The Nigerian Army and the South-East security group Ebubeagu invaded Aku-Okigwe in Imo State on Monday in an effort to free a kidnapped female soldier, Lieutenant PP Johnson. This invasion was denounced on Monday by the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, or HURIWA.
The military’s method of blocking the entire stretch of federal highway from Okigwe in Imo State up to Lokpanta in Abia State on December 31, 2022, and leaving travelers stranded for hours while nearby villages were set on fire by soldiers, according to the group, completely violated the rules of engagement in internal security operations.
In a statement, Emmanuel Onwubiko, the national coordinator of HURIWA, also denounced the December 26, 2022, kidnapping of the female soldier by unidentified gunmen as she was visiting her grandmother.
The rights organization urged intelligence community operators to apprehend the actual perpetrators of this unrelenting brutality, emphasizing that the kidnapping and murder of security forces personnel by thugs constitute unforgivable crimes against humanity.
The group warned state actors from using excessive force against the citizens of the neighborhood where the kidnapping took place in order to prevent collateral damage while ordering security personnel to go after the act’s perpetrators.
According to the report, a climate of fear was created for hundreds of thousands of residents who were in their home towns for the Christmas festivities because the majority of people who were still at home for the holiday season were unaware of the reasons behind the sporadic gunshots and the explosion of dozens of suspected hand grenade canisters.
The rights organization questioned why soldiers who should be professionally educated and maintained with taxpayer money would put innocent villages to such brutal ordeals.
In an effort to find and save Lieutenant PP Johnson, sources claim that soldiers and Ebubeagu agents went on the rampage. Security personnel also burned villagers’ homes on fire, even though they had no connection to the crime of the kidnapping of the young soldier.
To be able to receive actionable intelligence and avoid the use of primitive mass attack and rampage by soldiers who should be professionals, the Chief of Army Staff must seriously consider the issue of civil-military relations and devise strategies to win the hearts and minds of the civilian population.
HURIWA’s Onwubiko said, “The reported invasion of Aku-Okigwe by military and Ebubeagu officers is condemnable just as the abduction and dehumanisation of Lieutenant PP Johnson by unknown gunmen. Hoodlums like those seen in a viral video torturing a female soldier do not deserve to be pardoned and security agents must go after them.
“However, in going after the perpetrators, the military must operate by the rules of engagement so as not to attract collateral damage to innocent citizens and residents of Aku-Okigwe.
Military invasions on South-East communities have continued ineffectively. The military’s invasion of Aku-Okigwe is not their first. In December 2022, armed forces entered the Obeagu Community in the Ebonyi State’s Ishielu Local Government Area. Invading troops from Headquarters 82 Division wrecked havoc in the Abia State village of Amangu in November.
“In September, troops also invaded the Orsu Local Government Area of Imo and Orsumugho, border communities in the Ihiala Local Government Area of Anambra, killing three residents. In 2021, soldiers invaded the Izombe community of Oguta Local Council of Imo, with its attendant escalated crisis.
“According to the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law, security agencies have killed 1,400 residents and razed 1,000 homes in 100 Igbo communities in the last 14 months.
“The Theatre Commander of Operation Hadin Kai (OPHK) in the North-East, Major General Chris Musa on Saturday encouraged talks with the commanders of terror groups as part of the “non-kinetic” aspect of ending Nigeria’s 13-year insurgency war. If this is the case in the north as seen by many amnesty programmes by state governments and the Federal Government, why not try the same non-kinetic strategy to end the crisis in the South-East?”
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