The Federal High Court in Enugu has reserved judgment for December 22 on a matter filed by the Alaigbo Development Foundation, ADF, against the “illegal” conduct of Operation Python Dance II in parts of the South East states of Nigeria.
Respondents in the suit are the Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces- President Mohammadu Buhari, the Nigeria Army and the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai. After four previous sessions which none of the respondents appeared or were represented in the court, Justice M. Liman after listening to arguments of the lead counsel to the Igbo group, Mr. Max Ozoaka, who appeared with four other lawyers, slated December 22, 2017 for judgment on the matter. Before fixing the date, counsel to Aligbo Development Foundation, Ozoaka argued that the reason the army gave for carrying out the operation was not enough for deployment of the army, whom, he maintained, had as its constitutional role the protection of the country from external aggression.
He stated that the police could have been used for taming criminal activities which the army claimed were reason for the operation but which at the end resulted in annihilation of members of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPoB, with its leader, Nnamdi Kanu. Ozoaka argued that more importantly, deployment of the army for emergency cases requires invocation of sections 217 and 218 of the Nigerian 1999 constitution which demands approval by the national Assembly but was not followed by the respondents.
He cited two instances where courts of competent jurisdictions faulted former President Olusegun Obasanjo for such deployment of the army and asked the court to equally condemn the conduct of Operation Python Dance II in the south East. Before fixing date for the judgment, Justice Liman reminded Ozoaka that the jurisdiction of his court was not just to make declarative statements and cross examine the counsel on what the respondents would have put up as defence if they were present in the court.
Ozoaka however insisted that President Buhari trampled on the rights of the people and residents of the South East with the “Ill-conceived” operation. Present in the court were the President of Aligbo Development Foundation, Prof. Uzodinma Nwala; Mrs. Maria Okwor of South East Consultative Assembly, Prince Emeka Onyeso, Amb. Uche Ajulu-Okeke, Prof Nath Aniekwu Dr Luke Aneke, Osita Agu, Dr JC Okolo, among other members of ADF.