The Nigerian army says ‘Operation Python Dance 2’, the military exercise in the south-east, is not targeted at Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
Sagir Musa, deputy director, public relations, 82 division of the army in Enugu, said this when he briefed reporters at the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) secretariat in Umuahia, Abia state capital.
The deployment of troops in Afaraukwu, Kanu’s community in Umuahia north local government area of Abia, sparked tension on Tuesday morning.
Ifeanyi Ejiofor, counsel to Kanu, had alleged that the army placed his client under house arrest.
Ejiofor also said he got a distress call from Kanu but that he could not confirm whether he is alive or dead.
He also accused the soldiers of killing four members of IPOB in the area.
But Musa denied the allegation that the military laid a siege to Kanu’s residence, maintaining that the exercise is not targeted at the leader of IPOB.
“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,” he said in a statement.
“It is not meant to molest or victimise anybody.”
He said the main objective of the exercise was to stem the tide of kidnapping, armed robbery, cultism and violent agitations in the areas involved.
The army spokesman said the exercise, slated to fully take off on September 15 and end on October 14, would be conducted simultaneously in the affected states.
He said during the period, heavy presence of military troops would be felt in major cities and towns of the states involved.
Musa added that the exercise would be characterised mainly by ‘show of force’, patrols and other military activities.
He also said he was at the NUJ secretariat to convey “unreserved apologies” from the 82 division of the Nigerian army to journalists in the state over Tuesday’s invasion of the union secretariat and assault on some journalists.
He said those involved in the “ugly development” acted outside the rule of engagement and not in conformity with the rules and regulations governing the military.
The spokesman urged journalists in the state to endeavour to put the incident behind them and not to allow it to destroy the 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.
Bonny Okoro, national trustee of NUJ, who represented John Emejor, the state chairman of the union, urged the army authorities to check the excesses of the 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.