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    /logo_min.gif - 1122 Bytes The Guardian Online
    Thursday, July 26, 2001

    Ohanaeze, at Oputa panel, counts Igbo's losses in Nigeria

     Disgrees with Arewa Forum over civil war

    From Emmanuel Onwubiko, Abuja

    DARK memories of the Nigerian civil war echoed at the Justice Chukwudifu Oputa panel yesterday as Ohanaeze Ndigbo and the Arewa Consultative Forum engaged each other in a fierce dispute over the cause of the 1967-70 war.

    Ohanaeze's presentation, which was articulated by Uche Chukwumerije, a former information minister, was hinged on a thesis that the North, working in concert with some other parts of the country, embarked on a deliberate programme to marginalise and exterminate the Igbo.

    Ohanaeze said the 1966 coup was an expression of the anti-Igbo sentiment, explaining that the Igbo drew the ire of their persecutors because of their enterprise in all spheres human endeavour which led them to all areas of Nigeria.

    But, Secretary to Arewa Forum, Col. Hammeed Ali disagreed when he hinted that the war was spurred by the 1966 coup which he said was an "Igbo coup." He also tried to exonerate the North, saying "Buhari's coup of December, 1983 was not a Northern coup."

    Earlier, the Ohanaeze listed its major grouse as marginalisation.

    According to the group, "To help us understand our case on marginalisation and disempowerment, the petition defines this key concept. Marginalisation is purposeful denial of rights of some members of a given unit by some other members of the group who control the power of allocation of resources. Marginalisation must be understood as fundamentally different from marginality, which means loss of rights through self-inflicted under-development.

    "In all the realms of public endeavour, Ndi Ibgo have the requisite manpower and natural resources. But their rights to a fair share of Nigeria's resources have been consistently denied them by Federal authorities."

    Continuing, the group stated that: "It is necessary to emphasise the fundamental difference between Ndi Igbo's case of disempowerment and the new noisy national orchestra of marginalisation slogans most of which are raised to mock and trivialise our case. The distinctive difference is deliberate exclusion: ours is a case of deliberate exclusion of Ndi Igbo from common resources by a combination of ethnic groups which control the centre.

    "Indeed, the observed consistent pattern of discriminary and exclusionary responses of the Nigerian system to Ndi Igbo in the commanding heights of the polity suggests that our exclusion is not only deliberate but also malicious."

    Ohaneze described marginalisation of the Igbo to mean the denial of right to life, right to means of livelihood, right to human dignity, right to freedom of movement, right to freedom from discrimination, right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria and other rights enshrined in the Constitution.

    Tracing the alleged injustices against the Igbo before the civil war, he said "The republican spirit of Ndi Igbo and their individual drive, expressing itself in a flair for fair competition in all spheres, encouraged them to exercise their citizenship rights all over Nigeria. The endeavours of Ndi Igbo, like those of other Nigerian citizens, were taking place in an atmosphere (so we thought) of brotherly debates and differences in our fledgling multi-ethnic democracy.

    "But Ndi Igbo soon began to notice sinister stains in the responses of some national leaders to their differences with Ndi Igbo. Public statements of leaders of ruling political groups in Northern and Western Nigeria began to betray a disposition to extermination or total expulsion of Ndi Igbo as their acceptable solution of what they now saw as Igbo problem. Speeches of Northern Nigeria Ministers, as recorded in Hansard of March, 1964, and the anti-Igbo incitements in a booklet, UPGAISM, published by Western Government (1965) portrayed the new mood."

    The anti-Igbo mood, he further alleged, found a ready platform for "explosion and used as a rallying cry to mobilise Northern Nigeria and some parts of the rest of the Federation to advance genocidal plot against Ndi Igbo. The fiction and falsehood of Igbo coup has long been admitted by some of the major actors in that episodes (example, Lt. Gen. T.Y Danjuma in Nigerian Civil War 1967-1970 edited by Major-General H.B. Momoh P.373)."

    According to Chukwumerije, the brewing "genocidal mood" "served" and "in response to anti-Igbo incitements, Igbo citizens in Northern Nigeria were massacred in three waves of pogrom in most sadistic and inhuman methods that made Jewish holocaust appear like mercy killings. 50,000 Igbos were slaughtered. Some of the inhuman methods of slaughter were recorded in affidavits of eye witness.

    He added: "The massacres which evidently were well planned and co-ordinated by ruling authorities had the character of genocidal attacks on Ndi Igbo. The acquiescence of other ethnic groups in the rest of Nigeria emphasised the isolation and helplessness of Ndi Igbo. The insensitivity of the Federal Government and its failure to implement a peace agreement (the Aburi Accord) compounded the sense in security of Ndi Igbo. When the Federal Government proceeded with an economic blockage and ill-motivated balkanisation of Eastern Region, Ndi Igbo were left in no doubt that the genocidal plot had thickened. Eastern Nigeria was forced to declare the Republic of Biafra on May 29, 1967."

    Ohanaeze continued: "The petition offers a little, just little, glimpse into the enormity of the holocaust that forced us out of Nigeria - the masacre of Igbo women and children who were deceived into flocking to railway stations in search of passenger trains to take them home, forcible collection of Igbo female students from schools and herding of them into leper colonies, to be defiled by lepers; the slaughtering in the transit zone of Middle-Belt of Igbo refugees who managed to escape the wrath of far North; the refusal virtually all Nigerians to give protection to any Easterner; the active involvement of law-enforcement agencies in the pogroms; and the exodus of 2 million people in flight from a country that has rejected them and that has offered them nothing but a mass grave. Indeed the future of no future confronting Ndi Igbo at this time was symbolised by the fate of Igbo babies in the Kano railway holocaust.

    On the atrocities during civil war (1967-1970), the Pan-Igbo group said:

    "A 30-month civil war ensued as a result of Nigeria's attempt to quell what she described as a civil war. The civil war..gave Nigeria a perfect excuse to cast Ndi Igbo in the role of treasonable felons and wreckers of the nation.

    "Nigeria's prosecution of the war violated all aspects of the Geneva Convention and all code of civilized behaviour. Indeed, the violations were carried out with so much glee and abandon that it was clear that the war was an earnest pursuit of the programme of ethnic cleansing begun in 1966.

    "The committee of International Jurists, foreign press and other Independent observers have also testified to this fact. Indeed, the international Committee on The Investigation of Crimes of Genocide whose investigation included interview of 1,082 people representing the two sides of the conflict concluded thus through its investigator (Dr. Mensah of Ghana); 'Finally, I am of the opinion that tin many of the cases cited to me hatred of the Biafrans (mainly Igbos) and a wish to exterminate them was a foremost motivational factor.'

    Listed in the petition as methods through which the violations took place are:

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