A coalition of human rights groups under the aegis of Southeast Based Coalition of Human Rights Organizations (SBCHROs) and International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Intersociety) has condemned the military operations in the south east region, describing it bastardisation of the security of the people of the region*
They, therefore, asked the military to put on hold the exercise.
In a statement entitled, ‘Army’s Radicalisation And Bastardisation Of Security And People Of Southeast Nigeria: Before It Is Too Late’, Intersociety & SBCHROs said that the operation is nothing short of an open confrontation and a daring affront on the will and psyche of the people of the region.
While lamenting the lopsided composition of the personnel of the operation, the group described the operation as purely an army of occupation.
The statement signed by:
1. Emeka Umeagbalasi Intersociety board chairman
2. Comrade Aloysius Attah, Civil Liberties Organisation, Southeast Zone (Southeast CLO)
3. Maazi Tochukwu Ezeoke, Igbo Ekunie Initiative (Pan Igbo Rights Advocacy Group)
4. Comrade Peter Onyegiri, Centre for Human Rights & Peace Advocacy (CHRPA)
5. Comrade Samuel Njoku,
Human Rights Organisation of Nigeria (HRON)
6. Rufus Duru, Global Rights & Development International (GRDI)
7. Comrade Chike Umeh, Society Advocacy Watch Project (SWAP);
8. Obianuju Joy Igboeli, Anambra Human Rights Forum (ANHRF);
9. Comrade Alex Olisa, Southeast Good Governance Forum (SEGGF);
10. Jerry Chukwuokoro,
International Solidarity for Peace & Human Rights Initiative (ISPHRI);
11. Comrade Vincent Ezekwume, Civil Liberties Organisation, Anambra State Branch (Anambra CLO)
12. Comrade Nelson Nnana Nwafor, Environmental Rights, Advocacy & Development (FENRAD-Nigeria) and 13. Comrade Ozor Ugonna Kingsley, Rural Engagement & Development Foundation (RED-Foundation.
The statement said, “Nigerian Army’s commencement of the so called “Operation Python Dance II” in the Southeast part of Nigeria; starting from 15th September to 14th October 2017 is nothing short of radicalisation and bastardisation of civil security in the Southeast or Igbo heartland of Nigeria as well as deliberate traumatising of the law abiding and peaceful People of the Zone .
“It is also a clear case of declaration of unprovoked and unwarranted war on the Igbo population right inside their ancestral citadel. This act of mindless militarisation and militarism in a supposedly democratic dispensation has a lot of intractable consequences.
When a peaceful people are pushed too far or to the wall and subjugated to the extreme; over issues concerning their rights of existence and ethnic identities, the response in many, if not most cases, result to far reaching consequences and complications; if not in short run, then in long run. We have warned on these before (i.e. in our memo to present Federal Government, dated 16th of February 2016) and we are warning on same again!
“The world history is full of several instances where the same radicalisation and bastardisation of civil security and ethno-religious sentiments and disquiets of sub-national entities dangerously escalated and transformed; pushing the referenced sub-nationals to reprisal radicalisation by way of insurgency or street crimes’ warlordship and turning such sub-national entities and the entire national entity into socio-political toxemia or failed and balkanised State.
“Those who are the repositories of State coercion or force of arms have always been warned by modern theorists of violence not to make a suicidal mistake of seeing themselves as ‘sole holders of monopoly of violence’ and always see and treat violence and its controllers as ‘double-edged swords’. This is more when there are hundreds, if not thousands of forms of modern violence; with insurgency and its intractability as one of them.
“Instances of these can be found in the recent histories of Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia, Ivory Coast, former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Sudan and as most recently as Syria where over 450,000 people have been killed since 2011; with over 5million refugees and 6.6million internally displaced persons generated as at this 2017; to mention but a few. Effective and pluralistic handling of same in recent times had also led to peaceful fortification or breaking of the foundations of agitating and disillusioned splinter and national entities. Instances are the United Germany and the velvet revolution of 31st December 1989 in former Czechoslovakia (now Czech and Slovakia Republics).
“A typical local example of mishandling and radicalization of internal security was the extra judicial or custodial killing of then 39yrs old leader of the Boko Haram insurgency group, Ustaz Mohammed Yusuf, killed by the Federal Government of Nigeria on 30th July 2009. Another aspect of the radicalisation was the politicisation of the insurgency by the fundamentalist political elements of the northern political class.
