The clamour against the nomination and possible appointment of the country’s Ex-Service Chiefs as Ambassadors-Designate, may have gone up a notch following a petition signed by a coalition of civil society groups, to not less than 31 embassies and high commissions, calling for the disqualification of the immediate past Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai (rtd.), his air force and navy counterparts, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar (retd.), and Vice Admiral Ibok Ete-Ibas (retd.) and the immediate past Chief of Defence Staff, Gen Abayomi Olonisakin (retd.), and to declare them persona non grata in their countries.
In the light of alleged war crimes, massacres, and gross human rights violations perpetrated by the former military chiefs, particularly Buratai, under whose watch the Obigbo, Lekki, and Zaria massacres, among others, took place at various times, the coalition believes that the signed petition is a step in the right direction to bring the men to justice.
TheFact Nigeria learnt that the petition was addressed to the foreign missions through their Ambassadors and High Commissioners as well as the Head of the European Union Delegation to Nigeria and the United Nations.
The countries petitioned include the Netherlands, Finland, Poland, Federal Republic of Germany, France, Spain, Czech Republic, Italy, Belgium, Denmark, Portugal, Greece, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Sweden.
Others include the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, the United States, Israel, Norway, Ireland, Switzerland, Brazil, Japan, South Korea, and Mexico.
President Muhammadu Buhari had on February 4, 2021, nominated the sacked service chiefs as non-career ambassadors and forwarded their names to the National Assembly for clearance.
The coalition in a seven-page letter signed by its 27 members is titled, “Time For Buratai and Over 20 Others To Face International Justice and Diplomatic Sanctions For Crimes Of Genocide, War Crimes Perpetrated Against Defenceless Civilians In Nigeria.”
Some of the signatories to the seven-paged letter include; Emeka Umeagbalasi, Board Chair, International Society for Civil Liberties & Rule of Law; Prof Anthony Ejiofor-Chairman, World Igbo Congress (USA), Prof Uzodimma Nwala-President, Ala-Igbo Development Foundation, and Prof Justice Chidi-President, Concerned Elites for Better Society Initiative.
The coalition said as of Wednesday, that the “letters have been successfully delivered and received by 25 of the 31 key foreign missions, remaining France, Greece, Denmark, Portugal, Hungary, and Australia.”
Disclosing the contents of the letter, the coalition said, “We brought the attention of the respected Ambassadors and High Commissioners to grievous rights abuses and violations perpetrated under the seal of, or by the immediate past Nigerian Chief of Army Staff, Retired Lt Gen Tukur Yusuf Buratai, and over 20 others”.
“The respected envoys were also informed that the named perpetrators have been gravely and factually accused by respected local and international rights groups and other activists of being directly or vicariously involved in the referenced heinous crimes while in the office between August 2015 and Jan 26, 2021″.
According to the coalition, the envoys were also notified about attempts by the Nigerian government to ‘shield and protect’ some of the perpetrators from criminal prosecution or being locally and internationally held to account, and this, the Nigerian government has achieved, by nominating them as non-career ambassadors.
“The coalition also catalogued and highlighted 19 massacres perpetrated under Buratai as Chief of Army Staff, between 30th August 2015 and 26th Jan 2021 and enclosed the names of the key perpetrators as well as electronic links to some of the reports on the perpetrated crimes.
The Coalition respectfully prayed and demanded from the respected envoys that the named perpetrators must be made face prosecution and life jail at the International Criminal Court and that the 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.