Owerri Indigenous People Youth of Amawọm Community
Office of a Patron: No 1 MCC Road Owerri. P. O. Box 302.
4th September, 2017.
His Excellency Muhammadu Buhari,
President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces
of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
Aso Rock Villa, Abuja FCT.
Demolition of Eke-Ukwu Owerri Market,
Cultural & Physical Terrorism of Owerri People
By Governor Rochas Okorocha: A Call for International Panel of Enquiry
On 1st June 2015, I wrote to the Federal Government a letter (Exhibit 1) complaining of the illegal demolition and forceful acquisition of our lands at communal historic sites in Owerri by Governor Rochas Okorocha, in what could be described as Cultural Ethnic Cleansing of Indigenous Owerri People and systematic destruction of the wealth of our historic cultural heritage. These traditional sites have been proposed as WORLD HERITAGE sites and UNESCO notified in a letter (Exhibit 2) to the Director of the Heritage Division and World Heritage Centre on 1st October, 2016. In the process, the Imo State Government committed further severe human rights violations which was reported to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC/OES/091/VOL. III/440; Case No. C/2015/587/HQ.
On August 26th 2017, Governor Rochas Okorocha disregarded a subsisting court injunction issued 9/9/2016 in suit HOW/380/2016 (Exhibit 4), in the company of the Police Commissioner Imo State, several armed police and military, with a large number of armed hoodlums invaded the Indigenous Owerri Community, confronting the community leaders, youths and traders. At first they presented that they wanted to remove some attachments to buildings on Douglas road, Owerri, but only to move in heavy earth moving equipments by 2 am, destroying buildings in the Eke Ukwu Owerri Market. As the crowd gathered they began to shoot live weapons indiscriminately into the crowd killing and injuring many close to my ancestral home in Amawæm village at the centre of Owerri City. Over two nights, live gun-shots of automatic rifles were heard across the City. Most of the fallen dead as eyewitnesses recount were about five in the first minutes of the encounter, but were taken away in Hilux military vans to unknown destinations. While some injured were rescued by relatives. Others were injured or killed in their homes by stray bullets. I was called by relatives who received gun-shot wounds to assist with medical care, which I helped arrange their treatment by our orthopedic surgeons at the Federal Medical Center (FMC), Owerri. These include: Michael Ibeawuchi shot in the head and hand, Chinedu Ibeawuchi shot in the chest and leg, Chukwuemeka Samuel shot in the chest and Sabastian Oparaku shot in the head, Ifeanyi Osuji shot in the groin, Leonard Ebubeagu Osuji shot in the thigh and others who are unknown to me and are still missing. A ten year old boy Somtochukwu an only son of the father was shot in the head and died on arrival at FMC (Exhibit 5. Photos). The child, who wanted to become a Catholic Priest, is now the symbol ‘Saint’ of the struggle of Imo People for Freedom from tyranny and misrule. A detailed account could be read in Sunday Vanguard, September 3, 2017, page 21-22 (Exhibit 6).
The direct economic damage is immense, with conservative estimates in the range of: Three and half Trillion Naira (N3,500,000,000,000) or Eleven Billion USD ($11,000,000,000) in the value chain; over 10,000 people were rendered unemployed; 5,000 young people had termination of apprenticeship programs; financial transactions of over ten billion naira (N10,000,000) every quarter have been put on hold. The demolition of the Eke-Ukwu Owerri Market which is the market that supplies other markets in Imo State has cut by at least 30% the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of most people in the State Capital Owerri, as exchange of goods and services have shrunk considerably. The biggest economic growth engine in Imo State has been destroyed in a dastardly act that by six-fold surpassed its partial destruction at the peak of Nigeria-Biafra war.
