Amnesty International, AI, Nigeria on Tuesday warned that security operatives in the country must exercise restraint while policing demonstrations by separatist groups marking the 50th anniversary of the declaration of the Biafra Republic on 30 May.
It stressed that the security forces must avoid a repetition of the bloodbath caused by their heavy-handed response last year when more than 60 people were gunned down.
This was contained in a statement issued by the Director of Amnesty International Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, which reads, “Last year’s heavy-handed response against pro-Biafra activists further stirred up tensions in the south-east of Nigeria.
“The reckless approach to crowd control favoured by the security forces when policing peaceful pro-Biafra protests has left more than 150 dead since August 2015, not to mention cases of enforced disappearance and unlawful detention.
“We urge the Nigerian security agencies to conduct themselves in a manner that will ensure public order without resorting to force.”
A research conducted by AI had found out that at least 60 extra-judicial executions were committed by soldiers as 70 persons were injured within the two days that peaceful Biafra Day celebrations held last year in Onitsha, Anambra State
The organisation had last November warned that the Nigerian government’s massive deployment of the military to respond to pro-Biafra events seems to be largely responsible for the violence as they have no specific training in crowd control.
It stated that public order during peaceful protests should rather be dealt with by the police, whose officers should be adequately trained and equipped to respond to crowd-control situations without resorting to the use of lethal force.
“Despite overwhelming evidence that members of the Nigerian security forces fired live ammunition with little or no warning to disperse pro-Biafra gatherings, resulting in the death of at least 150 people, no person suspected of criminal responsibility has been brought to justice,” Ojigho said.
“Amnesty International has repeatedly called on the government of Nigeria to initiate independent investigations into allegations of crimes under international law. President Buhari has repeatedly promised that these would be looked into. However, no progress has been made,” the statement added.