The Independent Human Rights and Crime Monitoring Group has faulted the report by some bodies that the Nigerian Army killed members of the pro-Biafra group during the Operation Python Dance 11 in south eastern part of the country.
The group said the claim in some quarters were clear attempt to tarnish the image and efforts of the Nigerian military in addressing violent crimes that threaten humanity and the collective existence of the Nigerian state .
According to the group, claims by a group affiliated to the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) terrorist group, Intersociety about massacre arising from the exercise was totally false and aimed at rallying IPOB terrorists to regroup ahead of the 2019 General Elections whilst putting off a possible exercise by the military to curtail their activities.
International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law, Intersociety, had on Tuesday, released the names of 150 Biafra agitators allegedly killed or injured by the Nigerian Army.
However, HRMG in a report and an assessment of the exercise presented by Barrister Zineke Werigbelegha, Executive Director, on Tuesday said the claim by the group was totally false and misleading.
He called on the general public to discard the report in entirety.
The report below.
The assessment was restricted to the South-East geo-political zone of the country, where separatists of the defunct Biafra republic are active, covering the period between 2016 and 2017 when the Nigerian Army conducted Operation Python Dance and Operation Python Dance II. While both operations were carried out the in the South-East, the extension of the assessment to limited areas of the South-South was borne out of geo-graphical congruity of the two geo-political zones and the high mobility across both areas.
Subsequent reports confirmed that Operation Python Dance II is the most successful military operation in the South-East to date. Claim by a group affiliate to Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) terrorist group, Intersociety about massacre arising from the exercise is totally false and aimed at rallying IPOB terrorists to regroup ahead of the 2019 General Elections.
The assessment involved interview with residents of the targeted geo-political zone that were randomly selected to factor in sex, age, geographical spread, education, income level and affiliation to socio-cultural organizations. Researchers also spoke with survivors and victims of separatist harassment, military commanders, activists, and former members of separatist movements that have renounced their association with such group. Publicly available documents, news publications, press releases and statements, video and pictorial evidences, social media threads and public archives were content analysed.
Given the misrepresentations that trailed Operation Python Dance I, the Independent Human Rights and Crime Monitoring Group fully monitored Operation Python Dance II.
The Nigerian Army conducted Operation Python Dance in September 2016 as a training drill for troops to sharpen their readiness for deployment where the need arises. This exercise was held at a time the entire South-East was reeling from a wave of crimes like kidnap for ransom, banditry, extortion syndicates, and illicit drugs related crimes that were proving to be beyond the civil police.
Separatist movements that were uncomfortable with what the Operation Python Dance can expose about their activities mounted a campaign to discredit the exercise with a strategy aimed at turning the populace against the Army. IT was later discovered that separatist groups, like the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Biafra Independent Movement (BIM), Biafra Zionist Movement and their other variants were behind these crimes that they use to finance their secessionist bid.
There was heavy build-up of illegal firearms and ammunitions in the entire area while IPOB members had obtained military trainings facilitated by deserters from the military. These trained militia formed themselves into brigades that regularly issue threats targeted at the political and military leadership in the country.
IPOB has instituted a parallel government that extort the people in the name of taxes and it regularly sabotage the ability of law abiding citizens to earn their living by deliberately shutting down economic activities with sit-at home orders. Those who resisted are harassed, tortured or even killed.
The situation became hostile to a point where Nigerians originally from the South-East became apprehensive of travelling to their ancestral homes because they fear for their safety. Persons of other ethnic extraction had become endangered as some were murdered and buried in shallow graves – the explanation ranged from them being victims of kidnap for ransom went awry or the casualty of targeted ethnic cleansing conducted by IPOB.
The successful conduct of Operation Python Dance restored peace and sense of security to the states in the South-East with indigenes of these states being able to enjoy the Yuletide Season at their towns and villages for the first time in a long time. The medical outreach that was bundled with the operation was a success as it allowed many low income residents of the areas to access care. These led the people to appeal for the Army to repeat the exercise in the following year.
The Nigerian Army heeded the call by the populace with Operation Python Dance II, which incidentally came at a time when IPOB had become belligerent in its call for the break-up of Nigeria as its militants drew up maps that propose to annex other ethnic groups as vassals in the defunct Biafra.
Troops on Operation Python Dance II were attacked by IPOB militants in Afaraukwu, Abia State from the operational base of its leader, Nnamdi Kanu. The attacks were repelled by troops who made arrests and transferred the suspects to the custody of the Nigerian Police Force for them to be treated in accordance with the law.
The governors of the five South-Eastern states – Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo were unanimous in proscribing IPOB given its unwarranted hostility while the court subsequently ruled that it is a terrorist organization.
