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?Three weeks ago, citizens of Anambra and Enugu States were justifiably petrified when unidentified corpses, estimated to be forty or more in number, were discovered dumped in Ezu River. The cause of those deaths remained indeterminate. Yesterday, however, the leadership of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) were reported to have alleged that the victims of these apparent extra-judicial executions were its members.

?If MASSOB?s claim were to be established as factual and correct, it will set off consequences of seismic proportions in Igboland. Indeed, right at this moment, the atmosphere is growing tense and charged. And it is for this reason that Njiko Igbo is compelled to sue for calm as a first reaction. Then an immediate public judicial enquiry led by a Justice of the Supreme Court of proven integrity must be instituted by the Federal Government with a wide-ranging remit to conduct a thorough investigation that will lead to the establishment of the identities of the victims, the cause or causes of their deaths, the perpetrators of the crime, the entity in whose custody they were held, the extent of the health hazards created for the people of Enugu and Anambra whose source of water was so recklessly and negligently contaminated and adequate compensation recommended for the community that fell victim to this heinous crime in addition to the imposition of criminal liability on the perpetrators. It is imperative that now that the security forces stand accused of these crimes that they must stand aside and let experts from the Nigerian Bar Association and the Nigerian Medical Association to bring their professionalism to bear on the work of the proposed public judicial inquiry.

?This matter must not be fudged if violent reaction of catastrophic proportions by Igbo youths who are thoroughly fed up with police brutality is to be averted. The Igbo nation is not and must not be treated as a conquered and occupied zone by men and women of the Nigerian security forces.

?Even if it transpires that the dead young men were people of disreputable or even criminal bent, it still remains a fundamental fact that no individual or authority or agency of government reserves the right to execute a Nigerian citizen without a full and due process of the law.

?MASSOB is a benign organisation reminiscent of the political agitprops of the 1970s. Its rhetoric is far more lethal than its cold war for Biafran independence. It is the Nigerian security forces that have declared an astonishingly savage hot war on the members of MASSOB. Members of the group have been subjected to intense campaign of harassment, intimidation, unwarranted arrests and detentions without trial, and there have been examples of extra-judicial execution of members of the group. Njiko Igbo condemns without reservation the systematic violations of the civil liberties and constitutional rights of members of MASSOB as long as they remain citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We further call for the immediate arraignment and trial of all its currently detained members in open courts of law, or, failing that, their immediate release without further delay.

?A good police/community relations is an indispensable condition for the smooth maintenance of law and order and the effective combating of crime in society. Where this fails to take root, anarchy can be expected to reign. It is clear that the Nigerian police have failed in this respect in many part of south-eastern Nigeria and they must wake up and address this matter with urgency and a recognition that they are operating in a civilized society.?

Signed: SENATOR EMMANUEL ONWE

DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS, NJIKO IGBO

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