The Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) has warned the Nigerian army against the danger of replicating the “Boko Haram type of insurgency” through the ongoing ‘Operation Python Dance 2’ in the south-east.
The group gave the warning in reaction to clashes between soldiers and members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) since the commencement of the military exercise.
In a statement issued on Thursday, Edwin Clark, PANDEF national leader, called on the military to tread carefully in the operation as “the use of force against defenceless civilians has never worked in Nigeria”.
The group said although it disagrees with IPOB on its secessionist agitation, it recognises the rights of every Nigerian, including the people of the south-east.
It called on the federal government to take immediate steps to bring an end to the seeming militarisation of the region, adding that Nigerians in any part of the country have the right to peaceful agitation and protest.
“May we remind ourselves of how Boko Haram started in the north-east. It was extra-judicial killing of leader of the sect, Mohammed Yusuf, in July, 2009, that led Boko Haram insurgency, which we have been trying to fight and contain like a war between two countries,’’ the statement read.
“We are worried at the quick deployment of military might to suppress defenceless civilians, while some parts of the country are still being tormented by armed and marauding criminal groups.
“The Operation Python Dance I, Operation Crocodile Smile in the Niger Delta and now, Operation Python Dance II in the south-east are unhelpful strategies.”
The group urged the federal government to direct its energies to the various agitations resulting from alleged marginalisation of the people of the Igbo.
It cited the “total exclusion” of the people of the south-east on the board of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) when “some of the south-east states are heavily oil-producing”.
It also asked: “How can the government justify the fact that the south-east is totally excluded from senior positions of the Nigerian Armed Forces, the security services and the paramilitary services?
“Why will the annual budget of the federal government be so much skewed against the south-east and the south-south and heavily lopsided in favour of the north-west and the north-west?”