On an investigation tour in the aftermath of the May 30th 2016 Biafran Heroes Day Massacre in Nkpor-Onitsha; Pro-Biafran Journalists Chima Onyekachi, Ifeanyi Chijioke and Investigator Chukwuemeka Nduka, had an exclusive chat with NZE EMEKA UMEAGBALASI, Chairman of a non-governmental organization (NGO) known as International Society of Civil Liberties and the Rules of Law [INTER-SOCIETY]


My name is Emeka Umeagbalasi, the board chairperson of International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law, simply known as INTERSOCIETY.


It is sorrowful and also shocking. It is horrifying and inexcusable that all these atrocities are taking place in the country called Nigeria. Moreover, most appalling is the murderous and barbaric response of the federal government of Nigeria towards an exercise that is purely harmless to the society. What has led to the killings, butchering and what have you? That a people wakes up and asks the authorities of the government of Nigeria that there is a need for the participation of all ethnic nationalities in a project called Nigeria to be renegotiated, that is all. 

Those who have demanded the renegotiation have never used or advocated violence. There are two ways of going about self-determination under the United Nations system; Violent way and Non-Violent way. The violent way is governed by doctrines of necessity; that is if people who take to violence succeeds, then the world will have no other alternative than to recognise them. 

However, under the international system, it is not recognised, and it is frowned at. Then, the other way which is non-violent is universally recognised, and it is incorporated into the international system, in the United Nations, the African Union, regional, sub-regional and even locally. Moreover, that is the option which the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, have chosen. It is expected that the federal government of Nigeria should act civilly and handle the matter maturely, this is not the only country where the issue of self-determination has risen.

Even in Nigeria, IPOB and its sister organisation are not acting in isolation. Other ethnic nationalities in the country have done same, one of the ethnic nationality in the country have taken up arms, if you like to call them Niger Delta Avengers or whatever, the middle belt people are also giving the same signal. Outside Nigeria, you have Catalonia (Spain), Scotland (UK) and Texas (USA), agitating peacefully, but you have not heard the various government in these countries threatening or killing those calling for self-determination in those countries. I do not see any reason whatsoever why the authorities of the government of Nigeria should be running riot on people, killing people at will without any provocation and trying to justify that crudity. It is horrible and inexcusable.


I think the truth of the matter is that there are many conspiracies. I do not know what happened, but there have been so many conspiracies against the Biafran race. From the information we have gotten, the present administration in Nigeria maintains dozens of lobbyists in the United States of America, United Kingdom, France, etc. The government spends tens of thousands of dollars on these lobbyists every month in order to darken the scenario and also to contaminate and poison the minds of most of the super powers and developed countries. Moreover, there is the stack reality that IPOB are not armed and have stated clearly that their approach is non-violent, when you juxtapose it with the federal government of Nigeria and their relationship with these developed countries and super powers, you also look at the issue of demand and supply. 

For instance, if IPOB has taken up arms, then these countries we have referred to would have been selling or marketing their small arms and light weapons. Now, the issue is that IPOB has decided to be non-violent, it is now left for the federal government of Nigeria who patronises those super-powers by way of procurement of small weapons and light weapons that they use in “crushing” the innocent and non-violent members of IPOB. I want to exact that aspect for you to know the extent of double standard policies of these super-powers and democracies which explains why they are silent.

Even the International Human Right Organizations, you see a situation where it appears that we are begging them to do what they ought to have done since. I do not want to mention names, we have two most powerful international human right organisations in the world, we have Amnesty International of UK and Human Right Watch. These organisations, though are agents of Western countries, but they have influence in that when they issue a report, those people they are affiliated to or work for, listen to them. 

That is why their reports are important but they have not been living up to expectation to the people of the eastern part of Nigeria. If you compare with what happened in Zaria, the quickness and prompt response of these same organisation, Aguta massacre included. In Zaria Massacre, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, issued reports. But in all the massacre happening here, starting from 2nd December massacre in Onitsha, 17th December massacre in Onitsha, 18th January massacre in Aba, 29th January massacre in Aba, February 9th massacre in Aba and 30th May 2016 massacre in Onitsha, nothing has been heard from them. We understand they are still working, but they must know a lot of time have been wasted. 

