The Federal Government and former President Goodluck Jonathan have disagreed on the planned military operation in the South-South and the South-West codenamed Operation Crocodile Smile.
Jonathan, who spoke on Tuesday, believed it was an anomaly for soldiers to be deployed for internal security, a responsibility that is meant for the police, saying the deployment of troops internally was to intimidate the citizens.
But the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, countered the former President, arguing that under the past administration, headed by Jonathan, soldiers were deployed in Onitsha, where 16 persons were reportedly killed.
Jonathan criticised his successor, President Muhammadu Buhari, for planning to extend the military show of force to the South-South and the South-West.
Jonathan said this in a Facebook post on Tuesday which was signed on his behalf by his aide, Reno Omokri.
Jonathan stated, “However, we want to advise the Buhari administration, which has announced plans to extend the military show of force to the South-South and the South-West through Operation Crocodile Smile, to thread with caution.
“Nigeria is no longer under military rule. In a democracy, you separate the military from the police. The military is not meant to fight criminality within a nation because they are trained to fight a nation’s external enemies.
“It is the police that are trained to fight crime internally. When the military starts doing the job of the police and starts fighting or doing what they call a ‘show of force’, the effect will not be to reduce crime. The effect will be to intimidate people.”
Jonathan also lambasted the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, for saying the activities of the Indigenous People of Biafra started because of the change of administration in 2015.
Mohammed had said looters and disgruntled elements in the opposition were the chief sponsors of IPOB.
The ex-President said, “The insinuations in the press conference given by Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, on Sunday, accusing the opposition of sponsoring the IPOB and the fact that he mentioned that Nnamdi Kanu preached Nigerian unity during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan is another clear indication that the present administration has not left propaganda mode for proper agenda mode two and a half years into its tenure.
“If the government, in which Lai Mohammed serves, knows which opposition members are sponsoring IPOB, then it should identify them, arrest them and then prosecute them.”
Jonathan wondered if Senate President Bukola Saraki, who is a member of the All Progressives Congress, could be said to be a sponsor of IPOB since he had come out to say the proscription of the group was illegal.
While commending the South-East governors for their efforts in restoring peace, Jonathan said Mohammed had no moral right to cast aspersions as the minister had once criticised him for declaring Boko Haram a terrorist group.
He added, “It is our suspicion that Lai Mohammed is talking from history seeing as he criticised the Jonathan government for banning Boko Haram in a statement he released on June 10, 2013, even though the Jonathan government had gone through due process before proscribing that murderous sect.”
However, Mohammed berated Jonathan for criticising the planned deployment of soldiers in the South-West and South-South as part of a military operation code-named ‘Operation Crocodile Smile’.
Mohammed told The PUNCH during a telephone interview on Monday that Jonathan lacked the moral right to criticise the deployment of soldiers having done so many times during his five-year administration.
The minister said in June 2012, Jonathan deployed soldiers, policemen and operatives of the Department of State Services in Onitsha, Anambra State, which led to the death of 16 members of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra.
He said during the deadly raid, 83 MASSOB members were injured while 500 others, including women, were arrested.
Mohammed added, “Ordinarily, I would not want to take issue with the former President but ask him who he deployed in Onitsha in June of 2012 if not soldiers, men of the DSS and policemen. At the end of that deadly raid, 16 MASSOB members were killed while 83 were injured.
“More than 500 others including women were arrested. The information is available on the Internet. A simple Google search will bring out the information.”
He said he never accused Jonathan of sponsoring IPOB, but merely stated that the activities of IPOB were not as pronounced during the Jonathan era.
“Is it not a fact that under President Jonathan, Kanu led a demonstration in London promoting the peace and unity of Nigeria? Isn’t the video all over the Internet?” the minister asked.”
We’ve identified countries supporting IPOB, says FG
Meanwhile, the Federal Government, on Tuesday, said it had identified countries that were backing the IPOB.
Mohammed, who disclosed this during a Nigerian Television Authority’s programme, Good Morning Nigeria, said the Federal Government was taking steps to block the source of funding of IPOB.
Mohammed, who said the government knew the countries supporting IPOB, stated that that he was not at liberty to disclose names of such nations.
He stated, “We know the sources of their funding , though I am not at liberty to disclose them here. Terrorists do not publish where their funding come from. But we know the countries that are supporting IPOB .
“We are taking steps to block them and we are also taking a lot of diplomatic actions in respect of the countries that are supporting them. ”
Mohammed alleged that countries supporting IPOB were doing so based on ignorance, noting that IPOB had hoodwinked them to believe that Nigeria was a country where Muslims persecuted Christians and a country where there was genocide.
He said, “As we speak today, IPOB has written letters to many governments outside Nigeria, international parliaments, sending fake and cloned videos claiming there is genocide in Nigeria.
Mohammed, who expatiated on the activities of IPOB, said the group set up a para-military organisation, a parallel military group, Biafra Secret Service and Biafra National Guard to launch attacks on army installations and soldiers at checkpoints and extort money from innocent people.
He added, “IPOB’s activities are no jokes. If there have not been the proactive actions on the part of the military and the South-East governors, there would have been retaliation from other regions and the entire country would have been set on fire.
“We cannot be talking of semantics or procedure when the nation is moving towards crisis.
“It is only in a banana republic that you can see non-state actors doing what IPOB is doing. The actions by the military and the governors should be seen from the perspective of ensuring internal security and averting chaos.”
He, however, urged the international community not to be sentimental in dealing with IPOB and to be more diligent before making any pronouncement.
He noted that what their countries would never accept in their territories should not be condoned or encouraged in Nigeria.
