The leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu has alleged that soldiers of the Nigerian Army invaded his home at Afaraukwu, Umuahia in Abia State yesterday evening in a bid to arrest him.
But the soldiers failed in their mission, as members of IPOB formed a human shield and stoically resisted the soldiers from gaining entry into Kanu's home.
Eyewitnesses said that the enraged soldiers resorted to shooting sporadically and in the process felled three persons, while scores were wounded. However, it could not be confirmed if the gunfire led to fatalities.
But the claim was immediately denied by the army which said there was "no iota of truth" in the allegation.
Giving an account of the incident, Kanu said troops of the Nigerian Army had stormed his home in an armoured tank and about three Toyota Hilux vans loaded with heavily armed soldiers.
He said they were shooting in every direction as they approached his father's compound, causing panic and pandemonium among residents of Afaraukwu community.
He said they had tried to gain entry into his father's compound but IPOB members quickly formed a human shield around the compound and stoutly resisted them.
"I was sleeping this evening (Sunday) 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 by sporadic gunshots.
"They wanted to bulldoze their way into the palace but IPOB members formed a 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," Kanu alleged.
Kanu, however, vowed that no amount of intimidation would make him abandon the struggle for Biafra's independence.
"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 added.
Kanu said he did not receive any invitation from any security agency and wondered why the army had invaded his home.
In his reaction, Kanu's father, who is the traditional ruler of Afaraukwu community, Eze Israel Kanu, described the invasion as "unwarranted and shocking".
The monarch said his son had committed no crime to warrant the military invasion of his palace and incessant intimidation.
One of the wounded IPOB members was hospitalised at the Federal Medical Centre, Umuahia, where doctors are battling to save his life.
When THISDAY visited the hospital, one of the doctors on duty in the emergency unit said the IPOB member sustained a gunshot wound in "the thigh region".
The doctor, who pleaded anonymity, said an x-ray would be conducted on the injured person to determine the extent of the gunshot wound, but added that he was responding to treatment.
However, the army last night denied reports that soldiers invaded Kanu's residence and killed some of IPOB members.
Deputy Director, Public Relations, 14 Brigade Nigerian Army, Major Oyegoke Gbadamosi said in a statement that there was no iota of truth in the report.
He said: "The attention of 14 Brigade Nigerian Army has been drawn to fictitious news going round especially on the social media that troops have 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 show of force along FMC-Word Bank Road in Umuahia town, Abia State at about 6.00-6.30pm, today (yesterday)."
According to Gbadamosi, "They insisted that the military vehicles would not pass and started pelting the soldiers with stones and broken bottles to the point of injuring an innocent female passerby and a soldier, Corporal Kolawole Mathew.
"The troops fired warning shots in the air and the hoodlums dispersed. No life was lost.
"The public is kindly enjoined to disregard the rumours going round and the fictitious photographs of purported victims of attack.
"Both the soldier and innocent female passerby have been evacuated to the unit's Medical Inspection Room and are receiving treatment.
"We would like to use this opportunity to warn mischief makers threatening the peace and security of the country through such falsehood.
"Members of the public are please requested to go about their lawful business and report any suspicious activity to the nearest police station or security outfit," Gbadamosi stated.
Military Operation in S'East Condemned
Prior to the incident in Kanu's home, IPOB and other groups in the South-east had condemned the military operation, Operation Python Dance II, scheduled to begin in the geopolitical zone later this month.
IPOB, in a statement signed by its publicity secretary, Mr. Emma Powerful described the operation as a "wickedly undemocratic silent Jihadi war unleashed on peaceful Biafran populations in order to complete the extermination of the Igbo race under the pretext of a military exercise in a peaceful civilian environment".
IPOB said the act was primitive, criminal and intended to intimidate and provoke and must not go unchallenged by men and women of good conscience.
"This latest attempt to use military show of force in Biafraland to deal with legitimate peaceful agitation for self-determination vindicates IPOB's position that Nigeria is irredeemably primitive and incapable of human development.
"Where on earth is it heard that combat ready troops are deployed within the borders of a country to deal with a non-violent civil matter; only in Nigeria.
"It makes a mockery of the role of the military and nonsense of the constitution that soldiers can be ordered by one army officer without the permission of the Senate to kill civilian populations in an area devoid of any conflict.
"This is one of the many reasons we IPOB cannot share the same geopolitical space with people that can hardly reason like humans.
"The Nigerian Army is only strong when it comes to killing unarmed peaceful civilians. We advise (Lt.-Gen-Tukur) Buratai not to march his army into Biafraland under the cover of Operation Python Dance II because IPOB is agitating for self-determination in a peaceful manner. We have no arms and will never resort to bearing arms," he said.
In its condemnation of the military's planned operation, Onitsha-based rights groups, Coalition of Human Rights Organisations in collaboration with International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law (Intersociety) also condemned the launch of Operation Python Dance II by the Nigerian Army in the South-east geopolitical region, saying that it was a bastardisation of the security of the people of the region.
