By Nnamdi Mbawike, Enugu
The apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, on Thursday, said its attention has been drawn to an alleged ongoing mass arrests of Igbo youths by the operatives of the Nigerian Army.
In a statement issued by the spokesman of the organisation, Alex Ogbonnia, the organisation said the report it got indicated that the military personnel, suspected to be led by the 34 Artillery Brigade in Owerri, Imo State, has been arresting male residents and youths, particularly in Oguta and Ohaji communities since Sunday.
Ogbonnia said Ohanaeze Ndigbo has also learnt that the military men were clamping innocent Igbo youths into vans and taken to unknown destinations.
“The report adds that the Army are busy, carrying out raids, discreet searches and arrests of youths and residents who are suspected to be linked to the Indigenous People of Biafra and its security arm, the Eastern Security Network,” Ogbonnia said
He pointed out that for the avoidance of doubt, Ohanaeze Ndigbo led by Ambassador Prof. George Obiozor, has been unequivocal about the use of fire arms by unauthorised persons, bodies or groups, adding that democracy all over the world vests the absolute authority for the legitimate use of force in government.
“For the armed forces to arrest the Igbo youths without evidence of arms, means of violence or crime is cowardly, uncivilised and mostly unacceptable to Ohanaeze Ndigbo. It runs contrary to every sense of natural justice and rights of citizenship for the Army to invade some Igbo communities in search of youths; most of whom are brilliant university graduates whose society has denied employment and sense of belonging. This is adding salt to festering injury.
“Ohanaeze Ndigbo does not just wax lyrical about Igbo youths of all categories or dispositions. We condemn crime irrespective of the source. On the other hand, we stand on a firm wicket that it is ruthless to arrest any Igbo in the guise of membership of a terrorist organization unless there is sufficient evidence of crime or unlawful possession of fire arms,” he added.
He, therefore, called on the Chief of Army Staff, General Ibrahim Attahiru, to urgently stop the wave of arrests before it gives “impetus to the proposal by the United Kingdom Visas and Immigration (UKVI) to offer asylum to person who actively and openly supports IPOB and likely to be at risk of arrest or detention, and ill-treatment which is likely to amount to persecution.