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Genocide Papers, Pt. 1

By Ekwi Nche, Committee on Genocide, n.d.

[Publisher's note: I do not have access to more of this document.]


The Biafran War of Independence is easily the best documented conflict in the history of Africa. Much has been written both from the Nigerian and from the Biafran viewpoints.

The chapters in this volume, however, constitute the second legal professional attempt at an assessment of one facet of the conflict, i.e. the issue of genocide committed by Nigeria against Biafra.

To call this the second attempt is not to overlook the fact, perhaps an important fact from the Nigerian point of view, that there has been since 1968 a party of 'distinguished' guests of the Nigerian Government, more generally referred to as the International Observer Team (none of whom is a lawyer), and that this Team has brought out a number of reports on the question of genocide. This volume, on the other hand, is the second attempt by a Committee of International lawyers not committed to either side of the conflict to make an assessment of the position.

The International Committee on the Investigation of Crimes of Genocide, a quasi-official organ, received a complaint from the Government Of Biafra in which complaint the Government of Nigeria were accused of acts of genocide.

The Committee forthwith appointed one Dr. Mensah, a Ghanaian, to travel both to Nigeria and Biafra and write a report on the complaint for its consideration. Dr. Mensah travelled to Biafra in December, 1968, and met a wide range of people including refugees from Northern Nigeria during the 1966 Pogrom; refugees from Mid-Western Nigeria; Biafran Government officials and private individuals. He also met a number of relief workers and other expatriates in Biafra. A number of affidavits were collected from a number of people on this trip.

He also travelled to Nigeria in March 1969 with a letter of introduction from the Committee. In Lagos he had interviews with the Nigerian Ministry of Defence, the International Red Cross, the International Observer Team (who promptly told him that they were not lawyers and are therefore not interested in any legal definition of genocide); and Mr. S. G. Ikoku. In Kaduna, in Northern Nigeria, he saw a number of army officers and had discussions with them. On his return he wrote his Investigator's Report also found in this volume. The International Committee met in Paris on March 22-23, 1969, under the Chairmanship of a distinguished British International Jurist, Professor Lopez-Rey. Dr. Mensah read out a gist of his report which had been delivered to the Committee in various languages long before the date of the meeting.

Other speakers at the meeting included journalists who had lately been to Biafra and some others who presented the Nigerian viewpoint. The Committee resolved that there was a prima-facie evidence of genocide against the Biafrans and embodied this in a communique which is also included in this volume.

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On behalf of the 14 million people of the Republic of Biafra I pray hereby to lodge the following complaint which bears out, clearly and incontrovertibly, evidence of deliberate committal and contraventions of the United Nations Convention on Genocide, by the Federal Authorities in Nigeria. As I lodge this complaint the acts of genocide being complained of are continuing with increasing fury in the Republic of Biafra. The situation calls for the urgent action of your Committee, and the human Rights Committee of the United Nations Organisation. The evidence hereunder outlined is only a representative sample of innumerable acts of Atrocities and genocide being perpetrated by Nigerian authorities in Biafra.


On the 30th May, 1967, abiding by the resolutions of the joint session of the Advisory Committee of Chiefs and Elders and the Consultative Assembly of the Representatives of the People, His Excellency the Military Governor of the then Eastern Nigeria proclaimed the territorial area, comprising the former Eastern Region of the Federation of Nigeria, as the Republic of Biafra. It is not intended in this complaint to delve into the political problems that led to this proclamation. It must however be stressed that for a more proper appreciation of the factors that have led to the present complaint, a good understanding of the political scene is essential. There are several publications by the Government of Biafra, and impartial observers treating these aspects of the matter, and the members of this honourable committee are respectfully requested to acquaint themselves with some of these publications.

I would, however, crave the indulgence of this august committee to relate certain political facts which are sine qua non to an understanding of the problem at hand. The political entity christened Nigeria by Lady Lugard, wife of a former British Governor, came into being with the amalgamation of the various British Protectorates on the River Niger basin in 1914. The merger was designed for administrative convenience, and did not socially integrate the component units. Following World War II constitutional development, Nigeria emerged with three separate and self-governing regions, corresponding essentially to the three major ethnic groupings, uniting under a federal government structure at the top. In 1960 the Federation of Nigeria was established by the British Imperial Government over the erstwhile colonial territory of Nigeria. The shaky arrangement replete with irreconcilable contradictions, known as the Federation of Nigeria, has proved to have been without any federal potential to hold same together. In Nigeria there are three major ethnic groups with widely divergent, economic, social, cultural and political outlooks. These differences have always presented platforms for mutual hostilities.

