Many Nigerians, particularly the Igbo within and outside the country, have continued to condemn the killing of some Igbo youths in Emene, Enugu State, on Sunday, August 23.
On that fateful day, a team of the Nigeria Police, Department of State Services (DSS) and Nigerian Army operatives allegedly brutalised some youths who they claimed were members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), as they were doing morning exercise at the Community Secondary School, Emene.
According to reports, the unarmed youngsters were busy with their routine morning exercise at the school’s playground when the heavily armed security agents suddenly appeared and opened fire on them.
While IPOB claimed that 21 of its members lost their lives in the incident with many others seriously injured, the police authorities insisted that only four persons were killed, with five others in their custody.
A statement by the IPOB spokesman, Emma Powerful, described the incident as a crude round of killing and massacre against peaceful and unarmed IPOB family members in Enugu State.
“We are surprised how Nigerian security agencies would allow officers in their respective formations like Army, Police and DSS to be slaughtering our people without any provocation. This rampant killing of innocent members of IPOB will be reciprocated in due course. IPOB members have been slaughtered and arrested in their numbers across different locations in Enugu State today, Sunday, August 23, 2020,” he said.
Insisting that IPOB was a well-rooted movement committed fully to the pursuit of Biafra’s freedom and independence from Nigeria, he said: “We are not a violent group and there is nothing they can do to change our resolve to maintain peace and order in our land. The efforts of the Nigerian government and her partners in crime in trying to push IPOB to change its tactics will amount to vanity.”
However, the Enugu State Commissioner of Police, Ahmad AbdurRahman, said only four persons died in the clash, even as he alleged that IPOB members abducted two personnel of the DSS and took away their service guns.
While parading some of the suspects alleged to be IPOB members, AbdurRahman accused the group of training in the use of weapons at the school where the incident took place.
He told newsmen that when he got information that IPOB members were on rampage along Ebonyi-Enugu expressway by Emene, firing sporadically in the air and burning items on the road, he quickly deployed his men from three Police Mobile Force squadrons, comprising the Anti-Kidnapping Unit, Special Anti-Robbery Squad and Anti-Cultism Unit.
“They all went there under the leadership of my Area Commander Metro, Assistant Commissioner of Police Seyi. Immediately they arrived at the scene, they came under heavy fire of the IPOB hoodlums,” he said.
The CP’s account was debunked by one of the arrested young men, who told newsmen that they were only doing exercise at the school, as they usually do every morning, when policemen stormed the place and started shooting.
According to reports, the encounter was said to have turned bloody when IPOB overpowered the DSS agents who stormed their meeting ground and allegedly opened fire on them and went ahead to sack the Emene Police Station.
Some analysts viewed what happened as an assault on the Igbo nation. They wondered why the security agents would attack unarmed young men who were merely doing morning exercise, instead of hunting for the terrorists, bandits, kidnappers, and armed robbers terrorising some parts of the country, without any resistance from security agents.
Some believe that the only intention of those behind the attack was to turn the South-East into a war zone and possibly deny the Igbo the much-talked-about presidency in 2023. Many have also queried the silence of the governors of the South-East, particularly Enugu State governor, since the incident happened.
Those who express this concern believe that the governors have betrayed the Igbo by their action or inaction. They justified their verdict with the governors’ declaration that they would no longer go ahead with the much-awaited South East regional security outfit, but would rather align with the Federal Government’s community policing plan. The governors’ stand has been construed by many to mean that they were forced to drop the noble idea, which had received the total acceptance and support of the Igbo. This group also accused the governors of being afraid and incapable of standing with their people.
But the former governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, did not agree with this school of thought, as he doubted the possibility of the governors jettisoning the regional security outfit, after their decision was applauded by all genuine Igbo. He warned that any community policing that derived directives from Abuja or the Inspector-General of Police would not be acceptable to the Igbo, assuring that, eventually, the right thing would be done.
The former governor said: “I believe God designed Nigeria to lead Africa, and to restore the respect and dignity of the black man everywhere. But what is happening now is that Nigeria is generating shame for all blacks. God doesn’t make mistakes, therefore, I think a new Nigeria is around the corner.”
Ezeife said he was as confused, but lamented that the people carrying guns and killing fellow Nigerians were sometimes supported. He described the incident as the final pushing of the Igbo out of Nigeria. He wondered why any security agent would open fire and kill innocent men who only went to pray.
“I think it is asking the people to get out of the country; this is it. But, we the elders, will keep persuading the young ones and keep praying to God to retrieve Nigeria. The failure of the country is no longer in doubt to anybody. The failure is comprehensive. The insecurity is the worst part now. The killings in Southern Kaduna, Benue, Borno and Katsina are unending, and, now, soldiers and police in uniform decide to massacre people on their knees praying, I don’t think there is more to say,” he submitted.
A lawyer and politician, Maxi Okwu, expressed regrets as he said the governors have failed to speak up for their people.
He said: “You can see that they are so beholden to Abuja that they wouldn’t talk; that is the fact. But the most annoying is the action of the Enugu State governor. Why can’t he constitute a judicial panel of enquiry to get the facts? As we speak, there is no official position from the Enugu State government. Let us not talk about the men from Ebonyi, Abia, Anambra or Imo. What is needed is an independent judicial panel to call in evidence, look at the facts and give a report and not constitute an amorphous body in Government House.”
Okwu linked the development to the consequence of the civil war, saying it has become the lot of the Igbo man, even as he believes that someday, the Igbo will get salvation.
“I said someday, because the Igbo young men are really committed to self-determination, which is a universal right. There is that reflex on the Igbo person coming from the Nigerian state and certain parts of the country that the Igbo must be subdued. Some people call it ‘Igbophobia.’ And when Nnamdi Kanu came up with IPOB agenda, it ruffled feathers and increased the phobia. So, that Nigerian state is very sensitive to any agitation or activity by Igbo young men. There is an official policy, though not written, but it is there, that the Igbo must be suppressed,” he said.
He also wondered why a peaceful group like IPOB was declared a terrorist organisation by government, when known groups that are busy killing and maiming Nigerians are treated with kid gloves by the same government.
“You see governors from the North having meetings with terrorists and bandits, all armed with AK-47 and they take pictures or say prayers together. These are armed people, who have been decimating communities, causing mayhem and killing people but a governor takes a photo with them alongside his police commissioner. Can you imagine that? It is there on the Internet and everywhere. Yet, it is the unarmed, harmless and peaceful IPOB members merely expressing dissatisfaction with the way and manner the Igbo are being treated in Nigeria that the security agents will readily shoot, even without provocation. Government should stop victimising, labelling or stigmatising them simply because they are Igbo.”
On the silence of the governors, Monday Ubani argued that the governor of Enugu State, as the chief security officer of that state, should have constituted a panel to look into the matter and make a pronouncement because it was within his domain.
“He cannot keep quiet a week after the incident happened. Up till now, we have not heard any direct or indirect statement from the state government. That cannot be allowed, unless there is official connivance in maintaining silence, which shows approval of what the security agents have done. I think the state government should be able to make a pronouncement as to whether what happened in its domain was legitimate or illegal,” he said.
Ubani also condemned the attack on the unarmed Igbo youths, insisting that, even if they actually constituted a security risk, the best thing to do would have been to arrest them and not to kill them.
He also spoke on concerns by some people that, while some Igbo are always killed for no justifiable reason, some groups and individuals that commit heinous crimes are being placated by government officials. He said the Federal Government, state governors and the elite should sit down and find out whether such concerns are genuine or imagined.