The Nigerian Army has reacted to the allegation that six soldiers of Igbo extraction were executed based on orders given by the now-former Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Tukur Buratai.
A report on Tuesday based on a statement that originated from a group of human rights activists had claimed that the soldiers were executed secretly.
The group claimed it was informed of the development by an international human rights lawyer, Barr E.R. Okoroafor, who reportedly alleged he was denied the right to defend his client at the secret trial.
The coalition claimed in its report that the soldiers, identified as Prince Ukwuoma, son of a traditional ruler; Ebube Isaiah, Amos Azubuike, Ekene Ebere, Moses Anyim, and Godwin Uchendu were all killed on the 25th of January, 2021.
It added that they were accused of complicity in a missing weapons case that was made at Abacha Barracks involving a total of twelve soldiers and a senior colonel.
It alleged that others involved in guarding the armoury at the barrack were absolved of the blame while the six soldiers were sent for court-martial, denied representation based on what he (Barr Okorafor) claimed as military authorities telling him a civilian lawyer can’t represent them in the case.
The group accused the military authorities of carrying out ethnic cleansing.
The group noted in its statement that; “We have received with rude shock and deepest dismay the Monday, 25th Jan 2021 secret execution of six Igbo Christian soldiers, attached to the Armory 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 now Retired Lt Gen Tukur Yusuf Buratai, a day before he left office on Tuesday, 26th Jan 2021.
This shocking news was disclosed to us by Barr E.R. Okoroafor, an int’l 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.”
“According to the int’l rights lawyer, “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 armory, 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.”
“Barr E.R. Okoroafor also told the Coalition that his attempts to stand in for the Igbo 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 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 battlefronts 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.”
However, the Nigerian Army in a reaction on Tuesday via its official Twitter account simply labelled the news as fake.
Meanwhile, the Ogun State Police Command said it had commenced an investigation into the alleged invasion of privacy of guests at the Pavillion Hotel, Ayepe, in the Odogbolu area of the state.
The development followed public outcry against the hotel after an online video showed guests lamenting the discovery of Closed-Circuit Television Cameras (CCTV) in their rooms.