The actions of Governor Okorocha have targeted Cultural Historic Sites which have significance in the Judeo-Christian history of Owerri. He had in 2015 demolished the Mbari Cultural Center and now the Eke-Ukwu Owerri Market. I had earlier informed the Federal Government about the fact that Owerri is the real Ancient Jerusalem and that the Biblical History transpired in Nigeria and not in the Middle East. I sent to the Presidency and Minister of Culture and Tourism my books titled: Igbo Mediators of YAHWEH Culture of Life Volume 1-3 ISBN 978-1-4990-9713-9, 978-1-4990-9676-7, 978-1-4990-9688-0, 2015, where I exposed these facts based on ethnolinguistics, genetics, paleoanthropology, archaeology, and space-based remote sensing archaeology. I hereby enclose my published interviews that summarize the historical accounts about the Mbari Cultural Center as the site of the Biblical Maccabean Revolt written in the Catholic Bible Books of Maccabees 1 and 2 (Exhibit 7); and the description of the Christian historical perspective of the Eke-Ukwu Owerri Market also called the Ekeonuwa - Eke ọ nụ waa osisi Marketmeaning ‘the market place where He [Jesus Christ] cut wood” (Exhibit 8). Some of the Holy sites in Owerri are under the custodianship of the Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri, Imo State. These facts of Christian history in Owerri have been presented to His Holiness Pope Francis and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, who have copies of the book.
As instructed by the Presidency, I had met with the Federal Ministry of Culture and Tourism and presented the supporting facts in my books. I had proposed a study using ground-penetrating radar to demonstrate the ancient temples and the Great Wall of Ancient Jerusalem in Owerri, to validate some contentious issues. The importance of this is immense not just for the historical perspective but also the fact that we can save all these World Heritage sites in Owerri from Governor Okorocha’s demolitions and explore the economic opportunity it presents for all people of Nigeria. These and other sites in other parts of Nigeria would make up the future of Nigeria’s tourists sites. If Owerri is Ancient Jerusalem, that means Igbo people are the Jews of Ancient Israel as confirmed by population genetics of dominance of Semite gene L1 (see details in interview enclosed Exhibit 9). The Philistines, Jebusites, Amalikites and other peoples of the Bible are all in Nigeria. Nigeria is a tourist haven worth over $30 billion USD a year. It is of National Interest that, ancient empires who were enemies now live in One Nation called Nigeria. The latter could bring out cohesion and foster National Unity at a time when everyone is clamoring for restructuring but many do not understand the essence of the Divine Design of Nigeria.
Whereas, the actions of Governor Rochas Okorocha have brought about an actual breakdown of public order and public safety in Imo State, there is need for extraordinary measures to restore peace and security in accordance with Section 305 (3c) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We hereby call for an International Panel of Enquiry into the Eke-Ukwu Owerri Market Demolition and Killings. Under President Goodluck Jonathan in response to our petition to him and the UN Secretary General on forceful acquisition of Owerri Indigenous People’s Land at Area K, the Attorney General of the Federation cautioned Governor Rochas Okorocha against violating the rule of law and to respect all court injunctions and restraining orders and let the prior existing status quo prevail. We believe that the Presidency should maintain its constitutional obligation to respect the rule of law and call Governor Okorocha to order. The actions of Governor Okorocha are in violations of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Land Use Act, the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (1972), and the United National Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous People (2007). Considering that this case presents severe human rights violations including the Right to Life, there is a need to setup a Panel for Enquiry comprising but not limited to representatives of: (a) Owerri Indigenous People (b) Federal Ministry of Culture and Tourism (c) UNESCO World Heritage Sites (d) Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri (e) National and United Nations Human Right Commission (f) Owerri market unions (g) Family of victims.
In our view, the crimes committed could amount to genocide and destruction of Cultural Heritage sites which are under the purview of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC set precedent in 2016 by convicting a terrorist Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi for the destruction of the Shrines in Timbuktu in Mali. Therefore, there is need for transparency so that the truth may be uncovered. Failure to do the right thing could provoke further exploration for international justice which could become a source of National Embarrassment.
We humbly request an urgent action on our petition to protect lives and property from further losses.
Thank you in anticipation,
Academician Prof. Dr Philip C. Njemanze MD