Senate Caucus backs Kanu
… Govs probe soldiers, IPOB clash
…Army places Kanu under on house arrest
Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the Igbo socio-cultural organisation, has called on the federal government to direct the military to call off its operation, code-named Python Dance 11 in the South-east region.
It described the operation as “an invasion” of the region aimed at intimidating the people.
In a statement issued yesterday by its President-General, John Nwodo, the group argued that “Nigeria at this moment does not need such deliberate and proactive escalation of tensions and crisis.”
The Nigerian Army had on Friday announced its plan to launch Operation Ogbu Eke II – Python Dance II in the South-east between September 15 and October 14, to check violent criminals, agitators and other forms of criminalities.
Chief of Training and Operations, Major-General David Ahmadu, who announced the plan at a news conference in Abuja, said Operation Python Dance was first launched between November 27 and December 27, 2016, in the zone to tackle kidnapping, armed banditry and other crimes.
But warning against a resumption of the operation, the Igbo group cautioned government against a resort to the use of brute force in resolution of issue of agitations for self-determination as there were more “civilised and established practices to resolve our democratic and security challenges.”
It described the operation as “an act of intimidation” and warned that “if it is not discontinued immediately,” it would be left with no alternative than “to conclude that this is a containment policy aimed at the South-east to intimidate our people from freely expressing their anger and angst at their marginalisation and treatment as second-class citizens.”
The statement read in part: “In a democracy, the level of disenchantment expressed by the people of the South-east of Nigeria ought to have provoked a serious dialogue between our people and the Federal Executive and the Legislature.
“History teaches us that the continuous use of force to silent dissent and free speech will only accelerate the growth of dissent and dissatisfaction. Fundamental Rights of freedom of expression are critical for a successful democracy.”
According to the group, the claim that the programme was aimed at checking increasing crime in the region “has no empirical support because the first Python Dance was used to extort money from the people and never addressed the issue of crimes.”
“Our people were shamelessly intimidated and harassed at these check points. Operation Python Dance 1 procured no arrests of criminals that were prosecuted for any of the criminal activities that Operation Python Dance II is supposed to address.
“Instead, it witnessed reckless and indiscriminate murder of self-determination agitators in Asaba, Aba, Nkpor, and Port Harcourt numbering up to 191 by the estimates of Transparency International and shattered public confidence of South-easterners in the Nigerian Army and Police.”
On the clash between Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) supporters and the military on Sunday near its leader, Nnamdi Kanu’s country home, Ohanaeze Ndigbo described it as “an unfortunate incident,” pointing out that there was no need for such a provocative action on the part of the army.
“Crimes of monstrous proportions are occurring in other parts of Nigeria. Such crimes include ravaging killings by Fulani herdsmen in the Middle Belt, secret cult killings in Lagos and the South-west, bunkering and armed resistance in the Delta, wanton kidnappings and killing of military personnel in Kaduna state and environs, as well as Boko Haram insurgency in the North-east.
“The Nigerian Army has never embarked on Operation Python Dance in any of the other five geopolitical zones on account of these incidences. Innocent civilians living in these other parts of Nigeria have not witnessed the type of invasion Umuahia witnessed Sunday night.”
It’s fundamental human rights abuse –Senate
Similarly, the South-east Caucus in the Senate has also condemned the military operation in the region, particularly the alleged incursion into the country home of the IPOB leader.
Chairman of the caucus, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, in a statement, said such actions suggested wilful personalisation of the operation and deliberate abuse of the people’s fundamental rights.
Abaribe said, “we had hoped that our ongoing engagement with the group would be given a chance but here we are with a hurried military action deep into a highly populated area with high propensity for casualty, which occurrence would rather escalate the already tensed situation.
“It is more worrisome that military operation, ‘Python Dance 2,’ restricted to the South-east in a peace time, has no doubt fouled the environment and sent strong signal that the region is under siege, which should not be so in a democracy.
“We, therefore, urge extreme caution and advise the military to de-escalate the situation and choose the best operational modus that will not only guaranty the safety of Nigerians but also enhance national unity.
“Nigeria is not at war, people are only exercising their constitutional and universally guaranteed rights, so far they are carrying on in a manner that has never given room to violence which could warrant a wholesale military expedition.”
Govs set up probe panel
Meanwhile, the South-east Governors’ Forum has set up a seven-member committee to investigate the recent clash between the Nigerian Army and the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) members in Umuahia, the Abia state capital.
The Forum’s Director of Media and Communications, Michael Udah, in a statement issued yesterday, said the committee was expected to submit its report during the forum’s meeting scheduled for September 15.
Although he did not disclose the leader of the committee, he said it was set up to proffer lasting solutions to such problems and forestall future occurrences.
“Reports in the social media that the governors condemned the alleged attack on IPOB members are false, but instead, they are working assiduously to bring lasting peace and stability to the zone. I did not tell any medium on the social and print media that the governors condemned the incident as they would soon meet to review the situation,” he said.
Udah said the governors were consulting with relevant stakeholders in the zone, including the military to ensure clarity of positions.
“I urge my colleagues in the media to exercise decorum in their reportage to avoid creation of false and embarrassing impressions about sensitive national issues.”
Men of the Nigerian Army and members of IPOB had on Sunday clashed in Afara-Ukwu, Umuahia, the home town of the IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu.
Assistant Director, Army Public Relations, Oyegoke Gbadamosi, had explained that the troops of 145 Battalion were carrying out a “Show of Force” near Kanu’s residence when IPOB members blocked them and they (soldiers) fired shots in the air to disperse them.
Ikpeazu declares dusk-to-dawn curfew
Meanwhile, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu has declared a three-day dusk-to-dawn curfew in Absolute, Abia State, following repeated clashes between Nigerian soldiers and separatist agitators.
The governor said the state will continue to subscribe to the supremacy of the Nigerian Constitution and work with the federal government to forestall secessionist threats.
The governor also noted that the clash was directly linked to the deployment of soldiers across South-East as part of the rejuvenated Operation Python Dance.
The curfew begins at 6:00 p.m. Tuesday and will last until September 14.
Kanu’s lawyers said the IPOB leader had been placed under house arrest in his ancestral neighbourhood of Afaraukwu, a suburb of Umuahia, the state capital