According to Amnesty International, security forces have killed at least 115 people in southeast Nigeria this year and arbitrarily arrested or tortured scores more, in response to violence from separatists seeking autonomy.
A spokesman for the Nigerian presidency declined to comment on the information contained in the Amnesty report. The police and army did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
There were eyewitness accounts of “assaults and killings of security forces blamed on the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and its armed wing, Eastern Security Network”, as well as physical abuse and secret detentions.
“Amnesty International’s evidence paints a damning picture of ruthless excess force used by Nigerian security forces in Imo, Anambra and Abia states,” said Osai Ojigho, Country Director at Amnesty International.
For years, some in the southeast have agitated for independence in the homeland of the Igbo ethnic group. In 1967, a seceding attempt triggered a three-year civil war that killed more than one million people.
The southeast has been bombarded with attacks by armed attackers this year, including a police station burning, assaults on voting centers, and the death of security operatives.
Earlier this year, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari warned that those who promote secession would face a “rude shock” and that the country would “treat them in their language.”
The post was removed from Twitter for violating its abusive behavior policy. Many feared a crackdown on violence in the southeast.
Between March and June 2021, Amnesty documented 115 killings by security forces and 500 arrests following police and military raids.
Amnesty said relatives of some of those killed said they were not militants. Two businessmen, Uguchi Unachukwu and Mathew Opara, were also killed without apparent reason in May.
Amnesty International called for an “impartial and open” investigation into the violence.
IPOB’s current leader, Nnamdi Kanu, was arrested abroad earlier this year and returned to Nigeria to face 11 charges, including treason.