The major ethnic groups are:-

1. The Hausa/Fulani - Moslem by religion, feudalist in political economical and social structures, boasting a population of 30 million out of Nigeria's total population of 55 million. This ethnic group, prior to independence, and since independence, has been in power in the Federation of Nigeria under a constitution which made them the caretakers of Nigerian destiny in perpetuity.

2. The Yorubas - Partly Moslems and partly Christian population. Socially and politically, the Yorubas are wedded to established systems of kingship (obaship). Total population of 12 million. The Yoruba have more in common with the Northerners than with those in the East, now known as Biafra.

The Ibos - Total population about 10 million fanatically democratic and republican in outlook with Christian population and leadership, and alleged to be exuberantly dynamic. The Ibos have no tradition of ruling class or families, leadership being based on personal merits. The Ibos inhabit principally the former Eastern Nigeria, now known as the Republic of Biafra. With the Ibos in Eastern Nigeria are the Ibibios and Ijaws who share the same political, economic, cultural and social structures.

Under Colonial rule the British Imperial Government had excelled and glorified itself in the so-called system of indirect rule for purposes of imperial policy. The various ethnic groups above referred to were played off one against the other - the sum result of this policy is that for 40 years under British rule the agglomeration known as the Federation of Nigeria was essentially made up of three divergent countries corresponding to the three large ethnic groups, each suspicious of the other and perpetually disagreeing. It was this hotch-potch of a territory that was on the lst of October 1960 conferred the unmerited dignity of nationhood and styled as Federation of Nigeria.

Soon after independence it was obvious to all and sundry that the units could not hold together. Despite attempts to gloss over differences, the so-called Federation of Nigeria floundered from one crisis into another, and on the 7th year of her birth, the contradictions inherent in the association had so manifested themselves, that the units naturally fell apart. The hatred and suspicion of the Northern and Western Nigeria against Eastern Nigeria (now Biafra), had so deepened and matured that (incredible in an era which had witnessed the atrocities of Nazi Germany) the Nigerians have conceived and commenced to execute a policy and war of genocide as a final solution to the Biafra problem.


According to Article II of the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide adopted on 9th December 1948 genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, as

a. Killing members of the group;

b. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

c. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

d. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

e. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Article III of the same convention stipulates that the following acts should be punishable:

a. Genocide;

b. Conspiracy to commit genocide;

c. Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;

d. Attempt to commit genocide;

e. Complicity in genocide.

Not so long ago the British House of Lords debated a Genocide Bill. Reporting how Lord Stonham, Minister of State, Home Office, moved the second reading of the Bill, the Times of London (13th November 1968), wrote:

Genocide was a modern word for an old crime - the deliberate destruction of any racial, religious or ethnic groups. The history of the world was littered with these bloody episodes generated by evil motives and justified by vicious pretexts. It was the appalling atrocities committed by the Nazi Government of Germany which had shocked the world into outlawing this abominable crime.

The underlying intention of Nigeria Authorities in its relations with the people of the former Eastern Nigeria (now Biafra) had always been to solve their political or other differences by calculated massacres of Biafran citizens. Documentary evidence abounds in the speeches of Northern Nigeria leaders in the regional Parliament, by Publications in Northern Nigeria official newspapers, brochures and magazines of intention to liquidate Biafrans physically as a method of solving a disagreement. Besides physical acts of extermination, the Biafrans have been subjected to psychological pressures by malicious, vicious and destructive falsehood that not only was a Biafran an unwanted stranger in his own country, but the general object of hate and discrimination throughout the length and breadth of Nigeria. In 1953, following the massacre of Biafrans in Kano, a British administrative officer was commissioned to gather evidence on the episode. His report, which is available for all to see, confirms the gruesome fate of Biafrans in a Nigerian context. Following also the wanton and unprecedented (in. scale and magnitude) massacres of 1966, the Government of the then Eastern Nigeria appointed a judicial Tribunal of Inquiry to investigate the massacres. This Tribunal of Inquiry was by law mandated!

