The Nigerian Army, last night, said Operation Python Dance II currently ongoing in the South East, will continue.
The Army in a statement signed, last night, by Director, Army Public Relations, Brigadier General Sani Kukasheka Usman, asked the public not to misconstrue the statement of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State, yesterday, to mean that the Army was totally halting the Operation Python Dance II in the South East, including Abia State.
The statement read: "The attention of the Nigerian Army has been drawn to some stories in the media that it is withdrawing its troops from exercise EGWU EKE II, crediting such information to Abia State Governor and the General Officer Commanding 82 Division Nigerian Army. This is not true. The Nigerian Army wishes to enjoin members of the public to disregard such rumours.
"For the avoidance of doubt, the Abia State Governor in his speech stated that "there will be gradual withdrawal of soldiers on the streets of Aba and Umuahia from tomorrow.
"This should not be misconstrued as withdrawing of troops earmarked for Exercise EGWU EKE II. The General Officer Commanding 82 Division has not said such thing.
"Consequently, we wish to state that exercise EGWU EKE II is commencing tomorrow as scheduled. Commanders have been instructed to ensure that all hands are on deck to commence the exercise to its logical completion.
"We wish to state further that the successful completion of the exercise will dovetail into the various states security outfits till the end of this year.
"Members of the public, especially in the areas where the exercise will take place, are please enjoined to go about their lawful businesses. We wish to also state that we would not allow any individual or group to jeopardize the conduct of the field training exercise through unlawful or criminal activities. "Hoodlums and criminal elements are once again warned to be law abiding and not cause any breach of peace.
"We, hereby, reiterate that our troops would conduct themselves in the best professional manner, abide by the Rules of Engagement and Code of Conduct in line with requirements of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Any act of indiscipline by any of our personnel would be decisively dealt with.
"While we enjoin all Nigerians to go about their normal businesses, the Nigerian Army urge all to support the troops as they carry out their constitutional duties and make exercise EGWU EKE II a success."
Governor Ikpeazu had earlier spoken amid reports of heavy shooting around IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu's home in Umuahia, yesterday, with about four persons feared killed. This, however, could not be confirmed at press time.
The announcement came as 82 Division of Nigerian Army said it is investigating a video clip trending on social media and other platforms purportedly showing troops humiliating some people at a check-point in Abia State.
Also, yesterday, the Inspector-General of Police, IGP, Ibrahim Idris, said the police hierarchy is in touch with South-East governors, asking them to mobilize political leaders on how to intervene in the charged security situation in the zone.
Similarly, Plateau State governor, Solomon Lalong, yesterday, declared a dusk-to-dawn curfew in the state, following tension that trailed reports that an indigene was allegedly killed by some members of Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, in Abia State.
Giving security update of the state at a media briefing, Governor Ikpeazu called for calm and urged the people of the state to go about their lawful businesses.
He said: "Gentlemen of the press, permit me to use this medium to update my brothers and sisters of Abia State origin, and those living and doing business in the state on the current security situation.
"Dear brothers and sisters, the security situation in the state in the past few days, which led to the deployment of soldiers into our state ahead of the Operation Python dance 11, has become of great concern to both the government and the citizenry.
"After several interventions, I want to inform you that by tomorrow morning (today), there will be withdrawal of soldiers from the streets of Aba and Umuahia, apart from the pre-existing military checkpoints at various locations in the state.
"With the expected exit of soldiers from the streets, we must warn that we will not tolerate agitators and protesters taking over the streets for any reason at all.
"I will also be meeting the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Mohamaudu Buhari, to discuss possible ways of relaxing the Operation Python dance 11 in the state for now.
"Our attention has been drawn to ugly incidences of attacks on police stations and military posts at Aba and Umuahia and we hereby warn that we will no longer tolerate that, and all other acts that are capable of causing insecurity in the state.
"We have also observed illegal acts of throwing petrol bombs and setting up of bonfires to obstruct free movements along some roads by suspected miscreants and wish to warn that such acts should stop forthwith.
"To mischief makers who want to use Abia as their base, let me announce to you that henceforth, Abia will be too hot for you to carry out your wicked acts as the Government will work with security agents to ensure the protection of lives and properties in the state without fear or favour. There will be no hiding place for you.
"At about midnight yesterday, we received security reports that hoodlums and miscreants, some of whom were allegedly brought into the state by unscrupulous individuals, were mobilizing around Uratta Road at Aba with a view to converging at Ariaria International Market to burn it down. Their aim was obviously to take advantage of the security situation in the state to cripple the economy of the state and cause widespread suffering.
"It was this group that originated the rumours of attacks and counter-attacks around the area and also tried to create panic to force people out of their homes to enable them execute their evil intentions under the cover of orchestrated crises.
"Thankfully their plan was nipped in the bud by the combined team of soldiers and policemen that promptly moved to the area and later positioned around Ariaria market to protect the lives and properties of our people.
