An Igbo group of intellectuals and professionals worldwide, Nzuko Umunna has written an open letter to the Nigeria's Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru, that the shoot-on-sight order given to the Army troops in the South-East was an attempt to wipe out innocent citizens.
The group stated that if such a command was true, it is the same as a declaration of war against the people in the area, adding that the Army Chief should have publicly announced if there is a war between the region and the military personnel so that innocent people could vacate the environment.
This was contained in the letter signed by Dr. N Odumuko and Dr. P. Mbanefo, and made available to SaharaReporters by Barr. Austin Okeke on Tuesday.
Nzuko Umunna wrote the letter in reaction to a warning given by a Nigerian soldier a few days ago that the troops had been commanded to shoot civilians in Orlu, Imo State as the military fights operatives of the Eastern Security Network.
"We feel duty-bound to inform you that there is palpable fear over a shoot-on-sight directive reportedly given to Army troops in the South-East in recent days, a scheme for which new batches of men were moved over the weekend.
"By some accounts, this directive seems to have been given unofficially in a hush-hush manner, making the situation all the more ominous.
"A shoot-on-sight directive is tantamount to an order to extrajudicially exterminate innocent citizens as there is no telling who might be part of the collateral, unintended casualties.
"Throughout history, such military strategies or policies have always run the risk of going contrary to all accepted conventions and protocols on the rules of engagement, particularly the Rome Statutes
"In fact, it can be read as genocide where as in this case, there is clear and evident danger of such action resulting in high casualties.
"If the speculation of a shoot-on-sight order were to bear any atom of truth, then it amounts to a declaration of war on the area. However, even if, for any reason, the Federal Government is minded to declare war on the South-East or a part of it, there are standard international conventions and protocols that must be observed.
"One of such is the requirement to publicly and unambiguously declare that a war situation has arisen in such a place so that those who wish to, especially the civilians and innocent citizens, can withdraw from such a place. That has not been done," the letter stated partly.
The group, further, urged Attahiru to put the public in the know about the shoot-on-sight order and reverse it if in any case it was issued, to restore peace in the region.
"But it is our well considered contention that there do not exist in the South East of Nigeria any peculiar situation which does not exist in even worse forms in other parts of the country to warrant or justify such a Shoot-On-Sight order. And we put whoever thinks to the contrary to the strictest of proof.
"Based on these, our position is that it is in the overall interest of the country that you use your good offices to not only clear the air on this very disturbing issue but also counter any such directive in case it has, by some fluke or stroke of overzealousness, been issued.
"We most respectfully urge you to use your good offices to intervene, as a matter of urgency, in this very critical matter to douse the tension and apprehension in the region arising from rumours and the expectation that the killings and unnecessary waste of human lives will escalate.
"We are by this letter bringing this properly to your notice with the hope you will take preemptory action," the letter added.