At least one person, a police officer, has been confirmed dead after an attack by suspected members of the pro-Biafra separatist group, IPOB, in Abia State, the police have said.
The police also announced that at least 59 suspected members of the now outlawed group have been arrested by security officials.
The new Abia State Commissioner of Police, Anthony Ogbizi, who stated these, also said suspected members of IPOB, recently arrested, will be prosecuted for murder, arson and other related crimes.
Ogbizi disclosed this during a press briefing and parade of seven suspected members of IPOB at Ariaria police station in Aba. He said following the proscription of IPOB by governors in the South East and its declaration as a terrorist group by the Nigerian Army, anybody found with Biafra materials would be arrested and prosecuted. He said that they would be prosecuted under the Anti Terrorism Act to ensure they were properly dealt with.
Ogbizi, echoing what the army had earlier said, stressed that IPOB by their action had shown itself to be a terrorist group, which must be dealt with as such. He said that between September 10 and September 14, 2017, the Ariaria police station was attacked by suspected members of IPOB, who destroyed everything in the station.
He said they came with petrol bombs, which they used to gain entrance, destroyed properties and took three pump action guns.
He said: “Even some policemen were seriously injured. In fact, as I am talking to you, one of the injured police officer is dead. Doctors tried in vain to save his life. Now, we have lost a soul and you know what it takes to train a police officer. You know the vacuum that creates. It takes a minimum of one year to train a police officer.”
Ogbizi said the group also destroyed property of lawful citizens, adding that their demonstration was not peaceful. He alleged that the group attacked a bank to get money to acquire more weapons.
The police boss said about 30 IPOB members were arrested when they attacked soldiers at Isiala Ngwa and about 29 arrested in Umuahia. He added that suspected IPOB members attacked military officers and the residences of Commissioner of Police and AIG Zone 9 in Umuahia. Ogbizi said volunteered that the army recovered several exhibits including the coat of arms of Biafra from the suspects.
“As I am talking to you now, information reaching me said they have started gathering at Nnamdi Kanu’s house”, he said.
Ogbizi called on the people to volunteer information on the whereabouts of the leader of IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu. He denied rumours circulating in the state that security agents have arrested Kanu’s father.
IPOB being sponsored to destabilise Nigeria –FG
Folasade-Koyi and Ismail Omipidan
The Federal Government, yesterday, said the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) was being sponsored to destabilise the country and the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who made the disclosure in Lagos, while interacting with journalists, said contrary to what some Nigerians think, IPOB was not fighting for anyone’s rights, but a tool by “politically disgruntled” Nigerians and “treasury looters” to divert attention from the laudable achievements of the Buhari’s administration.
He further said those behind IPOB believed that “by sponsoring this (IPOB) group to destabilise the country and trigger chaos, they will realize their ambition of escaping justice and then be free to dip their hands into the nation’s treasury again.
“The signs are very clear: the activities of IPOB became heightened with the advent of this administration, and have been unrelenting since then. If this is coincidental, then that coincidence is uncanny, at the least. Remember that Nnamdi Kanu, who led a protest at the Nigeria House in London against Boko Haram insurgency and in support of Nigeria’s unity under the Jonathan administration, has suddenly metamorphosed into an IPOB monster who will rather set the nation ablaze.
“Has anyone wondered why IPOB decided to up the ante, so to say, in its violent campaign immediately it was announced that Nigeria has come out of recession? Now, instead of the government being given the chance to consolidate on that monumental achievement, it is being distracted, and the airwaves have been polluted with the activities of IPOB. The good news of the end of recession and its fall-outs are being replaced in the headlines with the IPOB show of shame.
“We saw this trend early on and we warned the nation about it. The starting point was the rise of hate speech, fake news and disinformation. These were used in an attempt to downgrade the achievements of the administration and to hoodwink an unsuspecting public into believing that the administration has not moved the nation forward an inch since assuming office. Since 2016, we have been calling attention to the dangers posed by hate speech, fake news and disinformation. Our calls did not gain traction until those behind the campaign sought to overwhelm the nation.
“The self-imposed IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, is the master of hate speech. No one, including the same people whose rights he claimed to be championing escaped his vitriolic and primitive attacks. We challenge all his sympathisers to scrutinise his incendiary, divisive and inciting speeches, the name-calling and the derogatory remarks about the nation’s leaders, and then tell the nation if such do not constitute hate speech. Leaders of thought and commentators who have shown the inclination to accommodate Kanu and his excesses should say if this is what they expect from someone who wants to lead.”
Mohammed said that but for the timely intervention of the military, the group would have set the country on fire.
“IPOB engaged in physical confrontation with troops at a checkpoint on 11 September 2017, during which they attempted to snatch soldiers’ rifles and carried out an attack on a military checkpoint on 12 September 2017. No nation, not Nigeria, will allow that to happen unchallenged. The fact that Boko Haram festered because it was not decisively tackled by the immediate past administration meant we should never again give room for any organisation to threaten the corporate existence of our country.
