Nigeria’s military executes 6 Christian soldiers framed for crime, human rights leaders say

Government now claims the Christian soldiers are alive, but no one has seen them

Christians faithfuls hold signs as they march on the streets of Abuja during a prayer and penance for peace and security in Nigeria in Abuja on March 1, 2020. The Catholic Bishops of Nigeria gathered faithfuls as well as other Christians and other people to pray for security and to denounce the barbaric killings of Christians by the Boko Haram insurgents and the incessant cases of kidnapping for ransom in Nigeria. | AFP via Getty Images/KOLA SULAIMON

Nigeria’s government executed six Christian soldiers in the city of Abuja based on false charges, according to a lawyer working for the families of one of the victims.

The soldiers were framed for a crime committed by one of their superior officers, International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law Chair Emeka Umeagbalasi told The Christian Post.

A Muslim colonel stole weapons from an armory, then blamed the 12 soldiers on duty for the theft. The military then accused the six Christian soldiers who were all members of Nigeria’s Igbo tribe, said Umeagbalasi.

They died on Jan. 25, not because of their actions, but because they were both Igbo and Christian, he said.

“The government of today detests Christianity and detests the Igbo tribe,” he said. “You receive serious discrimination against Igbo officers. It’s terrible. This administration is running on ethnic agenda against the Igbo population.”

The soldiers executed were: Prince Ukwuoma, Ebube Isaiah, Amos Azubuike, Ekene Ebere, Moses Anyim and Godwin Uchendu, Umeagbalasi said.

A lawyer working for the family of one of the men said he had petitioned Nigeria’s government to provide a defense, but the government denied his attempt, Umeagbalasi said.

The men were given a rigged trial with government lawyers and were executed in secret, he said. Nigeria’s Constitution says the military has no authority to execute people and that prisoners should be able to appeal to a higher court. They didn’t get their rights.

The military now claims that the men were never executed, said Umeagbalasi. However, they have not been returned to their families or appeared in public. A letter signed by 28 groups, including Intersociety, the World Igbo Congress, Concerned Elites for Better Society Initiative, and Biafra Genocide Survivors Group demands answers from the Nigerian government.

“The Coalitionmakes bold to say that uploading montage pictures of the slain soldiers with “Fake News” written over them or hiring a consultancy firm to write a statement signed by “an anonymous senior Army officer” is in no way a credible and concrete reply and ordinarily should not be taken seriously,” the letter reads.

Nigeria’s Army has killed and arrested Christian soldiers before, said Umeagbalasi. However, it hasn’t killed six soldiers at once.

“This has never been a practice in the Army. Things got changed the moment this present administration came to power,” he said. “Things are happening before that didn’t happen. It’s not only about these six soldiers.”

Many Nigerians now believe the Army fights for Islam, not Nigeria, he said. In the country’s predominately Christian south, people call it “Boko Haram’s Army.” Muslims hold all the most important leadership positions.

The Army’s lack of action to protect Christians comes directly from its leaders in government, Umeagbalasi said. When troops go into areas controlled by radical Islamists to defend Nigerian Christians, the government orders them to retreat. Then, Islamist rebels shoot them in the back.

If this state of affairs continues, the country will fall into violent anarchy, he added.

“Nigeria is becoming like Somalia and Rwanda. That was exactly how it started, with the government taking sides and backing the members of a particular ethnic group. That’s the situation. Even in the security forces, Christians are being targeted,” Umeagbalasi said.

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