The Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) has urged the Nigerian Army to thread carefully in its present operation in Abia to avoid “a Boko Haram type of insurgency” in the South-East.
PANDEF made this known in a statement by its National Leader, Chief Edwin Clark, in Abuja on Thursday.
It noted that the application of high-handed tactics, threats and use of force against defenceless civilians embarking on meaningful cause had never worked in Nigeria or anywhere in the world.
It stated that while it disagreed with the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) on its separatist poise, it recognised the rights of the people of the South-East and any part of the country.
According to the group, Nigerians in any part of the country have the right to peaceful agitation, peaceful protest and other lawful means of expressing their grievances.
“May we remind ourselves of how Boko Haram started in the North-East.
“It was extra-judicial killing of leader of the sect, Mohammed Yusuf, in July, 2009, that led Boko Haram insurgency, which we have been trying to fight and contain like a war between two countries,’’ it said.
PANDEF, however, appealed to Nnamdi Kanu and his group to lay down their arms and seek a more peaceful means of expressing their grievances.
It said that entry of personnel of the Nigerian Army into parts of the peaceful rural communities in Abia and the use of life ammunitions was unacceptable.
“We are worried at the quick deployment of military might to suppress defenceless civilians, while some parts of the country are still being tormented by armed and marauding criminal groups.
“The Operation Python Dance I, Operation Crocodile Smile in the Niger Delta and now, Operation Python Dance II in the South-East are unhelpful strategies.
“While calling on the youths of the South-East to be law-abiding, PANDEF wishes to call on the Federal Government to take immediate steps to bring an end to the seeming militarisation of the zone.’’
The group urged the government to initiate steps to address the causes of the various agitations by running a government of fairness, equity and justice, while being responsive to the yearnings of Nigerians for restructuring.
“PANDEF urges the Federal Government to direct its energies to addressing causes of escalating crescendo of agitations and expressions of disaffection, marginalisation and exclusion raised by people from different parts of the country.
“For example, how can the government justify the fact that the people of the South-East are totally excluded from being represented on the Board of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
“Meanwhile, some of the South-East states, especially Imo and Abia and to a lesser extent, Anambra, are heavily oil-producing.
“Out of nine members of the board, the North has six members, including the Chief of Staff to the President while the South-South and South-West have only one member each.
“Furthermore, how can the government justify the fact that the South-East is totally excluded from senior positions of the Nigerian Armed Forces, the Security Services and the Paramilitary Services?
“Why will the annual budget of the Federal Government be so much skewed against the South-East and the South-South and heavily lopsided in favour of the North-West and the North-East,’’ it queried.