…IGP launches ‘Operation Restore Peace’ to check insecurity in S’East
…Ohanaeze, ASETU, Nnamani, Abia elders speak
…Posting core northern officers to eastern military formations a prelude to genocide
…Ask FG to rescind shoot-on-sight order
…Provide proof of shoot-on-sight order —Army
…Yoruba ‘ll defend Ndigbo against any attack, Sunday Igboho vows
…Asks police personnel to be hard, ruthless on armed groups
By Anayo Okoli, Regional Editor South East, Kingsley Omonobi, Dennis Agbo, Ikechukwu Odu & Steve Oko
WITH one voice, a collection of Igbo elders and leading organisations, yesterday, raised alarm over alleged ethnic cleansing plans against the Igbo ethnic nationality in Nigeria.
They spoke on a day that the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, launched ‘Operation Restore Peace’ to check the rising insecurity across South East states just as the Yoruba freedom fighter, Sunday Igboho, cried out against an alleged plot by the Army to attack “Biafra people.”
Specifically, the Igbo elders and leading groups said the recent shoot-on-sight order to soldiers in the South-East and alleged posting of core northern officers to man eastern military formations were part of the grand plot to kill Ndigbo.
Igbo groups that spoke yesterday include apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo; Association of South-East Town Unions, ASETU; and Forum of Abia Elders.
Former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, also spoke in like manner.
Condemning the military exercise in the South-East, Ohanaeze Ndigbo said the shoot-on-sight order given to Nigerian soldiers on Igbo youths is unwarranted, warning the Nigerian government to learn a lesson from history by not fighting an unwinnable war against nationalism.
Ohanaeze rather advised the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government to “seek possible peaceful options that are the only solution that guarantees national unity and peaceful coexistence.”
Ohanaeze lamented that “subnational consciousness or ethnocentric nationalism which is a dangerous form of nationalism to national unity has taken over Nigeria”.
The apex Igbo socio-cultural body noted that “the dream of Nigeria’s unity is receding and fading fast with violence, crises and conflicts.”
In a statement by its spokesman, Alex Ogbonnia, the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Professor George Obiozor was quoted as being “unequivocal that the current problems confronting Nigeria, e.g. ethnic militia, agitation for secession, insurgency, etc are products of sustained orchestrated injustice in governance.”
The statement read: “The attention of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide has been drawn to the “Shoot on Sight Order” given to the Nigerian soldiers on how to engage the Igbo youths in the oncoming weeks. The Sahara Reporters, May 8, elaborated on the new secret plan which by the grace of God has come to the public domain.
“The report further revealed that the exercise will commence from Orlu in Imo State, South East Nigeria. This is very disturbing.
“The pattern of deployment of northern military officers to the South-East lends credence to the above report. Sahara Reporters revealed that in preparation for the above, the Nigerian army has posted Northern Muslims as commanders over its operations and brigades in Anambra, Imo, Abia, Akwa Ibom, Enugu, Benue, Edo, Delta and Rivers.
“In Anambra State, the Cantonment Commandant of the 302 Artillery Regiment, Onitsha, is Col. Abdulsalam Abubakar Sambo, a Hausa-Fulani Muslim; while in Imo State, the Brigade Commander of 34 Brigade, Obinze, is Brig Gen Ibrahim Tukura, another northerner; in Abia State, the Brigade Commander of 14 Brigade, Ohafia, is Brig Gen M. Ibrahim, still, a northerner; while in Akwa Ibom State, the Brigade Commander of 2 Brigade, Uyo, is Brig Gen Faruk Mijinyawa, another northerner. This is truly worrisome!”
Obiozor lamented that “subnational consciousness or ethnocentric nationalism which is a dangerous form of nationalism to national unity has taken over Nigeria.The dream of Nigeria’s unity is receding and fading fast with violence, crises and conflicts.
“Ohanaeze Ndigbo is unequivocal that the current problems confronting Nigeria, eg ethnic militia, agitation for secession, insurgency, etc are a product of sustained orchestrated injustice in governance.
“Ohanaeze Ndigbo warns that shoot-on- sight order to soldiers on Igbo youth is a call for another pogrom, ethnic cleansing and genocide. Ohanaeze asks the Federal Government to refrain from the use of force in resolving the present national crises.
“History shows that military and violent means to solve the national question is bound to fail as it leads to further national fractionalization, anarchy and eventual or inevitable disintegration, as in all Empires or multi-national states or countries.”
Another genocide against Igbo—ASETU
On its part, ASETU, in a statement by its National President, Chief Emeka Diwe, said the shoot-on-sight order was “an official declaration of genocide against Ndigbo,” adding that the order has increased the suspicion of “a conspiracy to wipe out Ndigbo.”
It said: “No nation should make such declaration against its citizens. That is not the solution to the problem we are facing. To begin with, who are these unknown gunmen? The security agencies have not come out openly to tell us who they are and the factors that propel their activities.
“In some states of the South East, we hear the governors alleging that these unknown gunmen are political thugs and hoodlums recruited to create instability by those opposed to their governments.
“Other authorities have different views about the unknown gunmen. How then could the order to shoot-on-sight precede the unmasking of the criminal elements? Will it also be out of place to think that these unknown gunmen might be infiltrators from outside Igboland who may wish to create a condition that will ignite military action against us?
“The three things that are mostly needed now are intelligence, stake holding and soft security. We must begin by identifying what the issues are and the actors involved, and have comprehensive action plan to permanently address the situation. Rolling out military tanks and administering street justice on suspects will not help.
