Military deployment in South South will have frightening potentials, says PANDEF

Nigerian Army spokesman Brigadier-General Sani Usman


• It’s A Ploy To Frustrate Agitation For Restructuring In South West – YCE
• Operation Meant To Enhance Troops Proficiency, Professionalism – Army 

Given its very poor human rights record, the latest being the widespread abuse of civilians in the South East, stakeholders have taken umbrage at the military action planned for other parts of the country.

While the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) is warning of “frightening potentials” the launch in a “very fragile area” portends, Yoruba groups are alleging that the Gen. Muhammadu Buhari-led administration is planning to use the operation to stop the agitation for restructuring.

Specifically, the Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE) is wondering why Buhari is rolling out military tanks now that the call for the restructuring of the country is deafening, adding that his body language suggests he is opposed to the clamour.

The Nigerian Army, yesterday, told The Guardian that it would soon launch a military operation code named “Operation Crocodile Smile II in the South West and South South regions. 

According to Director of Army Public Relations, Brig. Gen. Sani Usman, the operations are aimed at enhancing troops proficiency and professionalism, as well as, build a synergy between the service and other security agencies.Usman added that the operations would take cognizance of the security challenges in the formations’ areas of responsibilities, and try to nip in the bud, all forms of criminalities within the areas.

He said the objectives of the planned operations are “to enhance troops proficiency and professionalism, as well as, create synergy of efforts among the services and security agencies.” 

In making known PANDEF’s position, its secretary general Ledum Mitee, said that the Operation Python Dance, which was launched in the South-East has been tainted with reported cases of gross human rights abuses, should serve as a warning to the army that its planned extension to South South, in whatever guise, is not required in a democracy and it is condemnable.

“We cannot abandon whatever democratic space we have been able to get off the military since civilian rule returned. Now it appears the military has taken the centre stage apparently blackmailing the police, so that at whatever time there is a security threat it is the military that would be deployed.

“I think that the planned operation is uncalled for and should not be supported by any democratically minded person, especially as it has been made clear that all these operations infringe on human rights. Now the peace in the Niger Delta is a very fragile one that needs to be concretised and made sustainable. To now bring a military operation to this very fragile area is something that has frightening potentials,” he said.

Mitee said the police should be allowed to tackle issues like kidnapping, cultism and other related crimes, instead of being blackmailed out of their primary duties.He argued that Nigeria was not under a military regime to warrant incessant, indiscreet deployment of the military. “It is like asking a dog to go after a rat, instead of a pussycat. We should not just sit down and close our eyes, and use that as a justification for a military operation. The situation in the Niger Delta does not warrant any military operation,” he added.

For former Ijaw National Congress president, Professor Kimse Okoko, the planned military operation portends the morbid desire of a section of this country to continue to dominate the other parts.While wondering why the Federal Government has not launched any military operation against marauding herdsmen that have being killing, raping and maiming people, Okoko said: “This is a way of showing naked power, hoping that they will intimidate the people of the South South zone and then silent them. I don’t think it is the right thing to do. We need to put in place policies that would bring this country together and not activities or actions that will further divide the country and push it to its precipice. Doing that is of no good to anybody.

“This country is going down, the government has been a failure. They should sit down and look at issues bedevilling the country and take appropriate actions and not to be chasing shadows all over the place,” he said.Various Yoruba groups are of the view that the planned military action is a ploy to “silence and intimidate their leaders, who are clamouring for the restructuring of the country.”

They also warned Buhari to be wary of those they described as “fifth columnists” in his government that may want to use the military operation to subvert civil rule in the country.They insisted that the South West has been more peaceful than the North West and North Central and dismissed the arguments that the Operation Crocodile Smile 11 is meant to curb the security threats from Badoo and other cultist groups in the South West.

