BY CHIBuzo UKAIBE, Abuja, MATTHIAS NWOGU, Umuahia and ANAYO ONUKWUGHA, Port Harcourt
There is growing tension in the South East zone of the country following clashes between the Nigerian Army and members of the indigenous people of biafra (IPOB).
The anxiety has also spread to the South South region where two persons were yesterday feared killed, with scores injured, when soldiers and IPOB members clashed in Oyigbo local government area of Rivers State.
To quell the pandemonium in Aba, Abia State, following the presence of the troops on Operation Python Dance II, the state governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, has imposed a three-day dusk to dawn curfew on the commercial city.
The governor called on the military to carry out their operation in line with international standard of engagement within the civilian population and in accordance with respect for human rights.
He also advised Abians and others living within the state 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 today 12/09/2017 to 14/09/2017”, Ikpeazu added.
In a statement signed by his chief press secretary, Mr. Enyinnaya Appolos, the governor acknowledged the tension in the state, noting that for the past few days, Abia had been the focus of security searchlight “occasioned by the reported skirmish between some groups in the state, especially Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), and 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.”
He explained that, while the operation as declared by the Army is intended to check kidnapping, banditry, assassination, secessionist activities and other forms of criminal activities within the region, the confrontation between the Nigerian Army and members of IPOB last Sunday could presumably be attributed to the commencement of Operation Python Dance II.
Urging the military to operate within the ambit of the law, Ikpeazu said, “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.”
To the people of the state, the governor said, “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 cooperate with security agencies to maintain the rule of law and order in the state”.
Govs Set Up Probe Committee
Meanwhile, South East governors have constituted a seven-man committee to probe the recent clash between the Nigerian Army and IPOB members in Umuahia, the Abia State capital.
Director of media and communications of the South East Governors’ Forum, Mr. Michael Udah, who disclosed this in a statement he issued yesterday said the committee is expected to submit its report during the forum’s meeting, billed to hold on Friday.
Although he did not disclose names of members of the committee, Udah said the probe panel was set up to proffer lasting solutions to such problems and forestall future occurrences.
He added that the governors were consulting with relevant stakeholders in the zone, including the military to ensure clarity of positions.
He also refuted online reports that the South East governors condemned the alleged attack on IPOB members describing the report as false, saying instead, the governors are working assiduously to bring lasting peace and stability to the zone.
His words: “I did not tell any medium on the social and print media that the governors condemned the incident as they would soon meet to review the situation.
“I urge my colleagues in the media to exercise decorum in their reportage to avoid creation of false and embarrassing impressions about sensitive national issues”.
Two Killed As Soldiers, IPOB Members Clash In Rivers
Meanwhile, two persons were feared killed, while scores were wounded, yesterday when soldiers and members of IPOB clashed in Oyigbo local government area of Rivers State.
LEADERSHIP gathered that yesterday’s uprising in the state started at the popular Oyigbo express junction, along the Port Harcourt-Aba Express way where IPOB members had gathered to protest against alleged ambush and killing of eight of their members at 44 Battalion Asa, in Abia State.
According to a source, the travelling IPOB members responded to the call made by their second-in-command, Uche Mefor, who they claimed called in from London, ordering them to move down to the residence of Nnamdi Kanu in Umuahia.
The source stated that in reaction to Mefor’s call, IPOB members mobilized and started protesting, with some of them attacking people they suspected were opposed to the Biafra struggle.
It was alleged that some IPOB members seized three rifles from Policemen and burnt a Police van at the junction of Oyigbo, forcing business and shop owners to lock up, as motorists and commuters scampered for safety.
The source who did not want to be mentioned in print stated: “At the Oyigbo Express, a Hilux van belonging to the Police was burnt, while traders from Northern parts of the country closed their shops and ran for safety, with some of them running to the Oyigbo Police Station.
“At the popular Nkwo Oyigbo Market and Afam Road, people ran helter skelter as gunshots boomed from the Oyigbo express junction, while soldiers mounted at the railway and near Abriba Quarters to provide safety to people of Northern extraction”.
Meanwhile, the spokesman of 6 Division, Nigerian Army, Port Harcourt, Colonel Aminu Iliyasu, said no soldier was deployed to Oyigbo to stop IPOB members from travelling to Umuahia.