The Nigerian human rights community has taken a dim view of the ongoing security situation in the South-eastern part of the country, declaring its readiness to monitor the conduct.
The community also said the police, not the Nigerian Army, have the duty to maintain security anywhere in the country.
The position of the community was expressed in a communique issued at the end of its meeting held in Owerri, capital of Imo State.
The communique was jointly signed by Ndidi Anike, Femi Amele Barbara Maigari and Okechukwu Nwanguma.
The meeting, attended by over 100 representatives of human rights organisations, was essentially in response to the human rights emergency in Imo State as represented by the demolition of the Ekwe Uku Market in Owerri and the forceful eviction of traders from the facility by the administration of Mr. Rochas Okorocha, governor of Imo State.
It, however, coincided with the deployment by the Nigerian Armyâ€™s Operation Python Dance II in the five states of the South-east.
While the human rights bodies agree with the objective of the operation, which is the maintenance of security, they, however, stated that such objective is the responsibility of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF).
According to the communique, participantsâ€™ attention was drawn to instances of un-redressed extra-judicial killings and harassment by soldiers deployed to the South-east zone, saying such warranted valid suspicions of something sinister.
â€œMany participants in the Human Rights Community expressed grave fears about the methods and means envisioned in the exercise. Attention was called to the expressed design for the exercise to â€˜transit into real time operations, thereby fulfilling both training and operational objective.â€™ Questions were raised as to how this dovetails with the primary responsibility of the Nigeria Police Force for law enforcement,â€ the document stated.
The meeting was also attended by members of community and advocacy groups, including representatives of Keke NAPEP Riders, organized labor, pensioners, retired permanent secretaries, members of the Owerri Community, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), Amnesty International and pressure groups such as â€˜OurMumuDonDoâ€™ movement and the media. Equally in attendance were representatives of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the Imo State Ministry in an observer capacity.
APC Chieftain Warns Military Not to Plunge Nigeria into Fire
A chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Timi Frank, has said the ongoing military show of force in the Southeast region of the country, in which some youths and Biafra agitators are allegedly being maltreated is capable of putting the country on fire if not checked.
Frank said in as much as militaryâ€™s show of force is allowed in a peaceful manner, the current approach in the region needs to be checked, urging on President Muhammadu Buhari to consider the political implications of unleashing military on an entire region.
The APCâ€™s Deputy Publicity Secretary in a statement he issued yesterday in Abuja in reaction to a video circulating on the social media where some youths and IPOB members were caught by the military and asked to forcibly swim in a dirty water, said such action is condemnable all over the world.
He warned that the ongoing military action in the region was capable of sabotaging the good intention of APC government and therefore portray the current administration as a military government.
While calling on Nigerians, especially leaders across board irrespective of political differences to speak out against what he described as inhuman treatment of Nigerians, he said: â€œtoday it may be the Igbos but tomorrow may be the Ijaws or Yorubas or any other region, by then there may be nobody to speak out. This incident is a total disgrace and embarrassment to the Nigerian government,â€ he said.
IPC Condemns Army Invasion of Abia State NUJ Secretariat
The International Press Centre has condemned the recent invasion of Abia State secretariat of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) by Nigerian soldiers of Operation Python Dance on September 12, 2017.
According to media report, â€œthe military personnel reportedly beat up journalists at sight and destroyed their working tools, furniture, documents and other property yet to be quantified.â€
The Director of IPC, Mr. Lanre Arogundade, in a statement described the unprovoked attack as shameful and a clampdown on democracy as the list of attacked journalists recently seems to grow daily with the worrisome trend becoming more condemnable.
â€œIf the military wants to exercise its authority and strength it should be channeled into assisting the media to make progress in a democratic era and not victimizing the media professionals,â€ Arogundade said.
IPC therefore called on the Chief of Defence Staff and Chief of Army Staff to thoroughly probe the incident so that all the personnel involved would be made to face the law.
PDP Decries Alleged Torture of Civilians by Military
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has expressed concern over alleged maltreatment of unarmed civilians by the Nigerian military deplored in some areas of the South-east part of the country.
The party in a statement issued yesterday by the Head of its Publicity Division, Chiinwe Nnorom, said it was appalled by the emergence of a video clip which has gone viral, that shows acts of humiliation against unarmed civilans by members of the Nigerian military.
â€œThat if true, itâ€™s the depth of callousness and a further descent into the gutter by people who are paid to protect life, property as well as the countryâ€™s territorial integrity.
â€œThe PDP believes that human life is sacrosanct and must be treated as such by all and sundry; the right to life and liberty as enshrined in our constitution and other international conventions must therefore not only be respected and protected, but must be seen to be so,â€ the party said
Chidoka Insists Igbo Leaders Should Take Blame for South-east Marginalisation
The Osita Chidoka Campaign Organisation insisted that Igbo leaders in the All Progressives Congress (APC) and All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) should take the blame for the escalation of aggressions against the people of the southeast region and the attendant hostilities therefrom
Chidoka who is also the governorship candidate of the United Progressive Party (UPP) in the Anambra State governorship election, also urged youths in the southeast not to resort to violence but resist the temptation to visit the sins of the political elite and unscrupulous uniformed men on other harmless Nigerians on the street.