"My fellow Abians, it is in the interest of all our citizens and residents for full and total peace and security to return to our state immediately. No meaningful progress can be made in an atmosphere of violence and anarchy.
"Those at Aba are therefore advised to fully observe the current curfew in the city and ensure that they cooperate with security agents to maintain peace and order.
"I swore to protect lives and properties of all Abians and residents and that I must do. I, therefore, call on all to support our efforts at making sure that lasting peace prevails in our dear state", Ikpeazu said.
We're investigating trending video--Army
In a statement, yesterday, Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, 82 Division Nigerian Army, Colonel Sagir Musa, said the command's attention was drawn to the video showing troops humiliating some people at a check point in Abia State.
"The issue is being investigated with the view to ascertain the source and the actors in the clip. Our Code of Conduct and Rules of Engagement are quite clear and any officer or soldier that infringed on any of such directive, if found guilty, will face full wrath of the military justice system.
"We would like to inform the public that 82 Division is also aware of the planned misinformation and propaganda arrangement by the secessionist Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB.
"They intend to churn out pre-recorded video clips aimed at discrediting the Nigerian Army, causing disaffection among the citizens of this country. They will be using bogus, manipulated and photoshopped photographs as well as video clips.
"The public should be wary of such mischief, scrutinize and report same to the Nigerian Army or any of security agencies," said Musa.
We're talking with South East govs to mobilize political leaders - IGP
The Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris stated this in an interview with State House correspondents after a closed-door meeting with the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The police boss said that the highlight of the meeting with Vice President was to "obviously ensure that our provision of security in the country is intact."
Asked whether he was monitoring events in the South-East and the strategies he had adopted so far to restore peace, he said: "Obviously, one, is to deploy policemen across the country. Two, we are in touch with the state governments, trying to mobilize the political leadership to be able to intervene where necessary on how to lessen the tension in the South-East."
Abia CP transferred
Meantime, the crisis in Abia State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Leye Oyebade, has been redeployed.
Mr. Oyebade was replaced by Mr. Anthony Michael.
At a brief handover ceremony, yesterday, at the Police Headquarters in Umuahia, Oyebade said the command under his watch recorded tremendous success and wished his successor well.
It could not be confirmed if the commissioner's transfer was connected with the Abia crisis or the recent escape of some kidnap suspects from police detention at the headquarters. The command had already dismissed six personnel in connection with the escape of the suspects, some of whom have been rearrested.
30 IPOB members remanded
Meanwhile, a chief magistrate's court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, yesterday, remanded 30 members of IPOB in prison over alleged involvement in the crisis that rocked Oyigbo area of the state on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The suspects were arrested by the Police Command in the course of the incident in which two persons died, a police Sergeant, Mr. Steven Daniel was killed and his rifle taken away and several property damaged.
Nine of the suspects were accused of killing Daniel, while the others are facing trial for causing unrest and other criminal acts.
In two separate charge sheets, PMC/1936c/2017 and PMC/1935c/2017, the accused persons were charged with treason, murder, armed robbery, felony, unlawful assembly, unlawful protest and other sundry crimes.
When the matter came up in court, the charges were not read to the accused persons and pleas were not taken because the court declined jurisdiction to entertain it.
However, presiding chief magistrate, Amadi O. Amadi-Nna ordered the court registrar to remit the case file to the Director of Public Prosecutions, DPP, for legal advice and adjourned sine die.
The defence, Donald Loho, had urged the court to return the case file to the chief judge of the state high court to interpret and assign the matter to an appropriate court that has jurisdiction.
Speaking outside the court room with journalists, the Prosecution Counsel, SP Enoch George, said: "We came here for remand and proceedings. Naturally, the defendants have their lawyers and they also raised legal issues that the court does not have jurisdiction and that the court should strike out the charges and discharge them. But we the prosecutors decided that the charge for which they were brought to court is very heavy and weighty.
"Some of the accused persons were charged under Section 319 of the Code of Criminal Justice Law in Rivers State, which is murder, some were charged under Section 69, 70 which is unlawful assembly, procession and others and some of them were charged for treasonable felony."
PDP calls for investigation of military brutality
In a similar vein, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has condemned alleged brutality by the military against members of IPOB.
In a statement issued yesterday by the Head, Publicity Division of the party, Chinwe Nnorom on behalf of the National Publicity Secretary, the PDP said members of the Nigerian military are paid to protect lives and not to humiliate the people.
It said: The PDP is appalled by the emergence of a video clip which has gone viral, that shows acts of humiliation against unarmed civilians by members of the Nigerian military. If true, it's the depth of callousness and a further descent into the gutter by people who are paid to protect life, property as well as the country's territorial integrity.
