Ohanaeze, which is the umbrella body of Igbo people, has described the military operation in the South East, tagged: ‘Python dance 11’ as an invasion aimed at intimidating the Igbo people and called on the federal government to direct the military to call it off.
In a seven point statement, signed by its President General, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, today, Tuesday, the Ohanaeze said that Nigeria does not need such deliberate and proactive escalation of tensions and crisis at this moment.
It said that rather than resort to the use of brute force in resolution of issue of self determination: “there are more civilised and established practices to resolve our democratic and security challenges”
Ohaneze said that if this act of intimidation 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.”
The Igbo umbrella body said that 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 continous use of force to silence 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.”
Ohanaeze stressed that the claim that the program is 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 crime as the Police record showed that the South East is not the worst in crime rate in the country.
“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 Porthacourt 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 incident at the country home of IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, Ohaneze said that it was unfortunate, adding: “we believe that it is a deliberate invasion of a quiet homestead, an act of provocation and a continuing policy of intimidation.
“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.” [myad]