The Abia state governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, on Tuesday, declared a three-day curfew in Aba, the state’s commercial nerve centre following the Nigerian army’s inversion of the state.
In a statement issued on Tuesday by the state government, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu expressed concern over the launch of a military exercise tagged, “Operation Python Dance II” in the state and other South-Eastern states by the Nigerian army.
The curfew starts from 6pm to 6am on Tuesday and ends on Thursday.
Recall that few hours ago, reports and video clips showing members of the Nigerian Army with their armoured tank surrounding the home of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, while so many IPOB youths barricaded the street leading to their leader’s house.
Recall also that the Nigerian Army had, a couple of days ago, deployed troops, including weapons to the South-Eastern states in an exercise it tagged “Operation Egwu Eke II” or “Operation Python Dance II”.
The army, however, gave reasons for such deployment to include tackling kidnapping, violent agitations and protecting the territorial integrity of Nigeria.
However, tension has continued to mount in Abia, the state of the leader of IPOB, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu especially following Sunday’s clash between the army and IPOB supporters when the soldiers invaded Kanu’s home and allegedly shot some of the youths.
The situation became even heightened on Tuesday when soldiers were seen again in a video clip, parading Kanu’s area with heavy armoured tanks and a platoon of fierce-looking soldiers as the army said it is conducting an exercise ‘show of force’ in the state.
But the Governor Ikpeazu-led state government, in order to nip impending danger lurking in the state, quickly declared a three-day curfew in Aba.
The statement from the state government read thus: “Abia State has for the past few days been the focus of security searchlight occasioned by the reported skirmish between some groups in the State, especially Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) with men of the Nigerian Army. Government notes and has observed the frenzy of activities of members of IPOB within Afara – Umuahia, the ancestral home of the leader of IPOB for some months now.
Government is equally aware of the recent proclamation by the Nigerian Army of Operation Python Dance II within the South-East geopolitical region of Nigeria. The operation as declared by the Army is intended to check kidnapping, banditry, assassination, secessionist activities within the region, amongst other forms of criminal activities.
The recent confrontation between the Nigerian Army and members of IPOB on Sunday, 10th September, 2017, could presumably be attributed to the commencement of the said Operation Python Dance II. The Abia State Government unequivocally states that Abia is a component State of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and subscribes to the supremacy of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and all other extant laws.
While the Government of Abia State recognizes the right of the Nigerian Army and other security agencies, to perform their statutory duty of protection of lives and property of Nigerian citizens, such duties must be carried out within acclaimed Nigerian and international standards of engagement with the civil populace, with due respect to the human rights of citizens and sanctity of human lives.
“The Abia State Government is committed to the protection of the lives and properties of its citizens and others residing and doing business within the geographical entity called Abia State. Abians and others living within Abia, are advised to remain law abiding and carry on their lawful business without fear, as efforts by Government will be made to reduce friction between the civil populace and military personnel in the State.
“Meanwhile, Aba residents are advised to observe a curfew from 6pm to 6am from Tuesday to Thursday September 14, 2017. Persons residing within the state are strongly advised to remain law abiding, while going about their lawful business without fear of molestation, and, not engage in any form of confrontation with military personnel or other security agents.
“The Government recognizes the constitutional Right to Freedom of Movement for all Nigerians, but objects to the influx of people into Abia state for purposes of unsettling the enduring peace in the state. Finally, Abia State will co-operate with security agencies to maintain the rule of law and order in the state,” the statement reads in part.
In a related development, men of the Nigerian Army numbering more than 20 on Tuesday invaded the Abia State headquarters of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, leaving at the wake of the invasion, phones and I-pads, tablets and properties destroyed.
“Some of us were at the balcony, viewing the city centre when we heard the siren of some vehicles coming. The convoy happened to be that of the military, being led by an APC (armoured personnel carrier), that suddenly stopped and started shouting. Look at the journalists, they are there. Look at this one, he was at the window.
You Journalists, You Journalists!!!” More than 150 0f them were at the ground floor and surrounded our building with their guns aimed at us.
“When they climbed up, they cocked their guns and pointed at all they saw at the Press Cente, stating that they were being filmed and photographed, but which was not true,” our source said.
“The over 20 military personnel who came upstairs, had their guns pointed at each and every journalist at the centre, ordering us to bring out our phones and started their wanton destruction of all working tools they saw, including my phones I use for work.
“Initially, they had ordered us to march down until another of them came up and asked them to leave us. The matter as promptly reported to the Army PRO, Maj. Gbadamosi and the Abia CP, Adeleye Oyebade has been informed of the development, as well as the Deputy Governor of Abia State.”
However, “an NUJ National Trustee, Bonny Okoro, was manhandled and his I-Pad destroyed, while they threw my phone to the wall several times, used their boot to smash it and eventually used the nuzzle of their gun to finish the phone, my only working tool I have as at then,” the source said.
Few hours later, Brig. -Gen. Abdul Ibrahim, the Commander, 14 Brigade of the Nigerian Army, Ohafia, immediately visited the Abia Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ.
Ibrahim, who was accompanied on the visit by the Commandant, Naval School of Logistics and Finance, Owerrinta, Commodore Abdul Aminu, tendered an unreserved apology to the leadership and members of the Union over the incident.
According to him, “what happened here this morning is a disaster of unimaginable proportion and I came to tender my unreserved apology.
“The soldiers,that did this did not have the authority to do what they did.
“The press is a powerful institution and I got a call from New York over the incident”, and promised that the
matter would be investigated in order to fish out the perpetrators for appropriate sanctions.”
Responding, the chairman of Abia NUJ, Mr. John Emejor, thanked the army chiefs for their visit and promised that the “ugly incident” would not diminish the cordial relationship that existed between the military and journalists in the state.
In a related development, a detachment of military troops, belonging to ‘Operation Python Dance’ on Tuesday morning, took over major streets of Umuahia in different trucks and Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC).
Their presence, especially on Factory Road, leading to Afaraukwu, the community of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, caused palpable tension in the area.
Meanwhile, lawyer to Nnamdi Kanu, Ieader of the Indigenous People Of Biafra (IPOB), Ifeanyi Ejiofor, says his client has been placed under house arrest by the Nigerian Army.
Also in a statement issued shortly after the incident, Ejiofor said he got a distress call from Kanu but that he couldn’t confirm whether he is alive or dead.
He also accused the soldiers of killing four members of IPOB in the area.
“Just to notify the world that my client’s (Nnamdi Kanu) house is presently under siege by the trigger-happy soldiers acting under the direct instruction of chief of army staff,” the statement read.
“He has been placed under house arrest at the moment while shooting sporadically into the air. Casualties are being counted as the unprovoked assault progresses. Some IPOB members have just been killed at least four people.
“They drove in in their thousands to arrest and maim him. I just got a distress call from him now. Further efforts to establish contact with him have remained unsuccessful.
“As it stands now, I can’t confirm whether he is dead or alive.”
Ejiofor further said that the federal government was attempting to “eliminate” Kanu through ‘Operation Python Dance,’ the military exercise recently launched in the south-east.
“It (the exercise) is yielding the desired result to the Presidency, having launched a manhunt for my client and unarmed members if Indigenous People of Biafra,” he added.
“Let the world know that the federal government has practically abandoned their case in court in search of a brute route to eliminate my client.
“As I type this statement, his residence has been cordoned off by the military, majority of whom are of Fulani extraction.
“The world should hold Buhari-led federal government responsible if anything untoward happens to Nnamdi Kanu. The situation is very tense at the moment.”