Army: We’ve Stabilised South-east Despite Intense Opposition from IPOB, Sympathisers

  • Expect more Operation Python Dance across the nation  PANDEF kicks, urges military to halt action  
  • IPOB challenges proscription, labeling, as terrorists organisation

By Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt, Sylvester Idowu in Warri, Paul Obi and Alex Enumah in Abuja 

The Army yesterday said the South-east was now more stabilised than before notwithstanding the intense opposition to its Operation Python Dance 11, also known as Operation Egwu Eke II, which is ongoing in the region. 

In a related development, the Army has said that it would embark on more operations like Operation Python Dance to tackle rising cases of insecurity and crime across the country.

This came as the military explained that it decided to embark on Operations Python Dance 11 and Crocodile Smile 11 in the South-east and South-south geopolitical zones of the country in order to tackle rising challenges of militancy, kidnapping and pipeline vandalism.

 In a swift reaction however, the Chief Edwin Clark-led Pan Niger Delta Elders Forum (PANDEF) kicked against the action and urged the military to reconsider the plan “in the interest of peace existing in the Niger Delta region.”

It also emerged yesterday that IPOB had challenged it’s proscription by the federal government and labeling as a terrorist organization. 

Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, 82 Division, Col. Sagir Musa in a statement yesterday, explained that with Operation Python Dance 11, the influence of the Indigenous People of Biafra within the zone had been drastically curtailed.  

He said: “Despite the initial opposition to Exercise Egwu Eke II by the outlawed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra members and their sympathizers and unpatriotic elements, the general area of the South- east especially Aba in Abia State is now fully stabilised.  

“The usual violent activities of the outlawed Biafra “National Guards” (manning check points and extorting money from traders and motorists) have now been checkmated.  

“Similarly, the outlawed Biafra terrorist group presence is no longer visible and people go about their normal businesses without fear, let or hindrance. 

“The 82 Division Nigerian Army wishes to reassure the public that it is poised to maintaining the peace and security in the entire South-eastern region.  

“Members of the public are please requested to cooperate with security agencies by remaining law abiding and passing credible information to the nearest security check point or call 193 and the various Sector Commanders’ telephone numbers that were earlier made public,” Musa stated.  

He also gave account and update on the operation, stating that “simultaneous activities have started in Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo and Cross River States without hitch. 

“The essence of the exercise is to enhance troops’ preparedness and proficiency in dealing with emerging security challenges peculiar to the South-eastern region, such as kidnappings, armed robbery, communal crisis, farmers- herdsmen clashes, cultism, violent agitations and insurgency, amongst others.

 One interesting aspect of the exercise is that, it is multi-agency in nature and execution, thus enhancing synergy of efforts among the services, security and response agencies. Relevant para-military organizations such as the Nigerian Police Force, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corp, Department of State Security Service, Federal Road Safety Commission, National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency and Nigerian Immigration Service are all synergizing and collaborating in the exercise to ensure attainment of these objectives. 

Expect more Operation Python Dance across the nation

The Army has said that it would embark on more operations like Python Dance and Crocodile Smile to tackle rising cases of insecurity and crime across the country.

The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai, who disclosed this while speaking at the executive session of the on-going 13th All Nigeria Editors’ Conference (ANEC) in Port Harcourt, said the on-going “Operation Mesa” in states in the North and the Middle Belt was aimed at tackling challenges of cattle rustling, herdsmen-farmers clashes and kidnapping. 

Buratai, who was represented by the General Officer Commanding (GOC), 6 Division, Nigerian Army, Major-General Enobong Udoh, said the exercises were aimed at focusing the personnel to relative professional scenarios as against stimulated training sessions. 

He said: “The core value that emanate from professionalism and responsiveness in my own opinion include training, welfare, operational exigencies, logistics, civil-military cooperation, inter-agency cooperation and observance of human rights. 

“Typical examples of pillar of professionalism and responsiveness are the exercises that the Nigerian Army has been conducting in all established areas in the country. These exercises are aimed at focusing the personnel to relative professional scenarios as against stimulated training situations. 

“Exercise Hadi Kunama 11, which took place in Southern Kaduna and Samgore forest in Kaduna respectively, the clearing operation in Niger and Zamfara States as well as the forth-coming Exercise Crocodile Smile 11 and Exercise Egwu Eke, which is ongoing are typical examples. 

“More of such exercises are being planned to tackle existing security challenges in the country. The challenges of cattle rustling, herdsmen-farmers clashes and kidnapping in some Northern states and the Middle Belt are being tackled through the conduct of Operation Mesa. 

“In the same light, the challenges of militancy, kidnapping and pipeline vandalism in the Southern part of the country have been accorded adequate attention in the Nigerian Army order of service.” 

PANDEF Kicks against Re-launch 

The Chief Edwin Clark-led Pan Niger Delta Elders Forum (PANDEF) yesterday kicked against the re-launch of Operation Crocodile Smile 11 and urged the military to reconsider the plan in the interest of peace existing in the Niger Delta region.

The group maintained that there has been relative peace in the Niger Delta following the understanding reached with the aggrieved agitators by PANDEF, “which have consistently demonstrated the primacy of dialogue and peaceful resolution of conflicts rather than destruction of oil and gas assets in the region.”