If they issued their reports early enough, it would have gone a long way in swaying away the enormity or gravity of crude force that was applied in handling the May 30th Biafra Heroes Day commemoration, and we are not happy.
In Nigeria, the traditional media is controlled by the south-west, with all due respect that media is not friendly to the people of Biafra or people of old eastern Nigeria. You see that we are facing wars from all fronts, the armed war from the military and the pen war from the south-west. The totality of these are responsible as per why we have not been able to get the attention that we deserve. 

As for the human right and civil society community in Nigeria, I can tell you without any fear of equivocation or contradiction that 60% of the founders of human rights organisation in Nigeria are from the south-east. People like Olisa Agbakoba, Uju Ogummo, Ojo Oto, and co but none of them have spoken out against the butchery and massacre that has been going on. Then of course, we have the National Human Right Commission, nothing has been heard from them so that you can see the depth of the conspiracy. 

However, then we should not be dampened or discouraged, that is why we kept on doing what we are doing. You heard the lies cooked up by the Nigeria Army, Nigeria Police Force, and the Anambra state government with respect to what happened on 30th May 2016, but we have been able to reply them. We (Intersociety) are the only organisation that has issued very comprehensive statements comprising of part 1 and part 2, responding appropriately to all the lies. 

And I have been receiving calls in torrents from all parts of the world, commenting and observing. What if we are not here? They would have succeeded in cooking up and feeding members of the public and international watchers with basket loads of lies. You can see the challenges we are facing. I just want us to open and expand our frontiers, so we will know the enormity of challenges we are facing but thank God for the internet and social media. If we are left with traditional media in Nigeria, it would have been disastrous. 

That is the situation. How many traditional media has taken it upon themselves to investigate or indicated interest to have a comprehensive report on all these atrocities? Punch, The Nation and the rest, when you call them, they will stay away. AIT, Channels Television and all of them, where are they? This is the worst form of human right abuse that has been recorded in this part of the world, that people unarmed and non-violent who were to remember their fallen heroes, and the Nigeria government responded by planning a well-coordinated and extensive violence against them. 

At the end of the day, these people still conducted themselves in a very organised and civilised manner. We are aware of all that is going on, concerning human right and we have also brought our professional expertise to bear. I am talking you today as a graduate of criminology and security studies. I have also majored in peace and conflict resolution, so you can see how prepared I am with other members of my organisation to go to any level on this matter. 

We are not ignorant of the provisions of the International Law. We are not ignorant of the purposes and principles of the United Nations. We are not ignorant of the basic standard of International law. Nigeria is a member of International relation under the United Nations system. Nigeria is also a member of the African Union and ECOWAS. Nigeria is not a jungle, it is a country governed by a set of rules, both local and international. However, Nigeria is not honouring its international obligations; that is why it can deploy the kind of force used against peaceful and unarmed civilians.


The Nigeria Army claimed it acted within the albeit of Rules of Engagement (ROE). Are we talking about war? For your information, rules of engagement (ROE) can never be applied in a non-war situation. It is a war property, but the Nigeria Army continue to confuse, mislead and contaminate the minds of people. You can only talk about ROE when there is an act of war, either internal arm conflict or international arms conflict. The ROE been talked about is a product of the Geneva Convention of 1949. When you talk about Geneva Convention, you talk of code of conduct that governs war, not procession or protest. 

Meanwhile, military or soldiers have no business going into a civil protest or procession, it is the responsibility of the police. In the ten commandments of the International Law, the 3rd commandment says “Forbids any member state from using force to control or police ‘unlawful’ but non-violent assemblies” the law also states “if in policing or dispersing a violent assembly, you must use minimal force.” When you shoot someone at close range, heart region, neck region, forehead, abdomen, waist, it is longer minimal use of force as it is seen on the victims of the May 30th, 2016 Biafra Heroes Day Massacre.

