(Onitsha Nigeria, 1st of September 2016)-Following high cases of suspected death of Nigerian citizens in the custodies of the security agencies and recent violent attacks launched by security forces in some high profile prisons across the country, the leadership of International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Intersociety) is deeply concerned that the abducted IPOB activists presently in incommunicado detention by the authorities of the Department of State Security; Nigeria’s secret police, may most likely die in the DSS solitary confinement under highly questionable circumstances.
Nigerians including rights and media activists have in the past weeks raised concerns about increasing deaths in detention and violent attacks in a number of detention facilities across the country including some maximum security prisons. Such deaths in detention have been reported in the EFCC detention facilities maintained and manned by the operatives of the Nigeria Police Force and the DSS. The authorities of the Nigerian Prisons Service have also alleged attempted prison breaks and used them as a cover to unleash violent attacks on such prisons with intent to kill high profile detainees who are in awaiting or undergoing trial and blame their death on “jail breaks”. One of the most recent of such State violent attacks was reported to have been launched at the Kuje Prison; close to the cell room of Citizen Nnamdi Kanu(POC), during which tear gas canisters with possible lethal substances were reported to have been recklessly used.
The authorities of the DSS have also gone rioting; abducting, shooting, torturing, incriminating and detaining IPOB activists across the country particularly in Southeast and South-south parts of Nigeria. We had in our two previous publications dated 26th and 28th of August 2016, raised alarm and informed all Nigerians and members of the international community of indiscriminate crackdown, arrest and long detention without trial or charge of IPOB activists by the DSS. We specifically cited the case of Citizen Chidiebere Onwudiwe, who was trailed and later abducted in his sleep in his residence near Port Harcourt in Rivers State, South-south Nigeria. Citizen Chidiebere Onwudiwe (Nigeria’s National Coordinator of IPOB) was abducted in the late night of 22nd June 2016 and till date, a period of 70 days; he has not been charged to court or put on fair trial.
We cited another horrible case of Citizen Chukwuka Sunday Obasi (Nnewi-Ichi Coordinator of IPOB in Anambra State, Southeast Nigeria) who was ambushed in his sleep by DSS operatives in the late night of 16th of August 2016 in his Amuwo-Nnewi residence; shot twice in his two legs before he was whisked away till date. The DSS operatives had earlier on 13th of July 2016 raided the sleeping abode of Citizen Justice O. Udeh (another IPOB official in Abia State) in Port Court in Rivers State and abducted him in his sleep. Citizen Justice O. Udeh has neither been released nor put on trial till date.
On 26th of August 2016, the DSS operatives, joined by the personnel of the Nigerian Army and the Nigeria Police Force in Abia State, Southeast Nigeria; ambushed a commercial Hummer Bus carrying the following IPOB activists: Citizens Ikechukwu Ugwuoha (Abia State Coordinator of IPOB), Asochukwu Ugochukwu, Sunday J. Okafor, Ekene Onuoha and Joseph Okorie (Ogbuawa) and other seven passengers. They were ambushed at Ugba Junction near Aba, handcuffed and blindfolded; before they were moved to the Ngwa High School temporary headquarters of the 144 Battalion of the Nigerian Army where they were beaten and tortured for over three hours, from where they were moved to the DSS office at Umuahia and detained till date.
As we speak, they are still detained at the Abia State Directorate of the DSS, located near Government House where they are strongly believed to be undergoing torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatments or punishments. The five IPOB activists detained by the DSS; likewise Citizens Chukwuka Sunday Obasi and Justice O. Udeh, have been held solitarily and denied access to their families, doctors and lawyers. Some members of their families that visited the DSS office at Umuahia yesterday, 31st of August 2016 were told that the DSS arrested their relatives, but “they have been transferred to Abuja”. This usually means something sinister per DSS and Police SARS: it could mean that the detainees have been “wasted” (killed in custody). In the instant case, it may have been told so as to discourage the detained IPOB activists’ relatives from further visiting the Directorate at Umuahia in search of their beloved relatives.
