Confusion trails alleged execution of 6 soldiers by Nigerian Army
Army says allegations that six soldiers were executed is 'fake news' but a coalition of civil society groups insist executions actually took place
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A coalition of civil society groups has alleged that the Nigerian Army secretly executed six soldiers at the Abacha Barracks, in Abuja, on January 25, 2021.
The Eastern Nigeria’s Rights and Intelligentsia Coalition, in a statement released on February 2, 2021, said it had incontrovertible evidence that the soldiers, who were attached to the Armory Department of the Nigerian Army, Abacha Barracks, Abuja, “were secretly executed under the instruction of now-retired Lt Gen Tukur Yusuf Buratai, a day before he left office on Tuesday, 26th January 2021.”
The said soldiers – Prince Ukwuoma, Ebube Isaiah, Amos Azubuike, Ekene Ebere, Moses Anyim and Godwin Uchendu – were allegedly executed after a military court-martial, according to the CSOs coalition.
But the Nigerian Army denied the allegation when contacted by The ICIR on Tuesday, February 2, 2021.
The coalition, in the statement, said it obtained information concerning the alleged executions from E. R. Okoroafor, a human rights lawyer.
Okoroafor said he was “contacted by one of the slain soldiers through his family to defend them in the trumped-up charges, executed using hazy and clandestine military court-martial.”
The lawyer, according to the coalition, disclosed that the execution was connected to allegations of missing weapons at the Abacha Barracks.
Quoting Okoroafor, the statement issued by the coalition said, “Sometime in September 2020, an allegation of missing weapons was made at Abacha Barracks and it was immediately traced to a senior colonel (of Hausa-Fulani origin) and instead of the chief of army staff (Buratai) to issue query and sanction the colonel, he exonerated him on the grounds of his tribe and religion.
“The COAS turned around and ordered for the arrest of 12 soldiers guarding the armory, comprising six Igbo soldiers, three Yoruba soldiers and three Fulani-Hausa soldiers. In the end, the latter soldiers were shielded and exonerated under questionable circumstances and the six Igbo soldiers made to face secret court martial during which they were blocked and prevented from having access to their families and defense lawyers of their choice.”
Okoroafor also told the CSOs that his attempts to stand in for the soldiers were stiffly opposed and he was flimsily told by the Army’s Legal Department that “civilian lawyers are not allowed to defend the accused soldiers except military lawyers.”
“Their trial was totally shrouded in secrecy and never disclosed to the public through army statements till date. Likewise, their constitutional right of appeal to Court of Appeal and Supreme Court was also totally denied. The persecuted and executed soldiers protested their innocence to the point of tendering their resignation in protest; all to no avail,” the statement further said.
The statement was jointly signed by Emeka Umeagbalasi, International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law; Anthony Ejiofor, World Igbo Congress (USA); Uzodimma Nwala, Ala-Igbo Development Foundation (ADF); Justice Chidi, Concerned Elites for Better Society Initiative; Justin Akujieze, Ekwenche Research Institute (USA); Moses Nwaigwe, Biafra Genocide Survivors Group (USA); Austin Okeke, Igbo Board of Deputies (UK); Kanayo Odeluga, Igbo League, Inc.(USA); Mercy Alu, International Association of African Authors and Scholars (USA); Onyenkachi Orjiako, International Society for War Against Lawlessness (USA); Okezie Kelechi, Neighborhood Environment Watch Foundation and Jerry Chidozie Chukwuokoro, International Solidarity for Peace and Human Rights Initiative.
Other signatories were Zulu Ofoelue, Igbo National Council; Ezekwike Chekwube Violet, New Home Mentoring and Development Initiative; Aloysius Attah, Civil Liberties Organization, South-East; Tochukwu Ezeoke, Igbo Ekunie Initiative; Justine Ijeoma, Human Rights Social Development and Environmental Foundation; Vincent Ezekwueme, Civil Liberties Organisation, Anambra State; Peter Onyegiri, Center for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy; Alex Olisa, South-East Good Governance Forum; Nnana Nelson Nwafor, Foundation for Environment Rights Advocacy and Development; Nkwocha Anozie, Initiative for Ideal Development Emancipatory Leadership; Emeku Uche, Easy-life Initiative for Rural Youths; Samuel Njoku, Human Rights Organisation of Nigeria and Ngwobia Ngwobia, Primate Salvation Initiative.
- It’s fake news, says Nigerian Army
When contacted by The ICIR, a spokesman of the Nigerian Army, Sagir Musa, acting director of army public relations, forwarded to our correspondent a montage of pictures of the alleged slain soldiers with ‘Fake News’ written over it.
Musa forwarded the pictures as a response to enquiries made by our correspondent through a WhatsApp conversation.
The army spokesman did not make any other comment.
- CSOs insist soldiers were executed, claim Nigerian Army never owns up to extra-judicial killings
The ICIR confronted a member of the coalition, Umeagbalasi, with the Nigerian Army’s denial of the alleged execution.
Umeagbalasi, in response, insisted that the six soldiers were actually executed.
“Everybody knows the antecedents of the Nigerian Army – denial is their second name. Look at what happened at Lekki during the #ENDSARS protests where protesters were killed and they are still denying till today. That will tell you the nature of the Nigerian Army,” Umeagbalasi told The ICIR on February 2, 2021.
“People should not be deceived by the army’s denial. There is no way you will expect the army to admit the truth. Let them produce the soldiers if they are not lying,” he added.
- Lawyer tell The ICIR that soldiers were indeed executed
The ICIR also contacted Okoroafor, the lawyer who said he was representing the alleged executed soldiers.
After obtaining Okoroafor’s contact details from Umeagbalasi, our correspondent informed the lawyer that the Nigerian Army had described his allegations as ‘fake news’.
Okoroafor told our correspondent that he got involved in the case after a US-based brother of one of the soldiers contacted him.
Insisting that the army indeed executed six soldiers, the lawyer said, “Up till now, none of their (six soldiers’) phone numbers is going through and an insider confirmed that they have been executed.”
He said the coalition would, next week, petition the International Criminal Court (ICC) over the alleged executions.