Orlu not Sambisa forest neither is Orsu Biga forest, FENRAD cries out against Gov. Hope Uzodinma
The latest deployment and concentration of military force size of the war scale within the coordinates of Orlu and Orsu could be likened to an overkill or may well lead to one, says the Foundation for Environmental Rights Advocacy and Development (FENRAD, as acronymed). As a human and environmental rights group, FENRAD condemns, in its entirety, the latest show of aerial (naked) power by the Nigeria Army at Orlu and Orsu both in Imo State on invitation of the state governor, Senator Hope Uzodinma, to come “flush out” Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB and its Eastern Security Network, ESN.
FENRAD, after studying the press briefing from the state government as issued by the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Cyprian Akaolisa, wondered so much whether the state government is in the know of the dire and brutal consequences of its act of extending invitation to the army as it claimed. The targetless sporadic aerial shootings carried out by the army left the affected communities in panic and as well caused huge disruption of activities – economic and cultural. What is however more worrisome, FENRAD says, is that peace was gradually returning after the first dust-up the military had with IPOB’s Eastern Security Network, ESN earlier this year when this operation began.
The proscribed want-away organization, IPOB, FENRAD learns, set up a security network of the subnational and nonstate type – Eastern Security Network, ESN – to act, as it was mandated to, as a forest guard unit in the wake of the sanguinary killings, maiming and raping playing out and trailing all over the nation as perpetrated in large part by armed herdsmen in what had been termed “farmers/herders clash” by authorities. This kind/level of subnational security outfit arrangement had recently been flagged off elsewhere at other regions to help address the rising security threat within the nation whereas the five governors of Southeast states did nothing of the sort as custodians and chief security officers of their various states, region combinedly.
Truth be told, Nigeria is drifting towards the brinks of insecurity with former Heads of State hinting earlier of either “risking a civil war” or “disintegration” if the killings are not tamed while governors like Hope Uzodinma see no danger not even with the writing clearly on the wall.
Even the average student of affairs need not be told that current happenings unfolding within the nation point to one direction – that need is now for a vertical rejig of security apparatuses and architecture in the federation with the locals being protected according to the milieux and ethoses they are most familiar with. A system where one tier of government alone controls all security agencies even those of the paramilitary cannot be rightly considered a “federation” in the real sense.This means that localized and decentralized security outfits – even if not ESN – not only in the Southeast but the whole nation will serve better in area of intelligence gathering and analysing if indeed Nigeria’s is to represent a true federation. This issue of state/community police however is not being pushed by Hope Uzodinma and other governors of the Southeast, unfortunately.
With Minister of Defense – who pockets billions of naira as budgetary numbers every fiscal year – telling unarmed Nigerians to brace up and face terrorists, no one can dismiss further the subliminal code embedded in that talk impliedly suggestive of self-help or, better still, self-defense. If other regions are having their arrangements towards security what stops governors like Uzodinma from doing same concertedly at regional level? And if they had done same would the ESN have arisen?
While it is true that based on Nigeria’s laws, both extant and constitutional, an outfit like ESN has no legal backing or contemplation, Nigeria is well served if a tour is taken back to her national history; especially the history of her post-colonial era. The Biafra question is one that needs a revisit so its vital lessons are learned, emotive sentiments apart. Owing to much unsettled questions of Biafra, many groups, of the militia type, within the nation had all bid for secession at one point or the other, FENRAD recalls. Heretofore, there have been the O’odua Peoples Congress (OPC), Movement for the Actualization of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Egbesu Boys of Africa (EBA) just to mention but a few. The history that is Biafra today stands entirely unaddressed and even anathematized by the authorities of the day such that those who feel or suffer marginalization by the system recall the inhuman, deleterious experiences that proceeded and preceded the war creating thereby an army of youth calling for a separation from Nigeria or even for a rematch of 1967-70 where over 2 million persons died mostly children and women largely of Igbo extraction.
Rather than address this chapter of its history, Nigerian governments – some within the nineteen (19) Norhern states and the federal – close the page and tend towards deadly and dreaded terrorists and groups even creating an informal diplomatic corridor where a cleric acts as go-between, truce breaker and armchair diplomat between the government(s) and terror forces result of which is likely to culminate in negotiated amnesty for the terror forces! It is no longer joke that certain governors had equally absolved bandits as not being “criminals”. Though the unity of Nigeria is a beauty, FENRAD maintains, the position of IPOB, barring any resort to unjust means, in international law is well and within.
Having seen the arrest and prolonged detention without trial of religious leaders and followers at Orsu, Orlu and Njaaba axis all in the name of “flushing out IPOB and their so-called ESN” as Akaolisa said it, FENRAD will be willing to take necessary measures within the law to see that only what is justice is served. If indeed Governor Uzodinma invited the Nigerian army, as he claimed, whose combat contingent comprises air and land forces, police Intelligence Rapid Team, against a single ESN, then FENRAD holds that in international laws of war – were it to be a war so properly called – such heavy concentration of amphibious army units and police at a part of Orlu or Orsu or wherever is not proportional force and does not only breach the peace but could lead to countervalue operation as civilians have been displaced and livelihoods affected. Since the overhead war jets raiding Orlu coordinates fired from air, it goes without saying that were innocent farmers or agrarian population may be affected if such attack is allowed to go on.
FENRAD, having monitored this development, is concernedly worried that while the Nigeria Army has not launched an aerial or amphibious attack at Biga Forest said to be the stronghold and base of bandits whose thriving industry of kidnap has reached, in the recent time, an alarming proportion at the North, even in Katsina the home state of President Buhari it does so in a relatively more peaceful area of the nation. Moreso has the military been unable to rout out Boko Haram over a decade now in the battle of Sambisa Forest – the unfortunate national park made the den of terrorists.
FENRAD believes that in the principle justice the names of the civilians killed by IPOB and ESN, as Akaolisa advanced, be made public, even those of the police officers too as life is paramount and a natural right which should not be taken from humans by any group whether police, army ESN or IPOB. Though no life is said to have been lost so far, FENRAD is documenting and following the whole issue in Orlu, Orsu and Njaaba and will as well be taking actions within the confines of the law including writing to the international courts and community. Orsu, Orlu and Njaaba axes are not Biga and Sambisa forests and neither are the Gwoza Hills where terrorists have erected their own republics.
FENRAD cautions Governor Uzodinma to make sure peace reigns in his charge or be willing to answer to international court and community when event is right.
Comrade Nelson Nnanna Nwafor
Barr. Olusegun Bamgbose
Head Legal Team
Foundation for Environmental Rights,Advocacy & Development FENRAD