“That is to say that the decision of the present Buhari Administration at no tangible national or regional security provocation to flood the Igbo heartland with battalions of soldiers and armaments; dominated and manned by commanding and foot soldiers of Mr. President ethnic group and religion is a clear case of declaration of ethno-religious “fatwa” on the Igbo Race. It is a further case of unwarranted and abominable punishment of the people of the zone for being the most nonviolent sub-nationality and a core bread winner of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“We are therefore shocked and alarmed as before over the infantile and sinister reasons given by the lopsidedly composed Nigerian Army for its latest declaration of war on this most peaceful sub-nationality. We make bold say again that the present Nigerian Army has since June 2015 been divisively peopled or foot-soldiered, commanded and controlled by Mr. President and people of his own ethnicity and religion; in gross contravention of Section 14 (3) of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution; which unambiguously provides for geopolitical spread and balance.
“Having critically and expertly studied the reasons given for the latest militarisation and its fatwa operation in the Southeast, *we found them gravely and grossly inexcusable, undemocratic, unconstitutional and incoherent with the constitutionalised and globalised roles of the military under democratic dispensation* .
“Globally and nationally, especially in Nigeria, the roles of the armed forces including the army in civil/democratic governance are very limited and strictly restricted to (1) defence of territorial boundaries and integrity against foreign attacks; (2) in aid of civil authority when legislatively and presidentially called upon in cases of armed insurrection, coups, internal armed rebellion or intra State conflict; and (3) State of emergency occasioned by widespread natural disaster or that of immense magnitude; and man-made disaster such as when the country is in a state of internal/external war.
“The above clearly highlighted roles of the Nigerian Armed Forces including the Army under democratic dispensation as clearly spelt out by Section 217 of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution are grossly incoherent with the latest reasons given by the lopsidedly composed Nigerian Army as why it has flooded the Southeast Zone with battalions of soldiers and armaments at no iota of national or regional security collapse.
Therefore, the so called “Exercise Python Dance II” is totally condemned and damned. By citing cases of “mindless assassinations (even in religious places), attacks on security personnel and theft of weapons, kidnappings, cultism, armed robbery/banditry and violent agitations by secessionist groups, amongst other crimes”, as reasons for its latest killer-mission in the Southeast, the Nigerian Army, not only lied unpardonably to Nigerians, but has also mindlessly usurped and taken over the civil and traditional functions of the Nigeria Police Force and other crime detection and intelligence policing agencies in Nigeria.
By Section 217 of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution, the Nigerian Army has no business dabbling into the traditional duties of the Nigeria Police Force especially in the areas of street crimes of cultism, armed robbery/banditry, willful homicide, kidnapping and policing of public assemblies. Condemnably and despicably, the Nigerian Army has not only taken over these functions, but now ‘invites the Police and the SSS, etc to join it’ thereby undermining the country’s democracy, rule of law and constitutionalism.
“The Army has also in the main abdicated its constitutional duties by allowing the terrorist Fulani herdsmen and the Boko Haram insurgency to continue to massacre hundreds of innocent and defenseless Nigerians every month; while the same Army condones and abets same with utter alacrity and dissipates energies and wastes billions of public funds pursuing and traumatising the innocent people of the Southeast Zone who have Godly chosen to be law abiding and non-violent.
“As the Nigerian Army continues to rigmarole in absurdities and pursuit of irrelevances, the media reports of mindless massacre of innocent and defenceless Nigerians by the terrorist Fulani herdsmen and the Boko Haram insurgency group have continued to saturate the country’s media and reading space.
“According to Amnesty International’s latest report of September 2017, the Boko Haram insurgents had between April and August 2017; a period of five months, killed 223 defenceless civilians in the Northeast. Till date, the religious identities of the slain have remained sketched and some observers believe that such attacks are carefully planned and targeted at the endangered non-Muslim populations or settlements in northeast part of the country.
The mass killings have continued with the latest media reports of massacre this week of 20 rural citizens by terrorist Fulani herdsmen in Ancha Village of Maingo Community in Bassa Local Government of Plateau State; as well as killing on Wednesday and Thursday of eight people by Boko Haram terrorists outside Maiduguri, in Borno State, Northeast Nigeria. Yet, the Army has allowed these mass murderers to continue to prowl uncaught.
