The recently launched military operation in the South East is still generating ripples among stakeholders in the region, in view of the fact that previous ones led to the killing of some youths and dehumanisation of people of the region. The military exercise was launched on October 4, 2021 by the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant-General Farouk Yahaya, in Enugu. Exercises “Still Water” and “Enduring Peace” are also simultaneously being conducted in the South South, South West and North Central regions.
According to COAS, the exercises will be conducted in collaboration with other security agencies such as the Nigeria Police, Department of State Services, Air Force, Immigration, NDLEA, NSCDC, FRSC, Federal Fire Service and others.
Although the Nigerian military authorities have explained that the routine exercise would check the rise in criminality in the region as the Yuletide season approaches, there are fears that the rules of engagement for such operations may not be fully observed. This can explain why both the World Igbo Congress (WIC) and the South East Council of Traditional Rulers have kicked against the exercise and militarisation of the zone.
WIC particularly observed that the military exercise code-named “Golden Dawn” would re-enact the atrocities of the ugly and murderous Python Dance that consumed the lives of hundreds of Igbo youth. On their part, the traditional rulers of the South East states, under the aegis of South East Council of Traditional Rulers, decried “with utter dismay and sadness the rapid deterioration of affairs in Alaigbo resulting in gruesome killings, destruction of properties, a general atmosphere of fear, and progressive militarisation of our homeland.”
The traditional rulers also noted that “across the five states of the political zone and other Igbo speaking areas, there is a distinct feeling of disaffection, frustration and distrust, all of which are alien to our nature and tradition as a people.”
The military authorities should take note of the concerns raised by the concerned people of the zone and ensure that operation “Golden Dawn” is conducted in line with acceptable rules of engagement. Apart from tackling the rising spate of insecurity and disturbance of public peace in the region, it is believed that the operation will secure life and property in the region.
There is no doubt that the South East region has been in the eye of the storm lately on account of rising insecurity and lawlessness. Security in the region has snapped, giving room for all manner of armed gangs to run wild, making life difficult for the people. The most audacious assault on the region is the menace of the so-called “unknown gunmen” who are on the prowl.
Imo, Anambra and Ebonyi states have been victims of such murderous attacks which led to the death of some prominent people in the region. The economy of the region has also gone down with the weekly Monday ‘sit-at-home’ order by IPOB. There is no way the situation can continue like this. There is need for peace in the South East.
The first military exercise in the South East was in 2015 when the army deployed troops to halt the activities of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). Unfortunately, the exercise led to the death of scores of IPOB members and others. Other military exercises in the region also ended in tragedy.
Therefore, the soldiers involved in this exercise should not use it as an alibi to humiliate the people of the zone and further abuse their constitutional rights. The recent invasion of Izombe in Imo State by soldiers due to a minor misunderstanding between soldiers and some youths and subsequent loss of lives, which is a case in point, is also condemnable. To avoid the mistakes of previous military exercises in the region, let the rules of engagement be truly observed.
We call on the leaders in the region to have a stakeholders meeting and deliberate on how best to tackle the growing bloodletting in the region. Let the youths also eschew violence. Any order or directive constituting an impediment to the people’s freedom of movement or preventing them from going about their lawful activities should be relaxed. Let the South East governors ensure good governance and provide jobs for the youths.