The Catholic diocese of Umuahia, Abia state, has condemned the federal government’s use of “excessive force to suppress” the secessionist agitation of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
There was a week-long crisis in the state, following a face-off between IPOB members and security agencies.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the bishop expressed disappointment in the military exercise called Operation Python Dance.
He said President Muhammadu Buhari made a “serious mistake” by deploying soldiers “for a show of force in the south-east in a very volatile and provocative atmosphere”.
The statement, entitled ‘Operation Python Dance II: A tale of terror, blood and tears’, was signed by Lucius Ugorji, Catholic bishop of the diocese.
He added that the government has no justification to deploy “heavily armed” soldiers to suppress pro-Biafra agitators, “who were peacefully voicing out their grievance”.
“By so doing, government showed contempt to the fundamental rights and freedoms of the citizenry in a democratic society,” he said.
“Rather than engage soldiers to eliminate non-violent agitators, government should urgently address the anomalies that are the root causes of agitation in the nation or at least pursue the path of dialogue to a logical conclusion.”
He said rather than quelling agitations, “draconic measures energise and embolden them”.
The bishop also wondered why Tukur Buratai, chief of army staff, has failed to explain why the army “was brazenly assuming the constitutional responsibility of the police force”.
“We are deeply saddened to observe that in carrying out the Operation Python Dance II, the Nigerian Army displayed an abysmal lack of professionalism that has brought embarrassment and shame to our nation,” he said.
“No matter how one looks at it, nothing can justify the killing of unarmed and defenceless members of the IPOB nor the degrading and inhuman treatment meted out to some others. Even war prisoners are entitled to a decent and humane treatment.
“We have to stress categorically that hate speeches capable of inflaming passion or incendiary statements that pitch one part of the country against the other, far from solving our national problems rather compound them. Consequently, they should be avoided.”