Aba, the commercial hub of Abia State, was over the weekend 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 was uncalled for.
An eyewitness, who pleaded anonymity, said the soldiers visited major streets in the city dehumanizing young men and taking them to an unknown destination without any explanation.
The eyewitness stated, “Their targets 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.
“It was a very sorry sight. We were all afraid to get close.
“The soldiers came unannounced and started arresting, flogging, maltreating and cutting the hair of any young person sporting dreadlocks as well as long and tinted hair.
“We have never seen such wickedness before and nobody has ever told us that wearing of dreadlocks is an offence.
“All of a sudden, the soldiers came to the Ehi Road and did all manners of evil to people sporting dreadlocks before my very eyes.”
Another resident, who identified herself simply as Mrs Mba, claimed that she witnessed a scene at the Afor-Une Market in the Umungasi area of the town and described what she saw as resembling a scene from a Nollywood movie.
Mba stated, “I went to the market to buy something and suddenly, I saw people standing afar but moving closer, I saw some young men sitting on the floor and being shaved by soldiers.
“Honestly, the people around were afraid to ask any question, because no one knew actually what crime the victims had committed.
“After shaving the boys, the soldiers eventually bundled them into their vehicle, packed the hair and drove off.”
One David Ehilegbu said he saw the soldiers arresting a young man with tinted hair on the St. Michael’s Road by York, opposite the secretariat of the Aba Federated Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists.
He urged the military authorities to define the soldiers’ job specification in Aba to avoid crises from their operations.
A human rights lawyer in Aba, Chief Prince Ukaegbu, described the action of the soldiers as illegal and an unbridled display of power.
When contacted, the acting Assistant Director, Army Public Relations, 14 Brigade, Ohafia, Major Aliu Kadiri, confirmed the incident.
He said the Nigerian Army headquarters were aware of the matter.
He added, “If there is a new special operation going on in Aba, I will find out from the commanding officer and confirm.
“We are on the issue of the haircut. Our headquarters have called us on it; we are handling the matter.”