The Nigerian Bar Association, Calabar Branch, Cross River State, has decried Governor Ben Ayade’s directive to the Nigerian Army to sustain the military operation in Nko community.
A statement signed by the branch Chairman, Attah Ochinke, and Secretary, Eno Edet, said “The attention of the Nigerian Bar Association, Calabar Branch, has been drawn to the directive issued to the Nigerian Army by the Governor of Cross River State, Senator Ben Ayade, in respect of the army’s operations currently being conducted in Nko and Oyadama communities.
“In a press statement issued by his Deputy Chief Press Secretary, the governor ordered the sustenance of army operation in Nko community until those behind the shooting of six military personnel are produced or fished out.
“While we join the governor in condemning the embarrassing and seemingly intractable communal clashes between these neighbouring communities, we view the directive of the governor to the army to sustain its operations in Nko community as appalling and ill-advised.
“It is common knowledge that the army is currently engaged in a reprisal action against the Nko community over the alleged shooting of six military personnel in the course of the crisis.
“The army is alleged to be currently engaged in indiscriminate shooting, summary execution and rape of hapless citizens in Nko community under the guise of fishing out the perpetrators responsible for the shooting of the military personnel.
“Houses and other properties are being burnt or destroyed by the military in the operation to fish out the culprits. The reprisal attacks are raw vengeance and not an investigation.”
The association noted tha the crises between Nko and Oyadama have become an annual embarrassment to the state.
“We particularly condemn the attack and killing of military personnel drafted to the scene to help bring the situation to order. While the details of the events are awaited, no excuse will justify the shooting of army personnel on a peace keeping operation.
“The law of armed conflicts, even in international scenarios, view attack on peace keepers as a heinous crime.
“However, we are appalled that the governor, with a mandate for law and order in the state, responsible for the welfare and wellbeing of all Cross Riverians, will urge the sustenance of reprisal attacks on hapless villagers.
“We know that those that have been killed, wounded or raped in these reprisal attacks are not necessarily the perpetrators of the attack on the soldiers.
“The victims of the reprisal attacks are citizens in the wrong place and time without regard to their culpability. At this stage, the governor should be reining in the army and bringing the reprisal
attacks to an end.
“We urge the Commanders of the Military Units involved, the GOC of 82 Division, Enugu, the Chief of Army Staff, and ultimately, President Muhammadu Buhari, our Commander-in-Chief, to call the soldiers to order and bring the situation under control. We call on citizens with access to these institutions to intervene to stop the carnage.
“We urge the Cross River State government to revisit and implement the recommendations of the judicial panel of enquiry over the crisis. Perhaps this will bring the crisis to an end and save citizens the annual embarrassment and risk that these clashes pose to all of us that ply the Ikom-Calabar highway,” it said.
The NBA also appealed to the governor to countermand or withdraw his instructions to the army to avoid more loss of innocent lives.
Responding earlier on the military operation in Nko, the Director of Army Public Relations, Brig. Gen Onyema Nwachukwu, said “Troops did not conduct themselves unprofessionally. Troops were legitimately deployed to restore law and order in a communal clash between Onyadama and Nko communities. The troops were attacked and shot with firearms. The five personnel who are critically wounded are currently under intensive medical care unit.”