SAN FRANCISCO, September 12, (THEWILL) – The Nigerian Army has declared that the military exercise in the South-East, code-named ‘Operation Python Dance 2’, is not targeted at the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu.
Col. Sagir Musa, the Deputy Director, Public Relations, 82 Division, said this when he briefed newsmen at the NUJ Secretariat, Umuahia, on the activities of troops deployed in Abia for the exercise.
THEWILL recalls that there was heavy troop deployment at Afaraukwu, Kanu’s community, in Umuahia North Local Government Area of Abia on Tuesday morning following a confrontation on Sunday.
Musa, however, refuted speculations that the military was laying siege on Kanu, saying that the exercise “is not targetted at the leader of IPOB” or anybody or group.
“The exercise is not targeted at any individual or group but meant to prevent security challenges identified in the South-East and parts of Cross River.
“It is not meant to molest or victimise anybody,” Musa said, adding that the exercise was designed to maintain peace and security in the five states of the South-East and parts of Cross River.
He said that the main objective was to stem the tide of kidnapping, armed robbery, cultism and violent agitations in the areas involved.
According to him, the essence of the exercise is to ensure peace, security, unity and development of Nigeria.
The army spokesman said that the exercise, slated to fully take off on Sept. 15 and end on Oct. 14, would be conducted simultaneously in the affected states.
He said that during the period, heavy presence of military troops would be felt in major cities and towns of the states involved.
He said that the exercise would be characterised mainly by ‘show of force’, patrols and other military activities.
Musa also said that he was at the NUJ secretariat to convey unreserved apologies from the 82 Div. of the Nigerian Army and the GOC, Maj.-Gen. Adamu Abubakar, to journalists in the state over Tuesday’s invasion of the union secretariat and assault on some journalists by some military personnel.
He said that those involved in the ugly development acted outside the rule of engagement and not in conformity with the rules and regulations governing the military.
He said that the army detested such excesses and gross indiscipline among its rank and file.
The spokesman urged journalists in the state to endeavour to put the incident behind them and not to allow it to destroy the long standing relationship existing between the two organisations.
He assured the union that such an unhealthy incident would not repeat itself, adding that the perpetrators would be fished out and appropriate sanctions meted out to them.
In a brief remark, the National Trustee of NUJ, Bonny Okoro, who represented the state Chairman of the union, Mr John Emejor, urged the army authorities to check the excesses of its men deployed for the operation in the state.
Okoro, who was manhandled and also had his Samsung tablet destroyed by the operatives that invaded the secretariat, described the attack on journalists as unwarranted.
He said it was regrettable that journalists, who render selfless service to the nation, could be attacked by soldiers.
NAN reports that the state correspondent of Daily Times, Mr Sunny Nwakanma, also had his cell phone destroyed during the attack.