Lagos, September 13, 2017: The Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) condemns the deployment of soldiers to the streets of southeastern states of Nigeria by the Federal Government. LEDAP states that military is not set up to conduct civilian policing duties but rather, only to interfere where there is war against Nigeria. Therefore, the southeastern states are currently at peacetime and the deployment of soldiers in such massive numbers is provocative and unnecessary. It indicates a justification of the allegation of high-handedness of southeastern activists by the federal government.
LEDAP is concerned that continued militarilization of the Nigerian society will continue to increase violent crimes, extra-judicial killings, and violent extremist agitations across the country. LEDAP recalls that the excessive militarilization against peaceful protests and agitations in the Northeast between 2007 and 2009 resulted in the emergence of violent extremist Boko Haram especially the extrajudicial execution of Mohammed Yusuf, the former leader of the sect. It appears this regime of the Federal Government is poised to commit the same error of judgment of the former regime who, rather than engaging with protesters and political oppositions in peaceful dialogue, used excessive force resulting in the death of many people and consequently insurgency in the north-east.
LEDAP warns the Federal government that the massive deployment of soldiers in the so-called operation “Egwu Eke” will definitely result in violations of rights of ordinary citizens, extra judicial killings, violent crimes, and more importantly turning erstwhile civil protesters into extremist violent agitators. This is because the military are not trained to conduct civilian policing duties but only to wage war and therefore do not have the skill, the patience and the tools to engage with civilian population. It is therefore not proper to deploy soldiers in peacetime to a people who, for perhaps for justifiable reasons, are asking for self determination. All the federal government need do is to engage in dialogue with the stakeholders to ensure that their concerns are addressed in fair, transparent and right-based manner. The people of southeast are bona fide citizens of this country and therefore should not be in any way mistreated. LEDAP is of the strong view that there is no reason under the law or the Constitution of this country, justifying deployment of soldiers in states where there is neither violent uprising nor war.
We therefore call on the federal government to stop immediately, the so-called operation “Egwu Eke” by the 82 Division of the Nigerian Army, recall all soldiers mobilized to the streets of the southeast, dismantle all road blocks mounted by the military or any security agency in the southeast and commence peaceful dialogue with all stakeholders involved in the southeast.