Nigerian security forces have used force against pro-Biafran protesters in south-eastern Nigeria, Amnesty International has claimed. Lucy Freeman, senior research adviser at Amnesty, toldIBTimes UK the NGO had documented instances of excessive force used against protesters connected to the pro-Biafran movement.
Pro-Biafrans hold regular marches across south-eastern Nigeria calling for independence and the release of their leader Nnamdi Kanu. It is believed that during one of the latest demonstrations held in Aba state on 9 February, at least 10 people were killed by the army and police, with footage purportedly showing Nigerian security forces attacking pro-Biafrans being widely circulated on social media.
However, spokesperson for Nigerian defence, Rabe Abubakar, told IBTimes UKthe police and army did not kill the demonstrators. He also said security forces had to intervene as some pro-Biafrans were allegedly carrying weapons.
“What is happening in south-eastern Nigeria is not a conflict situation and the law enforcement model that has been used is not appropriate,” Freeman said. “It is not appropriate to use lethal force on protesters, even in case of a violent protest.
“There are consistent reports of excessive use of force, deaths and injuries of people connected to the Biafran movement, ofpeople in Zaria, of people in the north-east. We are not prosecutors and we are not able to carry out a criminal investigation, but the Nigerian government is obligated – when there are credible and serious allegations of human rights violations – to carry out investigations that have to be independent, impartial and effective. It is not enough to deny allegations and people need to be prosecuted and brought to justice.”
Freeman confirmed that an Amnesty team is on the the ground conducting investigations into allegations of violence and recent pro-Biafran protests. “It is a difficult context because you have so much cover-up by the military. In an ideal situation if someone dies by the use of force, there should be an autopsy, some records of the death, of arrests. What we have seen across the country is that these kind of basic documentation and investigations are not done.”
Kanu – leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (Ipob) and director of Radio Biafra –was arrested by the State Security Service (DSS) in Lagos in October 2015 on conspiracy and terrorism charges, which were later dropped.
A day after the Abuja High Court ruled he should be released, officials pressed new treasonable felony charges against him, while President Muhammadu Buhari said Kanu would not be granted bail due to the “atrocities” allegedly committed.