The Nigerian Army has said the one month field training in the South East, code-named ‘Exercise Python Dance’ was not to intimidate and harass South Easterners as being instigated in some quarters.
The Deputy Director of Army Public Relations at the 82 Division, Col. Sagir Musa, in a statement in Awka on Friday, described the apprehension among the people as uncalled for.
He said that the exercise was not targeted at any individual or group of people.
Since the beginning of the exercise on November 27, various groups, including human rights activists, Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and MASSOB had called for its suspension.
MASSOB described the operation as a measure intended to stop the agitation for an independent state of Biafra and destabilize Ndigbo.
The organisation lamented that Ndigbo had gone through much hatred, marginalisation, harassment and killings from the Nigerian security forces since the civil war years and urged the Federal Government to dismantle the Operation Python Dance in the interest of the people.
Specifically, MASSOB Leader, Solomon Chukwu, who spoke through the organisation’s National Director of Information, Sunny Okereafor, alleged that Operation Python Dance was meant to place the South East zone under siege and continue the killings of pro-Biafra activists who are demanding an independent state of their own.
“MASSOB won’t be deceived; Operation Python Dance is designed to stop the agitation for an independent state of Biafra and cripple the economy of the South East. They know that Biafra is at hand, the more the Nigerian government runs from Biafra, the more it stares them in the face. If we may ask, why will the Nigerian government place the South East under siege, if not to continue the genocide against Biafran people?
“How many operation python dance have the Army set up in the killing field in Southern Kaduna, Zamfara and other volatile areas in the North?
“Though we are non violent, we warn that enough is enough on the killing of Biafra activists. The Nigerian government should stop treating Igbo land as a conquered territory. Since Ndigbo survived the civil war, no machination of the Nigeria government that can intimidate us.”
While calling on Ndigbo to be vigilant as soldiers may lay siege to their areas, MASSOB urged the people not to be intimidated into shunning their villages during the yuletide.
However, Col. Musa debunked such allegations, saying it was purely a command post and field training meant to enhance troops preparedness across spectrum of contemporary security challenges peculiar to the South East region.
“For emphasis and clarity, Exercise Python Dance is not targeted at MASSOB/IPOB or any individual or group. It is only a field training exercise.
“It is designed to, where necessary, dovetail into real time activities such as anti-kidnap drills, patrols, raids, cordon and search, check points, road blocks and show of force.
“This is with the aim of checkmating anticipated rising wave of crimes usually prevalent during the yuletide,” he said.
Musa recalled that similar exercises were successfully conducted in different regions of the country.
“For instance, Exercise Shirin Harbi was conducted from April 17 to April 19 in 3rd Division to take care of insurgency, cattle rustling and other sundry crimes in the North East region. “Similarly, Exercise Harbin Kunama was held in 1 Division from July 9 July 15 to rid the North West region of banditry, insurgency and cattle rustling, among other menaces.
“Also, Exercise Crocodile Smile was conducted from Sept. 5 to Sept. 10 in the Niger Delta region with an overarching aim of reducing incidences of illegal bunkering, oil theft, sea piracy and other peculiar criminalities.
“These exercises were, in all standards, successful,” he said.
“Consequently, in the same vein, Exercise Python Dance has been planned for the South East region from Nov. 27 to Dec. 27.
“The prevalent security issues such as armed robbery, banditry, kidnappings, herdsmen-farmers clashes, communal clashes and violent secessionist attacks, among other security threats in the region, would be targeted.
“Members of the public are therefore requested to disregard the unfounded fear and allegations orchestrated by ill-meaning individuals and groups that the exercise is a plot to kill IPOB members.
“This assertion is not only insidious and mischievous, is also devious and bunkum and should be disregarded, please,” Musa said.