•Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State
ONITSHA (Sundiata Post) – Human rights group, the International Society for Civil Liberties & Rule of Law (Intersociety), has said the number of innocent and defenceless Obigbo residents in Rivers State secretly abducted and made to disappear for over four months by soldiers of the Nigerian Army is now 550 and likely to hit 600 in the end.
In a statement made available to Sundiata Post on Tuesday, the group said there was likelihood of fresh discovery of secret Army and other security dungeons in the North where other Obigbo residents are kept and tortured.
“The abduction of 550 defenceless and innocent Obigbo residents is the highest number of abductions by Nigerian Army in the history of non-war situations in Nigeria,” the group said in a statement signed by Emeka Umeagbalasi, Obianuju Igboeli, Chdimma Udegbunam and Comrade Samuel Kamanyaoku.
“By sub section 4 of Section 35 of the 1999 Constitution (Right to Personal Liberty): ‘Any person who is arrested or detained in accordance with this section shall be brought before a court of law within a reasonable time, and if he is not tried within a period of: (a) two months from the date of his arrest or detention in the case of a person who is in custody or is not entitled to bail (i.e. if accused of capital offense(s)); or (b) three months from the day of his arrest or detention in the case of a person who has been released on administrative bail, he shall (without without prejudice to any further proceedings that may be brought against him) be released either unconditionally or upon such conditions as are reasonably necessary to ensure that he appears for trial at a later date’; and by Section 36 (5) of the same Constitution: Every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed to be innocent until he is proved guilty”. By law, soldiers lack power to abduct, detain, investigate and try civilian citizens.
“Intersociety had back in December 2020 issued a statement disclosing that ‘400 Obigbo residents or more’ were abducted in Obigbo and environs by soldiers of the Nigerian Army outside public knowledge or official information and secretly transported at night to different secret locations in Northern Nigeria. We had arrived at this number and related information following our gathered information including an exclusive report by Sahara Reporters back in November 2020 that Nigerian Army was secretly airlifting abducted IPOB members (Obigbo residents) to secret detention centres in the North including Niger State. Since then, there has been a litany of discoveries, starting from a discovery in early December of 52 of the abductees held in four different locations in Niger State. They were rescued and freed through court bails.
“Today, out of “the 400 abducted Obigbo residents or more”, not less than 419 names have been traced or located, out of which 208 including two females have been freed and 211 including 53 girls and young women and 158 men remained in the captivity of the Nigerian Army and its two partners: Department of the State Security Service (DSS) and the Nigeria Police Force (NPF). While there are no records that the duo of DSS and NPF partook in the abductions, there are testimonial evidence from the freed victims that all the abductees were abducted by the Army and atrociously held for months amidst torture, starvation and rape and other sexual harassments before transferring some to facilities manned by DSS and NPF. The DSS and NPF, instead of freeing the transferred abductees or taking them to court, resorted to holding them secretly without trial and outside public knowledge, using blanket remand orders controversially obtained from compromised magistrates.
How Names Of The 419 Abductees Were Discovered
“In early December 2020, 52 names of the Obigbo abductees were independently traced by Barr Richie Okoroafor, an international human rights lawyer and UK national of Igbo nativity. The discovery of the 52 names followed a distress call by a sympathetic judicial officer in Niger State whose colleague told about the obtainment by Army of secret and controversial remand orders to hold the abductees in perpetuity. The abducted Army captives, held secretly in Katangora, Bida, Zungeru and Jebba, were later granted Court bail on 3rd and 10th December 2020 leading to their release days after. From testimonial statements of the freed victims, it was further discovered that three of the abductees were tortured to death in Army captivity.
“Through insider and credible open source information, more names were discovered in the Federal Capital Territory leading to their release through Court bail. The freed included Abuja Batch A comprising 30 freed abductees, Abuja Batch B comprising another freed 30 abductees, Abuja Batch C comprising freed 33 abductees and Abuja Batch D comprising freed 63 abductees. These are in addition to Niger State Batches A, B and C comprising 52 abductees freed in mid December 2020; bringing the total number of freed Obigbo abductees as at date to 208.
“The 211 abductees who are still being atrociously held are made up of the Abuja Batch E comprising freshly discovered 22 abductees (including two females) secretly transferred by Nigerian Army and currently held by the Nigeria Police Force. They were granted Court bail on Friday, 26th February 2021 but yet to be freed. There are also Abuja Batch F comprising 53 young women, some, if not many of who are rape victims of the Nigerian Army. They were abducted by soldiers and transported at night to Mogadishu Barracks in Abuja where their freed colleagues said they were serially and severely raped, tortured and starved before being handed over to DSS. The 53 young women and girls were shackled and brought to Court on Monday, 1st March 2021 and granted bail, but are yet to be freed. Another discovery made same day shockingly indicated that there is another set of 26 Obigbo residents-all males, transferred by the Army after months of captivity to DSS. Their bail application is in the making and they represent Abuja Batch G.
“Shocking, too, was the latest discovery of fresh 110 names including Citizen Chigbo Ngozi Elvis, who was abducted alongside others since 28th October at Imo River in Rivers State. Citizen Elvis, a 23-year-old bus conductor, was abducted alongside other passengers in his employer’s commercial bus at Army Roadblock around Imo River. They were first bundled to 144 Battalion in Asa, Abia State from where they were transferred to the 6 Division of Nigerian Army in Port Harcourt. It was from there that he was disappeared alongside others till date. His family mustered the courage to search for him and lately informed Intersociety that ‘their Army contact person just located him at an Army Base located between Niger State and Abuja’. Citizen Elvis and 109 others were on Thursday, 25th February located in far away Suleja-Bida axis in Niger State and were found languishing since late October 2020 at the Nigerian Army Commando Base located along Suleja-Bida Road in Niger State. It was on his way back same day (Thursday, 25th February 2021) to Abuja from the Base that Barr Richie Okoroafor was nearly assassinated. The 110 abductees represent Niger State Batch D and are still in the captivity of the Nigerian Army till date.
Identities Of The Obigbo Abductees
“Contrary to claims by the Nigerian Army and Gov Nyesom Wike of ‘going after or fishing out IPOB members/terrorists’, Intersociety’s investigation including recorded interviews with the survivors and eye witnesses, media and rights activists, etc; irrefutably indicated that the abducted and the rescued victims including Army’s rape victims are innocent and defenceless residents of Obigbo and environs who are lawful citizens engaging in different types of legitimate occupation and other social activities.
“Others are defenceless boundary town residents living between Rivers and Abia States and those traveling from Rivers to Abia or to Rivers State from Abia State. They include supporters of international footballs including watchers of the English Premier League, the Spanish La Liga, the German’s Bundesliga and the European Championship League matches who were abducted in their streets while watching the matches.
“The rest are hawkers such as biscuit and sachet water hawkers; hair dressers, tailors, bus conductors, artisans, barbers, vulcanizers, roadside mechanics; professional and unskilled laborers, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, church attendants and those attending weekday and weekend social activities as well as traders abducted in front of their stalls or while going home after closing of business activities and those abducted in their sleep or leisure hours.”