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Thursday, 14 September 2017

Agitations: PANDEF tell FG stop trying to militarise the Southeast as Army begins investigation into claims of rights abuse in Abia

The Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) has warned the Nigerian Army against the implications of creating another “Boko Haram insurgency” through the ongoing Operation Python Dance II in the southeast.

Since the announcement of the military in the southeast and the eventual start, there have been reports of clashes between members and supporters of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and soldiers of the Nigerian Army.




In a statement issued on Thursday, the national leader of PANDEF, Edwin Clark, called on the military to tread carefully in the operation as “the use of force against defenceless civilians has never worked in Nigeria”.

The group said although it disagrees with IPOB on its secessionist agitation, it recognises the rights of every Nigerian, including the people of the southeast.

It called on the federal government to take immediate steps to bring an end to the seeming militarisation of the region, adding that Nigerians in any part of the country have the right to peaceful agitation and protest.

“May we remind ourselves of how Boko Haram started in the Northeast. It was the extra-judicial killing of the leader of the sect, Mohammed Yusuf, in July 2009, that led Boko Haram insurgency, which we have been trying to fight and contain like a war between two countries,’’ the statement read.

“We are worried at the quick deployment of military might to suppress defenceless civilians, while some parts of the country are still being tormented by armed and marauding criminal groups.

“The Operation Python Dance I, Operation Crocodile Smile in the Niger Delta and now, Operation Python Dance II in the south-east are unhelpful strategies.”

The group urged the federal government to direct its energies to the various agitations resulting from alleged marginalisation of the people of the Igbo.

It cited the “total exclusion” of the people of the Southeast on the board of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) when “some of the south-east states are heavily oil-producing”.

It also asked, “How can the government justify the fact that the south-east is totally excluded from senior positions of the Nigerian Armed Forces, the security services and the paramilitary services?

“Why will the annual budget of the federal government be so much skewed against the south-east and the south-south and heavily lopsided in favour of the north-west and the north-west?”

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Army has started investigations into the alleged torture of civilians by soldiers of Operation Python Dance in Abia State.

This was contained in a statement issued by the Deputy Director, Public Relations, 82 Division of the Nigerian Army, Col Sagir Musa in Enugu on Thursday.

It said that any soldier found to have involved himself in such untoward activities would be dealt with in accordance with military law.

“The attention of the Headquarters 82 Division Nigerian Army has been drawn to a video clip trending on social media and other platforms purportedly showing troops humiliating some people at a check point in Abia State, Nigeria.

“The issue is being investigated with the view to ascertain the source and the actors in the clip. Our Code of Conduct and Rules of Engagement are quite clear and any officer or soldier that infringed on any of such directive if found guilty, will face full wrath of the military justice system.

“We would like inform the public that 82 Division is also aware of the planned misinformation and propaganda arrangement by the secessionists Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). They intend to churn out prerecorded video clips aimed at discrediting the Nigerian Army, causing disaffection among the citizens of this country. They will be using bogus, manipulated and photo-shopped photographs as well as video clips. The public should be wary of such mischief, scrutinize and report same to the Nigerian Army or any of security agencies.

“The Division wishes to reassure the public that it is determined to ensuring the safety of lives and properties in its area of operational responsibility, particularly the entire South East geo-political zone as enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We do not condone any act of indiscipline in the conduct of our operations and training exercises. Any claim of rights violation would be investigated and when confirmed, appropriate disciplinary action would be taken against the erring personnel.”

The Nigerian Army has also said it is not directly involved in the ongoing operation to restore law and order in Oyibo Local Government Area of Rivers State.

Spokesman of the 6 Division of the Nigerian Army, Port Harcourt, Col. Aminu Iliyasu, said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Port Harcourt on Thursday.

Col. Iliyasu said the army only assisted the police on Tuesday following a violent clash between members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Hausa community.

According to him, troops have since been withdrawn to strategic locations while the police are now fully in control of the situation.

“Some persons are just trying to stir up tension by insinuating that the army was involved in a shoot-out with IPOB members in the early hours of Thursday.

“If any security agency had a shoot-out with anyone; then it is definitely not the army that took part in the shootout.

“This is because the army has since withdrawn troops on Tuesday after normalcy was restored, to enable the police to discharge their constitutional mandate.

“However, soldiers are currently on a standby in case the situation escalates beyond what the police can handle. It is only in that situation that the army will intervene,” he said.

The spokesman said that no arrest was made by the army during its brief intervention in the clash that ensued between IPOB members and the Hausa community.




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