The Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo has called on the federal government to direct the military to call off its operation, code-named “Python Dance 11” in the South-east region.
It described the operation as an invasion of the region aimed at intimidating the people.
The Nigerian Army had on Friday announced its plan to launch “Operation Ogbu Eke II’’ – “Python Dance II’’, in the South East between September 15 and October 14, to check violent criminals, agitators and other forms of criminalities.
The Chief of Training and Operations, David Ahmadu, a major general, who announced the plan at a news conference in Abuja, said Operation Python Dance was first launched between November 27 and December 27, 2016 in the zone to tackle kidnapping, armed banditry and other crimes.
But in a statement issued on Tuesday by its President General, John Nwodo, the group argued that “Nigeria at this moment does not need such deliberate and proactive escalation of tensions and crisis.’’
The group warned the government not to resort to the use of brute force in resolution of issue of agitations for self-determination as there were more “civilised and established practices to resolve our democratic and security challenges.”
It described the operation as an act of intimidation and warned that if it is not discontinued immediately, it would be left with no alternative than “to conclude that this is a containment policy aimed at the South-east to intimidate our people from freely expressing their anger and angst at their marginalization and treatment as second-class citizens.”
It 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 the continuous use of force to silent dissent and free speech will only accelerate the growth of dissent and dissatisfaction. Fundamental Rights of freedom of expression are critical for a successful democracy.”
The group said that the claim that the programme was aimed at checking increasing crime in the region has no empirical support because the first Python dance was used to extort money from the people and never addressed the issue of crimes.
“Our people were shamelessly intimidated and harassed at these check points. 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 estimates of Transparency International and shattered public confidence of South-easterners in the Nigerian Army and Police.”
On the clash between Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB supporters and the military on Sunday near its leader, Nnamdi Kanu’s country home, Ohanaeze Ndigbo described it as an unfortunate incident, pointing out that there was no need for such a provocative action on the part of the army.
It stated, “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 incidences. Innocent civilians living in these other parts of Nigeria have not witnessed the type of invasion Umuahia witnessed Sunday night.”