to inquire into the atrocities and other inhuman acts committed against persons of Eastern Nigeria origin in Northern Nigeria and other parts of the Federal Republic of Nigeria during the month of May 1966, and thereafter and in particular -

(1) Collect and compile evidence relating to the atrocities;

(2) Ascertain the extent of loss of life and personal injuries;

(3) Examine, interpret and record medical cases brought to the notice of the Tribunal;

(4) Ascertain the extent of loss of property and assess value.

This Committee was chairmanned by Mr. G. C. N. Onyiuke now a Justice of the Biafra Court of Appeal. The Tribunal took evidence on oath from reports and eye-witnesses concerning the matter into which it inquired. The report of this Tribunal, which could be obtained from the Complainant on request, is available. This Tribunal for short is referred to as the Atrocities Tribunal. The impeccable documentation of this Tribunal has been extensively quoted to cover the events of the fateful year 1966. The greater majority of the witnesses before this Tribunal are still available to give evidence before this Committee if required. The recorded proceedings of the Tribunal as well as the report are too bulky for translation for example 235 witnesses gave evidence.

It is pertinent to observe that the Atrocities Tribunal found as a fact that the Northern Nigeria authorities with their collaborators had devised a seven point programme aimed at a complete extermination of the then Eastern Nigerians (now Biafrans) in Northern Nigeria and other parts of the Federation. The programme is outlined as follows:

1. (a) to kill off the Major-General and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, T.J.T. Aguiyi-Ironsi

(b) to kill off all the Yamiri Army Officers; (c) and subsequently purge the Army of Yamiri by killing the rest in the ranks.

2. With the aid of the Westerners in the Army, to take complete control of the Armed Forces, the Police and the Navy and to purge off the Yamiri in these Forces too.

3. To kill off and dispossess all the Yamiri domiciled in the Northern Region.

4. To use the control of the Armed Forces to take control of the country's Government.

5. To revenge Sardauna's and Abubakar's death by killing Dr. Zik, Dr. Okpara, Ojukwu and Major Nzeogwu.

6. To destroy Port Harcourt, Enugu and the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

7. To kill all

(a) Yamiri in top civil service posts;

(b) all wealthy Yamiri - male and female;

(c) all Yamiri educational giants;

(d) all grown up males and females of Yamiri;

(e) to leave out only sucklings in Yamiri land.

(Tribunal Report pp. 133-134)

It should be noted that radio broadcasts from Kaduna in the early part of the present war did blatantly confirm the objectives of the programme and the course of events ever since has proved the deliberate and faithful execution of the programme. Programme nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 have now been fully achieved. In the present war the brave and determined resistance of the Biafra people have so far prevented the conclusion of programme No. 7.

Two remarkable examples may be given about how the rank and file of the Nigerian Army feel about their mission in Biafra - a feeling which the Nigerian Authorities have expressly and implicitly fostered. Soon after the launching of the war of aggression by Nigeria on 6th July, 1967, and ever since, the Nigerian radio based in Lagos has consistently broadcast before and after its main news programme a war song in Hausa which bears the following interpretation Let us go and crush them. We will pillage their property, ravish their womenfolk, murder their menfolk and complete the pogrom of 1966. The Nigerian Army acts faithfully in the spirit of this war song. A scrap book belonging to one GANIYU SODEINDE, NA. 38611, Nigerian Army Weapon Training Depot, captured from the enemy at Bori contains the following account of what his Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Onifade, who was also killed in the front, very often repeated to his men about the official Nigerian attitude towards Biafrans:

He (referring to Lt.-Col. Onifade) expressed doubts at the possibility of Nigeria subjugating Biafra in the present war. Even if this were possible, he said, there was the danger that another generation of Biafrans could spring up. He said that Germany had once faced the same period of trial in her history which Biafra is facing at the moment; but today, the Germans are leading the world in technological skill. Similarly, he predicted a glorious future for Biafra if allowed to exist. But inherent in such a situation, he felt was the obvious THREAT to Nigeria both now and ever. He stated that what all sons and daughters of Nigeria should do to prevent such a situation from developing was not only to subjugate Biafra but at the same time to ensure that a new generation of Biafrans does not rise up to perpetuate their race. He commanded us to kill every Biafran we meet.

