The Abia State Government yesterday extended the dusk-to-dawn curfew slammed on the township of Aba in wake of rising security concenrns, just as it met with a broad spectrum of traditional rulers in the state. It plans more meetings with other stakeholders, especially market leaders.
This development came as leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, yesterday, said he would not attend tomorrow's meeting with South East Governors as he earlier agreed with them, citing alleged plots to assassinate him on his way to Enugu for the meeting.
Also yesterday, the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, called for calm, commending Governor Okezie Ikpeazu for imposing a dusk-to-dawn curfew on Aba township in the state.
Sources told Vanguard in Enugu that the Chairman of the South-East Governors' Forum and Governor of Ebonyi State, Chief Dave Umahi, who is on overseas tour had volunteered to drive straight from the airport to pick Kanu at his home in Umuahia to Enugu for the meeting, but Kanu declined the offer, saying he would not leave his home when it was surrounded by soldiers.
On August 30, the governors met with Kanu alongside National Chairman of Igbo Leaders of Thought, ILT, Prof. Ben Nwabueze, SAN; Founder of Igbo Youths Movement, IYM and Secretary of Eastern Consultative Assembly, ECA, Evangelist Elliot Ugochukwu-Uko, among others, for about four hours, on the way forward over Biafra agitations. Tomorrow's meeting is supposed to be the follow-up.
Why I can't attend the meeting - Kanu
However, in a statement he signed personally, Kanu alleged plots by a detachment of soldiers in Enugu to kill him, adding that the atmosphere was not conducive for the meeting.
The statement read in part: "Before now, prominent leaders and groups had insisted that I tow the line of peaceful dialogue and meet with the governors to find a lasting solution to our grievances.
"I conceded to that request which led to the August 30, 2017 meeting with the South-East Governors Forum at the Government House in Enugu, in the company of the very eminent Professor Ben Nwabueze and Evangelist Elliot Ugochukwu-Uko.
"In view of the concerted effort by the oppressive Nigerian state to shatter the peace and tranquillity of the South-East and the rest of Biafraland through military intimidation, it has become necessary for me to clarify why, regrettably, I may not be able to attend Friday's meeting with the South-East governors as earlier agreed, for three main reasons.
"We are currently busy attending to our dead and injured from this latest round of unprovoked military onslaught against innocent civilians in our own land. All the casualties so far were shot by men of the Nigerian Army deployed to my house and those stationed along motor ways leading into Umuahia, my home town.
"I have been reliably informed also, that a detachment of this same soldiers responsible for the murder of innocent unarmed IPOB family members have now been stationed near Enugu to ambush and assassinate me on my way to the meeting with the governors, on Friday.
"On that same Friday the September 15, 2017, the leadership of IPOB through the instrumentality of the Directorate of State, DOS, head-quartered in Germany, will be meeting to vote on the viability or otherwise of continuing our struggle in this non-violent manner. There is urgent need to begin the process of defending ourselves in the face of relentless murderous attacks from the Nigerian state.
"It is impossible to engage in any meaningful conversation with the governors in the midst of so much bloodshed, abductions and military siege to our town and villages. Accordingly, we will not engage in any meeting with anybody until the atmosphere is conducive and peaceful enough to allow for such."
Abia govt extends curfew till tomorrow, to meet market leaders, others today
Meanwhile, the state government has extended the curfew in Aba to Friday, following yesterday's clash between soldiers and IPOB members, who were on their way to Umuahia. The clash left some of them injured.
Hell was let loose when reports of the incident broke, leading to skirmishes with the Hausa community.
Addressing the Hausa community at the Aba Central mosque, Aba, Abia State governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, who was represented by his deputy, Sir Ude Oko Chukwu, commended the efforts of the security agencies in maintaining law and order, noting that the city was calm and safe.
"We have gone round Aba and found out that everywhere is calm. We commend the security agencies for their efforts. I plead with you to go back to your businesses without fear. I want to assure that the security agencies will continue to protect lives and property."
He pledged the support of the state government for the protection of lives and property in the state and urged residents to return to their businesses.
The deputy governor was accompanied by the State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Leye Oyebade as well as the General Officer Commanding, GOC, 82 Division, Enugu, Major-General Adamu Baba Abubakar, who addressed the Hausa community.
