*As Southeast govs proscribe group
This came even as governors of the Southeast states met in Enugu yesterday and proscribed IPOB in the entire zone.
Defence spokesman, Major General John Enenche, earlier said in a statement that the group which had posed a security challenge in the country, had been metamorphosing from one stage to the other.
He said after due professional analysis and recent developments, it had become expedient to notify the general public that the claim by IPOB actors that the organization was non-violent was not true.
“Hence, the need to bring to public awareness the true and current state of IPOB. In this regard, with some of their actions, clandestinely and actively, they have been terrorising the general public,” he added.
Enenche listed activities of IPOB to include the formation of a Biafra Secret Service, claimed formation of Biafra National Guard, unauthorised blocking of public access roads, 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 September 10, 2017, physical confrontation of troops by Nnamdi Kanu and other IPOB actors at a check point on September 11, 2017 and also attempting to snatch their rifles, attack by IPOB members at a military check point on September 12, 2017 at Isialangwa, where one IPOB actor attempted to snatch a female soldier’s rifle.
“From the foregoing, 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.
Therefore, parents and particularly unsuspecting residents of the Southeast and other Nigerians should advice their wards to desist from joining the group,” he said.
He reiterated the commitment of the Defence Headquarters to handle all the security challenges in the country and reassured all Nigerians of the protection of their lives and property.
Southeast govs proscribe group
Meanwhile, governors of the Southeast states met in Enugu yesterday to deliberate on developments in the region and proscribed the activities of IPOB in the entire Southeast zone, ordering it and other aggrieved groups to articulate their position on national issues and submit to the Committee of Governors, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and the National Assembly members from the zone, through the chairman of SGF.
The governors also directed strict compliance with the proscription in all the states of the zone, and re-affirmed their commitment to a united and indivisible Nigeria.
They also appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to “Please, withdraw the military from the Southeast zone, while the police perform their traditional role of maintaining law and order.”
Reading the 11-point resolution reached after an emergency meeting of the Southeast Governors Forum held at the Government House, Enugu, the chairman of the forum who is also Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi, explained that the governors took the decision in view of the prevailing security situation in the zone and its attendant consequences.
They also restated their desire for the restructuring of Nigeria where all national issues would be discussed and amicably settled to achieve justice and fairness for every Nigerian.
Emphasising that they had taken concrete steps to protect lives and property of non-indigenes in the zone, the governors said they were in touch with the Northern Governors Forum, adding: “They had assured us of the safety of all our people living in the north and we have also planned for exchange of visits between the governors and to reinforce the confidence of Nigerians in this respect.”
Advising all residents of the zone to go about their normal businesses as the government in each state was committed to protecting everybody, the governors advised the people of the Southeast to “please be law abiding.”
“In keeping with our earlier position, we wish to assure Nigerians that full investigation is ongoing on all allegations of killings, maiming and other unlawful conduct in the southeast zone within this period. The governors and the security agencies are in agreement that appropriate action will be taken against anyone found culpable,” Umahi said.
They further reiterated their earlier position that the November 18, 2017 governorship election in Anambra State must hold.
The meeting was attended by the deputy president of the senate, Ike Ekweremadu, governors Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia) Willie Obiano (Anambra), Dave Umahi (Ebonyi) Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu) and the deputy governor of Imo State, Madumere who represented the governor. Also at the meeting was the national leadership of Ohanaeze N’digbo led by the President General, Chief Nnia Nwodo.
Obasanjo urges Buhari-Kanu meeting
Former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, has advised President Muhammadu Buhari to meet with IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu.
Speaking to Newsweek in London, Obasanjo said a more conciliatory approach was needed.
“I don’t see anything wrong in that (Buhari meeting with Kanu). I would not object to that, if anything, I would encourage it,” Obasanjo told Newsweek.
“I would want to meet Kanu myself and talk to people like him, people of his age, (and ask) ‘What are your worries?’ Not only from the southeast but from all parts of Nigeria,” he said.
How the trouble began
Trouble started when soldiers were patrolling the streets at the ancestral home of Nnamdi Kanu, Afara Ibeku, Umuahia town in Abia State on Sunday.
They had moved around some major streets within the city centre before proceeding to axis near Nnamdi Kanu’s residence. Majority of residents of Afara told Daily Trust that a group of suspected IPOB militants then blocked the road against the troops along FMC-Word Bank Road in Umuahia about 6.00-6.30pm. They insisted that the military vehicles would not pass and started pelting the soldiers with stones and broken bottles to the point of wounding a female passerby and a soldier, Corporal Kolawole Mathew.
The troops fired warning shots into the air and the hoodlums dispersed. No life was lost.
