirred up tensions in the South East of Nigeria. The reckless approach to crowd control favoured by the security forces when policing peaceful pro-Biafra protests has left more than 150 dead since August 2015, not to mention cases of enforced disappearance and unlawful detention”.
“We urge the Nigerian security agencies to conduct themselves in a manner that will ensure public order without resorting to force.”
He said that Amnesty International research concluded that at least 60 extrajudicial executions were committed in the space of two days, with a further 70 people injured.
“Despite overwhelming evidence that members of the Nigerian security forces fired live ammunition with little or no warning to disperse pro-Biafra gatherings, resulting in the death of at least 150 people, no person suspected of criminal responsibility has been brought to justice”.
“A similar pattern of lack of accountability for gross violations by security forces has been documented in other parts of Nigeria including the North East in the context of operations against Boko Haram.”
“Amnesty International has repeatedly called on the government of Nigeria to initiate independent investigations into allegations of crimes under international law. President Muhammadu Buhari has repeatedly promised that these would be looked into. However, no progress has been made,” Ojigho said.