The Abia State Government has also summoned a meeting of market leaders and stakeholders over the tense security situation in the state, particularly in Umuahia and Aba. The meeting will hold today. Indeed, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu met with Abia monarchs on the issue, yesterday.
South East Reps call for de-escalation of military operations
Meanwhile, members of the House of Representatives from the South-East geo-political zone have called for de-escalation of military operation in the zone, saying that any military operation that frightens, maims or leads to loss of lives of citizens and property is unjustifiable.
A statement by the Deputy Minority Leader and Leader South-East Caucus, House of Representatives, Chukwuka Onyema, yesterday, called for caution in Abia State and the entire South-East zone.
The legislators, however, expressed their support for the Seven-man Committee raised by the South East Governors'Forum to investigate the causes of the current conflict in Abia State.
The statement reads in part: "While we appreciate the right to discharge core duties of the Nigeria Armed Forces as spelt out under Section 217 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), there is no gainsaying that internal military operations can only be conducted without doing violence to the constitutionally guaranteed fundamental human rights of citizens.
"To conduct operations that frighten, maim or lead to loss of lives of citizens and property, are clearly unjustifiable and an offence to our democracy and the rule of law.
"We therefore call for a de-escalation of "internal military operations" in Abia State and the South East as a whole, while urging our brothers and sisters at home to remain civil and law abiding.
"We wish to express our support for the reported setting up of a Seven -man Committee by the South East Governors to investigate the causes of the current conflict in Abia State."
Soldiers assault Vanguard 's driver
Meantime, less than 24 hours after the invasion of the offices of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, NUJ, Umuahia, soldiers assaulted a Vanguard Newspapers driver conveying the day's edition to Aba.
The driver, Onyeisi Odor, now receiving medical attention at an undisclosed hospital, said he got to Bata junction, Factory Road, at 6.45am when he met some soldiers numbering over 20 who ordered him out and started beating him with sticks.
According to him, "I got to Bata junction at 6.45pm and met a group of about 20 soldiers. Two of them pointed guns at me while another one ordered me out of the vehicle and lie on the ground. They started beating me with huge sticks, asking me if I was not aware that the Governor of Abia State declared a curfew. As they were beating me, one of them came and asked me to stand up and drive the vehicle back to where I came from; that I should go and report to the governor because he was the one who declared curfew. The beating was too severe; they hit my knees and body, I only managed to drive the vehicle."
Odor stated that his explanation that he had to deliver the newspapers on time attracted further beating and threats to destroy the copies and vehicle. He added that other motorists suffered same fate as they were severely beaten up and ordered to reverse, adding that they were only allowed to pass at about 7. 20am.
Soldiers who mounted a roadblock at Bata junction ordered residents to raise their hands before passing through the area. Those who failed to comply with the order were frog marched and beaten up.
When contacted, Army Public Relations Officer, 14 Brigade, Ohafia, Major Oyegoke Gbadamasi, said he had no comment on the incident.
Also, the Director, Army Public Relations, 82 Division of the Nigerian Army which oversees Aba, Col. Sagir Musa declined comments on the flogging of Odor by soldiers, saying that he would not not comment on what he did not see or witness.
On the maltreatment of other residents, Musa denied that soldiers either manhandled or tortured innocent citizens in the area.
His words: "There is no truth in the allegation. We have been going round Aba town and environs and I am yet to see or receive any complaint where our troops harassed or molested anyone.
"The soldiers are indeed conducting themselves, though under difficult situation, yet within acceptable standards anywhere in the world.
"Our Code of Conduct and Rules of Engagement to all the troops on the exercise are clear and are being obeyed by the troops. So you should please, disregard such claims."
ACF calls for caution
Disturbed by the worsening situation, the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, has called for calm as it commended Governor Okezie Ikpeazu for imposing a dusk to dawn curfew in the state.
In a statement in Kaduna yesterday, the publicity secretary of ACF, Mohammed Ibrahim Biu said IPOB supporters and other agitators for whatever reason should pursue their cause within the confines of the law.
The statement reads: "The attention of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) has been drawn to the allegedly reported clashes between troops of the Nigerian Army while on Operation Python Dance11 and members of Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) in Aba, Abia State. ACF commends the prompt intervention of the Abia State Governor, Chief Okezie Ikpeazu,who has imposed a three day dusk to dawn curfew on Aba town in order to douse the tension and bring the situation under control. With the dusk to dawn curfew in place, the military and other security agencies should ensure that peace and harmony in the areas affected are not only restored but sustained.