PANDEF, in a statement signed by its Coordinating Secretary, Dr. Alfred Mulade recalled that the federal government had made some indications of its readiness to fast-track development efforts in the region by the adoption of the 16 -Point Agenda as working tool for this purpose as well as the positive pronouncements on some of the 16 -Point items for immediate implementation.

“PANDEF therefore is of the strong opinion that whatever actions on the part of government that will undermine this much desired hard earned peace process should be discouraged.

“It is on this premise that PANDEF was taken aback by the announcement of the Director of Army Public Relations, Brig- General Sani Usman of the readiness of the Nigerian Army to Launch ‘Operation Crocodile Smile 11’ in the Oil-rich South-South Region, just as ‘Operation Python Dance’ was being deployed in the South-East zone of Nigeria, which has elicited mixed reactions from wide range stakeholders.

“Whilst it is not  the position of PANDEF to challenge operational deployments of Nigerian soldiers in any part of Nigeria in accordance with best practices and rules of engagement, and without prejudice to the constitutional  role of the  Military in a democratic setting, we however observed that, this contemplated deployment of the ‘Operation Crocodile Smile 11’ is certainly misadvised, especially at this time when the region is gradually coming to terms with the urgent need for sustaining the relative peace in the region”, it added.

The Niger Delta group recalled that the previous launch of the ‘Operation Crocodile Smile’ in the Niger Delta last year “left in its trail bitter tales of woes, including harassment, destruction of helpless communities and killings of innocent persons” adding that there is palpable fear that the second coming of this Operation Crocodile Smile “will not be any better since it is fraught with the tendencies for heating up the fragile peace in the Niger Delta region.”

It added: “This fear and concern is being expressed by cross section of the people of the helpless communities and stakeholders in the region, including the Delta Ijaw Women Initiative (DIWI), a body of concerned women who have also lend its voice to the call for restraint on the part the Nigerian Military in the planned deployment of ‘Operation Crocodile Smile’ in the region.

“The basis for the second coming of Operation Crocodile Smile in the Niger Delta region does not arise at this moment. The reasons canvassed by the Military to justify the launch of the operation in the South-East which included kidnappings, robbery and other vices, have very low occurrence level in the South-South, and so do not require the deployment of any special ‘Crocodile’. Militarization of the region is certainly not the way out.  

“What is needed now is to consolidate on the existing peace to fast-track peace and development in the Niger Delta region.” 

IPOB Challenges Proscription

Also yesterday, IPOB challenged it’s proscription by the federal government and it’s labelling as a terrorist organization. 

The Acting Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Abdu Kafarati, had, on Wednesday, while granting an exparte application by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami outlawed the activities of the organisation and further labeled it as a terrorist organization. 

But in a motion before the Federal High Court in Abuja and brought pursuant to section 6(6)(1)(4) of the 1999 constitution, the organisation asked the Court to set aside the order of injunction, it gave against IPOB on the 20th day of September, 2017. 

 In the suit with number: FHC/ABJ/CS/871/17, IPOB is  equally asking the court to make any further order as it may deem fit to make in the circumstance. 

In the motion filed on its behalf by its counsel, Ifeanyi EJiofor, the organisation claimed that the Exparte order made on the 20th day of September 2017, by the Court was made without jurisdiction, as the order it said was granted against an entity unknown to law. 

It further alleged that there is a clear suppression and misrepresentation of facts in the Attorney General Affidavit evidence, pursuance to which the Order was granted. 

The organization added further that the order which proscribed it and labeled it a terrorist organisation was unconstitutional, since it was made in clear violation of the constitutionally guaranteed right of the Indigenous People of Biafra to self-determination; Article 20(1) of the Africa Charter on Human & Peoples Rights, now domesticated into our Law under (Ratification and Enforcement Act) (Cap 10) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990; Right to fair hearing, Right to freedoms of expression, and the press and Rights to peaceful Assembly and Association; clearly provided for under Sections 36, 39 and 40 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as (Amended) 2011. 

The respondent/applicant argued that a declaratory order cannot be made pursuant to an Exparte Application, without hearing from the party against whom the order was made. 

In an affidavit deposed to by one Prince Mandela Umegborogu, an Associate Solicitor in the Law Firm of I.C. Ejiofor & Co., the Respondent/Applicant maintained that members of IPOB are lawful and non-violent socio-ethnic pressure group, largely made up of Indigenous People of Igbo extraction, and of Igbo neighboring states of Biafra region/origin. 

“That as Indigenous People of the Igbo speaking states, and neighboring states of Biafran origin, they are a Community of individuals, and not registered as a registered as a legal entity.

“That the Respondent are merely a community of Indigenous People exercising their constitutionally guarantee right to self-determination freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association. 

“That the Respondent’s members have no history of violence or armed struggle in the exercise of their rights to self-determination.” 

“That the depositions in the Affidavit in Support of the Exparte application to proscribe the Indigenous People of Biafra are all false, and misleading. 

“That pictures (photographs) and video footages attached in the Applicant/Respondent’s affidavit were all concocted and video/photo shopped to make it appear real, and do not represent the true images/impression of the Respondent/Applicant’s members.