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Military ‘fingered’ in killing unarmed citizens in Soludo’s hometown, tagging them gunmen

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International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety) has raised a serious allegation against the Nigerian Army and Navy, alleging that the military killed no fewer than eight unarmed and defenseless citizens at Umuona and Isuofia in Aguata Local Government of Anambra State.

It also also alleged that the military shot and injured scores of unarmed and defenseless citizens, in a reprisal following a recent attack on a military checkpoint in Isuofia-Umuona by unknown gunmen.

Intersociety disclosed this in a press statement in Onitsha, Eastern Nigeria on Tuesday, November 15, 2022. The statement was signed by Emeka Umeagbalasi, Obianuju Joy Igboeli Esq and Chidinma Udegbunam Esq.

They lamented that while unknown gunmen perpetrate crimes, innocent, unarmed and defenseless citizens are killed and publicly displayed and labelled as “gunned down unknown gunmen.”

The statement reads: “No fewer than eight unarmed and defenseless citizens were gunned down by personnel of the Nigerian Military comprising Nigerian Army and Nigerian Navy at Umuona and Isuofia in Aguata Local Government of Anambra State. The latest killings by the Military started 10-30 minutes after the last week Saturday (12th Nov 2022) attack by non state actor armed persons commonly referred as “Unknown Gunmen”, at a Military checkpoint located at Isuofia-Umuona Roundabout (Afor-Uzo Junction) by St Patrick Catholic Church in Isuofia; the Hometown of Gov Charles Chukwuma Soludo of Anambra State. The Military checkpoint is originally manned by Nigerian Naval personnel from the Onitsha (Ogbaru) Base. The Nigerian Military personnel involved in the mass killing are personnel of the Nigerian Navy and soldiers of the Nigerian Army (Onitsha 302 Artillery Regiment and General Support) who had also during the shooting, shot and injured scores of unarmed and defenseless citizens.

“According to findings by the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety), the Unknown Gunmen had in the morning (at about 9am) of Saturday, 12th Nov 2022 launched an impromptu attack at Isuofia Military checkpoint, killing a soldier. The attack lasted less than ten minutes after which the Unknown Gunmen escaped uncaught through Isuofia-Umuona Road into Aguluzigbo using Umuona-Aguluzigbo Bypass. The Unknown Gunmen had escaped by jumping and dodging potholes and bumps in high speed. The shooting incident created panics and fears, disrupting vehicular and pedestrian movements and grounded other social activities in Isuofia and environs. Shockingly, about ten minutes after the attack at Isuofia, survived soldiers joined by others went on terminal or deadly shooting spree, creating more panics and forcing defenseless citizens to flee for safety. It was in the process that four defenseless citizens were shot dead including a cyclist, a teenage boy going to his mother’s shop where she fries beans cake, a half-dead man shattered by military bullets, bundled into military vehicle by soldiers and a man running into his compound for safety and shot and killed by an armed soldier escaping from the scene.

“Not done; about 20-30 minutes later, soldiers regrouped and headed to Orie-Umuona Market Square by St Maria De Goretti Catholic Church, Umuona where they opened fire on defenseless citizens running for safety, killing four and injuring scores. One of the slain citizens, an indigene of Umuona escaping from shooting bullets, was pursued by a soldier into a family compound where he was dragged out, shot on his sensitive head-body region and killed instantly. The soldiers instantly picked three of the corpses on the spot while another slain body lying lifeless close to St Maria De Goretti Catholic Church, Umuona, was later picked and dumped in a military patrol van and taken away. Hours later, the Nigerian Military authorities costumed and camouflaged the unarmed dead bodies and publicly displayed them as “gunned down unknown gunmen”. This, the Military personnel did, in addition to shattering the back windscreen of a Venzer car possibly abandoned for safety by an innocent road user and displayed same as “a vehicle recovered from the unknown gunmen”.

The group reiterated that Eastern citizens are facing “class criminalization, stigmatization and hate policing and soldiering” in the hands of the deployed security and defense forces and their principal officers and the Eastern part of the country is “silently undergoing war of annihilation and religious conquest in the hands of ethnically and religiously radicalized security and defense agencies, agents and commanders”. Consequently Intersociety charged the Nigerian military to “leave the defenseless Easterners alone and go after the non-state actor fighting parties troubling them and exposing their gross incompetence, crudity and barbarism.”

“In criminology and security studies, there is different between “impromptu gun attack” and “gunfire exchange” between armed state actors and armed non state actors in the act. A cursory look at the pictures and videos displayed by the Military as “those of slain unknown gunmen” indisputably indicates that the displayed dead bodies are defenseless citizens killed and falsely labeled after the act. The costumes and narratives involved are elements of ‘criminal stigmatization, false labeling, class criminalization and transfer of criminal responsibility’; totality of which has remained the bane of the operational procedures, guidelines and conducts of the deployed security forces in the East. In a detailed Special Report just released by Intersociety and dated 14th Nov 2022, noted was the fact that Easterners are facing “class criminalization, stigmatization and hate policing and soldiering” in the hands of the deployed security and defense forces and their principal officers in the East who are also chronically disproportionate by way of 95% non Easterners and 80-90% Northern Muslim composition.

“Today, the unarmed and defenseless population in the East are recklessly and indiscriminately singled out and targeted for brutalization, degradation, abduction and mass killing in revenge for loss of security personnel killed by “known gunmen” and “unknown gunmen”. Therefore, Nigerian Military and other security agencies and their commanders deployed in the East must leave the defenseless Easterners alone and go after the non state actor fighting parties troubling them and exposing their gross incompetence, crudity and barbarism. They must also stop class criminalization and operational hatred against Eastern civilian population and their defenseless properties. The flooding of Eastern Nigeria with 90% Muslim security and defense officers and rank and file must also stop. We make bold to say that Eastern Nigeria is silently undergoing war of annihilation and religious conquest in the hands of ethnically and religiously radicalized security and defense agencies, agents and commanders. For full details of the just released Special Report, see and read it here: https://intersociety-ng.org/610-unarmed-citizens-killed-in-10-months-and-14-days-as-another-massacre-looms-in-the-east/,” it stated.

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