“When innocent people are arbitrarily killed in the process, it will further fan the embers of anger, apprehension and possible escalation of hostilities.”
Use intelligence gathering, not discreet operation —Nnamani
In his reaction, Senator Ken Nnamani advised the Nigeria military to use information gathering rather than discreet military operation in dealing with the security challenges in the South east and South south regions of the country.
Nnamani said that using discreet military operation in the regions would be misinterpreted to mean ethnic cleansing and further advised that another option is use of Carrot and Stick approach.
He said: “Intensified information gathering and the use of modern technology will be more effective and advisable in dealing with the insecurity in the South-East and the South-South. ‘Discreet military operations’ could be misinterpreted as ‘ethnic cleansing.
“Also ‘carrot and stick approach’ should be considered. In this case, a contact group made up of highly credible indigenes of South-East and South-South should be put together to start holding difficult and honest conversations with the promoters of the senseless violent acts in the zones. These will achieve more lasting peace in the country.”
Rescind shoot-on-sight order —Abia elders
Also, members of the Abia Elders Forum comprising eminent citizens and elder statesmen including former Finance Minister, Kalu Idika Kalu; former Military Administrator of Cross River State, Navy Capt. Chris Osondu, retd; Professor Joshua Ogbonnaya; Arch Bishop Moses Ufomba; former Commissioner for Environment, Chukwuemeka Osuwa; Chief Isaac Ogbonna, among others warned against Igbo cleansing.
The elders after an emergency meeting in Umuahia to review the security situation in the country declared their opposition to the shoot-on-sight directive allegedly given to the military in the wake of the rising insecurity in the South-East zone
According to the forum, the implementation of the said order billed to commence in Orlu in Imo State, and then spread to other states in the zone is unwarranted.
The forum further claimed that the alleged deployment of core Northern officers to man Eastern military commands was part of the ploy towards actualising ethnic cleansing of Ndigbo and concealing evidence.
The elders also frowned at indiscriminate arrest and extra-judicial killings of Igbo youths after tagging them members of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB, or operatives or sponsors of the Eastern Security Network, ESN.
Such action, according to the forum, amounts to genocide in disguise.
In a communique jointly signed by the National President of the forum, Arch Bishop Princewill Ariwodo; and the National Secretary, Dr. Joseph Adiele, the forum asked the Presidency to immediately reverse the order.
The communique read in part: ” The Presidency should immediately rescind such divisive and inciting orders to shoot Igbo youths protesters on sight, and the evil-motivated postings of the core Muslim military commanders to the South-East without further delay.
“Youths arrested should henceforth be charged and given fair trial at the court of competent jurisdiction, while others who met their untimely death through this gruesome assassinations and extra-judicial killings should be accounted for, and the perpetrators punished in line with the constitution of the country.”
The forum also demanded justice for Miss Uchechi Eyioma, a nurse killed in Obigbo, Rivers State by security agents after allegedly tagging her a member of IPOB.
“Igbo youths and men are erroneously arrested and labelled IPOB members without fair hearing and killed like chicken without trial in a competent court of law.”
The Abia elders forum expressed full support for the pragmatic efforts of Ohanaeze Ndigbo towards averting the impending genocide against the race, and in championing the Igbo cause.
Igboho vows to defend Igbo
Meanwhile, Igboho in a statement by his Spokesman, Olayomi Koiki, on Monday, said that any attack against Biafra should be considered an attack against the Yoruba, vowing to mobilise his followers in defense of the Eastern region.
“We would like to inform the Federal Government of Nigeria that any attack on the South-East is an attack on the Yoruba.“”Biafra people have been targeted by the Nigeria Army and any further attacks on them, we would have no other options than to support our brothers and sisters in Biafraland,” Ighoho vowed.
Army debunks shoot-on-sight order
However, the Army Deputy Director of Information, 14 Brigade Ohafia, Captain Iliya Dauda, has challenged the groups to produce evidence of the said shoot-on-sight order.
He advised people against public utterances based on rumours as such is capable of sparking unnecessary crisis in the country.
IGP launches ‘Operation Restore Peace’
Launching Operation Restore Peace in Enugu yesterday, the IGP who said that similar special security plan would be introduced across other geo-political zones of the country to check banditry, kidnapping and other forms of security breaches, solicited for the support of sister security agencies to make the operation successful.
Code-named ‘Operation RP’ the security plan was launched at the Michael Okpara Square in Enugu, Enugu State.
He enjoined officers deployed for the operation to exhibit professionalism in the discharge of their duties. He also ordered them to be hard and ruthless in case of any counter operations from any armed group.
Part of the IGP’s remarks read:”It is with a deep sense of commitment to the spirit of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and our policing mandate that I address you on this occasion marking the flag-off of a Special Operational Action Plan which is code named ‘Operation RP’ for the stabilization of the security order in the South East Geopolitical Zone of our dear country.
“The people of South Eastern Nigeria are historically known to be peaceful, tolerant, innovative, industrious and entrepreneurial. They are highly respected citizens that have made their marks in the field of academics, scientific inventions and commerce. They are a unique ethnic group that freely and peacefully live with others across the country and within the South-East. Unfortunately, events of late have altered this positive narrative.
“The zone in recent years has been witnessing increasing cases of kidnapping, armed robbery and communal violence. This trend has of late been laced with inter-ethnic intolerance and separatist agitation as championed by the Indigenous People of Biafra and its armed wing, the Eastern Security Network.”