“This is why I want to commend the Nigerian military for once again living up to its constitutional responsibility. But for its quick and decisive intervention, IPOB could have set the nation on fire. Thanks to the decisiveness of the military, today the governors of the states in the South-East have wisely proscribed IPOB. This step, though long overdue, is still commendable,” the minister noted.
He also called on the media and the international community to be wary of the group’s next line of action, which he noted would be to externalise their lies and propaganda.
“Now they are writing to the governments and the national parliaments of some Western nations to give the impression that they are victims of an ethno-sectarian violence orchestrated by the government, hence they need protection. This is a blatant lie. It is not in the agenda of this administration to suppress its citizens for whatever reasons. Not even the excesses of some people on the social media have forced the government to do anything that will stifle press freedom or freedom of expression. The truth is that IPOB is being sponsored to destabilize our nation. It serves no other purpose beyond that.”
The minister alledged that IPOB has begun engaging in a “massive harvesting of gory videos” from places other than Nigeria, for the purpose of deceiving the public, and the international community, into believing that members of the group are the victims of “state-sponsored violence.
“Such videos, which have very high emotive quotient, are circulating on the social media. We call on all to subject all such videos to the greatest scrutiny so as not to be misled. In particular, we urge the international community not to jump to any conclusion on the basis of such videos.
“Let me use this opportunity to appeal to the media to show greater restraint at this time. The reporting of the IPOB issues, especially since the military deployed to the South-East for its exercise, tagged ‘Operation Python Dance II’, has been sensationalised by a section of the media. The divisive and jaundiced opinions of some anarchists have been given a big play by a section of the media. This is wrong. Let me remind all of us of the role of the media, especially the radio, in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda that left about 800,000 people dead. As I have always said, the Nigerian media cannot afford to sit on the fence or engage in irresponsible journalism when the issue at stake is the very survival of our nation.”
…Ezeife, Balarabe Musa, Sani, Umahi react
By Ismail Omipidan, Noah Ebije and Sola Ojo, Kaduna and Obinna Odogwu, Abakaliki
Prominent politicians have continued to react to the claim, with the national chairman of the United Peoples Party (UPP), Mr. Chekwas Okorie, describing it as reckless.
“As a politician, I founded the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) to seek power in Nigeria, and I have founded the United Peoples Party (UPP) doing the same thing. Buhari himself had challenged the Igbo to form a political party and use it to seek for what they want within the country called Nigeria. I do not, therefore, see how a political party pursuing ideologically rooted agenda, like restructuring, state police, will at the same be sponsoring such a movement. We are for unity of Nigeria, a Nigeria that where there is equity, justice and fair play.
“It is reckless for a government to make such a statement, suggesting that politicians from the South-East were behind it, unless he is talking of Fulani politicians and those from the North-West. Don’t forget, Ralph Uwazurike, leader MASSOB, had said it was politicians from the north that were sponsoring IPOB. May be that is what the government was referring to,” Okorie, said.
To the former governor of Kaduna State and an elder statesman, Alhaji Abdulkadri Balarabe Musa, it is not unlikely that politicians are behind IPOB’s violent activities.
“Of course it is likely. Historically, in Nigeria, all secessionist groups have politicians behind them. From the North, the South-West, the South-South and the South-East and that may continue in the country for a long time except when there is good governance across board.
“The presence of Army in Abia is not different from what has happened or happening in other parts of the country. But, the governors from the region have spoken against the activities of IPOB and I think that was a smart decision from that area.”
But for the Secretary General of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Anthony Sani, poverty and economic downturn was responsible for the emergence of IPOB.
“Now that governors of the South -East, Ohanaeze and traditional rulers from the zone have met and proscribed IPOB activities, I have changed my mind in favour of a belief that IPOB comprises some youths who are unable to manage the current economic challenges brought about by downturn in the economy of the country,” Sani declared.
On his part, former governor of old Anambra State, Mr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, said the South-East region stands to gain nothing by sponsoring IPOB.
“May be the government was referring to politicians from the north or may be the cabal. What does politicians from the South-East gain from sponsoring IPOB, which said there would be no election in Anambra? If there is no election in Anambra, Federal Government will declare a state of emergency, so how does that benefit the South-East? Everybody knows that Kanu is creation of the central government of Nigeria,” he fumed.
The National Vice Chairman South-East of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Dr. Austin Umahi, dismissed the minister claim as a huge lie.
“This is a big lie from a pit of hell, no politician from this side would try that and coming from Lai Mohammad you know what to expect. You know that APC government will always find a way to cover their ineptitude. The whole world knows the truth. There are video evidences of killings in the South-East, so they always look for a way to rub it on somebody. APC government escalated IPOB activities” he declared.