General Secretary of YCE, Dr. Kunle Olatunji said there is no need to roll out any military operation in the region because “the police has not told us they are incapable of maintaining peace in the South West.“There may be some minor skirmishes, but South West is relatively peaceful. We do not need any military operation here now because it sends a wrong signal that civilians cannot handle governance. Besides, why are they rolling out military operation now when we are clamouring for restructuring and the body language of the President appears to oppose that agitation?

“There is no breakdown of law and order in any part of South West to warrant military operation except to intimidate. We have been under military government for over three decades and we have passed through that era. There is no security risk here for the military to come to our streets for any show of force.”

For the National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin: “This Operation Crocodile Smile 11 has a sinister motive because we all know that this crocodile is not coming to smile at all. We do not see it as a tea party, but something meant to instill fear in people and intimidate those clamouring for restructuring. It is meant to suppress people.

“The reason given by the military does not make sense because the police and OPC had fought Badoo to a standstill in Lagos, and Ikorodu and other parts of South West have been in peace. When Evans the kidnapper was arrested, his neighbours in Magodo read it in newspapers like other Nigerians, they were not intimidated by the police, they did not carry tanks anywhere, they worked on intelligence and got him.

“If there is anywhere we need military operation it, is in the North West because Fulani herdsmen had been categorised as the fourth most dangerous terror group in the Global Terror Index, yet there is no crocodile smiling at them or python dancing with them.

“We strongly believe that there are fifth columnists, who are working in this administration. The President must be wary of them, and no military operations should come to the South West. President Buhari should know that this is how the fifth columnists went to Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s house in 1984 without his knowledge. If you continue to cage the South West, South South and South East with military operations what are they saying?

The National Coordinator of Yoruba Patriot Movement (YPM), Oladosu Oladapo, said if the intention of the Federal Government is to intimidate leaders of the region and silence the agitation for restructuring, the motive has failed.

He added: “There is peace here and we do not see any other reason for military operations than to intimidate our people to stop their agitation for restructuring and that is not possible.On his part, founder of Odua Peoples Congress (OPC), Dr Frederick Fasheun, has advised the Federal Government to allow the soldiers to stay in their barracks in order not to cause unnecessary crisis in the country.

He said the police has been doing well in curbing crisis in the South West, so the police should be better equipped, rather than bring soldiers to usurp their functions.Human Rights activist, Dr. Femi Aborisade insists plans to stage a military operation in the South West, “was not only alien to the Nigerian Constitution, but also poses serious threat to the nation’s democracy. We resist military operation for Nigeria as a whole.  
 
It has not been established that there is breakdown of law and order; it has not been established that the police, which primary duty it is to maintain law and order is incapable. It has not also been established that Mr. President has approached the National Assembly to seek approval to draft the military. I therefore do not see the need to invite the military. The whole plan appears to be an attempt to bring Nigeria under military dictatorship. Even where Mr. President is compelled to draft the military, he ought to have approached the National Assembly.”
 
The human rights lawyer said it is up to the police to protect democracy and not the military because it has no constitutional role in that regard.National Secretary, Nigerian National Summit Group (NNSG), Tony Uranta, in decrying military involvement in democratic issues said, “while the constitutional role of the military is to secure Nigerian borders and national integrity is understood, we are still bemused that it is being deployed as an alternative to the police in maintaining law and order.

   
He alleged that the planned military operation was basically an attempt to divide the strong forces in the South South and South West, particularly the PANDEF, and that of Afenifere.Uranta warned that what Buhari is doing or planning for the South South and South West could trigger crisis. “It is therefore necessary for all stakeholders to urge the government to shelve the idea because of the danger it portends for the country. Rather than deploying the military against the constitutional role it is meant for, Mr President should allow the police to perform its actual role.”
   
Speaking in similar vein, the National Chairman, African Democratic Congress (ADC), Chief Ralph Nwosu said it is imperative of the military authority itself to advise President Buhari, in the interest of Nigeria, to desist from deploying military personnel in civil and democratic matters before it gets out of hand.
 
“While we will continue to condemn the military operation in South East in it entirety, we are warning him not to engage in deploying military or any military might to the South West and South South.”
 
 



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