"ACF also commends the efforts of South East Governors Forum for setting up a Probe Committee to investigate the clash in order to unravel its remote causes and to proffer an enduring solution to such problems. Identified perpetrators of the crisis should be made to face the wrath of the law in order to serve as deterrent to others. In this regard, ACF urges the Governors of the South East and South South regions to take adequate and necessary steps to protect the lives and properties of the innocent and law abiding citizens living in their states.
"ACF appeals to members of IPOB and other agitators for whatever cause to always pursue their concerns within the confines of the law and the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution.
"Furthermore, ACF wishes to praise the military for their professionalism in handling the security challenges and calls on the Federal Government to be firm and resolute in bring such situations under control in favor of peaceful coexistence needed for meaningful socioeconomic development. We therefore appeal for calm and urge citizens to appreciate the need to live in peace and harmony".
Nnamdi Kanu plotting to overthrow Buhari, split Nigeria -Arewa youths
Meantime, Arewa youths, yesterday, accused Nnamdi Kanu and his group of plotting a violent overthrow of the government of Muhammadu Buhari and to weaken the North.
Although the youths did not provide evidence, the allegations were contained in a statement signed by spokesman of the Coalition of Northern Groups, CNG, Mr. Abdul-Azeez Suleiman.
The CNG noted the avalanche of turmoil occasioned by incessant violent agitations since President Buhari assumed power in 2015, alleging that they were aimed at making the country ungovernable and effecting a change of government by "whatever means and tactics."
The CNG also claimed that the attacks on Buhari and his government was part of a larger plot to cause an inter-regional crisis that could lead to general unrest.
The CNG said: "The resurgence of separatist agitations, especially the violent brand by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and its ilk in the South-East, represent a much wider conspiracy to divide Nigeria along ethnic and religious fault lines as well as achieve the balkanization of the North.
"The current IPOB brand of agitation is a strategy employed to achieve the results that the coupists of the First Republic failed to realize, namely, increase the weight and relevance of the regions to the detriment and expense of the central government.
"The agitations for separation and the cry for Biafra would become louder and the agitators, supported by their politicians, would become emboldened to act in more radical and violent manner thereby sparking retaliation in the North with subsequent attacks to be perpetrated against Northerners in the South-East.
"In the event of such, the North would then be held up as the real culprit and the cause of the break-up of Nigeria," CNG warned.
But the group said it would not be provoked to retaliate against the antics of IPOB and its leader.
Rather than join issues with IPOB, the coalition of youths plans to report the atrocities of the South East separatist group to the United Nations and the International Criminal Court to take necessary steps to deal with the pro-separatists.
Police Sergeant killed, houses, cars burnt in Rivers - Rivers CP
The Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Ahmed Zaki, yesterday, said that a Police Sergeant, Mr. Steven Daniel, lost his life in the rampage by suspected IPOB members, in Oyibo area of the state.
Disclosing that 32 youths have been arrested over the incident, Zaki averred that the suspects burnt a police patrol van, several other cars and a house.
The youths had on Tuesday, attacked the Hausa community in Oyigbo, Oyibo Local Government Area of the state and allegedly killed two persons said to be northerners and set a property ablaze.
The youths regrouped yesterday morning and launched attack on a police station in the area, killed Daniel and destroyed several valuables.
Briefing journalists yesterday in Port Harcourt, the police boss said that the youths had laid siege to commuters on Aba-Port Harcourt Expressway and residents of the area, adding that the action lacked justification.
Zaki said: "The Command was awakened to yet another sad incident today (Wednesday) at about 0010hrs, where the same dare-devil IPOB members regrouped and launched a surprise attack on the Mobile Policemen stationed at Oyigbo junction, killing a Police Sergeant identified as Sgt. Steven Daniel attached to 19 PMF.
"They also injured two others and set a patrol vehicle ablaze as a result of which a Sterling SMG Riffle belonging to the deceased Sgt. was taken by the hoodlums. They were however repelled by the Police, where about 9 of them were arrested, bringing the total number of suspects arrested to 32. They are helping us in Investigation and will be due in Court as soon as our Investigation is concluded."
The CP explained that the IPOB members had attacked a police van returning from training school, and made away with one AK 47 rifle, stressing that the police van was vandalised.