“Despite the fact that Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution entrusts the responsibilities of taming these mass murders and other acts of terrorism in the hands of the Nigerian Armed Forces including the Army, the country’s armed forces have deliberately turned blind eye in utter manifestation of ethnic bias and ethnic brotherhood especially in the area of massacre of thousands of defenceless Nigerians by terrorist Fulani herdsmen. The armed forces have concentrated more on chasing shadows; abandoning their core areas of responsibility.
“Till date, the Nigerian Armed Forces particularly the Army have not told Nigerians sources of assault rifles and their handling skills/training, recklessly used by the murderous Fulani herdsmen in mowing down average of 1,500 defenceless citizens every year since June 2015. This is not to talk of woeful failure of the armed forces including the army in fishing out the mass killers and putting them on trial.
“The disclosure by the lopsidedly composed Nigerian Army of its operation modes during the so-called “Operation Python Dance II”; of “raids, cordon and search operations, anti-kidnapping drills, road blocks, check points, patrols and show of force to curb the rising threat to national security in the South Eastern part of the country” has further exposed the merchandising and torture exercise aspect of the inglorious operation.
“It is also a monumental contradiction to subject road users to roadblocks, checkpoints and show of force and at the same time ‘respect their rights as enshrined in the Constitution’. By use of checkpoints and roadblocks, a floodgate of roadblock extortion is further expanded and provided for the Nigerian Army, its combatants and commanders to smile to the bank, illicitly, with hundreds of millions of naira every month.
“Apart from the fact that art of conventional soldiering is an alien profession in matters of street crimes of cultism, kidnapping, armed robbery/banditry, willful homicide, etc; these crimes are not expertly and professionally checkmated using roadblocks or checkpoints. Their effective controls are best done using effective policing intelligence, crime detection, raiding operations in hideouts, thorough and professional criminal investigation and diligent prosecution. Street crimes or traditional violent crimes do not in any way involve use or deployment of battalions of soldiers to tackle. Soldiers are quarks in art of taming or controlling street crimes.
These explained why in the Army’s so called “Operation Python Dance I”, fruitlessly conducted in the Southeast Zone, between 27th November and 27th December 2016, not even a single fly as a credibly suspected street criminal or violent crime offender was caught, investigated and prosecuted. In matters of arrest and civil-criminal investigation, soldiers are not extensively captured or empowered by Nigeria’s body of criminal laws and their procedures. As a matter of fact, soldiers are interlopers in controlling street crimes or traditional violent crimes!
“Further, we make bold to say that the tagging by the Nigerian Army of pro Biafra rallies as “violent agitation”, may sound odd to the public, but it is deductively and understandably the Army’s frustrated way of admitting that “there is no singly existing armed rebellion in the Southeast Zone”; and as a result, “it must create one as basis to raze the fast developing Southeast Zone to rubbles”.
We hereby call on the people of the Southeast Zone especially the non-violent pro Biafra groups to avoid being caught up by the ambush laid by the present Federal Government and its lopsidedly composed coercive agencies. The Nigerian Army should be given another ’30th May 2017 treatment’ by making its latest unprovoked war operation in the Southeast a failed effort or effort in futility.
“As the Nigerian Army left the shores of the Southeast in shame and agony in the evening of 30th and morning of 31st May 2017 with all its corked rifles and battle-ready combatants; without finding any blood of the innocent and defenceless to spill, so shall it be made to leave the Zone again without any innocent blood to spill or shed. Where innocent bloods are spilled, the soldier-spillers shall be made to pay severely, if not now; then later, no matter how long it would take!
The beloved and peace loving People of the Southeast Zone are further called upon to show the Nigerian Army that “human brain is stronger than the bullet or force of arms”, by deploying and using massively their electronic gadgets including social media appliances to detect and capture the soldiers’ excesses especially at roadblocks/checkpoints, motor parks, streets, markets, entertainment arenas, public functions, etc. Such excesses to be detected, monitored and captured on ICT include extortions and their patterns, hatred motivated or ethno-religious biased torture, artificial logjams or motorised holds-up, hatred and extortionist motivated shooting/killing and other acts of soldiering brigandage on Southeast roads or other parts thereof.”
The Nigerian Army on Thursday announced that it was going to launch a military exercise in the Southeast from September 15 to October 14. It code-named the exercise Operation Egwu Eke or Python Dance II.