PDP, Fayose fault FG on looters sponsoring IPOB claim
Also, the Peoples Democratic Party has called on the Federal Government to stop blaming the opposition over the insurgency of IPOB.
It said the enemies of the government were within it, calling on the government to beam its searchlight on its members.
The opposition party stated that it was wrong for the APC-led administration to continue to attribute its weaknesses to the opposition.
The spokesperson for the PDP, Mr. Dayo Adeyeye, in a statement in Abuja on Tuesday, said it would be wrong for Mohammed to claim that IPOB was being sponsored by the opposition.
Mohammed had blamed the activities of IPOB on those he called disgruntled looters, who he said were planning to return to power in 2019.
Adeyeye stated, “We had advised not a few times that the APC should look inwards and seek solutions to its self-induced challenges in government caused by its unpreparedness for governance; but since the party seems set for self-destruction, we shall not relent in helping to expose its ineptitude to the Nigerian populace.
“We noticed that the minister, who is much known for his unbridled capacity for constant polarisation of the polity rather than ardency in the proper dissemination of government policies and information to the populace, tried once again, on Sunday, to shift the blame of the poor handling of the agitations of IPOB by the current government to an opposition (party)that exists only in his imagination.
“How on earth will a serious-minded government blame opposition parties which they have conveniently labelled ‘looters’ for the activities of IPOB?
“But we take solace in the fact that the APC might actually know the looters as the party has clearly demonstrated its penchant for giving covers to people considered as corrupt.”
Adeyeye cited the alleged recent release of 48 houses, said to have been seized on allegations that they were proceeds of crime, back to a member of the APC said to be standing trial for alleged corruption, as an example.
In a similar vein, Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, challenged Mohammed to name the “treasury looters” that he claimed were sponsoring IPOB.
Fayose stated this in a statement on Tuesday by his Special Assistant on Public Communications and New Media, Lere Olayinka.
The governor said it was high time Nigerians began to hold the minister accountable for his claims.
“More than 20 months after he claimed that 55 Nigerians stole over N1.34tn from the country’s treasury from 2006 to 2013, Lai Mohammed is yet to tell Nigerians who the 55 people are,” he added.
The governor called on Nigerians to prevail on the minister to name the treasury looters sponsoring IPOB and provide proof of the sponsorship as well as the 55 people that he said stole over N1.34tn.
Northern govs continue tour of South-East
Also, for the second day running, five members of the Northern Governors’ Forum took their campaign for peace to Owerri, the Imo State capital, on Tuesday, where they stressed the need for peace, unity and progress in the country.
The state governors on the delegation were Alhaji Kashim Shettima (Borno); Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto); Alhaji Atiku Buguda (Kebbi); Alhaji Aminu Masari (Katsina); and Alhaji Simon Lalong (Plateau).
Speaking at the Sam Mbakwe Exco chambers at the Government House, Owerri, Lalong stated the quit notice issued to the Igbo to leave that the North at a time this year was not a collective decision of all northerners but that of a few disgruntled individuals.
The Plateau State governor noted that the nation was a democracy, adding that any issue concerning secession should follow due process.
He said, “We are practising democracy and before such issue is decided on, it has to go through the National Assembly. The various representatives will argue it and agree before it works.
“We, in the North, have not decided in any way or any form that any Nigerian nationality or tribe should leave any place they live in. We have only come to preach oneness and unity and the way forward for the nation”.
Similarly, Shettima described that the leader of IPOB as someone who does not have the interest of the nation at heart.
He said, “Nnamdi Kanu does not have the interest of Nigerian project. He is only trying to plunge the Igbo nation into what is not ordinary. Nigeria is our own and we cannot allow what happened to us before to repeat itself now.”
A governor like Nyesom Wike is a seasoned administrator. Though he is not an APC governor, he tenaciously believes in the Nigerian project”.
He described the host governor, Rochas Okorocha, as the type of administrator/leader the Nigerian nation needed.
Shettima stated that Igbo was a blessed nationality made up of various people with many gifts, talents and natural endowment.
“Let no person cause or deceive the nationality. Any form of deception would plunge us back the more. Remember, as a nation, we are competing with other nations. Any form of distraction would make other competing nations to be far ahead of us,” he said.
Okorocha said Nigeria was going through trial but believed the nation would surmount its challenges.
“Many great nations of the world have passed through these cantankerous stages and succeeded in the end. We are going to triumph in the end,” the governor added.
Wrong action can endanger 11 million Igbo lives –Ikpeazu
In a related development, the Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, urged the three tiers of government and the media to treat the South-East crisis with caution as any wrong move could endanger the lives of over 11.6 million Igbo people living outside the zone.
Ikpeazu said this during an interview with State House correspondents shortly after meeting with Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Tuesday.
Ikpeazu said, “First and foremost, I think based on our relationship with our brothers from northern Nigeria, the governors have assured us that every part of Nigeria is safe for every Nigerian, including Igbo, to continue their business and enterprise.
“I want to announce that the population of Igbo outside Igbo enclave is about 11.6 million; you don’t play with the lives of 11.6 million people.
“So, we all have to be careful, the press, the leadership at the state level, the leadership at the Federal Government level, everybody.
“I think we should be guarded by the rule of law and grow confidence in the Nigerian citizen that under our laws, he is protected.”
The governor said the traditional ruler of Isiama Afaraukwu in Umuahia, Eze Israel Kanu, would not be dethroned due to the activities of his son, Nnamdi Kanu, who leads IPOB.
The governor said Kanu’s father was not in total agreement with the ideology and actions of his son.
The governor stated that he would not allow the activities of IPOB to turn Abia State into a war zone.
He added, “You know that the mainstay of our economy in Abia State is trade and commerce and I do not think it will augur well for our economy if we make our kitchen the theatre of Biafra.”