The families of six soldiers who were allegedly secretly tried and executed by the Nigerian Army in Abuja are not letting up on their quest to obtain justice for children.
Aware the un-likehood of obtaining justice in the Nigerian jurisdiction, they have gone to the International Criminal Court (ICC) where they hope justice would be best served in their case.
They want Nigerian Army and the immediate past Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai (retd.) to be brought to trial for the alleged extra-judicial trial and murder of their children.
All the soldiers who are victims of the alleged secret execution are Christians from South-East Nigeria.
SaharaReporters quoted the lawyer, Barrister E. R. Okoroafor, in its report as saying that the army authorities and Buratai would be served the court papers in the coming week.
According to the online news platform Okoroafor said that he was at the ICC in the Hague, the Netherlands, to personally make the application.
He said did not expect the army to own up to the incident which was brought to linelight when a coalition of civil societies in the South-East had in a release on Monday alleged that six soldiers, attached to the Armoury Department of the Mogadishu Cantonment, Asokoro, otherwise known as Abacha Barracks, Abuja, were secretly tried and executed under Buratai’s watch.
According to the report, Emeka Umeagbalasi, who chars the Board of International Society for Civil Liberties & Rule of Law along with Prof Anthony Ejiofor-Chairman of the World Igbo Congress in the United States, among others, signed the report.
They contended that the soldiers, of South-East extraction, were not given fair hearing before their alleged execution.
The activists had given the names of those allegedly executed as; Prince Ukwuoma, Ebube Isaiah, Amos Azubuike, Ekene Ebere, Moses Anyim and Godwin Uchendu.
There were however reports earlier in the week citing undisclosed military officials which dismissed the whole allegations as “fake news” and a “malicious publication”.
Barrister Okoroafor, however, told SaharaReporters from his base in the United States, that he stood by his claims.
According to Okoroafor, “I do not expect them to own up. As a matter of fact, when they denied the Obigbo massacre but between then and now, we have been able to bring out 100 victims.
“As I speak now, I am at the Hague at the ICC and we are filing a case against them. They should come and tell us at the ICC. We have evidence already against them. They are known for denials.
“I am in contact with the family members. I was actually contacted by one of the brothers of the slain soldiers. But because of the porousness of the country, we don’t want to expose them to unnecessary harm.
“When we get to ICC, we are going to present their family members. We filed the case on Thursday. Before next week, they will be properly served.”
The human right groups had reported the soldiers were secretly executed after a hasty secret trial at which they were denied legal representation of their choice.
A human rights lawyer, Mr. E R Okoroafor, who is spearheading the quest for justice for the allegedly executed soldiers said he was denied the right to defend his client at the secret trial.
This DAY report on matter earlier in the week had quoted the rights group as saying, “We have received with rude shock and deepest dismay the Monday, 25th January 2021 secret execution of six Igbo Christian soldiers, attached to the Amoury Department of the Nigerian Army, Abacha Barracks in Abuja”.
It further alleged that“the slain Igbo Christian soldiers; namely Prince Ukwuoma, son of a traditional ruler; Ebube Isaiah, Amos Azubuike; Ekene Ebere; Moses Anyim and Godwin Uchendu were secretly executed under the instruction of the former Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen Tukur Yusuf Buratai (rtd), a day before he left office on Tuesday, Janaury 26, 2021.
“This shocking news was disclosed to us by ER Okoroafor, an international human rights lawyer, who is very conversant with the matter and was also contacted by one of the slain soldiers through his family to defend them in the trumped up charges, executed using hazy and clandestine military court martial.
According to the rights lawyer, “sometime in Sept 2020, an allegation of missing weapons was made at Abacha Barracks and it was immediately traced to a senior Colonel of Fulani-Hausa Muslim origin and instead of the COAS to issue query and sanction the Colonel, he exonerated him on the grounds of his tribe and religion.
“The COAS turned around and ordered for the arrest of 12 soldiers guarding the armoury, comprising six Igbo soldiers, three Yoruba soldiers and three Fulani-Hausa Muslim soldiers.
“In the end, the latter soldiers were shielded and exonerated under questionable circumstances and the six Igbo soldiers made to face secret court martial during which they were blocked and prevented from having access to their families and defense lawyers of their choice”, it said.
The groups further alleged that “Okoroafor also told the coalition that his attempts to stand in for the Igbo soldiers were stiffly opposed and he was flimsily told by the Army’s Legal Department that “civilian lawyers are not allowed to defend the accused soldiers except military lawyers.
“Their trial was totally shrouded in secrecy and never disclosed to the public through Army statements till date; likewise their constitutional right of appeal to Court of Appeal and Supreme Court, which was also totally denied. The persecuted and executed soldiers protested their innocence to the point of tendering their resignation in protest; all to no avail”, it said.
This DAY further reported that the Army Spokesman, Brigadier-General Sagir Musa in his new style of debunking such reports, had posted an online copy of the report on the army Wassap platform and stamped it “fake news.
Photo: Four of the six slain soldiers; namely: (1) Prince Ukwuoma (in Army uniform with rifle), (2) Ebube Isaiah (in Army uniform with rifle), (3) Moses Anyim (in civilian cap) and (4) Godwin Uchendu (in passport