The DSS and Abia killings

17:12 Apr 23 2016 Abia, Nigeria

The Department of State Services announced recently that it had discovered 55 shallow graves in Abia State where victims of violent killings were buried. Five of the dead were said to be Nigerians of Fulani extraction. The remaining 50, presumably Nigerians, have yet to be identified in terms of their ethnic background.

At a time when the role of intelligence in crime prevention, control and discovery would appear to have been relegated, the uncovering of the shallow graves in the thick forest of Abia State by the DSS is a welcome development.

However, the press statement issued by the DSS in the wake of the gory discovery tended to betray the motivation for the seeming speed and efficiency in its handling of the matter. And the motive, sadly, is a sinister one. The summary of the press statement by the Service released by Tony Opuiyo was that the Igbo were killing members of the Hausa/Fulani ethnic group in the South East. This presumptuous and tendentious message is patently erroneous in the light of the evidence which the DSS itself claimed was available to it, and in view of the findings of the Abia State government. For instance, out of the 55 corpses discovered in the shallow graves, the identities of 50 are still unknown. Given this background, how logical is the insinuation that the Igbo are levying terror attacks on the northerners in the South East? If indeed this heinous crime was carried out with genocidal intention, all the victims would have been Fulani or at least a substantial number of them would. Yet, as things stand, only one out of every eleven victims has been identified to be Fulani.
It is rather unfortunate that five Fulanis were murdered and their remains treated shabbily in their own country, but it is even worse and more regrettable that 55 Nigerians had their lives violently terminated by hoodlums who could, in a saner clime, have been prevented by security agents from carrying out the dastardly act. It is therefore unconscionable for the state security agency which had failed in its duty to prevent the sordid incident to begin to impute motives that are capable of fanning the embers of ethnic disaffection and strife. The DSS pointedly accused the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) of igniting ethnic terrorism and mistrust. It is curious that the DSS reached this conclusion about the killings when the victims of the unfortunate incident have yet to be identified save for the five Fulanis.
Again, since the DSS vowed in its press statement to apprehend and prosecute the perpetrators and their sponsors, it means that the killers have yet to be arrested. It could also mean that investigation of the incident is not yet complete. How then did the Service zero in on IPOB as the culprit in the dastardly act? We may not agree with IPOB’s secession bid, but that is no reason to accuse it of genocide without water tight proofs. Otherwise, it may be construed as a contrived subterfuge to legitimize violent state repression of the group. It smacks of lack of due diligence on the part of the DSS to serve the public with hastily packaged half truths full of incendiary remarks about an ethnic group in a plural society like Nigeria.
Perhaps we need to remind the DSS that there had been several violent killings in many parts of the country lately; the massacre of Shiite (Islamic) sect members in Kaduna State and the Agatu genocide that elicited global outrage, not to mention the recent killing of Chief Olu Falae’s security guard after repeated invasion of the senior citizen’s farmland by Fulani herdsmen. In all of the aforementioned instances and others, the Service never came up with any passionate press release about the killings and the motives of the killers, and till date the outcome of its investigation of those killings is yet to be put in the public domain. This is why questions must be asked regarding the special interest of the DSS in the Abia killings. Could that possibly mean that the life of a Fulani is more precious than that of an average Nigerian of other ethnic extraction? Is the mission culminating in the alleged discovery of the shallow graves in Abia the police or DSS’s call?
The DSS must fish out the killers among the herdsmen and prosecute them without further delay. That way, the fear and muck of selectivity and bias that have tainted its handling of the Abia killings will at least be mitigated.
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