Igbo elders on Wednesday dared Northern elders to carry through their threat to drag former Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika, to The Hague over alleged human rights abuses in the fight against terrorism in the country.
The South East elders also asked President Goodluck Jonathan to redress the omission of “Ndigbo in the council of security chiefs of the country.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Education, Senator Uche Chukwumerije, who spoke on behalf of Igbo elders at a news conference in Abuja, said the threat of Northern Elders Forum to drag the immediate past COAS and six others to the International Criminal Court of Justice (ICC) in The Hague is capable of unleashing a national ill-wind that will do no one any good in the country.
He noted that the approach of the Northern Elder Forum to a national problem is “selective, patently biased, apparently in search of preconceived culprits, pointedly indifferent to the demands of national unity, and highly provocative to the sensibilities of all who genuinely desire the unity and stability of this country.”
Though he emphasized that senseless sacrifice of a human life is indefensible, the lawmaker noted that violations of human rights have remained the bane of Africa.
He 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.”
Chukwumerije, who spoke at the National Assembly added that “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 grave yard, the Senate Committee concluded as follows: ‘the death toll of 185 was exaggerated but there may be more than 37 deaths.”
Chukwumerije, who said the Senate endorsed the report noted that “definitely, there were no massacres to the scale that demanded the judicial sanctions of The Hague.
He posed three questions: “Why the blatantly selective search for responsibility in Bama (Baga) and why so personal?
“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, he said, “raises a question about where their sympathy lies in this battle” against Boko Haram.
Chukwumerije further asked, “Why single out Bama (Baga) incident for Hague’s adjudication?”