The Nigeria Army talks about self-defence, but they must know you cannot apply self-defence in isolation. Self-defence and use of force are strictly governed by proportionality of force. The Anambra state government claimed that they discovered “dynamite, Biafra flags and machetes” on some Biafran agitators. Now, under the proportionality of force, finding these objects (assuming they actually found them), are those objects found in consideration to the proportionality of force applied on the protesters? The answer is No! That is why what happened on May 30th, 2016, is purely state murder and clearly a crime against humanity.


There is a difference between crimes against humanity and war crimes. War crimes are crimes committed in the act of war but crimes against humanity are crimes committed by security forces in the non-violent and non-war situation. That is why we must make sure that ex-inspector general of police, Solomon Arase, enjoys his post-retirement life disastrously. Wherever he places his feet into, whether in Ivory Coast, France, or Germany, he will be pursued and made to answer for all the crimes he committed. He was describing IPOB as “armed independent people of Biafra” without any evidence just to give a dog a bad name so as to hang it. What is happening


I think we have tragedy in the presidency of General Muhammadu Buhari. A former American President said democracy can be the worst form of government, but since the best form of government is yet to be found, democracy remains the best option. And again, Democracy will be Democracy when it is properly guided, no matter how beautiful a law is, it cannot enforce itself. The democracy in Nigeria is steadily in danger. Muhammadu Buhari never attended any leadership programme from the moment he was overthrown as head of state via a coup d’état, and got his uniform hung.

He went into the bush and became involved in Fulani animal husbandry. He did not attend any leadership programme to be able to be tutored and mentored in acts of constitutionalism, human right, rules of law or even good governance. If he has been mentored or tutored, he will have understood what is meant by political tolerance, use of non-violence in response to the agitation of the people. People will always agitate, democracy means agitation. 

In the olden days, when they said Kings are ordained by God and sacred only to God, that was when democracy came about. Then, if you were referred to as a democrat, you will be lynched. Until a lot of revolution that subdued the divine right of kings and replaced it with democracy and parliamentary. President Muhammadu Buhari is ignorant of most of the principle that governs democracy that is why we are having all these problems. 

He came into power and turned everything upside down, I don’t know whether to refer to his administration as Oligarchy. The statement by the Nigeria Army that they acted in diadem with the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari to them “not to tolerate any uncivilised or unwarranted assemblies.” You can see that democracy is dead in the hands of Buhari. If in democracy, you cannot tolerate a gathering, what are you talking about?

If you talk about Nnamdi Kanu, it is the same president that came on national television and made a pronouncement that he must rot in jail. His key adviser is Olusegun Obasanjo, who had told him that when he was president he detained Mustapha and co, and they remained in prison till the end of his tenure. And Buhari is foolishly following the same pattern with Nnamdi Kanu. When a president comes on national television and makes a proclamation on a case in court, the judges becomes afraid and will not assertive.

We are sympathetic to IPOB simply because of their approach to self-determination which is within the ambit of the law. Nigeria is a party to African charter on human and peoples right, and Article 1, 2 and 3 of the African Charter contains a right to self-determination. It got into our National Assembly which passed it into law and got it incorporated into our municipal law. Apart from the legislative action, the African Charter also passes through a Supreme Court judgement and reviewed in the case of Abacha Vs Federal government in 2001. 

The Supreme Court ruled that African Charter and human and peoples right is subject to 1999 constitution but superior to any other legislature in Nigeria. That is to say that the African Charter is second in command after the constitution. Till date, Nigeria has not opted out of that charter. Now, people who have decided to exercise that charter in a non-violent way are crushed. Illiteracy is surely a disease. Buhari does not know we are no longer talking about rigid sovereignty. The rigidity of sovereignty is now out-fashioned. 

