Multiple condemnations have trailed today’s invasion of the Secretariat of the Nigeria Union of Journalists in Umuahia, Abia State, where many media professionals were assaulted and their property destroyed.
In a statement by the zonal leadership of the Union, signed by the National Vice President (South East- zone C), Comrade Chris Isiguzo and Secretary, Comrade Kenneth Ofoma, the frowned at the development, describing it as unacceptable.
The Statement entitled “Invasion of NUJ Press Centre Umuahia, Abia State by the Military: is Nigeria officially a Police State?” expressed concerns over the abuse of media professionals who were performing their constitutional duties as at the time of the incident.
The Statement reads in part:
“The attention of the leadership of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Zone C, (South East) has been drawn to the unwarranted invasion of the Press Centre of NUJ, Abia State Council, at Umuahia today 12th September, 2017, by the Nigerian army. The military personnel reportedly beat up journalists at sight and destroyed their working tools such as Samsung Tablets, mobile telephones, and mini-recorders. The military men also destroyed furniture, documents and other property yet to be quantified. This unprovoked attack, to say the least, is barbaric and shameful, and a throwback to dark days of military dictatorship, which the media
and other well meaning organizations and individuals fought hard to change the regime and psyche.
The attack on the journalists on the ostensible suspicion of taking photos and/or videos of the military on a “show of strength” in a highly populated busy street, without any atom of security threat, calls to question; whether Nigeria is still operating a civil democracy or military dictatorship? Has Nigeria returned to the dark
days of police state? Or is Nigeria at war? If indeed the military wants to “showcase her strength”, what is
wrong in the media, if at all they took pictures or video, in helping them to showcase the military power? Haven’t they been calling for media support and collaboration?”
“We call on President Muhammadu Buhari to call the military to order. Nigeria deserves peace and development, and South East is peaceful, as we have no evidence that Governors from this zone, who are the Chief Security Officers of the zone, had made any request for military deployment. Even the latest United Nation’s report indicates that South East geo-political zone is the most peaceful in the country. We call on the National Assembly and the International Community to weigh into this fragrant abuse of human rights, and premeditated provocation of civil disobedience that might precipitate shedding of innocent blood.”
“We also call on the Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Army Staff and the General Officer Commanding 82 Division, Nigerian Army Enugu to take note of this unprofessional conducts and punish the unruly officers. They should also take immediate steps to replace damaged equipments/gadgets and compensate our colleagues manhandled. There must be rules of engagement in line with international best practices.”
On the Biafra agitation, the Union called on the Federal Government to “adopt dialogue in handling issues of pro-Biafra agitations in the zone, which many have described as a metaphor for so many contradictions and the state of anomy in the economic and socio-political life of the country. All these had equally resulted in strident calls from different quarters for urgent restructuring of the country. The Federal Government cannot be
impervious to the building tension, frustration and suffering of Nigerians and shouldn’t pour fuel into a gathering fire”
Also in a statement condemning the deployment of Military to the South Eastern part of Nigeria, apex Socio-political group in the region, Ohanaeze Ndiigbo has condemned the Operation Python Dance 11, describing it as provocative and aimed at intimidating the people.
The Statement signed by the President of the group, John Nnia Nwodo called on the Federal Government take the soldiers off the streets of the region without delay.
The statement reads below:
“On the 8th of September 2017, Major General D. D. Ahmadu, Chief of Training and Operations of the Nigerian Army announced an exercise called Operation Python Dance II which he said was going to take place in the five South Eastern States to address “rampancy of assassinations, attack on security personnel, theft of weapons, violent agitations, armed banditry and kidnapping.”
“Operation Python Dance 1 has been on for quite a while in the South East. Whilst Operation Python Dance 1 lasted major roads, entries and exits of important cities in the South East had zigzag check points supervised by members of the Nigerian Army. They turned out to be toll gates used in extorting money under gun point from helpless motorists. Our people were shamelessly intimidated and harassed at these check points. Operation Python Dance 1 procured no arrests of criminals that were prosecuted for any of the criminal activities that Operation Python Dance II is supposed to address. Instead, it witnessed reckless and indiscriminate murder of self-determination agitators in Asaba, Aba, Nkpor, and Port Harcourt, numbering up to 191 by the estimates of Transparency International and shattered public confidence of South Easterners in the Nigerian Army and Police.”
“Operation Python Dance II announced to be launched for the five South Eastern states whose crime rates by Police statistics are not the highest in the country, turned out to focus on a tiny suburban road leading to the home of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, the IPOB LEADER.”
“Last night, that road was visited by a combined team of Police and Military personnel with Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) and armed personnel. Video posts from IPOB and the Nigerian Army did not indicate any act of disobedience before the invasion of this suburban environment. Contradictory versions of the encounter in this location came from both the Military/ Police and IPOB. Sporadic shots were fired at innocent civilians who had no firearms. Stones and bottles were pelted at the APC and military personnel. Which of the attacks preceded the other is not clear, but one was clearly disproportionate to the other and violated rules of military engagement in situations of this nature.”
“Ohaneze Ndigbo considers this development as unfortunate. We believe that it is a deliberate invasion of a quiet homestead, an act of provocation and a continuing policy of intimidation.”
“Crimes of monstrous proportions are occurring in other parts of Nigeria. Such crimes include ravaging killings by Fulani herdsmen in the Middle Belt, Secret cult killings in Lagos and the South West, bunkering and armed resistance in the Delta, wanton kidnappings and killing of military personnel in Kaduna State and environs as well as Boko Haram insurgency in the North East. The Nigerian Army has never embarked on Operation Python Dance in any of the other five geopolitical zones on account of these incidences. Innocent civilians living in these other parts of Nigeria have not witnessed the type of invasion Umuahia witnessed last night.”
“Ohaneze Ndigbo is left with no alternative than to conclude that this is a containment policy aimed at the South East to intimidate our people from freely expressing their anger and angst at their marginalization and treatment as second class citizens. In a democracy, the level of disenchantment expressed by the people of the South East of Nigeria ought to have provoked a serious dialogue between our people and the Federal Executive and the Legislature. History teaches us that the continuous use of force to silence dissent and free speech will only accelerate the growth of dissent and dissatisfaction. Fundamental Rights of freedom of expression are critical for a successful democracy.”
“Ohaneze Ndigbo therefore calls on The Federal Government to call off this phoney Operation Python Dance II. Nigeria at this moment does not need such deliberate and proactive escalation of tensions and crisis. There are more civilized and established practices to resolve our democratic and security challenges.”
Adding its voice, a Civil Society organization, Media Initiative against Injustice, Violence and Corruption-MIIVOC described the military invasion of the South East as an unnecessary and called on the President to call the Military to order.
MIIVOC Executive Director, Dr. Walter Duru made the organisation’s position on the matter during a telephone interview with The Agenda Online.
He further condemned the Army’s invasion of the Secretariat of the Nigeria Union of Journalists in Abia state, describing it as irresponsible and a desecration of the sacred institution of the press.
It would be recalled that soldiers stationed in Abia State lost control of their actions, as some of them attacked the Nigeria Union of Journalists’ [NUJ] secretariat along Aba road in Umuahia, Abia State, destroying property and injuring some of the members.