By Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja
The Coalition of Civil Society Groups (CCSG) has strongly condemned the recent directive by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai, to the GOCs and Brigade Commanders in the South-east region to clamp down on the activities of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and other splinter groups on the pretext that they are threatening to disrupt the conduct of the 2019 general elections in the region.
The coalition, comprising no fewer than 26 civil society organisations spread across the country, including Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), Save Nigeria Group, Centre for Social Justice, and Network on Police Reform in Nigeria, among others, said the proposed military action in the South-east was uncalled for and provocative.
In a statement made available to THISDAY in Abuja, Wednesday, CCSG urged President Muhammadu Buhari to call the Chief of Army Staff to order and to desist from such provocative action.
According to the coalition, the clamp down order, coming a few days to the presidential and other elections, appears to be an attempt at suppressing the voters in the South-east through intimidation and militarisation of the zone.
“For the avoidance of doubt, “vote suppression is a strategy used to influence the outcome of an election by discouraging or preventing specific groups of people from voting. In the circumstances, the proposed deployment of the Army to the South East of Nigeria in anticipation of the general elections is totally unacceptable and condemnable
“We recall that the last deployment of soldiers tagged “Operation Python Dance” led to massive violation of human rights, especially the rights to life, human dignity, personal liberty, freedom of movement,freedom of association, etc.
“We further recall that despite the documentation and empirical evidence of these massive violations, the Nigerian authorities have failed, refused and neglected to bring the perpetrators to justice,” the civil society groups lamented.
While acknowledging the duty of the security agencies to take pre-emptive action to prevent the breakdown of law and order, such actions, it noted, must be done with full respect to the rule of law and constitutionalism.
“Such pre-emptive action must be based on credible empirical evidence and not on mere conjecture or simply an established pattern of intimidating the South-east region. Assuming such evidence exists, it is the duty of the police to maintain law and order and an invitation can only be extended to the military if there is an escalation which the police is not equipped to deal with.
“It is not the duty of the army to see to the day-to-day security of lives and property as this is the constitutional mandate of the
Nigeria Police Force.
“This clamp down order, coming a few days to the presidential and
other elections, appears to be an attempt at suppressing the vote in
the South East through intimidation and militarisation of the zone.
For the avoidance of doubt, “vote suppression is a strategy used to
influence the outcome of an election by discouraging or preventing
specific groups of people from voting,” the statement said.
The coalition, therefore urged President Muhammadu Buhari to call the
Chief of Army Staff to order and to desist from such provocative
action, adding that the South-east of Nigeria is a peaceful region.
“The soldiers should rather be deployed to the North -east region
where lives are lost and properties destroyed on a daily basis. We
hope that President Muhammadu Buhari and his Chief of Army Staff will
let wise counsel prevail,” CCSG said.