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Rights Groups Express Concern Over Militarisation of S/East Nigeria

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N500m collected from illegal roadblocks monthly
..by Paschal Okeke, Abuja

The South East Based Coalition of Human Rights Organisations (SBCHRO) have expressed deep concern over  increased military presence in many parts of the zone that seem to have turned that part of Nigeria into an occupied territory.

The group in a statement on Thursday by the Board Chairman of Intersociety, Mr. Emeka Umeagbalasi, raised the alarm on the deployment of more Nigerian Army Battalion and “the war-like heavy equipment to all the strategic roads in the southeast”.

Umeagbalasi stated that Igbo travellers and road users have reported what looked like laying of siege by the military at boundary posts along Imo-Abia and Port Harcourt axis; Enugu (Nsukka)-Benue (Oturpa) axis; Anambra (Onitsha Niger Bridgehead)-Delta (Asaba) axis; and Ebonyi (Abakiliki)-Enugu axis.

Citing the recent Amnesty International (AI) report, he claimed that the Nigerian Security Forces deployed on South East roads since July/August 2015 and May 2016, killed between 150 and 250 defenceless citizens or more and injured over 300 others”.

Umeagbalasi also cited the Intersociety report of December 2015,  claiming that “a total of N1.03billion was illicitly collected and pocketed by the personnel and authorities of the Nigeria Police Force from 750 roadblocks mounted on Southeast Roads between  October 21 to  December 21, 2015; on average of N500million per month”.

Part of the statement read: “Today, and since the inception of the Buhari Administration in late May 2015; particularly since August 2015 when Nnamdi Kanu’s IPOB organised non-violent and peaceful street protests in Southeast and South-south areas of Nigeria, coupled with Buhari Administration’s brazen disposition towards radical Islamism; a dangerous dimension, by way of ethno-religious cleansing  has been added, coded and embedded into the operational modes of the Nigerian Army, Navy and the Police in the Southeast Zone.

“Further attestation to this is the brazen domination of the command structure of the  Nigerian Army in the Southeast Zone under its 82nd Division in Enugu; by carefully selected officers of from the GOC of the 82nd Division to his Spokesman; from the Commandant of the Onitsha Military Cantonment to the Commander of the 144 Battalion in Ukwa, near Aba in Abia State.”

Umeagbalasi added that the state of federal roads in the Zone was in tatters; railway system in the area was moribund.

According to him,  the Enugu International Airport is skeletal and a ghost yard and  “yet fiscal revenue accruals including those from taxes, import duties, oil and gas exploration and other sources; which originate from the Zone, are used to run governance and service the people of the upper north”.

“The most disheartening, wicked and condemnable of it all is the last week total blockage of the Niger Bridgehead by the soldiers. Despite the industrial hazard or dilapidating or sinking condition of the Bridge; requiring steady less load capacity; the soldiers cordoned off and blocked the two main lanes of the Bridge in front of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu Statue.

” The two lanes were blocked with empty drums painted in military colours with a narrow space for only one vehicle passage. The Ojukwu Statue is also routinely abused by the Jihadist soldiers squatted under a tent by its corner. The Statue is steadily spat at and defaced. Urination around its brick is also a routine.

“Today, they are at it again; by abandoning two tents built for them to watch over vehicular and other traffic movements, to out-right blockage of the two lanes for obvious ethno-religious cleansing reasons. They also want the sickening Niger Bridgehead to collapse so as to ground the Zone socially, economically, culturally, technologically, industrially and politically; having conspired wickedly to stop and abandon the Second Niger Bridge Project,”  he stressed.


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