By Peter Okolie
Onitsha (Anambra) – Members of the Campaign for Democracy (CD), a pressure group, on Friday staged a peaceful protest against the continued presence of military personnel on major roads in the South East.
The group trooped out en-masse on major streets of Onitsha with various placards to express their displeasure with the development.
Addressing newsmen after the protest, Mr Dede Uzor, the National Publicity Secretary of the non-governmental organisation, alleged that the military personnel were committing human rights crimes in the geo-political zone.
Uzor said that there was no basis for the more than 420 military checkpoints mounted in strategic areas of the South East as the area was not in a state of war.
“We are protesting the invasion of the South East by the military because we are not in a state of war.
“We receive torrents of reports from the people who are being extorted and harassed everyday by the military and the police.
“We wonder why the Federal Government would send soldiers to all the nooks and crannies of the South East region.
“The road blocks they mounted in all the strategic areas of the region are causing our people untold hardships.
“So, we have decided to draw the attention of the Federal Government to dismantle these road blocks, especially now that we are celebrating Christmas,” Uzor said.
The spokesman queried the number of suspected criminals arrested by the military since the commencement of ‘Operation Python Dance’ launched in November by the Nigerian Army.
He also berated governors from the region for keeping mum over their subjects’ humiliation by the security forces.
“The South East governors have failed our people in all ramifications.
“A bigger protest that will shake the South East is coming if our demand is not met within three days,” he threatened.
Some of the placards displayed by the protesters read: “Is South East in a state of war?”, “420 road blocks is unacceptable” and “Dismantle checkpoints in the South East,” among others.
Gov. Willie Obiano of Anambra, while receiving the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, recently, explained that the operation was not an army of occupation.
Obiano had said it was done with the good intention of wiping out crime in the zone.