The attention of Foundation for Environmental Rights Advocacy and Development, FENRAD, a human and environmental rights group was recently drawn to unlawful ‘detention’ of some customers at Shoprite, Umuahia following a claim of vandalism and robbery by some men and/or officers of the Nigeria Army who had also gone to the grocery and household retail outlet for shopping like those who only became their victims.
According to sources and clips obtained online, the friction climaxed when upon returning to the car from the mall the military personnel raised an alarm to the effect that their car had been vandalised and their cash stolen. The tension was heightened further when they said personnel who had insisted on seeing a CCTV footage of the mall for investigation called their comrades who later besieged the mall and held other customers for long therein against their wishes. Things got to a head with the people nearly staging a protest, FENRAD learns.
FENRAD condemns the incident in its entirety and regrets the fact that a mall which usually have numerous customers and patronisers on the daily could in peacetime be turned into a detention facility where people were denied their rights to freedom of movement and even of that to economic choice. What is more, the incident, which nearly triggered a protest and civil disobedience, FENRAD said, could only further worsen the relationship between the military and residents of Abia State capital. FENRAD regrets that some personnel of the military could actually create a scene such as seen at the mall.
Also does FENRAD call on the authorities to see to ending the unwholesome exercise of having travellers within the Southeast alight from vehicles and walk through military formations with their hands raised. Places like Ekwusigo LGA in Anambra State, Arondizuogu and Akokwa axis, Uturu areas have the army subject travellers and commuters to this very horrible experience. FENRAD wonders so much if such a ‘drill’ is part of the military operation in the region. It bears repeating that this Gestapo-like operation is capable of hindering economic activities within the region as the citizens are subjected to fear, torture and harassment and so find it hard to move to some of these ‘occupied’ areas.
FENRAD calls on the legislators of the region, governors and even traditional rulers and as well on the federal government to ensure that the region is not subjected to slow and undeclared war where the army uses citizens for target practice.
FENRAD wants the military to call its personnel to order and ensure that they exhibit discipline and professionalism for which the military, all over the world, is known. The Southeast is still part of Nigeria’s space and territory which should be protected and not an area under occupation of military forces and jackboot, FENRAD says.
Comrade Nelson Nnanna Nwafor
FENRAD Executive Director