On Wednesday, soldiers attacked journalists at the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) secretariat in Umuahia, destroying gadgets and manhandling some of them. The army later apologised for the assault. Injuries were recorded on the security agencies and the pro-Biafan group.
They want to trigger war but we won’t oblige – Nnamdi Kanu
IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, told Daily Trust on phone that no amount of intimidation would make him abandon the struggle for the independence of Biafra.
“They want to use force and beat us into submission because they have lost the argument but they will fail. They want to trigger war but we won’t oblige them because we are committed to our non-violent philosophy,” he said.
Kanu said he had not received any invitation from any security agency and wondered why the army wound want to invade his home.
He added that three persons were shot while many of his brothers and sisters were wounded when solders invaded his country home on Sunday.
He said the soldiers stormed his home in an amoured tank and about three Hilux vans loaded with heavily armed soldiers. He added that the soldiers were shot sporadically as they approached his father’s compound, causing panic and pandemonium among residents of the area. Kanu added that they wanted to enter his father’s compound but that IPOB members quickly formed a human shield around the compound and stoutly resisted them.
“I was sleeping when suddenly I was woken up by the blaring of sirens. Initially I thought it was the Commissioner of Police who lives in the neighbourhood that was returning home. But the blaring persisted and was followed up by sporadic gun shots.
“They wanted to bulldoze their way into the palace but IPOB members formed human shield and resisted them. They wanted to break the shield and fired at three persons and wounded others before leaving. Everybody including children were running away in confusion.”
My son committed no crime–Kanu’s father
Kanu’s father and the traditional ruler of Afaraukwu community, Eze Israel Kanu, described what he called “invasion” as “unwarranted and shocking”.
The monarch said his son committed no crime to a warrant military invasion of his palace.
Army Headquarters reacts
Reacting, the Nigerian Army said Exercise Python Dance II which commenced in the Southeast states on Friday had been scheduled since last year as part of training activities for the 82 Division.
Army spokesman, Brigadier General Sani Usman, told Daily Trust that the exercise was not targeted at any segment of the Nigerian society.
He added: “As a matter of fact, it was because of the encouraging feedback that we had about the conduct of Exercise Python Dance I in 2016 that brought the idea of having another exercise.”
He said: “We have had exercises in other parts of the country. This year, we have had exercise Harbin Kunama II covering the Northwest zone and it was extended to the Northcentral zone and was further complemented by Operation Safe Haven. As soon as we are done with Exercise Python Dance II, we are embarking on Exercise Crocodile Smile II which is also a scheduled training exercise in the circle of the Nigerian Army training year, 2017.”
“And this time around, it would go beyond the Southsouth zone, it would be extended to the Southwest zone involving 2 Division, 6 Division and 81 Division. We have had Operation Sharan Daji, Operation Awatse, all this year.
“Why should we have problem in one state Abia? There is no reported problem in Imo, Ebonyi, Anambra, Enugu and Cross River State.
It is so sad and unfortunate that a particular group of people, for political expediency and mischief, are trying to pit the military and Nigerian society against each other. It is sad, it unfortunate.”
Usman added: “This time calls for sober reflection and understanding, support and encouragement for the military and in any case, this operation is going to involve other activities, there is no way the military will just wake up and target a particular segment of the Nigerian society.
“People should encourage people to live in peace, they should eschew rumour mongering, incitement and provocative remarks that will pit the society against each other.”
“On our part, we would like to assure the public that we will do our best to discharge our duties professionally and responsibly within the ambit of our code of conduct and rules of engagement.’’
He said people are blowing things out of proportion, adding, “These isolated incidences, instigated by miscreants and mischief makers, therefore, should not be taken as something that should jeopardise the military exercise going on in that place.”
“It is really sad and unfortunate that people will not find time to ask questions about the essence and activities involved in respect of Exercise Python Dance II before jumping into conclusion.
He said, troops have been conducting themselves professionally within the arm bit of the rules of engagement and code of conduct and where there are noted infractions, appropriate measures would be taken.
“For instance, when some group of soldiers took the laws into their hands by manhandling those journalists, the issue was reported, investigated and promptly dealt with to the point that the leadership of the brigade went to the persons involved and the secretariat to tender an unreserved apology, offer to pay for those items destroyed and request for understanding.”
He added that the issue was thrashed to the extent that they had a joint press conference.
Responding to reports that IPOB are targeting other ethnic groups in the region, he said there were reported attempts by hoodlums or miscreants to take undue advantage of what has been happening to harass and molest some other persons residing in the Southeast.
“For instance, we have had incidents at Oyibo in Rivers and of course, Aba. Security agencies have risen to the challenge. There are some mischievous elements peddling information to incite people and it is not true. People should be wary about information on the social media and all the rest.”
