The Igbo Elders Council has added a new twist to the insecurity in the South East, with an allegation that more than 5000 Igbo youths have been killed and over 10,000 others, thrown into detention camps in the ongoing special security operation in the region
The IEC which comprised eminent leaders from the South East region, raised the alarm in a communique issued after their marathon meeting in Abuja .
Among those at the meeting who signed the communique were a former Governor of Anambra State, Chukwuemeka Ezeife; former Minister of Education, Prof. Ihechukwu Madubuike; Prof. C.E. Nwekeaku; Onwu Arua Onwu and HRM, Eze Ibe Nwosu.
The controversial security operation which involves troops of the Nigeria Armed Force and the Nigeria Police Force, was launched about a fortnight ago in a bid to fish out criminal elements behind the recent spate of killing of security operatives and burning down of public infrastructure in the region.
When the operation commenced, the Inspector General of Police had accused the Indigenous People of Biafra and Eastern Security Network of complicity in the serial killings and arson, an allegation the groups had since denied.
The communique reads, “The list is endless; so far, over 5000 Igbo youths have been killed in the South East, while more than 10,000 others are languishing in horrible detention camps in different parts of the country under questionable circumstances.
“Yet, none of these victims was a member of IPOB and ESN…. Both IPOB and ESN have severally distanced themselves from the current terror and tension in the South East, yet countless innocent citizens are killed in the name of fishing out presumed members of IPOB, ESN and unknown gunmen.”
The current militarization and widespread carnage in the South East, the IEC said, has precipitated unprecedented fear, tension and untold hardships on the people in the zone, thereby aggravating the security challenges in the land.
The elders lamented that in spite of the ban on roadblocks nationwide, security agencies in the South East routinely stop motorists at illegal checkpoints, search them in most dehumanizing manner under the guise of fishing out presumed members of IPOB and ESN.
According to them, those arrested by security operatives were mainly young males who were not charged to court to defend themselves but were marched away to unknown destinations, most of whom never return alive.
The communique read, “They arrest, maim, and, sometimes shoot innocent and hapless youths, and cart away their corpses to unknown destinations, thus denying them the opportunity of burial. The Igbo tradition values burial rites for the repose of the soul of the dead, yet our young victims of the military onslaught are denied that opportunity.
“We condemn without any reservation the destruction of public property in the South-East because it is not in our character to indulge in arson and brigandage.
“We believe, however, that it is not fair and just to use a sledge hammer to kill harmless flies as many victims of this joint security agencies onslaught are hapless and innocent Igbo youths and other citizens, who have become victims of circumstances.
“The current military onslaught against the Igbos will not bring the much-needed peace and stability in the South East in particular and Nigeria in general.
“Dialogue, consultations, conferences, respect for the rule of law and fundamental human rights, democracy, accountability, transparency and good governance, as well as immediate restructuring of the country, resource control, equity, justice and fairness in all government policies, programs, projects and appointments in the public service are the most feasible path to sanity, peace, unity and progress of Nigeria.
“We, therefore, call on President Muhammad Buhari, the United Nations, the European Union, African Union, ECOWAS, United States of America, United Kingdom, Russia, China and the entire international community to take urgent and necessary actions to stop the current genocide against the Igbos in the South East and parts of the South-South in the interest of peace, stability and unity of Nigeria.
“The use of force, nay, military force, has never restored peace anywhere; hence the need to explore dialogue and other effective strategies that have worked elsewhere. The Igbo Elders are available and ready to be part of this process if given the opportunity to participate. ‘A stitch in time saves nine’ is a utilitarian adage in this context and at this time.”
The group observed that the conduct of the security agencies in the South East and some parts of South-South was in contravention of any known rules of military or security engagement and therefore urged the relevant authorities to call the troops to order