Ihejirika: Chukwumerije accuses Northern Elders of tribalism, sympathizing with Boko Haram

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The war of words between the Northern Elders Forum and Igbo elders in the country has taken a new dimension as it concerns the threat of the NEF to drag former Chief of Army Staff, Azubuike Ihejirika before the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

Professor Ango Abdullahi had stated that there was no turning back in its decision to involve the ICC concerning the way the Army waged its war against Boko Haram elements in Bama.

Abdullahi said, “It is stupid to insinuate that we are dragging the former Chief of Army Staff to the ICC because he is an Igbo man. It could have been anybody. It is the usual Nigerian politics that you can only take certain decisions based on your tribe, your religion or where you come from.

“This is what Nigeria has been reduced to. People cannot be accused of criminal offences because they are from particular sections of the country. It is a very sad state of affairs. We are taking this action not minding where Gen. Ihejirika comes from.”

He added, “How many people have got justice through the Nigerian legal system? Up till now the Apo six, the Igbomen that were shot there in broad daylight through the careless action of the police, their families have not got justice.

“Recently, some people who are squatting to find means everyday through all manner of petty jobs and so on were carelessly slaughtered and nobody is talking about what justice should be meted to them or their families and so on.

“So the issue of people being abused with impunity has been going on for a very long time in this country. And leaders who really carry out these acts of impunity are simply getting away with them.

“In fact, there is no doubt in my mind that there have been many cases that should have deserved to go to ICC before this one. For example, Obasanjo could have been taken to the ICC for his action in Odi and Zaki Biam where it was clear that instructions were given for the army to go and destroy these villages.

“Again, the police shot Mohammed Yusuf (the Boko Haram leader) with beggars and cripples like rats. Having been arrested and handed over to the police, but they were put down on ground and shot like rats.

“People were not even willing to bring those police officers before courts of either their own system of police or military justice or even the civilian courts for them to really face the criminal acts they carried out in respect of these extra-judicial slaughter of people.

“There are court processes but the police did not think those were important enough. Therefore, at some point, something like this will happen.”

However in his reaction, Senator  Uche Chukwumerije said, “Every citizen(including Prof. Ango Abdullahi knows that the anti-terrorism campaign in the North is a joint military operation under the command of the Chief oF Defence Staff.

“In singling out Lt.-General Ihejirika, the then Army boss, the likes of Prof. Ango Abdullahi are merely betraying old prejudices and embarking on new hazardous search for bad names to hang hated dogs.

“Besides, the fact that Prof. Ango Abdullahi and co sprung into action immediately Lt.-General Ihejirika and ‘six others’ left their commands has revealed the depth of long-smoldering resentment of the campaign against Boko Haram by the self-proclaimed leaders of the North.

“The position of the Northern Elders Forum raises a question about where their sympathy lies in this battle against Boko Haram.

“Why single out Bama (Baga) incident for Hague’s adjudication?”

He continued: “We have seen, in the past, cases of wholesale massacres which were not only more gruesome than Bama’s (Baga) but proven as true, unlike Bama (Baga). Ango Abdullahi and co kept silent.

“There was the case of Odi in which a whole community was decimated. There was the case of Zaki-Biam. There was the case of Katsina Ala.

“If Odi did not arouse the conscience of Ango Abdullahi because the people do not belong to his hallowed Northern enclave, how about Zaki-Biam and Katsina Ala?

“In the magisterial judgement and imperial political wisdom of the Ango Abdullahis, when is a Nigerian, their type of Nigerian, worthy of national attention and respect of the law, and when is a Northerner, their type of Northerner, worthy of attention and protection of the law? Why only Bama (Baga)?

According to him, “if Ango’s criterion for selection of cases for Hague is a gruesome use of force against unarmed civilians’, ‘extra-judicial killings’ and ‘acts of strangulating civilians’ (unproven or exaggerated as the allegation may be), then our learned professor ought to know that the prime candidate is genocidal atrocities of the civil war against the people of former Eastern Region, especially Ndigbo”.

Chukwumerije added: “As Ango Abdullahi’s team opens the doors and walks into the hall of the World Court, let them realise that they have at last opened the Pandora’ Box”.

“The indigenes of Odi, Zaki-Biam and Katsina-Ala will, in quick succession, file into the hall. At the same pace, Ndigbo of Southeast and Anioma will dust their files and head for The Hague.”

He said Nigerians must cling to the hope that Abdullahi and co “wish long-lasting peace and stability to our troubled federation”.

Speaking on the floor of the National Assembly, Chukwumerije said, “A society that has no respect for human life is nearer the status of a community of animals. But the situation in the universally acknowledged difficult terrain of a borderless war, such as terrorism, counter terrorism and guerilla-like conflicts offers a unique challenge.”

“The motives of Prof. Ango Abdullahi and co are obviously beyond concerns about violations of human rights. This is so because the incident of Bama (Baga) has been investigated and put to rest long ago.

“For instance, the Senate sent a strong team to the area in June 2013 after the incident. After a thorough on-the-spot investigation, which extended to interviews with all concerned officials (Director of SSS, State Governor, Commander of the Multi-National Joint Task Force, and stakeholders of the community) and visit to the graveyard, the Senate Committee concluded as follows: ‘The death toll of 185 was exaggerated but there may be more than 37 deaths….”

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