Also, Major Oyegoke Gbadamosi, the assistant deputy spokesperson of the 14 Brigade said its personnel only fired warning shots to disperse hoodlums who lobbed stones and broken bottles against them during the procession in Umuahia.
He countered the account of Mr. Kanu that soldiers stormed his residence, killing and injuring occupants.
“The attention of 14 Brigade Nigerian Army has been drawn to fictitious news going round especially on the social media that troops invaded the home of Nnamdi Kanu and killed three persons.
“This is far from the truth. Rather, it was a group of suspected IPOB militants that blocked the road against troops of 145 Battalion while on a show of force along FMC-Word Bank Road in Umuahia town, Abia State at about 6.00-6.30pm. The troops fired warning shots in the air and the hoodlums dispersed.”
Abia State government’s reaction
Governor Ikpeazu after extending the three day curfew imposed on Aba to Friday, September 15, said he would meet with President Muhammadu Buhari over the issue yesterday.
Abia traditional rulers council
Traditional rulers in Abia State appealed to the federal government against the use of force to quell the rising agitation for Biafra.
The Chairman of Traditional Rulers’ Council, Umuahia North Local Government Area, Eze Philip Ajomuiwe, who made the appeal in Umuahia advised the government to rather engage Biafra agitators in dialogue.
The member representing Ikwuano/Umuahia Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Sam I. Onuigbo, told Daily Trust that he had followed the events and totally condemned the incidences.
“It is indeed sad that things were allowed to degenerate to that point. In the face of this however, caution, discretion, tolerance and wisdom are important virtues. So I urge all of our people to please exercise these virtues at this trying time. Be rest assured that government is working hard to ensure that the lives and properties of its citizens are protected. Continue to be law abiding and not confrontational,” he said.
Northern leaders in Southeast, Southsouth react
The chairman, Northern Traditional Rulers Council for the Southeast and Southsouth, Alhaji Yaro Danlandi Hausa, told Daily Trust that most of the northerners had fled the state while others had decided to stay clear, but in Umuahia no incident had been recorded.
He appealed to both sides to maintain peace because the unity of Nigeria is not negotiable and urged the state government and security agencies to continue to protect lives and property.
JNI warns against reprisal
The Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI) has warned Muslim youths and other northerners against reprisal over the incident in Abia State.
The JNI Secretary General, Dr. Khalid Abubakar Aliyu, made the plea at a press briefing yesterday in Kaduna.
He called on juma’at mosque imams across the country, particularly in the North, to preach peace in their Friday sermons and urged Southeast leaders to equally call on members of IPOB to stop attacking innocent Nigerians in their region.
Dr. Khalid Abubakar also urged security agents to ensure they arrest and bring the perpetrators of the attacks to face wrath of the law.
Wike warns IPOB against attacks on non indigenes
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, yesterday warned that the state government would not tolerate any attack on other Nigerians living in the state by members of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) or any other group.
The governor also declared that Rivers State belongs to all those who live in it, saying that the state heartily welcomes any Nigerian who resides in the state and carries our his/her lawful businesses.
In a state broadcast, Wike said:
“The Rivers State government is seriously concerned with the recent activities of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), particularly the attack on Nigerian citizens living in Rivers State.
“Rivers people fully subscribe to Nigeria’s corporate existence and its indivisibility. As a people we shall continue to support the unity and peaceful co-existence of all ethnic nationalities and work towards actualizing our collective aspirations for a just, inclusive and progressive nation. Nobody should take our hospitality and peaceful disposition for weakness, as we are capable of dealing decisively with any situation threatens peace and serenity in the State.”
Lalong confirms 2 dead
Plateau State Governor Simon Bako Lalong yesterday confirmed that two persons had lost their lives in the skirmishes that ensued in the city of Jos following reactions to the attack and killing of northerners in the Southeast.
Governor Lalong also said Thursday evening’s reaction by youths in Jos took him by surprise, adding, “There are advantages and disadvantages to the use of social media. When something is happening elsewhere someone will create a message and put it online for others to see and this usually create bad feelings.”
He reiterated that Plateau state remains a home for all irrespective of religion and ethnic extraction and called on community and religious leaders to caution their wards at home.
The governor who summoned an emergency meeting with community and religious leaders from Jos and Bukuru at the Government House Little Rayfield added, “As leaders, be very sincere in taking control of your people. Nobody is above the law and nobody has the right to chase anybody out of Plateau and anyone who attempts to create problems will be arrested and face the law.”
Earlier, the Plateau state chapter of Jama’atu Nasril Islam issued a statement appealing for calm and urged citizens to shun acts capable of disrupting the hard earned peace in the state.