The issue as to whether genocide is being committed in Biafra or not raises no problems at all. The Nigerian authorities have admitted that there is genocide going on in Biafra. They however disclaim responsibility for same and accuse Biafrans with the perpetration of these crimes against humanity.

In their paper to the O.A.U. Consultative Committee, the Nigerian delegation cited examples of total extermination of towns and villages in Calabar area of Biafra. The issue therefore is who is responsible for these acts of genocide - Nigeria or Biafra. To decide this one has to remember that about 90% of the total population of the areas presently occupied by Federal Nigerian Troops are either behind the Biafran lines or hiding in the bush. Those behind the Biafran lines are seen by all visitors including the international relief agencies in their hundreds of refugee camps. Those hiding in the bush as well as those who fled behind the Biafran lines are obviously running away ! from Nigerian troops.


Before Nigerian Independence, - 1st October, 1960 The United Nations Genocide Convention particularly mentions acts committed with intent to destroy a human group, and Lord Stonham speaks of the deliberate destruction of such a group. For nearly a quarter of a century Northern Nigerians have publicly expressed their intense hatred of Biafrans and, on the slightest excuse, have physically demonstrated their intention to destroy them. Several outbreaks of Nigerian hostility to Biafrans occurred from time to time even during the British colonial era. In 1945 Northern Nigerians set upon Biafrans resident at Jos and massacred them. But the British Administration did not take the matter seriously and did not even conduct an inquiry into the gruesome episode.

In Western Nigeria, in Yorubaland, there has always been the outcry at various times for the repatriation of Biafrans.

In 1953, again, Northern Nigerians with a universally unexpected degree of violence, attacked and massacred Biafrans living in Kano. This time the British were constrained by the nature and degree of the holocaust to order an inquiry. The official Report, compiled by a British administrative officer, produced incontestable evidence of intention, deliberation and organisation on the part of the Northern Nigerian authorities.

There was evidence that leading functionaries of the Northern Nigerian Native Administration (N.A.) - an agency which the British themselves described as an integral part of the machinery of government - were deeply involved in the planning of the massacres of 1953. According to the Report, two days before the massacre began on Thursday, 14th May 1953, Mallam (afterwards Alhaji) Inua Wade, then Secretary of the Northern Peoples' Congress (N.P.C.) and later Federal Minister of Works, convened a meeting of the N.A. sectional heads at the Works Depot in Kano during which he made a very ill-advised and provocative speech. Inua Wada said, inter alia:

We have organised about 1,000 men ready in the City to meet force with force ... the Northern Peoples' Congress has declared a strike in all Native Administration Offices for Saturday, 16.5.53 ... we shall post sufficient number of men at the entrance of every office and business place ... we are prepared to face anything that comes out of this business ... In the outcome, so claimed the official estimate, 52 persons were killed and 245 wounded, most of the casualties being Biafrans. But the Report itself admits that there is still a possibility that more were killed than have been recorded in view of conflicting statements by ambulance and lorry drivers (who carted off the dead bodies to their mass graves). In point of fact it was widely known at the time that over 200 Biafrans had been killed and over 500 wounded. The occasion of this pogrom was that a Yoruba leader had made a speech in Kano attacking the Northern Government - Biafrans on the whole were not supporters of the politician in question.

The Report however perceived the depth of the hatred and bitterness which Northern Nigerians nursed against Biafrans and concluded on a prophetic note of warning:

No amount of provocation, short-term or long-term, can in any way justify their behaviour ... The seeds of the trouble which broke out in Kano on May 16 (1953) have their counterparts still in the ground. It could happen again, and only a realisation and acceptance of the under-lying causes can remove the danger of recurrence.

An acceptance of the fact of there having been genocide. Post-Nigerian Independence: - 1st October 1960 - 15th January, 1966. After Nigerian Independence (1 October 1960) the animosity harboured by Nigerians, especially Northern Nigerians, against

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