The Nigerian Army has called on Nigerians to ignore a report by a group known as Coalition of rights activists and scholars that the Army conducted secret trials and executed six soldiers of Igbo origin.
The group made the allegations on Tuesday, February 2 in a press statement which was made available to News Express. The report said the soldiers were secretly executed after a hasty secret trial at which they were denied legal representation of their choice.
The coalition of rights activists had alleged that it was informed of the shocking development by human rights lawyer, Mr. E R Okoroafor, who also alleged that he was denied the right to defend his client at the secret trial. The statement which was shared by News Express read;
“We have received with rude shock and deepest dismay the Monday, 25th January 2021 secret execution of six Igbo Christian soldiers, attached to the Amoury Department of the Nigerian Army, Abacha Barracks in Abuja”,
“the slain Igbo Christian soldiers; namely Prince Ukwuoma, son of a traditional ruler; Ebube Isaiah, Amos Azubuike; Ekene Ebere; Moses Anyim and Godwin Uchendu were secretly executed under the instruction of the former Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen Tukur Yusuf Buratai (rtd), a day before he left office on Tuesday, Janaury 26, 2021.
“This shocking news was disclosed to us by ER Okoroafor, an international human rights lawyer, who is very conversant with the matter and was also 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 report also quoted the rights lawyer saying,
“sometime in Sept 2020, an allegation of missing weapons was made at Abacha Barracks and it was immediately traced to a senior Colonel of Fulani-Hausa Muslim origin and instead of the COAS 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 armoury, comprising six Igbo soldiers, three Yoruba soldiers and three Fulani-Hausa Muslim 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.”
“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, which 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.”
Apart from their secret execution being totally despicable and condemnable and a clear case of ethnic cleansing, the Coalition also strongly suspects that the six Igbo soldiers were framed or singled out for persecution on the grounds of their ethnicity and religion. It is also doubtful whether the offense of ‘missing weapons’ in peace time is commensurable with death sentence in the Nigerian Military laws, all subject to the provisions of the 1999 Constitution as amended. Another shocking part was where the immediate past Army Chief derived his power to order for secret execution of “justly” and “unjustly” convicted soldiers. This is more so when there is a national moratorium on death penalty in Nigeria. The Coalition therefore notes further that dozens, if not hundreds of Igbo soldiers have in recent times particularly since 2017/8 died under similar circumstances both in battle fronts and ‘peace time’. Additionally, there have been several reported and unreported cases of dismissals, resignations and desertions involving soldiers and officers of old Eastern Nigeria extraction on account of the ethnic cleansing under Buratai as Nigerian Army Chief.”
According to the report, the statement was signed by Emeka Umeagbalasi (MSc.), Board Chair, International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law; Prof Anthony Ejiofor, Chairman, World Igbo Congress (USA); Prof Uzodimma Nwala-President, Ala-Igbo Development Foundation (ADF); Prof Justice Chidi-President, Concerned Elites for Better Society Initiative; Prof Justin Akujieze-President, Ekwenche Research Institute (USA); Dr. Moses Nwaigwe, President, Biafra Genocide Survivors Group (USA); Austin Okeke, Esq, Global Leader, Igbo Board of Deputies (UK), among others.
The army has since debunked the report as it posted a screenshot of the publication’s headline on Twitter and tagged it ”Fake News!!!”
According to The Guardian, a senior military source, who pleaded for anonymity, also dismissed the allegation, saying it was impossible for the Nigerian army to conduct secret trial.
According to him the trials are conducted publicly and not in secret.
“There is no iota of truth whatsoever that six soldiers were tried secretly and executed by the Nigerian army on Jan. 25 as alleged.’ the military source said to News Association of Nigeria.
“The promoters of that allegation are the enemies of Nigerian who are trying so hard to instigate tribal or ethnic crisis in the country,” he said.