Some notable civil society organisations in Nigeria have called for thorough investigations into the alleged involvement of Nigerian military personnel in violent crimes across the country.
In a statement jointly signed by the CSOs, they noted that the increasing cases of kidnapping for ransom in the Okigwe axis of Abia State and the South-East region in general were a major source of concern particularly now that security agents had been fingered in the crimes.
Recall that a Methodist Prelate, His Eminence Samuel Uche, his chaplain, Very Rev. Abidemi Shittu, and the Bishop of Owerri, Rt. Rev. Dennis Mark were abducted last week along the Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway in the Umunneochi Local Government Area of Abia State.
Uche, who recounted his experience at a press conference held at Methodist Church, Yaba, Lagos State, on Tuesday, alleged that some military personnel from the North were aiding the kidnappers in their activities in the region.
On Wednesday, youths of Isuochi in the Umunneochi Local Government Area of the state, took to the streets to protest against incessant kidnappings by suspected herdsmen in the area.
The embittered youths who decried the menacing activities and atrocities of herdsmen in the area, accused security agents, especially the Nigerian Army of aiding the murderous group on the prowl in the area.
They further demanded that the military checkpoint at Lomara junction should be removed and the barricade by the soldiers blocking the Ihube/Isuochi Road cleared without delay so that motorists will be plying the route again.
The statement released on Saturday was signed by RULAAC; African Centre for Entrepreneurship and Information Development, Abuja; Difference Newspaper; COMPPART Foundation for Justice and Peacebuilding; International Peace and Civic Responsibility Centre; Young Innovators and Vocational Training Initiative; Ace and Vanguard Legal Practitioners and Onyigbuo Stephen Uche; Centre for Citizens Right; Human Rights Social Development and Environmental Foundation and Justice and Human Empowerment Centre Nassarawa State.
Others are; Initiative for Social Development in Africa; Nde Oduko Foundation, Jabi, Abuja; Women Literacy and Vocational Development Initiative, Niger State; Justice for Peace and Development Initiative; Legal Resources Consortium; Neighborhood Initiative for Women Advancement; Vision Spring Initiatives; Institutional and Sustainable Development Foundation; Community Outreach for Development and Welfare Advocacy; Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development; Foundation for Environmental Rights, Advocacy & Development.
It was also signed by HABITATCARE and Protection Initiative, Owerri Imo state; Bauchi Human Rights Network and Inibehe Effiong.
The statement reads, “Our attention has been drawn to the protest by the youths and people of Isuochi in Umunneochi Local Government Area of Abia State demanding the removal of military checkpoints in the area since the presence of the military has not improved security in their area but rather seems to provide cover for the criminals.
“We are alarmed by the revelations from the prelate who was kidnapped along with his two colleagues and released after paying huge sums in ransom. But we are even the more alarmed by the revelation from security sources and the victims themselves suggesting that the military are likely to be complicit in the increasing cases of crime in the Okigwe axis.
“We feel ashamed that the Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, who could not do anything and played no role in the release of the kidnapped clerics, could come out to shamelessly claim that the release of the kidnapped victims was by divine intervention. We call on the governor of Abia State to stand up to his responsibility as the Chief Security Officer of the state.
“The Prelate of the Methodist Church of Nigeria had, upon his release by kidnappers, revealed information suggesting the complicity of military personnel in the region in kidnapping.
“In one of the videos in circulation, a senior police officer identified as CSP Johnbull, Commander of the Rapid Response Squad, Abia State also expressed frustration at the role played by personnel of the Nigeria Army in sabotaging the efforts of security forces to combat kidnapping in that axis.
“We call on President Buhari to wake up and to order an investigation into this rather scandalous revelation. We also condemn the decision of the police hierarchy to subject the police officer to harassment or disciplinary action instead of acting on the intelligence information to improve their operations.
“We are further shocked by the revelation that the kidnappers said they are amassing arms with money realized as ransom, with a view to eventually unleashing mayhem and taking over Igboland. This also calls for urgent investigation on the orders of the President.
“The Nigeria Army, in a series of Tweets on their verified Twitter handle titled “Alleged Complicity by Soldiers in Bishop’s Kidnap Unsubstantiated”, have dismissed the allegations even before investigating the alleged role of their personnel. Conclusion on security issues must be based on intelligence and investigation.
“The huge presence of the military in the Southeast region ought to ordinarily ensure maximum security but instead, it seems to be giving cover for criminals to enjoy free reign all over the region.
“We call on the Nigerian Army to objectively and thoroughly investigate the weighty allegations against its personnel in the region rather than engaging in hasty denials and cover up.
“We suspect that the Prelate may be subject of reprisals or victimization for revealing what he heard from the kidnappers and his observations and experience from his ordeal. We call for protection for the Prelate and his colleagues.
“The primary duty of government is the security of lives and property. Therefore, we call on President Muhammadu Buhari to rise up to his duty as the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and to ensure that the growing security challenges are curtailed.
“We remain committed to constantly monitoring governance and upholding the rule of law and accountability of state officials and institutions to the people.”