It is also feared in some quarters that Citizen Chukwuka Sunday Obasi has died in the DSS custody following two gunshots he received from DSS in the course of his abduction in the late night of 16th of August 2016. It is on record that arrested citizens shot and wounded by their arresters and detainers are rarely treated medically. It is also recalled that the leader of the Muslim Movement of Nigeria, Sheik Ibrahim El-Zaky Zaky (POC) was brutally shot severally and battered during the Army attacks and massacre of over 800 of his unarmed followers in December 2015. He was violently arrested and taken into custody. Till date, a period of nine months, he has neither been seen nor released or tried. He is believed to have been transferred to the DSS custody by the Nigerian Army and fears have heightened that he has died in custody.
The renewed crackdown on IPOB activists has not only heightened fears, but also forced hundreds of married women who are members and supporters of IPOB and its activism to abandon their children and marriages and go into hiding particularly in Aba, Abia State where the DSS and the Nigerian Army have let loose and gone on rampage. Among the 20 IPOB activists freed on 11th of August 2016 by the Aba Magistrate Court 1, on account of the AGF directive; six of them are married women with kids and they have gone into hiding following the DSS crackdown. There are over 150 married women who are sympathetic to IPOB cause in Abia State alone and most of them have at least two kids each. Those kids and their fathers have been abandoned and uncared for till date.
It is shocking and alarming as why the DSS could be dissipating its energy and wasting the country’s lean resources by unleashing a crackdown on Citizens who never use or advocate violence while it turns blind eyes on the activities of murderous entities like the Fulani Terror Group or Fulani Janjaweed. The leadership and members of the Miyyati Allah Cattle Owners and Herders in Nigeria, who have become a criminal entity and individuals, are rewarded on daily basis for massacring hundreds of innocent and defenceless Nigerians every month, yet a group of unarmed and nonviolent citizens are hunted by the DSS with reckless abandon; to the extent that innocent and law abiding married women with toddlers are now forced out of their marriages and homes on account of the DSS recklessness.
We hereby call on the Attorney General of the Federation to call the authorities of the DSS and the Nigerian Army to order. It is a height of securitization recklessness and brigandage for the authorities of the DSS to flout and disrespect the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, upon which the recent directive of the AGF is predicated; by running riot on unarmed, nonviolent and defenceless citizens. The latest brigandage and rioting of the DSS must be cut to sizes!
The long periods and other unconstitutional measures adopted by the DSS in abduction, shooting and detention of IPOB activists are a clear case of the fact that “the DSS now exercises its powers of arrest, detention and use of force arbitrarily and has no single credible criminal accusation and evidence against the IPOB activists”, except its utter desperation using torture to concoct one. The silence of the Government of Abia State in the ongoing macabre act of the DSS in its State is also shocking.
The AGF is also called upon, as the Chief Law Officer of the Federation, to ensure the immediate cessation of the DSS atrocities under complaint. The Department must be stopped at all costs from its steady suicidal match into the abyss of lawlessness. There is no law in Nigeria that empowers the DSS to detain those it clamps into its custody for whatever reasons for 70 days without trial. The Department also grossly oversteps its statutory bounds by arresting, detaining, shooting and torturing citizens under “trial-by-ordeal” or jungle justice.
In the instant case, therefore, the DSS must be directed to free all the IPOB activists in its unlawful custody and if any of them dies in its custody, the Principal heads of the Department shall be held to account. The Department must be reminded at all times that crimes particularly those against humanity are not statute-bared! Blaming its regime atrocities of today on “the Buhari Administration”, when the latter must have ceased presidentially and democratically, will also not be acceptable to us.
The “Hissene Habre justice” will surely be replicated here at the appropriate time!!
For: International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Intersociety)
Emeka Umeagbalasi, Board Chairman
Mobile Line: +2348174090052
Obianuju Igboeli, Esq., (LLB, BL)
Head, Civil Liberties & Rule of Law Program
Mobile Line: +2348034186332
Chinwe Umeche, Esq., (LLB, BL)
Head, Democracy & Good Governance Program
Mobile Line: +2347013238673