The statement issued yesterday by Emeka Umeagbalasi of Intersociety, Aloysius Attah of the Civil Liberties Organisation and others, said the operation was nothing short of an "open confrontation and daring affront on the will and psyche of the people of the region".
While lamenting the lopsided composition of personnel of the operation, the group described the operation as an army of occupation.
The statement said: "The Nigerian Army's commencement of the so-called 'Operation Python Dance II' in the South-eastern part of Nigeria, starting from 15th September to 14th October 2017, is nothing short of radicalisation and bastardisation of civil security in the South-east or Igbo heartland of Nigeria, as well as the deliberate traumatisation of the law abiding and peaceful people of the zone.
"It is also a clear case of declaration of unprovoked and unwarranted war on the Igbo population right inside their ancestral citadel. This act of mindless militarisation and militarism in a supposedly democratic dispensation has a lot of intractable consequences.
"When a peaceful people are pushed too far or to the wall and subjugated to the extreme over issues concerning their rights of existence and ethnic identities, the response in many, if not most cases, results in far reaching consequences and complications; if not in the short run, then in the long run.
"We have warned on this before (that is in our memo to the present federal government dated 16th of February 2016) and we are warning on same again.
"Global history is replete with several instances where the same radicalisation and bastardisation of civil security and ethno-religious sentiments and disquiet of sub-national entities dangerously escalated and transformed; pushing the referenced sub-nationals to reprisal radicalisation by way of insurgency or street crime warlordship and turning such sub-national entities and the entire national entity into a socio-political toxemia or failed and balkanised states.
"Those who are the repositories of state coercion or force of arms have always been warned by modern theorists of violence not to make a suicidal mistake of seeing themselves as 'sole holders of the monopoly of violence' and always see and treat violence and its controllers as double-edged swords," the groups said.
Similarly, a pro-restructuring group, the Eastern Consultative Assembly yesterday berated the federal government for its decision to resort to what it described as the use of "brute force" to resolve the increasing spate of agitation for self-actualisation in the South-east zone.
The group faulted the launch of a fresh military operation code named "Python Dance II" which has led to the deployment of heavy military arsenal to the South-east in an obvious bid to battle the people of the zone to submission.
The statement signed by the Secretary of ECA, Mr. Elliot Ugochukwu-Uko said the option of a military operation, even in area areas where such actions were uncalled for, instead of embarking on the restructuring of Nigeria for enduring peace and development, was totally unacceptable.
"The blunt refusal of the sectionally controlled government of today, to listen to the cries, yearning and pleas of the people to begin the consensual reconstruction of Nigeria in order to enthrone equity peace and progress throws up only one option: application of brute force in order to sustain the unjust status quo.
"For the second time in ten months, heavy military equipment, acquired with oil proceeds are rolled into eastern Nigeria in line with the two-year old policy to intimidate, terrorise and silence the long oppressed people of the region, whose only sin is that together with three other zones of the country, they are crying for a restructuring of Nigeria to enthrone fiscal federalism and regional autonomy like we had in the first republic," the group said.
According to ECA, the Nigerian state, by the launch of the military operation "has again confirmed the rumours, that justice, equity and fair play isn't anywhere near its mindset and that the continued oppression and intimidation of the people of eastern Nigeria through brute force remains her choice strategy of engaging the frustrations and anger of the much-oppressed people of the region.
"This seems to be the path rulers of Nigeria today seem to prefer. Whether this path will lead to peace and stability is something else.
"The paranoia, the prevarication and the invasion of pythons cannot in anyway alter the resolve of our people, who are completely fed up with Nigeria as presently constituted and have wholly resolved to stay away from Nigerian affairs, including voting in elections, until Nigeria is restructured into a truly federal nation," it said.
The group said the owners of Nigeria who created 36 unviable states, according to their whims, and handed the rest of the nationals a military constitution, "say they are only ready to use brute force to try to sustain the unworkable unitary structure that has brought misery and sorrow to 196 million Nigerians".
"Younger generation of Easterners believe they would never get justice in the current unitary structure where everything including the University admission cut off mark is deliberately skewed against them.
"Like the unhappy people of Scotland, Quebec, Catalonia, etc, they desire a peaceful separation from a land that has vowed never to give them justice.
"The older generation believes Nigeria could still be salvaged through a consensual restructuring of the polity along the lines of true federalism anchored on regional autonomy.
"But the owners of the universe who deliberately took total control of the defence, intelligence and security architecture of the country, believe that prevarication and pretences will hide their acute paranoia and phobia for truth.
"No amount of quit notices, hate songs, cobra or viper dance can stop the restructuring of Nigeria if Nigeria will survive.
"The hubris of the oppressor could only lead to a direct provocation of the peaceful but angry masses of eastern Nigeria, who continue to bear in a remarkable stoic manner, the savagery of the Fulani herdsmen, who clearly are above the law while praying fervently for the much-desired freedom.
"Any attempt to slap the honour and dignity of the people could lead to unintended consequences. We are not perturbed by the desperate follies of a clueless oppressor," the statement from ECA said.