Operation Python Dance 2 ends October 14 –Army
BY Ismail Omipidan, Aloysius Attah, Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha and Ighomuaye Lucky, Benin
The Nigerian Army has said the military exercise in the South East, codenamed Operation Python Dance 2, ( Egwu Eke 2 ), will end on October 14, 2017.
A statement by the Deputy Director, Army/Public Relations of the 82 Division of the Nigerian Army, Colonel Sagir Musa, in Onitsha, Anambra State, yesterday, said the exercise, and similar ones, with different code names, in some parts of the country, were deliberately initiated and conducted with an over-arching aim of checkmating identified security challenges prevalent in those regions.
Musa also explained that Operation Python Dance 2 is simply a normal routine field training exercise, meant to sharpen the skills of the participating troops in internal security operations.
Allaying criticisms that have trailed the exercise, Musa said Exercise Egwu Eke II was not targeted at any individual or group and advised law-abiding citizens to go about their normal businesses without fear.
He said one interesting aspect of the exercise is that it is multi-agency in nature and execution, and added that relevant para-military agencies, including the Nigerian Police, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) Department of State Services, (CDSS) and the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) work in synergy with the army and are collaborating, to ensure successful execution and attainment of outlined objectives.
“The exercise is also aimed at combating security challenges in the South East and is well-equipped to deal with the rising cases of insecurity such as; kidnappings, farmers-herdsmen clashes, cultism, armed robbery, communal crisis, violent secessionist agitations, and insurgency among others.
“The first exercise python dance was successfully conducted in the South East, from November 27 to December 27, 2016. Peculiar security challenges in the region, which included kidnappings, abductions, violent secessionist agitations, armed robbery, farmers- herdsmen clashes, communal crisis the annual gridlock on the Asaba-Onitsha Bridge, among others, were the focus and targets of this exercise and have been successfully addressed.
“On the whole, the exercise has numerous objectives. Some of which are; to train participating units and formations on planning, preparation and conduct of internal security operations, as well as to deter the activities of kidnappers, cultists, armed robbers and violent secessionist agitators.
“Others are synergising with relevant para-military services to address identified threats and sharpen skills of troops, towards current and emerging security challenges peculiar to the South East.
“The concept of the current exercise, just as the previous one, is purely command post, field training and real-time exercise. It would enhance troops’ agility and preparedness across the spectrum of contemporary and emerging security threats peculiar to South Eastern Region (SER),” he said.
Meanwhile, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) has alleged that Police, from Abia State Command, have again, raided the home of its leader, Nnamdi Kanu, and destroyed vehicles in the process, after soldiers had, few days ago allegedly attacked the same home.
The group alleged that a team of policemen, with three Hilux vans, raided Kanu’s home on Saturday, condemning the incessant attack by security agents, against its members, according to IPOB Media and Publicity Secretary, Mr. Emma Powerful.
In a related development, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, has formally written to President Muhammadu Buhari, to reiterate the need to call off the ongoing Operation Python Dance in the South- East, with a view to averting another civil war.
In a September 14, 2017 letter, titled “Rising tension in the South East: Re: Appeal to call off Operation Egwu Eke,” Ekweremadu said he was compelled by tension in the region, to appeal to the president “to take immediate steps to avert another civil war in Nigeria.”
He said dialogue and sense of belonging remain the best means of addressing the agitations in the South-East region and the challenges posed by pro-Biafra groups, including IPOB, led by Kanu.
“As President and Commander-in-Chief, you would agree with me that there is need for caution. Recall, your Excellency, that the South East Caucus of the Senate met with you on November 9, 2016. We had a heart-to-heart discussion on pressing issues affecting the South East. Recall that, on the issue of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, who was then in detention, we pleaded for your intervention and strongly advised against his continued detention. We were of the view that his continued detention would only further popularise, and in fact make him a hero. I am afraid, your Excellency, that government is embarking on yet, another huge misjudgment, by adopting a military option to the Nnamdi Kanu and IPOB challenge. Therefore, I most respectfully appeal to you to order the immediate withdrawal of the military from the South East as their presence can only and is, indeed, already amplifying tension in the region,” Ekweremadu wrote in the letter.
Also, the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) has condemned IPOB’s proscription by the South East Governors’ Forum.
IYC described the ban as unjustifiable.
The group noted that the action of the governors was at variance with international treaties empowering indigenous people to pursue self-determination, through non-violent action
IYC president, Roland Pereotubo, in a statement, noted that the governors’ action was “more of cowardice as it cannot stop agitation in the region.”
He added that “IPOB members are only fighting for their rights through non-violence means. They felt marginalised, segregated and rejected by the government of Nigeria. Oppression and injustice are the reasons why they are fighting for their freedom…”