From: Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The controversy that trailed the military invasion of the South East region under the code name Operation PYTHON DANCE II has taken a legal dimension with a N100 billion lawsuit filed against the Nigerian Army and Federal government by a pressure group, Mezie Ala-Igbo Foundation (MAIF).
In the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1036/2017, the group is seeking redress for the reported mass killing of the Igbo at Aba and Umuahia, Abia State, during the operation which the authorities said was aimed at curbing kidnappings, cultism, assassinations, armed robbery and separatist agitations in the Southeast geo-political zone of the country.
The suit which was filed by Udoka Oguekwe, on behalf of the group, before the registry of Abuja division of the Federal High Court, is further challenging the powers of President Muhammadu Buhari to deploy the military for civil or police duties in any part of the country and most especially in Abia State during the Operation PYTHON DANCE conducted by the 82 Division of the Nigerian Army to contain separatist agitations, kidnappings amongst others.
Mezie Ala-Igbo Foundation (MAIF) is a pressure group whose functions is to protect and defend the socio-economic, cultural and political rights of the Igbo in Nigeria and elsewhere.
In its Originating Summons, the group contended that it was the sole duty of the Nigeria Police Force to address the internal security concerns of the country that border on crime and criminality and not that of the Nigerian Army.
The group also deposed to the fact that the victims of the ‘Operation PYTHIN DANCE who are Igbo were tortured and killed in an illegal and unconstitutional military engagement conducted by men of the 82 Division of the Nigerian Army.
A 19-paragraph affidavit deposed to by Mr. Nkemjika Nkemjika, a trustee of the Foundation, insisted that several Igbo people lost their lives at Aba and Umuahia in Abia State as a result of the military operation conducted by the 82 Division of the Nigerian Army.
The Despondent further maintained that the said Operation PYTHIN DANCE conducted by men of the Nigerian Army caused serious economic loss to the innocent and peace-loving citizens of Nigeria from Abia State who form a large proportion of the membership of Mezie Ala-Igbo Foundation.
The group is therefore praying the court to grant the following four (4) reliefs;
*A declaration that it is unconstitutional, illegal and wrongful for the military to meddle into the internal security of the country such as cultism, kidnapping, armed robbery and other matters that border on crime and criminality.
*A declaration that it is the sole duty/responsibility of the Nigeria Police Force to take care of the internal security of this country, Nigeria that borders on crime and criminality.
*A declaration that the actual deployment of the military (Nigerian Army 82 Division) in an operation called Python Dance (Egwu Eke) against Igbos at Aba and Umuahia, Abia State, is illegal, unconstitutional and wrongful.
*N100bn (One Hundred Billion Naira) being general and exemplary damages suffered by the Igbo in Abia State as a result of the Operation PYTHON DANCE.
A legal practitioner, Barr. Onyekachi Okeke, pointed out that the importance of the case against the army and the federal government is that if it succeeds, the military will no longer be allowed to perform civil or police duties such as manning checkpoints or roadblocks, confronting militants, kidnappers, cultists, assassins, cattle rustlers, separatist agitators, among other internal security concerns.