Gov Ikpeazu warns mischief makers, says soldiers’ withdrawal begins today
2 suspected IPOB members killed as markets, banks closed for business
Alleged gunshot towards Kanu’s residence after Gov’s press briefing
Abia State was early Thursday morning thrown into tension, apprehension and fear as the Ariaria Divisional Police Station, Aba Area Command, was set ablaze by yet-to-be identified hoodlums, while two people suspected to be members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) were early same day short dead at the Factory Road Junction at Akanu Ibiam (Bank Road), Umuahia by men suspected to be of the Nigerian Army.
The killing incident happened at about 9.30am and this led to panic as people started running helter-skelter and businesses hurriedly shut down, even as banks in the capital city shut their gates to customers.
An eye witness said that the two young men, dressed in black attire and cap to match were gunned down along Bank Road close to Government House, Umuahia by the military while driving out from an area suspected to be Nnamdi Kanu’s country home in their military van that has the colour of the Nigerian Army on sighting the two victims, who were said to be unarmed.
“The dead bodies were immediately picked up by the soldiers and dumped inside the army vehicle, apparently to conceal evidence, while the third victim said to be a bank customer, was hit on his arm by a stray bullet and was also whisked away by the troops and is said to have been rushed to Federal Medical Centre (FMC) Umuahia for treatment.”
A medical doctor at the Accident and Emergency Unit confirmed the development on condition of anonymity, adding that the victim was brought to the emergency unity by the assailant’s unit, disclosing that that the victim’s condition was stable and he was later wheeled to the theatre for surgery.
A security man at the main branch of a bank in along the area, said “we have closed for the day” when he was asked why customers were not being allowed into the bank.
At the Afaraukwu area of Umuahia where the home of IPOB leader is located, residents all deserted their homes leaving only IPOB members who were seen stationed around Kanu’s residence.
With the information making round about the humiliation of civilians at Aba area, the commercial city, fear, tension and apprehension are at its top level as people, following reports that soldiers were allegedly killing innocent civilians, on Wednesday night around the Enyimba city, even as residents reported heavy gun shots throughout the night.
This led to the setting ablaze by yet-to-be identified hoodlums, the Ariaria police station which the state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Mr. Geoffrey Ogbonna, confirmed.
Meanwhile, the State Command of the Nigerian Police headquarters at Bende Road, Umuahia closed the gate leading into the Central Police station Umuahia. Attempts made to get the reaction of the Public Relations Officer of the 14 Army Brigade, Ohafia, Maj. Oyegoke Gbadamosi, were unsuccessful as he could not pick calls put to him. Meanwhile, Abia State Governor Okezie IKpeazu has said that Operation Python Dance II will end today (Friday) in the state. He stated this during a briefing for select journalists in Government House, Umuahia on Thursday.
The Governor said: “The security situation in the state in the past few days, which led to the deployment of soldiers into our state ahead of the Operation Python dance II, has become of great concern to both the government and the citizenry.
“After several interventions, I want to inform you that by tomorrow (today) morning, there will be gradual withdrawal of solders from the streets at Aba and Umuahia, apart from the pre-existing military checkpoints at various locations in the state.
“With the expected exit of soldiers from the streets, we must warn that we will not tolerate agitators and protesters taking over the streets for any reason at all”.
According to him, “I will also be meeting the President and Commander-inChief of the Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari, to discuss possible ways of relaxing the Operation Python Dance II in the state for now. “Our attention has been drawn to ugly incidences of attacks on police stations and military posts at Aba and Umuahia and we hereby warn that we will no longer tolerate that, and all other acts that are capable of causing insecurity in the state.
“We have also observed illegal acts of throwing petrol bombs and setting up of bonfires to obstruct free movements along some roads by suspected miscreants and wish to warn that such acts should stop forthwith”.
He warned mischief makers who want to use Abia as their base that that henceforth, Abia will be too hot for them to carry out their wicked acts as the government will work with security agents to ensure the protection of lives and properties in the state without fear or favour and that there will be no hiding place for such persons.
“At about midnight yesterday (Wednesday), we received security reports that hoodlums and miscreants, some of whom were allegedly brought into the state by unscrupulous individuals, were mobilising around Uratta road at Aba with a view to converging at Ariaria International Market to burn it down. Their aim was obviously to take advantage of the security situation in the state to cripple the economy of the state and cause widespread suffering.
“It was this group that originated the rumours of attacks and counter attacks around the area and also tried to create panic to force people out of their homes to enable them execute their evil intentions under the cover of orchestrated crises. “Thankfully their plan was nipped in the bud by the combined team of soldiers and policemen that promptly moved to the area and later positioned around Ariaria market to protect the lives and properties of our people.
“We have it on good authority that the same group of hoodlums attempted to burn down the police station at Ariaria market early today (yesterday) and security agents are currently on the hunt for them and those outside the state who are sponsoring their evil actions. Not even one of them will escape the full weight of the law.
