Chris Steven, Abuja
A South East group, the South-East Restoration Group, SERG has disowned reports by the Amnesty International alleging extra judicial killings in the South East by security agents, saying contrary to such claims, the presence of the army has instead rid the region of criminal activities such as kidnapping and armed robbery.
Addressing journalists in Enugu, SERG National Co-rdinator, Charles Mbani said the group took time to review the claims made in the Amnesty International report and decided to clarify some of the misconceptions contained in it.
He described as a misconception the idea that the IPOB represents genuine voice of the Igbo people, adding that persons of Igbo ethnicity that are not involved in breaking laws go about their legitimate businesses without hindrance from any agency let alone the Army.
“The IPOB is just one of the many entities that have emerged to make monetary gains from the agitation for restructuring, with members that in violation for the deep seated Igbo respect for the sanctity of life, have been involved in killing people that they buried in secret mass graves. They have been involved in killing security operatives and throwing some into the river in the name of holding protests.
“The industrious Igbo sons and daughters can recount how much money they have lost to act of vandalism by this group that Amnesty International is trying to make a case for. Its members imposed forced closure of businesses whenever they hold protests. Those that have made the mistake of defying the forced closures have learnt the hard way not to attempt it again as hoodlums belonging to the group ransacked and looted shops that open for business while they are holding protests.
“This forced participation in insurrectionist activities speaks volume of the violation of the rights to choice, association, expression and doing business in south-east Nigeria under the dictatorship of IPOB thugs. They snuff life out of anyone that disagree with them and the kidnap for ransom gangs in the region do not operate without the knowledge of the group. The situation got so bad that Igbo sons and daughters dread visiting home during festive holidays.
“It took the intervention of the Nigerian Army, with the launch of its Operation Python Dance late 2016, for us to have respite from criminals. Amnesty International may wish to note that when that operation was launched there was outcry that it was targeted at IPOB. Possibly true to the fear expressed, the operation completely curbed incidents of kidnap for ransom and violent robberies that usually spiked towards Yuletide. From records, Operation Python Dance is responsible for the crime free 2016 Christmas that people in the south east enjoyed for the first time and across the region.” He said
Mbani said if Amnesty International is keen about singling out the Igbo race for intervention and support, it should wade into the situation in South Africa where government backed xenophobes are killing and maiming the Nigerians, predominantly Igbo, and destroying their businesses.
He also said people of the south east feel insulted that Amnesty International can lump the agitation for fiscal federalism by Igbo ethnic nationals in the same sections with terrorists entities like Boko Haram and IMN in their report.
“Our interpretation is that it has by that report declared persons of Igbo ancestry as terrorists. It is a foray into a political minefield that the organization is not equipped to cope with. We strongly expect that Amnesty International will in the coming hours apologize for this slight on the hardworking and peace loving Igbo people of Nigeria.” He added
He said equally obnoxious is the insinuation that IPOB represent genuine voice of the Igbo.
The SERG Coordinator said for the avoidance of doubt, when IPOB does compile names of those allegedly killed or disappeared they always turn out to be phony names that are not linked to known family members in spite of the Igbo close knit extended family system.
He said, “There have been instances when members of the group circulated old pictures that were photoshopped to corroborate false claims. In more extreme cases they circulated gory pictures from other parts of Nigeria or countries entirely to justify claims they were being killed by the military.