Soldiers are being blamed for the mayhem that is shattering the relative peace in the Imo State axis of Eastern Nigeria. A rights group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, (HURIWA) is smoking that in a reprisal, military men regrouped, stormed Awo Mmamma in the Oru East Local Government Area of the state, and allegedly burnt a hotel, cars, houses and shops.
According to the group, the action of “soldiers shows a pattern of apartheid styled vicious attacks against Igbo by the Nigeria Army largely commanded by Generals who are Muslims and Hausa/Fulani”, pointing out that when Fulani terrorists shot down a multimillion worth military jet in Zamfara State few months back and dozens of soldiers and police killed by armed Fulani militia preferred to be called armed bandits by President Muhammadu Buhari, there were no known reprisals in any of the North West states.
The obviously piqued HURIWA is therefore, accusing the Nigeria Army of committing “serious and egregious war crimes” against residents of Imo, noting in a statement that the activities of the army in the state will be officially challenged both locally and abroad soon.
In the statement the rights group condemned the “organised arson and killings that trailed the criminal killing of a soldier by hoodlums”, it recalled that unknown gunmen on Monday afternoon killed a military officer during an attack on some soldiers in Awo Mmamma.
HURIWA is equally alleging that in Borno State a Christian born Brigadier General was killed by Islamists but the soldiers didn’t attack the town Askira Uba in Borno but private soldiers were killed by hoodlums in AwoMmama and Oguta but soldiers were supervised by their commanders to burn down communities and the state government is silent and allowed soldiers to commit outrageous crimes against humanity.
“We will work out modalities to challenge these war crimes either here in Nigeria or in the International Criminal Court in The Hague Netherlands soon. We will organise protests to major embassies soon”.
“The invasion of some military soldiers at Ishieke junction which resulted in the burning down of hotels, cars, houses and shops of innocent citizens of Ishieke in Imo State is highly condemnable and infringement on their constitutional rights.
“According to Section 33, 34, 41 and 43 of the 1999 Constitution as amended which states as follows:
“33. (1) Every person has a right to life, and no one shall be deprived intentionally of his life, save in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty in Nigeria.
“(2) A person shall not be regarded as having been deprived of his life in contravention of this section, if he dies as a result of the use, to such extent and in such circumstances as are permitted by law, of such force as is reasonably necessary –
“(a)for the defence of any person from unlawful violence or for the defence of property:
“(b) in order to effect a lawful arrest or to prevent the escape of a person lawfully detained; or (c) for the purpose of suppressing a riot, insurrection, or mutiny.
” 33. (1) Every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person, and accordingly – (a) no person shall be subject to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment;
“(b) no person shall he held in slavery or servitude; and (c) no person shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour.
(2) for the purposes of subsection (1) (c) of this section, “forced or compulsory labour” does not include, (a) any labour required in consequence of the sentence or order of a court;
(b) any labour required of members of the armed forces of the Federation or the Nigeria Police Force in pursuance of their duties as such;
(c) in the case of persons who have conscientious objections to service in the armed forces of the Federation, any labour required instead of such service;
(d) any labor required which is reasonably necessary in the event of any emergency or calamity threatening the life or well-being of the community; or
(e) any labor or service that forms part of –
(i) normal communal or other civic obligations of the wellbeing of the community.
(ii) such compulsory national service in the armed forces of the Federation as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly, or
(iii) such compulsory national service forms part of the education and training of citizens of Nigeria as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly.
41.(1) Every citizen of Nigeria is entitled to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part thereof, and no citizen of Nigeria shall be expelled from Nigeria or refused entry thereby or exit therefrom.
(2) Nothing in subsection (1) of this section shall invalidate any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society-
(a) imposing restrictions on the residence or movement of any person who has committed or is reasonably suspected to have committed a criminal offense in order to prevent him from leaving Nigeria; or
(b) providing for the removal of any person from Nigeria to any other country to:-
(i) be tried outside Nigeria for any criminal offense, or
(ii) undergo imprisonment outside Nigeria in the execution of the sentence of a court of law in respect of a criminal offense of which he has been found guilty: Provided that there is a reciprocal agreement between Nigeria and other countries in relation to such matter.
38. Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, every citizen of Nigeria shall have the right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria.
There is no basis in law for anybody including the military personnel to take the law into their hand. If their colleague is killed, the appropriate authority should seek legal redress and not for the military personnel to go against the spirit and letter of constitutional democracy.
The authority of Ojukwu v Military Governor of Lagos State self-help is alien to our legal jurisprudence.
In Arowove and others v. Inspector-General of Police.163 Oshodi, J. of the Lagos High Court ordered, on an application for habeas corpus, the immediate release of the applicants who had been unlawfully detained by the Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters. The government refused to release the detainees but rather flew them by helicopter to an unknown destination. The detainees were eventually released six months thereafter. This is yet another example of military interference with the judicial process.
In January 1990, a Lagos High Court was told how a Customs Officer was forcibly ejected from his residence to make way for one Brigadier Rabiu Aliyu, a Garrison Commander. To effect the ejection, Brigadier Aliyu sent 20 fully-armed soldiers to guard the house even after the occupant had vacated the place.
The military officer (Aliyu) admitted to sending his troops. In his judgment, Justice Dolapo Akinsanya, said that “it was wrong to send armed soldiers to civilian residential areas when we are not at war”.165 Although the officer was verbally reprimanded in the Court, no further action was taken either by the judge or military authority against him. The army officer still retains the residence that he seized from the Customs Officer.
“The duties of the military are to follow the Constitution, to maintain the territorial integrity of Nigeria, to defend the country from external aggression, to protect the country’s borders, to restore order if needed, and in cases of insurrection as well as to perform any other duties mentioned in the National Assembly’s Act or as directed by the President.
“The effect of the invasion of some military soldiers can be referred to as the use of arbitrary power. The meaning of arbitrary power is allowing the authority to act in any manner that a person sees fit to do’’, the group said and also strongly condemned the attack on the police station in Arondizuogu just as the Rights group blamed the provocative attacks of soldiers and police against citizens as possible triggers for these needless destructions of community-built security infrastructures in Imo.
It lamented that Governor Hope Uzodinma has failed spectacularly to stop the expanding frontiers of coordinated terror attacks by soldiers and the so-called unknown gunmen on innocent Igbo-speaking people.