Zaki said: "At about 1400hrs yesterday (Tuesday) members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) without lawful authority blocked the entire Aba/Port Harcourt Express way and attacked some residents.
He said, "The said group, who had no justification for their action also attacked a Police van from Training School, Nonwa, enroute Port Harcourt International Airport and burnt the Police van to ashes. The driver, Inspr Emaikwu Ochochi was badly injured and is now on admission.
"They also carted away one AK-47 riffle with sixty rounds of live ammunition, and one Berretta pistol with eight rounds of live ammunition. At the end of their rampage, many vehicles were damaged and stores burnt.
"The timely response of the Police restored normalcy and brought the situation under control as I made adequate deployment to arrest the situation. The mob was dispersed with minimum force, thereby restoring law and order, at the end of which 23 IPOB members were arrested."
However, the police chief confirmed that police have restored normalcy in the area.
Calm returns to Oyigbo, no mosque razed
The Army has insisted that its men did not provoke Tuesday crisis in Oyigbo local government area. Spokesman, 6 Division of the Nigerian army, Colonel Aminu Ilyasu said it was unfortunate that some media houses did not verify their reports before going to press.
Colonel Ilyasu said it was extremely disturbing that some media houses also reported that a mosque in the area was razed down during the incident, stressing that the mosque was intact. He appealed to the media to double-check their information before rushing to press, noting that misleading reports could further aggravate ugly situation like that of Tuesday.
Chairman of the local government area, Mr. Sunday Chukwudi said peace had returned to the area, adding that law enforcement agents had moved in to guarantee safety of lives and properties.
There was heavy presence of security men in the area. At some points pedestrians were seen raising their hands in surrendering positions as they walked passed the security men.
Stop acts capable of causing tension, NHRC tells Army
In a similar vein, the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, yesterday expressed concern over alleged invasion of parts of South East and South South geopolitical zones of the country by the Nigerian Military.
The Commission warned security agencies, particularly the Military, "to desist from acts capable of causing tension, public disturbance, fear and sense of insecurity".
It cautioned the Nigerian Army to respect their rules of engagement, saying instead of heightening the fear of insecurity, it should "rather ensure the respect of the fundamental rights of all citizens".
Acting Executive Secretary of the NHRC, Mrs. Oti Ovrawah, in a statement made available to newsmen in Abuja, said the rights body was perturbed by media reports on allegations by IPOB and NUJ, Abia State chapter, that Nigerian Soldiers on Operation Python Dance II, attacked them, "amidst other claims of human rights violations".
The statement which was signed by head of media at the NHRC, Mrs. Fatima Mohammed, added: "Mrs. Ovrawah assures Nigerians that the Commission will collaborate with the Nigerian Police and other relevant authorities to ensure a timely and thorough investigation into the allegations with a view to ensuring that informed decisions are made and appropriate steps taken to have culprits punished and victims redressed in accordance with the law."
Goc 82 Div visits Aba, Umuahia, Isialangwa
The General Officer Commanding (GOC) 82 Division Nigerian Army, Major General Adamu Baba Abubakar, has visited Aba, Umuahia, Isialangwa in Abia State to interface with stakeholders today 13th September 2017.
The GOC, who was accompanied by the Commander 14 Brigade, Brigadier General AK Ibrahim, first port of call was the office of the Commissioner of Police, Abia State, Mr. O Oyebade and together they went around Aba town along with Abia State Deputy Governor, Ude Oko Chukwu. During the visit they interacted with members of various communities and enjoined them to live in peace, assuring them of their safety and urged them to remain calm and avoid anything that could disturb peace in the area.
Okorocha, ABC Nwosu, Igwe, Uwazuruike, others speak
Imo State Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, described the IPOB agitation for Biafra Republic as a child's play.
Okorocha who spoke yesterday after leading a delegation of the forum on a sympathy visit to Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, and victims of the recent Benue flood disaster in Benue state said no reasonable Igbo man was backing the agitation.
"I have always said that IPOB is an agitation group but the captioning is bad when you talk of sovereignty within a sovereign nation and also talking of secession. Let me assure you that no Igbo person or man is in support of secession and people must see this as a childish act and we must stand up to address it before it becomes a national problem.
"As for us leaders in that area, it will be insane for anyone to think that the IPOB leader will ask us to follow him to seek secession. If you are addressing IPOB you should be specific and not address it as if it's an Igbo affair."