- Category: POLITICS
- Published on Tuesday, 19 May 2009 16:53
- Written by Administrator
but first, Femi Falana's argument, the reponse by the Nigerian Army and then reaction from Nigerians.
Niger Delta military action illegal says FalanaLagos lawyer and rights activist Femi Falana yesterday described as a "gross violation" of the Constitution the military operation in the creeks of Delta State.
He said the "genocidal attack on innocent people being executed by the Joint Task Force (JTF) through air and sea raids is a painful reminder of the Iraqi war by the US-led allies".
In a telephone interview last night, Falana said the Niger Delta crisis took "a new turn last weekend when the Yar'Adua administration illegally declared a full-scale war against the people of Gbaramatu and neighbouring communities in Delta State under the pretext of flushing out militants."
Falana added: "Like his predecessor Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, who waged a military
onslaught against the people of Odi in Bayelsa State and Zaki Biam in Benue State in defiance of the Constitution, President Yar'Adua unleashed unmitigated violence on the Niger Delta people without complying with Section 217 of the Constitution which stipulates that the Armed Forces can only be deployed in any part of Nigeria under such condition as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly.
"In order to end further hostilities, we call on the United Nations (UN) to demand immediate ceasefire on both sides, send in humanitarian groups to attend to displaced people and promote dialogue between the militants and the Federal Government."
Nigeria Defence Headquarters on Monday defends Military Action
Nigeria Defence Headquarters on Monday defended its ongoing "Cordon and Search" operations in the Camp Five and Chanomi Creek general area of Delta State, saying it is to underscore the fact that the military will no longer tolerate or watch gangs institutionalise criminality and slaughter military personnel without consummate response.
military personnel without consummate response.
The Director of Defence Information, Colonel Chris Jemitola at a media briefing in Abuja said the ongoing operations were aimed at stopping the impunity of "deliberate and repeated unprovoked attacks on JTF troops, the sabotage of oil and gas facilities, the kidnapping for ransom of people and the killing of innocent citizens of the society, including children, clergies and very old citizens. We have also seen the kidnapping and harassment of site workers and contractors carrying out socio-economic development of the area.
These are all acts of criminality that cannot be condoned by any government and no responsible military leadership will fold his arms and watch its personnel attacked and killed while on official assignments by any criminal gangs.
Hence, the military was left with no choice than to go after by militants in the area, "no community was razed down in this process and collateral damage was kept to the barest minimum." Col. Jemitola said in the ongoing operations, "law-abiding citizens have nothing to fear as only these criminal gangs are being hunted down."
killed in the fighting, in which about 20,000 people are said to be trapped, was another Filipino hostage and a nine-year-old child.
Three more Filippino were, however, freed from the militants and one helicopter recovered by the JTF operatives during the attacks in Kurutie, Kokodiagbene, Kunulunuma, Oporoza and Okerenkoko in Gbaramatu clan, all in Warri South- West Local Government Area of Delta State.
It was learnt that the JTF had mobilised two Nigerian Air Force bombers and 15 gunboats in continuation of the onslaught against suspected militants operating in these areas.
A source told one of our correspondents that the task force launched the attacks following an intelligence report that the much-wanted militant leader, Chief Government Ekpomukpolo, alias Tompolo, and his lieutenants, were hiding in some of the communities.
The Presidency had ordered that Ekpomukpolo and his lieutenants be apprehended dead or alive following Wednesday’s alleged killing of 12 soldiers, including a Lieutenant, by militants suspected to be operating from Camp 5. The camp was, however, taken over by the JTF on Friday.
One of the displaced persons, Mrs. Esther Eneh, claimed that she saw over 50 dead bodies on the streets of Okerenkoko before her escape. Eneh said she was worried because she could not ascertain the whereabouts of her husband and four children as at 4pm on Sunday.
She said that many residents of the communities had managed to escape into Warri and other neighbouring towns. Another resident who escaped said not less 30,000 people were trapped in the fighting.
But an official of the Delta State Government, who craved anonymity, put the figure at 20,000. “It is true that about 5,000 people have been displaced, but the people trapped are just about 20, 000,” he said.
The official craved anonymity because the state government was yet to comment officially.
When one of our correspondents visited the Ogbe-Ijoh General Hospital in Warri South- West LGA, about 5,000 displaced persons were seen weeping as efforts were being made by the council officials to rehabilitate them.
Some of the displaced persons, including seven youth corps members, gave horrifying accounts of their escape from the scenes of the fighting.
The spokesman of the corps members, Mr. Lanre Abayomi, said they were in a library in Oporoza when the JTF operatives invaded the community in jet fighters and gunboats.
Abayomi, who attributed their escape into Warri to divine intervention, claimed that many buildings were attacked from the air by the troops.
The other corps members were Onukwue Ebere, Okoye Chinonyelum, Izegbune Kenneth, Olaseinde Olufemi, Ogundele Ayodeji and Omodara Tayo.
The Chairman of Warri South West LGA, Mr. George Ekpomukpolo, donated relief materials, especially food items, to the embattled refugees.
Ekpomukpolo described the development as devastating, adding that it was premature to ascertain the casualty rate. He said the effects of the fighting were felt more by women and children.
He said, “The number of displaced persons here shows the extent of damage to lives and property. We have over 5,000 refugees here and more persons are trapped in the bush and in the communities. So many persons have been killed and injured.
“To this end, I am pleading with the militants to drop their arms because no individual can fight the government. I am also pleading with the Federal Government to stop this bombardment and opt for dialogue.”
The Leader, Niger Delta Investigation Bureau, Mr. Felix Maku, condemned the action of the JTF, saying it was “unimaginable” that the Federal Government could mobilise maximum force against defenceless citizens, especially women and children.
The Media Coordinator, Joint Investiation Centre, JTF, Col. Rabe Abubakar, defended the military operations, saying they were targeted only at criminals and not at law-abiding citizens.
see also; Niger Delta; death toll mounts
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