In a statement issued by the Director of Media, Viola Ifeyinwa Okolie yesterday, the campaign organisation told APGA and APC leaders to stop inundating the organisation with lame explanations but go and face the people who they betrayed.
SAN Condemns Attacks on IPOB Members
Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Sebastine Hon, has condemned the treatment meted out to members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) by soldiers.
In a statement he issued thursday, Hon described the video which has gone viral on the Internet, showing most dehumanising treatment of persons suspected to be Biafra apologists, as horrible and horrifying.
According to him, it is unbelievable that the Nigerian Army, once respected globally, would condescend to the level of flogging its hapless captives and compelling them to submerge themselves in thick mud.
He said: â€I didnâ€™t believe my eyes when I first watched the video; and I almost became a psychological wreck when I attempted to watch it again.â€
Ekweremadu Condemns Siege, Calls for Calm
The Senate Deputy President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, has condemned in strong terms the military siege to the South-east geopolitical zone, noting that dialogue and inclusion were best options in resolving the agitation in the region.
Ekweremadu, however, called on the people of the South-east to remain calm as he and other leaders of the region were engaging the federal government in meaningful discussions to ensure that the South-east Operation Python Dance was called off soonest.
He said: â€œThe military siege to the South-east is uncalled for because there is no prevailing situation in the region to warrant it in the first place. Instead, it is the Python Dance that appears to be creating problems and raising tension in the region. The agitation in the South East at the moment is best resolved by way of dialogue and a sense of inclusion.â€
Halt Operation Python Dance Immediately, IPOB, Ezeemo Tell Buhari
The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the candidate of the Progressives Peoples Alliance (PPA) in Anambra State governorship poll, Mr. Godwin Ezeemo, have called on President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately halt the Operation Python Dance II in the Southeast as because it is causing unrest in the zone.
IPOB in a statement made available to THISDAY in Awka and signed by its Publicity Secretary, Mr. Emma Powerful, stated that anything short of halting the military operation immediately by President Buhari would bring more problems to Nigeria.
The group said: â€œWe reiterate for the record purposes that the ongoing state sponsored genocide in Abia and Rivers States by the Nigerian army must be halted. History is replete with occasional but consistent episodes of pogrom, genocide and mass killings of Biafrans and Christian communities, especially in northern Nigeria.â€
â€œWhat is more troubling this time is that certain political office holders in the Southeast are comfortable with the idea of inviting the army to Abia State to execute hundreds of young men and women in cold blood simply for asking for their right of self-determination.
â€œWe hold President Buhari, Brig-General Tukur Buratai and Ikepeazu majorly responsible for the cold blooded executions going on now in and around Abia State at this trying time. Humanity must as a duty, take cognizance of the raw incontrovertible evidence of these atrocities already in public domain. Buhari must halt this operation now.â€
Falana Condemns Armyâ€™s Invasion of Kanuâ€™s House
Human rights activist and lawyer, Femi Falana, thursday, faulted the deployment of armed troops to Abia State and the house arrest of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, actions which he described as â€œunconstitutional and illegal.â€
Falana noted that since there was no insurrection in Abia State which the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) could not contain, the deployment of the army to the region by the Presidency cannot be justified in law.
â€œAlthough the president is empowered by virtue of section 217(2) of the Constitution to deploy the armed forces for the â€˜suppression of insurrection and acting in aid of civil authorities to restore law orderâ€™ he cannot exercise the power until there is an insurrection or civil disturbance which cannot be contained by the police,â€ Falana said in a statement released thursday.
â€œNeither the Constitution nor the Armed Forces Act Cap A20 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 has empowered the Nigeria Army to arrest any citizen who is not subject to service law,â€ he said.
Mr. Falana cited the case of Yussuf v Obasanjo (2005) 18 NWLR (Pt 956) 96 the Court of Appeal, which held that â€œIt is up to the police to protect our nascent democracy and not the military, otherwise the democracy might be wittingly or unwittingly militarized. This is not what the citizenry bargained for in wrestling power from the military in 1999. Conscious step or steps should be taken to civilianize the polity to ensure the survival and sustenance of democracy.â€
Court Remands 30 IPOB Supporters in Prison
Chief Magistrateâ€™s Court sitting in Port Harcourt has remanded 30 suspected supporters of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in the Port Harcourt Maximum Prison.
This followed the arraignment of the IPOB supporters by the police before Chief Magistrate Amadi Nna-Amadi, thursday.
The IPOB supporters were arrested by the police following a violence that broke out at the Oyigbo area of the state on Tuesday and Wednesday wherein a Police Sergeant was killed and another injured while shops and properties were destroyed.
Nine of the suspects, who were arrested on Wednesday in connection with the killing of the Police officer, were arraigned under suit number PMC/1935C/2017 on charges bordering on murder, while the 21 arrested on Tuesday, were charged in suit number PMC/1938C/2017, with treasonable felony and unlawful assembly.
