The Federal Government should direct its energies to addressing causes of escalating crescendo of agitations and expressions of disaffection, marginalisation and exclusion raised by people from different parts of the country.
THE Nigerian Army has brushed aside warnings, criticisms and angst mostly in the South following its exercise, and has said it would launch Python Dance II (Egwu Eke 11) in the South East and Cross River today as scheduled.
In a statement in Abuja, the Director, Army Public Relations, Brig.-Gen. Sani Usman, rather urged the public to disregard information credited to Abia State Governor Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu and GOC 82 Division, Enugu, that soldiers would be gradually withdrawn from streets in Aba and Umuahia in Abia State from Friday.
He explained that: “This should not be misconstrued as withdrawing of troops earmarked for Exercise Egwu Eke II. The General Officer Commanding 82 Division, Major General Adamu Baba Abubakar has not said such thing.
“Consequently, we state that Exercise Egwu Eke II is commencing Friday as scheduled. Commanders have been instructed to ensure that all hands are on deck to commence the exercise to its logical completion.
“We wish to state further that the successful completion of the exercise will dovetail into the various states security outfits till the end of this year.”
He called on the people of Abia, Enugu Ebonyi, Anambra, Imo and Cross River states, where the exercise would take place to go about their lawful businesses.
Usman warned that the army would not allow any individual or group to jeopardize the conduct of the field training through unlawful or criminal activities.
“Hoodlums and criminal elements are once again warned to be law abiding and not cause any breach of peace,” he said as he expected that troops involved in the exercise would conduct themselves professionally manner, and abide by the rules of engagement and code of conduct.
Out of nine members of the NNPC board, the North has six members, including the Chief of Staff to the President while the South-South and South-West have only one member each. Furthermore, how can the government justify the fact that the South-East is totally excluded from senior positions of the Nigerian Armed Forces, the Security Services and the Paramilitary Services
Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) calls for restraint
BUT the Army’s insistence has not stopped the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) from urging the Army to thread carefully in its exercise in order to avoid “a Boko Haram type of insurgency” in the South East.
PANDEF, in a statement by its National Leader, Chief Edwin Clark, in Abuja on Thursday, noted that the application of high-handed tactics, threats and use of force against defenceless civilians embarking on meaningful cause had never worked in Nigeria or anywhere else.
According to PANDEF, “Nigerians in any part of the country have the right to peaceful agitation, peaceful protest and other lawful means of expressing their grievances.
“May we remind ourselves of how Boko Haram started in the North East. It was extra-judicial killing of leader of the sect, Mohammed Yusuf, in July, 2009, that led Boko Haram insurgency, which we have been trying to fight and contain like a war between two countries.’’
PANDEF described as unacceptable the deployment of soldiers with life ammunition into peaceful rural communities in Abia.
Stated Clark: “The Operation Python Dance I, Operation Crocodile Smile in the Niger Delta and now, Operation Python Dance II in the South-East are unhelpful strategies.
“PANDEF wishes to call on the Federal Government to take immediate steps to bring an end to the seeming militarisation of the zone.’’
“The Federal Government should direct its energies to addressing causes of escalating crescendo of agitations and expressions of disaffection, marginalisation and exclusion raised by people from different parts of the country.
Urging the government to initiate steps to address the causes of agitations and being responsive to the yearnings of Nigerians for restructuring, the group pondered, “how can the government justify the fact that the people of the South East are totally excluded from being represented on the Board of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) meanwhile, some of the South-East states, especially Imo and Abia and Anambra, are oil-producing.
“Out of nine members of the NNPC board, the North has six members, including the Chief of Staff to the President while the South-South and South-West have only one member each.
“Furthermore, how can the government justify the fact that the South-East is totally excluded from senior positions of the Nigerian Armed Forces, the Security Services and the Paramilitary Services?
“Why will the annual budget of the Federal Government be so much skewed against the South-East and the South-South and heavily lopsided in favour of the North-West and the North-East?”