Mixed reactions have continued to trail directives by Chief of Army Staff, COAS, Maj. Gen. Taoreed Lagbaja to troops to seize control of areas where the Indigenous People of Biafra IPOB, enforce their sit at home order throughout the Southeast states.
While some residents of Anambra State described the directive as welcome development, others expressed reservation, saying it might likely turn to another round of avoidable massacre.
A political analyst, Christian Chima, regretted that similar campaigns had been fraught with accusations of excessive use of force, violation of civil liberties, injuries, wanton destruction of properties, forced disappearances and fatalities.
In a statement in reaction to announced deployment of Military for civilian policing duties in the southeast, tagged, “Sit at home: More guns alone won’t solve the problem”, Chima urged the military to adhere to established rules of engagement.
He said, “I welcome the news that the Chief of Army Staff, Maj. Gen. Taoreed Lagbaja has issued an order for troops to take control of areas where the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) enforce their sit at home order throughout the southeast states of Nigeria.
“It is however important to acknowledge that previous military campaigns in the southeast, as well as other parts of Nigeria, have not been beyond reproach.
“Many of these campaigns have been fraught with accusations of excessive use of force, violation of civil liberties, injuries, wanton destruction of properties, forced disappearances, fatalities even among the non-combatant population, and extra-judicial killings.
“While I appreciate the bravery and sacrifices of our service personnel, I strongly urge them to adhere to established rules of engagement this time.
“Conscientious efforts must be made to distinguish between civilians and the criminal elements within the population. The era of indiscriminate rampages and the destruction of entire communities should be long gone.
“I implore our people, particularly our youths to conduct themselves with restraint and utmost decorum throughout this military campaign. I also implore community leaders and stakeholders to offer the military all possible assistance to see to it that peace is restored.
“It should be clear by now that the people of the southeast are indeed tired of terrorists who initially presented themselves as freedom fighters.
“The military, representing the Nigerian state, must therefore work hard to earn back the trust of the civilian population. And the best way to do this is to conduct themselves reputably even as they undertake this admittedly difficult task of restoring the peace.
“My limited endorsement of this announced military campaign in the southeast is only as a short-term response to complex societal issues.
“The elite of the southeast and their federal counterparts must painstakingly discuss the underlining issues and work out pathways to sustainable peace.
“If we do not back up this military action with efforts geared at genuinely addressing the root causes of the problems which IPOB is only a violent manifestation of, then I’m afraid that any success recorded by the barrel, if at all, will be short-lived.”
A resident in Onitsha, Victor Akobundu described the move as another round of avoidable massacre, advising federal government to seek for other alternatives to addressing the challenge.
“Let me hope it won’t turn to another round of avoidable massacre. If care is not taken, the blame will shift from Ekpa to the military even as we are wont to forget that we called for it,” he said.
Corroborating Akobundu, a Human Rights Activist who preferred anonymity, expressed worry over the move, saying it would turn out to be counter productive.
He said, “Before the army goes, at least hundreds and thousands of your brothers and sisters are down. Even fathers and mothers are down, too.”
A veteran journalist, who refused to be mentioned, declined comment on the matter, describing it as sensitive.
“This is a sensitive issue. My opinion may bring me problem from the bad boys,” he noted.
For Jude Ezeokafor, a public servant, the directive is a step in the right direction. He said although some innocent lives might be lost in the process, but the move would instill fear in those behind the lingering insecurity challenge.
“A few eggs will be broken in the making of the omelette. But mostly, the guilty will be afraid. They forget that he who brings home ant-infested wood invites the lizard,” he argued.
A cleric, Pastor Nwokeke said security situation in the southeast needed serious political will and less military might to bring it to an end.
He said the order would only increase numbers of military check points in the zone where residents would be subjected to all manner of hardship, including paying to service the men at the check points.
He said, “It is very obvious that the Government is not really interested in ending the security challenges in the southeast.
“Since this sit at home menace starting Payton have danced to no avail and almost all the known and unknown animals have danced in the southeast in the name of military operations and the issue is getting out of hand.
“This order will only increase the numbers of military check points in the southeast, where people will come to lift up their hands like conquered people to pass and drivers will be made to pay more to service the men at the check points.
“The security situation in the southeast at this point need serious political will to tackle it and less military might to bring it to an end.”
Peter Obi, the 2023 presidential candidate of the Labour Party, had earlier condemned the insecurity in the country’s South-east, describing the frequent sit-at-home order in the region as disturbing.
He praised the governors in the region for their renewed efforts at curbing this menace but stressed the need for more strategic and intelligence-driven approach to reducing suffering of innocent residents.
“What is going on in the South-east is essentially a criminal activity that must be nipped in the bud, with all hands being on deck, security agencies, and the people alike,” Mr Obi tweeted on Thursday via his Twitter handle.
“It is “disturbing” that gunmen enforcing the sit-at-home order in the South-east have continued to disrupt businesses and social activities in the region.
“The South-east Governors are to be commended for their renewed efforts at curbing this menace but there is a need to be more strategic and intelligence-driven in our approach to reducing the suffering of innocent people,” he said.