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Python Dance II: Foreign fact-finding mission indicts Nigerian military

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  • Demands troops redeployment from S/East

Joan Ejembi

The foreign fact-finding mission on the activities of civil-military relations in Nigeria has indicted the country’s military over the conduct and activities of its troops in the controversial exercise codenamed Egwu Eke II (Python Dance II).

Information revealed that Rapid Response Fact-Finding Mission (RRFFM) from the Diaspora, which was in Nigeria to conducted field investigations into military operations in the south-eastern part of the country, has reported gross human rights abuses related to the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) separatist movement.

The rights group on Wednesday also called on President Muhammadu Buhari to redeploy soldiers deployed to the region for Operation Python Dance II to the North East where last week suspected Boko Haram terrorists killed four American troops across the border with Niger Republic.
According to a statement issued on Monday by US-based human rights lawyer Emmanuel Ogebe, Special Counsel Justice for Jos Project, the Mission in its interim report and observations, pointed that: “Personnel of the Nigerian army attacked and molested members of the Nigerian Union of Journalists during an unprovoked invasion of the journalists’ press center, destroying and confiscating journalistic
equipment in September.

“The Nigerian Army attacked and destroyed the home of a Chief in Amara, Umuahia, who is the father of IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu who lived with him also in September. Several people were killed in Umuahia and several neighborhood homes and properties affected. Nigerian security forces engaged in reprisal attacks in Aba after IPOB members overran a military checkpoint.”

The group also reported that several people were killed and maimed in Aba; Suspected IPOB members stopped and searched vehicles for reprisal attacks on northerners as well as targeted house searches.
The report further stated: “Good Samaritans and the army helped hide and evacuate innocent targets including incidentally a citizen of Niger who has since fled to his own country. The military were not invited in by the eastern state governments and indeed the governors were already in dialogue with the separatists on their concerns.

“While the military presence has been scaled back from the streets and relative normalcy has been restored, the whereabouts of Nnamdi Kanu remains a mystery. There appears to be a serious lack of transparency or sincerity by the Army on its true mission to the Southeast, casualties of its operations to the public and even to the state governments; suspected members of IPOB burnt a Police station and attacked a Mosque.”
The report also indicated that RRFFM “received credible photos and footage of another raid on the home of Nnamdi Kanu’s family in Umuahia captured on CCTV, Sunday October 8, 2017.”
The group recommended that President Buhari should stand down the troops in the southeast till their mission scope is clearly defined and clarified and necessary legal benchmarks for deployment are met or better still redeploy them to northern Nigeria where on the Niger side of the border terrorists suspected to be Boko Haram killed four American troops.

“The President should consult the state governors as chief security officers of their states on the necessity or lack thereof of military deployment; the military should apologise to and return the seized
phone of a journalist.”
It further recommended that the Army should desist from further acts of aggression, intimidation and rights abuses of civilians including continuing attacks on the already destroyed Afara home of Chief Kanu.
The report also stated: “The army should identify for court martial its personnel who ransacked and man handled innocent Journalists in their Press Center; The Army should disclose the true casualties of its operations and provide compensation to the victims while arraigning the perpetrators.
“The government of Nigeria should allow the trial of IPOB leader Kanu to continue under the established framework of the legal system instead of brute military force. Failure to do so could force the further metastisation into yet another insurgency, which Nigeria simply cannot afford on an eastern flank.
“The government should as a matter of urgency provides treatment and compensation to the victims and families in a confidential manner that does not expose them to terrorist-labeling. The government should close the ‘governance gap’ exemplified by infrastructure deficits at local levels that are deep drivers of discontentment and frustration in an ordinarily industrious and entrepreneurial populace
“The international community and the Nigerian government should investigate the human rights abuses to ensure justice is done especially as the 50th memorial of the Asaba massacres is marked for which no perpetrators have been brought to book half a century after. The government should revisit the National Conference report that has encapsulated a lot of the institutional injustices that undermine equity and Fair Play in the Nigerian contraption
“The International Criminal Court should look into the military abuses in the southeast as part of its ongoing preliminary examination into Nigeria’s security forces.”
According to the report, the team which included an award winning film producer, an award winning international human rights lawyer and an award winning model were drawn from the US and UK. They have requested anonymity in the interim until the assignment is completed.
Credits/News Express

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