The charges were not read to the accused and no plea was taken due to the nature of the charges.
In his ruling, the presiding Magistrate, Chief Magistrate Amadi Nna-Amadi, held that pursuant to section 300 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law, Rivers State, the court has remand powers.
He also stated that the court lacked jurisdiction to try the matter. He, therefore, remanded the accused persons in prison custody and ordered the court registrar to remit the file to the DPP for legal advice.
The matter is adjourned sine die. Meanwhile, the prosecution has promised to ensure speedy trial of the matter. DSP George, who spoke with newsmen shortly after the court session, said they will comply with the law to ensure that justice is done on the matter.
Sultan Urges Elder Statesmen to Call Youths to Order
Following the fracas between soldiers and the members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in the South-east, Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Saâ€™ad Abubakar, thursay called on elder statesmen and traditional leaders to call their youths to order for peace to reign in the country.
In a statement signed by the Secretary of the Sultanate Council, Umar Faruk Ladan, made available to journalists in Sokoto , stressed the need for elder statesmen and traditional leaders to educate the youths on the need for peaceful coexistence in their respective geopolitical zones
According to the statement, the acts of nefarious individuals will not be allowed to throw the country into anarchy, hence the need for elders to call their youths to order.
â€œThe acts of few bad ones among us cannot be left to tear the country apart.
â€œ Therefore, those bad ones should be called to order by their elders and community leaders to stop such negative actions,â€ the statement read.
It called on all Nigerians to live in peace with one another irrespective of tribe, ethnic and regional differences.
The statement said Nigeria would continue to remain one nation with a common goal of purposeful development.
Siege on South-east Ill-advised
Candidate of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) in the forthcoming governorship election in Anambra State, Chief Nze Valentine Onwuka, has condemned military operation in Abia State, describing it as ill-advised and preposterous.
In a statement made available to journalists in Lagos yesterday, Onwuka also blamed the South-east governors for their leadership failure which gave birth to the struggle for the realisation of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
According to the gubernatorial candidate, â€œIf there is a legal instrument ordering the arrest of Nnamdi Kanu or any other individual, the federal government should deploy the police that have the mandate as the institution charged with the responsibility to handle internal issues not the military. â€œI believe that this siege on the Southeast is ill advised and preposterous.â€
Otti Condemns Confrontational Strategy of FG
The 2015 APGA Abia governorship candidate Mr. Alex Otti, has called on the federal government not to mishandle the ongoing misunderstanding between troops of the Operation Python Dance deployed to Abia State and members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) for the situation does not degenerate into a full blown arm confrontation that could lead to lasting insecurity and possible loss of innocent lives.
Otti believes that the provocative and confrontational strategy adopted by the federal government was ill-advised and outdated, especially when the option of dialogue had not been explored to the fullest, insisting that peaceful agitation by citizens is not a crime anywhere in the world, and is usually resolved through dialogue.
Otti unequivocally condemned the violence meted out against innocent and armless citizens of the state, especially members of the NUJ who are regarded all over the world as the conscience of the society, and who were merely discharging their lawful duties.
Operation Python Dance: Ijaw Youths Calls For Dialogue
The umbrella body of Ijaw youths, Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) after reviewing the tension in the South-eastern states in the past few days, thursday advocated that dialogue was the only way out of the conflict between soldiers and members of the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB).
It therefore advised the federal government to immediately order the withdrawal of military personnel from the region and embark on meaningful peaceful approach in resolving the issue at hand.
According to a statement signed by its President, Eric Omare, â€œIYC worldwide says that dialogue is the way out of the on-going conflict between soldiers and members of the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) in Umuahia, Abia State, and other parts of the South east.
â€œThe deployment of soldiers would only succeed in escalating the already tensed situation in the South- eastern part of the country. The federal government should learn from experience from other parts of the country where unnecessary military application has led to radicalisation of youths and escalation of the conflicts as evidenced in the Niger Delta region,â€ it added.
Buhari Urged to Send Python Back to Forest
Despite assurance by the Governor of Abia State, Okezie Ikpeazu, that soldiers would vacate the streets of Umuahia and Aba, concerned groups and individuals are insisting of total withdrawal of troops from Abia and the cancellation of operation â€˜python danceâ€™.â€¨Addressing a news conference yesterday in Umuahia, a Constitutional lawyer and human rights activist, Anthony Agbazuere, urged President Muhammadu Buhari and the military high command to stop the ongoing python dance operation and â€œsend the python back to the forestâ€.
He said in situation like this, men of good conscience should not sit on the fence while â€œthe lives and property of Abia citizens are being endangered and the peace in the state threatenedâ€.
â€œI therefore call on the federal government to immediately withdraw the soldiers involved in the so called operation python dance. The python should be sent back to the forest,â€ he said.
The constitutional lawyer stated that calling off the military operation would surely restore normalcy and allow the Southeast governors round off their dialogue with the IPOB leadership since it is operation python dance that compromised the security of Abia State.