“Members and sympathisers of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) should henceforth desist from spreading false rumours capable of throwing our state into disorder. Those spreading such falsehood will be dealt with, according to the Law”, the governor said.
He said that it is in the interest of all Abia citizens and residents for full and total peace and security to return to our state immediately, noting that no meaningful progress can be made in an atmosphere of violence and anarchy. However, shortly after ending his address, there were fierce gunshots towards the country home of the IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, as Government House short its gates, while solitary men of the Navy were seen at battle ready, while no soldiers were seen inside the Government House as usual.
However, the new Commissioner of Police, Abia State, Mr. Anthony Ogbizi, has called on residents to be law abiding and ensure peace in the state. Ogbizi stated this while taking over as Commissioner from the former CP, Mr. Adeleye Oyebade after a brief handover ceremony at the command’s headquarters in Umuahia.
He condemned the razing of Ariaria Police Station in Aba and expressed his resolve to work hard to make Abia State safe for all. Ogbizi warned against clamour for the disintegration of the country, saying there would never be “a republic within a republic”. Meanwhile, the United Progressive Party (UPP), on Thursday, condemned in strong terms what it called the unprovoked militarisation of South East as there is no emergency in the region to warrant such massive military deployment.
The UPP stated that the code name of the military siege in the South East, Operation Python Dance II, shows the intention of the Military High Command in carrying out the exercise. The party noted that Python Dance, which in Igbo language means Egwu Eke, is an act of terrorism, stressing that it is obvious that a Python does not dance like masquerade, it poisons and swallows its prey.
“It is the clear intention of the army to suppress, subdue and conquer the unarmed good people of South East at peace time by a naked display of military power in flagrant violation of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended, which they swore to uphold,” the party said.
According to the UPP statement: “The pictures and videos of unarmed young men in Abia State beaten and forced by soldiers at checkpoint to jump inside deep muds that covered their bodies up to neck level, forced to lie face up in that condition on road side and paraded by this Army of Occupation, are despicable, detestable, eye-sore and assault on our national psyche.
Also, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has condemned the alleged brutality by the military against members of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB). The PDP has, consequently, called for the setting up of an independent panel of experts on human rights to ascertain the veracity of this allegation.
The PDP, in a statement on Thursday by its Head of Publicity Division, Chinwe Nnorom, on behalf of the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, said members of the Nigerian military are paid to protect life and not to humiliate the people.
The PDP said it is appalled by the emergence of a video clip which has gone viral, that shows acts of humiliation against unarmed civilians by members of the Nigerian military.
“If true, it’s the depth of callousness and a further descent into the gutter by people who are paid to protect life, property as well as the country’s territorial integrity”, the party said. The statement reads in part: “The PDP believes that human life is sacrosanct and must be treated as such by all and sundry; the right to life and liberty as enshrined in our constitution and other international conventions must therefore not only be respected and protected, but must be seen to be so. But there was palpable tension in Abia State on Thursday night as soldiers allegedly invaded the Afara country home of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mr Nnamdi Kanu, in Umuahia, the state capital.
The invasion came 30 minutes after Abia State Governor Okezie Ikpeazu disclosed that the gradual withdrawal of soldiers from streets in Aba and Umuahia will commence today. The alleged invasion of Kanu’s Afara country home of the IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu at about 5.30pm on Thursday saw grave damages to the residence of the monarch of Afara, HRM, Eze Israel Kanu, who is the father of the IPOB leader.
Sources from the area, said the operation left four people suspected to members of IPOB dead, while 15 others were whisked away.
The source disclosed that even the Alsatian dog of the monarch was not spared the agony as it was also killed, while materials and property were allegedly carted away by the military.
But all efforts efforts to get the comments of military authorities to talk did not materialize at press time. Meanwhile, the whereabouts of the IPOB leader is unknown as it was alleged that he was not seen by the military when the soldiers struck. His father and mother were also not seen by the soldiers when they struck while scores of IPOB members in the compound that were taken unawares by the invasion allegedly sustained injuries.
It was also gathered that the remnants of the IPOB members in the area had gathered together after the operation, setting bonfires at strategic corners of the area. From 9am when some two people were killed and one bank customer wounded, all shops had remained closed at about 7.45 pm.
In a related development, a senior lawyer, Chief Sebastine Hon (SAN) has described the dehumanising treatment melted out on persons suspected to be Biafra apologists by the Federal government as anti Igbo. Hon, who condemned the development, said, it is unbelievable that the Nigerian Army, once respected globally, would con-descend to the level of flogging its hapless captives and compelling them to submerge themselves in thick mud.
In a statement he personally signed and made available to the Daily Times, Hon advised the Federal government to tread with caution and not to depict the Biafran apologists as arch enemies. The senior lawyer clarified that even though he is not in support of any separatist agitation in Nigeria, he does not support the Nigerian Government’s demeaning response to the smouldering crisis.
Sunday Nwakanma, Umuahia, Lateef Ibrahim, Myke Uchendu, Francesca Iwambe, Abuja and Kingsley Chukwuka, Jos