A Prominent Pro- Democracy and Non-Governmental organization – HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has asked operatives of the Nigerian Army to maintain the cordial relationship it is enjoying amongst the people of South East of Nigeria especially as the Operation Python Dance three kicks off.
HURIWA spoke in Owerri, Imo State after an independent tour of the five South East of Nigerian States of Enugu, Anambra, Abia, Ebonyi and Imo State to assess the mood of the people of South East of Nigeria towards the recently inaugurated Operation Python Dance three and also to encourage the prospective South East voters to participate massively in the February and March 2019 General elections so as to elect only credible political office seekers who will abide by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1999 (as amended) and fundamentally rebuild the South East of Nigeria into an Economic and industrial hub.
The National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko who led a three member investigative team on the assessment visit to the South East of Nigeria stated that the general impressions the team got from a lot of residents of the South East Geopolitical zone of the Country is that this third phase of the military training operation by the Nigerian Army is geared towards assisting the Nigeria Police Force and other relevant law enforcement agencies to sweep off armed gangs and organized criminals terrorizing millions of law abiding citizens of the South East of Nigeria even as the national scope of the military exercise launched on Monday in Lagos by the Chief of Army staff Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai remains the trigger that comprehensively convinced the people of South East of Nigeria that the operation was not an isolated operation that is to target certain persons or groups of agitators in the South East of Nigeria.
HURIWA said the findings from the team which also coopted leaders of some Community based organizations in the South East of Nigeria show that unlike the previous OPERATION EGWU EKE 11 which specifically was perceived as an isolated operation that targeted sympathizers and perceived members of the pro-Self Determination campaigners of the Indigenous people of Biafra (IPOB) and witnessed several conflicts between members and sympathizers of IPOB and the armed forces of Nigeria leading to fatalities, most people who spoke with HURIWA said the current OPERATION PYTHON DANCE 3 is acceptable provided the armed operatives will stay off unnecessary confrontations with unarmed persons and also not be deployed to manipulate the forthcoming elections. The people of the South East of Nigeria are ready and determined to actively participate in the elections which they see as the last opportunity to elect persons that will guarantee good governance in the zone.
HURIWA said thus: “Although as a platform that campaigns for constitutional democracy we had initially canvassed that the Nigerian Army should focus on battling the armed terrorists of Boko Haram in the North-East of Nigeria and ensure that Boko Haram terrorists are significantly degraded, decimated and destroyed, but most people interviewed in the South East of Nigeria said the military training that is code named OPERATION EGWU EKE 3 is not a threat to the enjoyment of the fundamental human rights as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution and a plethora of International and continental human rights and humanitarian treaties, covenants, conventions, laws and agreements provided the armed operatives adhered strictly to the global best practices, stick to their rules of engagement and stay off the polling and collation centers during the forthcoming elections because the people believe that the Nigerian Army as a professional institution created by the constitution in section 217(1) ought not to be used by politicians to deprive the people of their civil liberties and the fundamental human rights recognized and guaranteed by the Constitution and many other internationally binding laws. We were told by the people that they are prepared to work and partner with the Nigerian Army to eradicate criminality and criminals who are creating insecurity in many towns and communities in the South East of Nigeria and discourage investors from locating their investments and businesses in the South East of Nigeria. These people living and doing legitimate businesses in the South East of Nigeria told us that their wish is that the South East of Nigeria will become a viable commercial and industrial zone so millions of graduates and school leavers who are now without jobs can be gainfully employed and they said if the military operations can guarantee security of life and property it therefore means that the States of the North East of Nigeria will in no time be rapidly developed so the youth can be productively engaged and become constructive creators of legitimate wealth to turn around the area and minimize the consequences of mass poverty and declining standards of living”.
Specifically section 217 of the constitution states thus: “There shall be an armed forces for the Federation which shall consist of an army, a navy, an Air Force and such other branches of the armed forces of the Federation as may be established by an Act of the National Assembly; (2) The Federation shall, subject to an Act of the National Assembly made in that behalf, equip and maintain the armed forces as may be considered adequate and effective for the purpose of -: defending Nigeria from external aggression; maintaining its territorial integrity and securing its borders from violation on land, sea, or air; suppressing insurrection and acting in aid of civil authorities to restore order when called upon to do so by the President, but subject to such conditions as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly; and performance such other functions as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly. (3) The composition of the officer corps another ranks of the armed forces of the Federation shall reflect the federal character of Nigeria.”
HURIWA recalled that the Nigerian Army had disclosed that its annual training programme, the ‘Operation Python Dance III’, also known as Exercise Egwu Eke III, in South East States formations and units under 82 Division, Nigerian Army is meant for eradication of criminals and not to endanger lives and property of the citizenry.
HURIWA recalled that the General Officer Commanding, GOC, 82 Division Nigeria Army, Maj. Gen. Emmanuel Boman Kabuk, at the 302 Artillery Regiment, (General Support) Onitsha, Anambra State, when he paid a familiarization visit to the military cantonment, having resumed duties in Enugu on August 6, 2018 also assured the people that the sanctity of the human rights and dignity of their human persons would be guaranteed and protected.
HURIWA quoted the Military General as stating as follows: “Exercise Egwu Eke III, is a training exercise for troops of 82 Division of the Nigerian Army and during the training, if there are criminal activities like armed robbery, kidnapping and other criminal activities that distort peace and tranquility of the citizenry along the line, the Army will not close its eyes and watch those criminals activities to thrive.”
HURIWA recalled that the Military General further spoke thus: “Nigerian Army therefore urged all law abiding citizens of the country, particularly the people of South East to go about their legitimate, lawful and genuine businesses, saying that “those afraid of the exercise are criminal elements that do not want their activities checked and are just being afraid of the consequences of their heinous criminal actions.”
HURIWA recalled that Maj. Gen Kabuk , who was accompanied by some senior Army officers from 82 Division, was led round the Onitsha military cantonment for inspection of equipment and facilities by the Commander, 302 Artillery Regiment, General Support, Col. Idongesit Akpan.
HURIWA recalled that General Kabuk also explained the exercise thus: “We want to let Nigerians know that if we are training, we are training to defend the territorial integrity of Nigeria. So, the pro Biafra activists and killer herdsmen are also Nigerians who are misguided. We should not allow misguided elements to disturb our peace. What we want is for law abiding citizens to live in peace. If you are not law abiding, the law will take its course. That is all we are saying.”
HURIWA expressed optimism that the armed operatives taking part in the Operation Python Dance three will absolutely abide by the rules of engagement and not violate the human rights of the citizens just as the group asked the citizens to partner with the armed forces to build a better society that will ensure peace and stability which are necessary for economic growth of the society and progressive advancement of fundamental human rights of the citizenry.
HURIWA promised to monitor the implementation of the operation python dance 3 to ensure compliance to the constitutional rights of citizens.