480, mostly Christians, killed in Nigerian ‘military massacres' from 2015-2017: NGO report

A Nigerian military truck conveying bodies of unarmed pro-Biafra campaigners killed by soldiers and police on May 30, 2016 in Nkpor and Onitsha, Nigeria.
A Nigerian military truck conveying bodies of unarmed pro-Biafra campaigners killed by soldiers and police on May 30, 2016 in Nkpor and Onitsha, Nigeria. | PHOTO: INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES & RULE OF LAW

Umeagbalasi defended his report stating that it was conducted by a team of researchers and also included contributions from a number of intellectuals, such as former U.S. Assistant Attorney Gen. Bruce Fine, and professors Adrienne LeBas at American University in Washington and Justin Akujieze at Chicago State University.

The Departments of Criminology & Security Studies (CSS) and Peace Studies & Conflict Resolution at the National Open University of Nigeria were also listed as contributors.

“The report is empirically and scientifically arranged. We have worked on the report for three years,” he said. “It is a very comprehensive report and a lot of research. You will see the contributors. Some of them professors at the American University, Chicago State University, some of them are former assistant attorney generals of the United States. So you can imagine the caliber of the contributors.”

Shea believes that the reported extrajudicial killings and the maiming of hundreds of individuals should be investigated by independent authorities.

“Those found culpable, both those who executed and those who gave orders must be held accountable,” Shea wrote in an email. “That these allegations involve the targeting of victims of a particular ethnicity and religion — namely Igbo Christians and Jews — raises that possibility of hate crimes, or even an intent to commit genocide. The fact that the targeted victims included political dissidents and even separatists in no way justifies the violence that is alleged to have occurred, including the abduction and murder of persons while they were sleeping.”

Shea called for the continued imprisonment of victims to be investigated for violations of due process.

“I call on the U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom to pursue this report in its bilateral relations with Nigeria and to undertake an independent review of its contents.”

CP submitted requests for comment with the Nigerian Army and the federal government of Nigeria. A response was not received by press time.

Campbell said he is skeptical of claims of President Buhari’s complicity in the reported killings, stating that the report was released just over a week before a presidential election.

The former ambassador added that part of the issue is that the Nigerian Army is responsible for what most developed countries would consider being a police function.

“[T]hey are not trained to do it, which means they tend to way overreact,” Campbell stated.

Campbell is also not optimistic that the perpetrators who carried out these killings and abductions can be held accountable, suggesting that the government oversight is not in place to hold the direct perpetrators accountable.

“You are dealing with a state in which accountability, in general, is very limited,” Campbell said.  “All you have to do is look at what has been going on in the Northeast [Boko Haram] or the Middle Belt [farmer-herder conflict], both centers of violence. To say that the state should be holding perpetrators of massacres of any sort by anybody accountable is of course perfectly true. But in terms of reality, it is pretty naive.”

Umeagbalasi said part of the problem is that victim family members are “too afraid” to say they are advocating on behalf of their slain loved ones. The criminologist added that security forces took the bodies of those slain and buried them in undisclosed locations.

“We have a kind of government and officials that appear to be incorrigible. They have this culture of impunity in place in their system and establishment,” Umeagbalasi stressed. “They don’t want to learn or have remorse. I think the most important task here is that we have the research fully concluded because tracking victims of this crime is not to easy to come by. It is the most difficult thing to track the victims and convince them to speak.”

Intersociety also plans in the future to release a photo album showing the dead bodies of victims as well as a perpetrators list that will outline the crimes that government actors may have directly or vicariously committed.

Follow Samuel Smith on Twitter: @IamSamSmith

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