* Army denies alleged rape of 53 young girls at Mogadishu Cantonment

A coalition of 27 human rights and advocacy groups has petitioned 31 Embassies, including European Union (EU), United Kingdom, and many African countries, urging them to reject the posting of former Chief of Army Staff, Lt General Tukur Buratai (rtd), and others over human rights abuses and extra-judicial killings perpetrated under his leadership as army chief.

It also called for sanctions against over 20 other serving and retired military and police chiefs, including the newly appointed Chief of Army Staff, Major General Ibrahim Attahiru.

A separate petition by the International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law (Intersociety) accused the Nigerian Army of illegal detention and alleged rape of 53 young girls at the Mogadishu Cantonment in Abuja.

Backing up the petition with names of the victims abducted from Obigbo, Rivers State, and audio interviews conducted with the victims, the group said the girls were later moved to the Department of State Security (DSS) where they were allegedly being held incommunicado.

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But the spokesman of the Nigeria army, Brigadier-General Mohammed Yerima, said the army was not responsible for the detention of the alleged rape victims, referring THISDAY to DSS.

In the petition to the embassies signed by 27 individual/group members of the coalition and titled: ‘Time for Buratai and over 20 others to Face International Justice and Diplomatic Sanctions for Crimes of Genocide, War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity Perpetrated against Thousands of Defenseless Civilians in Nigeria’, the coalition urged the countries petitioned to declare them persona non grata.

The signatories to the joint statement are Emeka Umeagbalasi, board chairman International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law; Prof Anthony Ejiofor, chairman, World Igbo Congress (USA); Prof Uzodimma Nwala, president, Ala-Igbo Development Foundation (ADF), and Prof Justice Chidi, president, Concerned Elites for Better Society Initiative.

Others are Prof Justin Akujieze, board chairman, Ekwenche Research Institute (USA); Dr. Moses Nwaigwe, president, Biafra Genocide Survivors Group (USA); Austin Okeke, global leader, Igbo Board of Deputies (Worldwide); Mercy Alu, executive coordinator (Research), the Int’l Association of African Authors and Scholars (USA); Dr. Onyenkachi Orjiako, representative of Int’l Society for War Against Lawlessness (USA), and Maazi Obi Okoli, coordinator, Congress of Igbo Leaders United Kingdom and Ireland among others.

They said: “The coalition respectfully prayed and demanded from the respected envoys that: the named perpetrators especially Retired Lt Gen Tukur Buratai must face prosecution at the International Criminal Court (ICC) or in national courts located in any foreign country operating international criminal jurisdictions on crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

“That international governments, including the petitioned and intergovernmental agencies, should ensure that the perpetrators are declared and treated as ‘persona non grata’, and slammed with appropriate international or diplomatic sanctions, including being made ineligible and pariahs in all regional and international military, policing and other security or diplomatic engagements.”

The coalition also sought their exclusion from engagements involving corporate and individual or intergovernmental consultancies, contracts, partnerships, exchange visits, awards, honours, presentations, board or institution appointments, holidays among others as well as denying them and their families visas, freezing their accounts and seizing or confiscating their assets abroad.

Meanwhile, Intersociety has alleged that the 53 young girls and women among others in “non-menopausal age bracket were abducted by the Nigerian army in Obigbo, Rivers State, between October and November 2020, and serially raped for weeks by its soldiers at the Mogadishu (Abacha) Barracks in Abuja.

But the army PRO has denied that the girls were detained by the army and raped.

He said: “How will they come into military barracks? Please contact DSS. That’s not our work. Even when we have such situation, we contact the police.”

A text message sent to the spokesman of DSS, Dr. Peter Afunanya, was yet to be replied as at the time of filling this report.

“The victims were part of those abducted at various locations at Obigbo on their way home from work between 7p.m. and 7.30p.m. on November 20, 2020, and taken to Obinze Army Barracks in Owerri, Imo State, in the dead of the night from where they were secretly transported the next night to the Mogadishu barracks in Abuja, where many, if not most of them were raped and used as ‘sex slaves’ for weeks before they were secretly transferred to DSS dungeons in Abuja where they are presently held incommunicado.

“At arrival in the Mogadishu barracks, they were separated and dumped in ‘male and female guardrooms’. The victims also importantly informed Intersociety ‘that there were over 50 young women in the female guardrooms-all Obigbo abductees’ and that ‘during their stay in the guardrooms and less than two days after their arrival, soldiers turned them into ‘sex slaves’ and serially raped them using random picking or selection. The victims added that just a day after their arrival from Obinze on November 22, 2020, one of them, called ‘Victoria’ was raped to death and her corpse disappeared till date,” the group alleged.

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