.No, we are not, we do not carry arms – Members
Following increased activities of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and skirmishes with security agencies, the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) on Friday tagged the group a “militant terrorist organisation”.
But the group has faulted the claim of the Defence headquarters, saying that its members are neither militants nor terrorists as they don’t carry arms.
The Daily Times recalls that over the past few days, there has been renewed confrontation between IPOB members and the military leading to the death of some IPOB members as well as the burning of the police station attached to Ariaria market in Aba and the attack on the
Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) secretariat in Umuahia.
In a statement signed by the Director of Defence Information, Major Gen. Paul Enenche, on Friday in Abuja, he said that the Nigerian military has no option than to brand IPOB as a terrorist group.
He alleged that the group has a secret service, attempted on several occasions to snatch guns from armed military personnel, insisting that the group has become violent and now terrorising the people.
The statement reads in part: “The Armed Forces of Nigeria wishes to confirm to the general public that IPOB from all intent, plan and purpose as analysed, is a militant terrorist organisation.
“The Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) group which has posed to be a security challenge in the country has been metamorphosing from one stage to the other.
“After due professional analysis and recent developments, it has become expedient, to notify the general public that the claim by IPOB actors that the organisation is non-violent is not true. Hence, the need to bring to public awareness the true and current state of IPOB”.
He stressed that some of the clandestine activities of the group include “The formation of a Biafra Secret Service, claimed formation of Biafra National Guard, unauthorised blocking of public access roads”.
Other allegations were “Extortion of money from innocent civilians at illegal road blocks, Militant possession and use of weapons (stones, molotov cocktails, machetes and broken bottles among others) on a military patrol on 10 September 2017”.
Other nefarious activities of the group include “Physical confrontation of troops by Nnamdi Kanu and other IPOB actors at a check point on 11 September 2017 and also attempts to snatch their rifles. Attack by IPOB members, on a military check point on 12 September 2017, at Isialangwa, where one IPOB actors attempted to snatch a female soldier’s rifle”.
Prior to this development, the Abia State Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, had taken some steps to reduce the presence of the military from the streets, saying that the heavy presence of the weird looking military personnel in the streets was responsible for the renewed aggression and confrontation of IPOB.
The Abia governor warned that despite the withdrawal of troops, the state government would not tolerate agitators and protesters taking over the streets for any reason whatsoever.
In a swift reaction, the Military high command, although did not fault the statement on the gradual withdrawal of the military from Abia State as announced by the governor, said that the operation Python Dance II, scheduled to commence in the five states of the South East as from September 15, 2017 will go ahead.
On the video which had gone viral that some people were molested by the Military, the Army chief said that some persons have been arrested in connection to the allegation, but maintained that investigations are on-going.
This development has elicited some uncertainty in the South East. The Daily Times further learnt that some Igbo traders in Kaduna and Kano have closed down their businesses to prevent attacks from Northern youths while Northerners in the East are full on anxiety.
But one of the leaders of IPOB, Emmanuel Kanu, in a telephone conversation, said that the group is not a terrorist group but only fighting for freedom as IPOB members don’t carry arms, and have not attacked anybody.
Kanu said: “We do not carry arms, we never asked anybody to kill for us and we have never killed before.
On the formation of the Biafra secret service and Biafra National guard, he replied: “They are called vigilante, they are not secret service, there is a lot of misconception here. They are called vigilante, they are there to protect our land that is all that they do, against attacks from herdsmen, from criminals and all of that.
“We are not armed, did you see them armed?
On the next line of action, Kanu said: “Of course there are laws in this country that we have to follow as a non-violent group. We will do everything within our power and within the law to make sure that no body will tag IPOB as a terrorist group.
“Let me tell you, they came to my house and that was yesterday but they didn’t see even a knife, and later they said that they found some arms in Nnamdi Kanu’s house, how come they are having this contradictions?
“They came into our house, searched everywhere, shut at everybody, and they killed 22 people,” he reiterated.
Also in his reaction, Col. Hassan Stan-Labo (rtd), said that the government was right for branding IPOB as a terrorist group, saying that even if someone is with a bottle, it can be said that he is carrying arms.
“In most cases when we talk of bearing arms, people limit their definitions of arms to be AK47. Even if you carry a pounded yam pestle, you are armed, if you carry a knife, you are armed.
“A very thin line separates a militia group and a terrorist group, they are all of nuisance value to national security. They both bear arms, they both kill defenseless people, the two groups contradict our laws. Infact, the militia is just at the mercy of the labeling authority.
“Even if you say that you are a freedom fighter, your approach, the manner with which you handle the situation can either attract negativities upon you or attract positive sympathy for you,” Stan-Labo stated.
However, a political analyst and lawyer, Liborous Oshoma, said that government was very hasty in making the pronouncement.
“For me, I think it is a beat extreme,” he said, adding, “Since this man is standing trial, it is expected that you should have allowed the court to deal with the issue. For me, that is already subjudice.
“The man is not using the best of means, also the government shouldn’t degenerate to the level of Nnamdi Kanu.
“The question government should be asking is: what makes reasonable people listen to somebody like Nnamdi Kanu? It is because of the inequalities, the injustice that the Nigerian state, the political class has inflicted on the Nigerian state right from the Independence till date” he argued.
The former governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, condemned the recent pronouncement by the military and called on the president to be fair to the South East.
“I am appealing to the Federal Government to remove the operation python, python is no friend of man. Let him reduce his attitude that is not very positive towards the South East. Nigeria will survive this thing.
“I believe that the Fulani young man, the Hausa, the Yoruba, Igbo and all the tribes will benefit from one Nigeria properly restructured and justice allowed to prevail,” he said.