Operation Python Dance II was able to dismantle the terror cells and infrastructure of IPOB and other groups that operated based on its ideology. This include disruption of the criminal activities its uses to finance its local cell. IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu went into hiding since the organization was ruled to be a terrorist group. He however continues to issue threats through the group’s spokesperson, Emma Powerful.
In the course of the operation, it was found that IPOB terrorists have a strategy of shooting into crowds to randomly kill their own members of lower ranks so that the deaths can be blamed on the Army. The group also routinely execute defectors as a strategy for ensuring that members that have discovered the error of joining a terrorist group become too scared to leave. The bodies of such victims have been discovered at different time, which the groups then blame soldiers for.
Residents of the South-East again asked that Operation Python Dance be sustained and turned into an annual exercise that will provide avenue for military drills that double as operations to root out any criminality that might have been introduced since the preceding edition.
The cyber wing and the NGO wing of IPOB have however remained active with a sustained campaign of fake news and hate speech against the Nigerian state. These groups are working with international NGOs that are committed to the break –up of Nigeria and they have continued to issue reports.
Intersociety, Human Rights Writers Association (HURIWA), Civil Liberty Organization (chapters in South-East states) have at various times issued reports or positions that are at variance with the reality that transpired.
The report by Intersociety alleging that the Nigerian Army massacred 150 pro-Biafran activist was concocted to instigate another round of separatist agitation under a different name other than IPOB. The intention is to cast the Army in bad light so that the resulting disaffection would be used for recruiting unwary youths into the militant wing of IPOB.
The report is full of lies and misrepresentations that attempt to further amplify the fake videos and images that were produced in the studio for IPOB to create the impression of abuse and extra-judicial executions by the military during Operation Python Dance II. Some of the videos and pictures went to a great length to impersonate troops of the Nigerian Army to give the impression that troops were depraved enough to create documentary evidence of non-compliance with the rules of engagement.
Biafra Zionist Movement again, on May 22, 2018 attempted to invade the Enugu State Government House, sack the lawfully elected governor and replace him with a proxy answering to the defunct Biafra. Members of the group attack the police and troops that were on ground to keep law and order.
As retaliation for proscribing it, IPOB terrorist are shopping for justification to disrupt elections in the South-East so that they can “deal with” the governors of the five states by provoking the declaration of state of emergency across the entire area.
Since Operation Python Dance II, IPOB terrorists have infiltrated the ranks of political parties pretending to be thugs that will do the bidding of politicians. They are however embedded to be able to unleash mayhem that they will celebrate as actualization of their “no election in defunct Biafra”. Many politicians have unwittingly recruited these IPOB militants into their campaign organizations.
The Nigerian Army and the Federal Government must revert to treating IPOB and Biafra Zionist Movement as active terror organizations that have merely changed their tactics of attacking the Nigerian state to the intellectual and cyber planes. Military intelligence and the Department of State Services should design measure to neutralize the threats resulting from this.
Efforts should be intensify to dismantling the propaganda arm of IPOB, with the pseudonym Emma Powerful should be decommission using the available technology to track down the individuals behind it. The plan should include training for journalists reporting on IPOB activities on the ethics of reporting a terrorist organization since many journalists are unwittingly breaching the provision of Nigeria’s terrorism laws.
The military authorities should entertain the appeal of the people in the South-East that are requesting for Operation Python Dance to become an annual exercise because of the benefit to the entire geo-political zone where the exercise has been able to reverse the growing wave of crime. A failure to sustain the exercise would be construed by Intersociety, which authored a fraudulent report to discourage the Army from conducting future operations in the South-East.
The relevant agencies should, in the interim, request Intersociety, HURIWA and CLO as currently constituted to register as socio-cultural organizations as opposed to presenting as NGOs since their agenda are tailored towards promoting one ethnic group over the others in Nigeria in addition to being used as the NGO wings of IPOB. A longer term outcome is to, on the strength of their affiliation with IPOB, be designated as terrorist groups or terrorist related organizations.
Governors of the five South-Eastern states must again rise to the occasion by identifying and proscribing groups like Intersociety that are fronting for IPOB.
The issue of hate speech by IPOB cyber wing should again be revisited with a view to educating members of the public of the danger of such while also ensuring that concerted efforts are made to apprehend known IPOB members and supporters for trial since the courts have not reversed its status as a terrorist organization.
Most of the claims made in the Intersociety report have been duly investigated by the Presidential Investigative Panel on Armed Conflicts in Nigeria, which conducted its investigation diligently. The attempt by Intersociety to pre-empt or prejudice the report the panel will come up with is unacceptable and should be condemned in the strongest terms by peace loving Nigerians.