We are now talking about sovereignty as a responsibility, citizen sovereignty which is citizens first. It is there in the Constitution, Section 14, subsection 2b which state as thus “security of the people shall be the primary responsibility of the government.” Power belongs to the people from where the government of the day derives all its power and authority. All these are being observed grossly by the government.


Efforts have been made severally to bring the issue before the Senate and House of Representatives, but all these pro-establishment agents have made sure it never saw the light of day. Ike Ekweremadu raised it in the Senate, but they threw it out. At the same time, what impact will the purported investigation by the House of Representative bring forth? Just legislative entertainment because it has no force of action. The killing of peaceful protesters is criminal in nature so the House of Representative and Senate are limited in handling the matter. After the investigation and they pass a resolution in condemning the action, that is the end.


What is happening in the country is terrible, but why do we live? We are all in the field, visiting one place to another and trying to get accurate information on what has happened. It is not only Emeka Umeagbalasi and INTERSOCIETY management that is out, but you guys (journalists) are also doing wonderfully well. The IPOB members are also doing well, leaving all their personal activities and working voluntarily for the struggle. There is a saying in Igbo land that says “Nobody has died and buried himself,” it is another person that will perform the funeral. 

As a traditional title holder in Igboland, I believe in after-life, that is life after here. That is what is described as the cosmic world. The dead protesters have become our ancestors; ancestors are not only the aged people who grow old before they died. As we are doing all these, they are somewhere watching, and that place they are is where their powers are doubled. They have an influence on this earth and the cosmic world.

What I must tell you all is whenever you are in a just cause, do not give up but apply consistency. When people see the consistency in what you are doing, they will change their mind. So long as IPOB remains to focus on what they are doing, it will come to a point where it will lead to a national lock jam, a point of no return. Our position is there is a need for national questioning in Nigeria. Moreover, once there is a national question, there must national answer. 

Allow people to decide their fate whether to live together or not. There must be renegotiation and restructuring. You have not disarmed the Fulani herdsmen causing havoc but you are shooting at unarmed people in a peaceful procession. Any agitation that hovers on identity is unconquerable. The best thing the federal government of Nigeria will do is to call for a referendum.


What is required is consistency, knowledge of the rule of law, the independability of the advocacy. INTERSOCIETY is contributing a lot on the defence of our democracy; we do not expect the people in the corridors of power to change, but you push them to the point where necessity will force them to change. Most of those in power have the problem of pride. Three weeks after his ascension as President, Buhari started throwing Nalpalm bombs in the creeks, provoking a war even when he is warned. Politicians get into power, and they forget power is transient, that tenure expires and does not last forever. If you are in the corridors of power, you have to be very careful because you must get out of power someday and live in the civil society with others.


In summation, the struggle continues as it is said “Aluta Continua, Victoria Aserta,” struggle continues until victory is achieved. Finally, these terror attacks on innocent Biafrans is mostly done deliberately to devastate Biafrans because the struggle has become a religion. When you begin to refer to anything as a religion, you become an ardent exponent. Just like football, if you love football so much you are called a football fanatic. 

The activists for the Biafra restoration struggle have become religious. Even after the earlier massacre in Aba, Onitsha and Port-Harcourt, people still came out in mass for the Biafra Heroes Day commemoration.  If not for the earlier blockade by the soldiers, the number of people allegiance to the struggle that came for the commemoration would have been tumultuous. The struggle has become a religion and cannot be crushed. 

The more you try to crush, the more you lose ground, at the end of the day you earn a pariah status internationally. On a final note, the international system that was in place during the military regime of some of the butchers like Obasanjo and even Buhari is no longer the same today, even if they bribe their way to International Criminal Court (ICC), there are other measures and international safeguards. There are some countries with jurisprudence that has international jurisdiction. For instance, it was not ICC that tried the former Chadian President Hissene Habre, but a court in Senegal sentenced him to life in prison for his crimes against humanity. Someone like Solomon Arase must answer to charges brought against him under civil litigation in some of these countries. You must know that an act of criminality has no expiry date.
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