The Human Rights Righters Association, HURIWA, has condemned the reported widespread violent attacks by armed soldiers on boys who wore dreadlocks in the commercial city of Aba in Abia State.
It called on the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, to immediately order the investigation and prosecution of soldiers who embarked on such violence against the civil populace.
HURIWA described the action of the armed security forces as the “clearest manifestations of criminal rascality” and an elaborate attempts to draw a wedge between the military and civilians in an era whereby the nation’s military is in need of winning the hearts and minds of civilians so as to build formidable data bank of actionable intelligence to check the unprecedented upsurge in violent crimes all over Nigeria.
In a statement by the National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Affairs Director, Miss. Zainab Yusuf, HURIWA expressed shock that such “misconducts and criminality can still go on amongst soldiers even when the current hierarchy of the Nigerian Army has reportedly invested so much human and material resources to build the capacity of personnel manning the human rights desks of the Nigerian Army in the last couple of years.”
The body reiterated its call that Buratai should upgrade the Human Rights desks of the Army into a full-fledged department to be coordinated by a General, adding that there should be a collaboration between the Army and credible independent-minded civil society organisations with track records of activities in the human rights industry.
HURIWA insisted that the attacks violated several provisions of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1999 (as amended).
It cited sections 38(1); 35(1) of the constitution which states thus: “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom (either alone or in community with others, and in public or in private) to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.” and “Every person shall be entitled to his personal liberty and no person shall be deprived of such liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure permitted by law”
HURIWA stated that ” We have it on records that the commercial center of Abia State, was on Saturday was thrown into panic as masked soldiers reportedly arrested, flogged and shaved off the hair of young men wearing dreadlocks and those with bushy and tinted hair. It was gathered that the soldiers also took the young men to an unknown destination.”
“Some residents, who witnessed the incident, said they were afraid that another season of Operation Python Dance might have commenced in the state, adding that the inhuman treatment meted out to the young men and innocent youths were uncalled for.
“We have been informed by our members in Aba that the soldiers visited major streets in the city dehumanizing young men and taking them to an unknown destination without any explanation. We were told that the targets of these marauding and lawless armed soldiers were young men, who wore dreadlocks and those who tinted their hair. The masked soldiers flogged many of their victims and used scissors to cut off the hair and then threw the victims into their vehicles and zoomed off.”
HURIWA said it was nonsensical that professional soldiers can be let loose to go about harassing the civil populace and misbehaving in these sorts of pathetic modes. Dreadlocks are the choice of some persons even as some religious-minded persons keep dreadlocks for spiritual reasons. Nigerian constitution provides for right to freedom of religion.”
The Rights group further condemned the misconducts of the armed soldiers which it described as “primitive and unbecoming of a modern-day professionally trained armed forces. This show of shame must stop and the inducted soldiers punished.”