Invasion: Ikpeazu Declares Curfew, Ohanaeze Wants Withdrawal of Troops from S’East

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The Igbo socio-cultural organisation, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, has called on the Federal Government to direct the military to stop its military operation in the South-East immediately.

The Ohanaeze expressed discomfort with what it called the invasion of the South-East by soldiers, operating under a code name Python Dance 11.

In a statement on Tuesday in Abuja by its President-General, Chief John Nwodo, the group stated that the military operation was aimed at intimidating the people.

The Chief of Training and Operations of the Nigerian Army, Major Gen.  D. D.  Ahmadu, had, on Friday, announced the commencement of the operation.

Nwodo said, “Nigeria, at this moment, does not need such deliberate and proactive escalation of tensions and crisis.”

He believed that there were more civilised and established ways to resolve the country’s democratic and security challenges rather than resort to the use of brute force.

Ohanaeze added, “In a democracy, the level of disenchantment expressed by the people of the South-East of Nigeria ought to have provoked a serious dialogue between our people and the federal executive and the legislature.

“History teaches us that continuous use of force to silence dissent and free speech will only accelerate the growth of dissent and dissatisfaction.

“The fundamental right to freedom of expression is critical to a successful democracy.

“Our people were shamelessly intimidated and harassed at checkpoints. Operation Python Dance 1 procured no arrests of criminals that were prosecuted for any of the criminal activities that Operation Python Dance II is supposed to address.

“Instead, it witnessed reckless and indiscriminate murder of self-determination agitators in Asaba, Aba, Nkpor and Port Harcourt, numbering up to 191 by the estimate of Transparency International and shattered public confidence of south-easterners in the Nigerian Army and the police.”

Nwodo described the invasion of Nnamdi Kanu’s home by soldiers as unfortunate.

He said, “We believe that it is a deliberate invasion of a quiet homestead, an act of provocation and a continuing policy of intimidation because crimes of monstrous proportions are occurring in other parts of Nigeria.

“Such crimes include ravaging killings by Fulani herdsmen in the Middle Belt; secret cult killings in Lagos and the South-West; bunkering and armed resistance in the Delta; wanton kidnappings and killing of military personnel in Kaduna State and environs as well as Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East.

“The Nigerian Army has never embarked on Operation Python Dance in any of the other five geopolitical zones on account of these incidents. Innocent civilians living in these other parts of Nigeria have not witnessed the type of invasion Umuahia witnessed on Sunday night.”

In a similar vein, the Owerri Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association, Civil Liberties Organisation, Igbo National Council and some residents of Owerri, the Imo State capital, described Operation Python Dance 11 as an act of illegality.

They, therefore, called on the National Assembly to reprimand and caution the Chief of Army staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai.

The Owerri NBA Chairman, Lawrence Nwaeketi, described Operation Python Dance as a declaration of war on the South-East geopolitical zone by the Nigerian Army.

The legal practitioner added, “The military is not saddled with the responsibility of making arrests. It is the constitutional responsibility of the Nigeria Police.

“There is no external aggression in the South-East. The military should first arrest the Arewa youths who are threatening the peace and unity of this country by giving a quit notice to lawful citizens of Nigeria.”

The President of the CLO, Wisdom Durueke, described the military exercise in South-East as “uncalled for.”

Also, in a statement in Owerri by its National President, Chilos Godsent, INC urged President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Assembly to, as a matter of urgency, mandate the Army to stop Operation Python Dance.

In the meantime, the Abia State Governor Okezie Ikpeazu has declared a three-day curfew in Aba, the commercial hub of Abia State, starting from Tuesday (yesterday) to Thursday, September 14.

The curfew, the government said, would last from 6pm to 6am.

Ikpeazu, who spoke with newsmen at the Government House, Umuahia, noted that the state had noticed the skirmishes between some groups in the state, especially IPOB members and men of the Nigerian Army.

He urged residents of the state to remain law-abiding and go about their lawful business without fear of molestation.

Ikpeazu warned the people against confrontation with military personnel or other security agents, saying the military operation was meant to check criminal activities in the state.

He said, “The operation, as declared by the Army, is intended to check kidnapping, banditry, assassination, secessionist activities within the region, amongst other forms of criminal activities.

“The recent confrontation between the Nigerian Army and members of IPOB on Sunday, 10th September, 2017, could presumably be attributed to the commencement of the said Operation Python Dance II.

“While the Government of Abia State recognizes the right of the Nigerian Army and other security agencies to perform their statutory duty of protection of lives and property of Nigerian citizens, such duties must be carried out within acclaimed Nigerian and international standards of engagement with the civil populace, with due respect to the human rights of citizens and sanctity of human lives.”

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