"The PDP welcomed the initiative of the Nigerian Army to probe the issue but given the enormity of this allegation and the respect with which we hold life, the party hereby calls for the setting up of an independent panel of experts on human rights to ascertain the veracity of this allegation. Where they are proven to be true, the PDP demands that all perpetrators as well as all those connected, however remotely, be immediately brought to justice. This would go a long way to not only serve as a deterrent, but also reassure the international community that Nigeria is not a jungle but a decent society where human rights are being promoted," the statement read in part.
Ekweremadu condemns siege, calls for calm
Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, condemned in strong terms the military siege to the South East geo-political zone, noting that dialogue and inclusion were best options in resolving the agitation in the region.
Ekweremadu, however, called on the people of the South-East to remain calm as he and other leaders of the region were engaging the Federal Government in meaningful discussions to ensure that Operation Python Dance II in the zone is called off.
He said: "The military siege to the South East is uncalled for because there is no prevailing situation in the region to warrant it in the first place. Instead, it is the Python Dance that appears to be creating problems and raising tension in the region. The agitation in the South East at the moment is best resolved by way of dialogue and a sense of inclusion. I want to assure our people that I have been engaging the Presidency and security agencies meaningfully on the issue. It is my hope that the Operation Egwu Eke will be called off.
"Until then, however, I call on the military to respect the rights of citizens. The various videos and reports of gross human rights abuses making the rounds in the social and traditional media are nevertheless very disgusting and disheartening. They should be thoroughly investigated by the relevant authorities with a view to establishing the truth and ensuring that no human rights violator goes unpunished."
State Houses of Assembly to take a stand on Nigeria's unity
In a related development, the Imo State House of Assembly yesterday announced that the 36 state Houses of Assembly will converge on Imo State to take a stand on the unity of Nigeria.
Speaker, Imo State House of Assembly, Mr. Acho Ihim, said the special session was necessary because "Nigeria is in precarious situation."
His words: "We are aware of happenings in Nigeria, in Owerri, Aba and so many places that are leading to violence. In view of this, the Imo State House of Assembly in conjunction with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, CPA, will be hosting a unity session which will attract all the 36 state Houses of Assembly in Nigeria. All the speakers will sit here, in the Imo state House of Assembly, on the 28 September 2017, to do the needful in condemning hate speech in Nigeria. We are going to talk about the very prevalent and precarious situation Nigeria finds itself, emanating from all parts of Nigeria, with the traces of kidnappings, killings."
El-Rufai, Kaduna CP assure Igbo of security
Amid brewing tension and fears of reprisal attacks in the North, Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai and Commissioner of Police, Agyoleh Abel, have assured Igbo resident in the state to go about their businesses as necessary measures have been taken to ensure their security.
While Governor El-Rufai gave the assurance in a statement, the commission-er of police spoke after meeting Igbo and Yoruba leaders as well as touring some streets with promin-ent Igbo businesses where he addressed Igbo traders.
Excerpts from Governor El Rufai's statement, signed by his spokesman, Samuel Aruwan read:
"The Kaduna State Government wishes to assure all residents of their safety. The state government and the security agencies have taken appropriate action to secure lives and property. Therefore, every citizen should go about their lawful duties, without let or hindrance.
"The security situation is under constant review, including events that have taken place in other parts of the country. Our diverse communities will not be engulfed by negative conduct that has taken place elsewhere.
"The Kaduna State Government urges everyone to resist the temptation to take the law into their hands.
"There should be no recourse to self-help in Kaduna State. It will not be tolerated and will be punished accordingly. In times like these, every citizen is expected to do their duty to uphold peace and harmony.
"Government wishes to reiterate that it will not tolerate hate speech and incitement. Members of the public should verify information before they share. Kaduna State is peaceful.
"No community or market is under attack, and robust efforts are being applied to maintain the peace."
South-east govs should resolve IPOB's Biafra agitation - Fayose
On his part, Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State, said South-East governors are in the best position to resolve the agitation for Biafra by IPOB.
The Ekiti governor said it was northern governors who intervened when Arewa youth groups issued a quit notice to the Igbo, hence, same should be replicated in the South-East.
"For whatever reasons, the FG should have allowed the South-East governors to interface with Kanu and resolve issues instead of this show of force
"If northern governors were allowed to resolve the Arewa youths threat that Igbo should leave the North, why not allow South-East governors to resolve Kanu's?" he queried.
Tension in Jos as Lalong slams dusk-to-dawn curfew
Meanwhile, there was tension yesterday evening at the Jos City centre, especially the Ahmadu Bello Way as well as other surrounding communities of Apata, Chobe, Katako all in Jos North local government area as residents were seen hurriedly locking up shops and some vacating their homes for reasons no one could actually say.
The panicky movements generated many versions of rumours, causing fears among residents and making security agents to patrol the affected areas and other troubled spots in the city.
Unconfirmed reports say some people had lost their lives in the pandemonium but security sources debunked such reports, saying "no one died as a result of the panic."
According to a resident of Apata, Chijioke Nna, a trader at the Terminus Market, "I saw people hurriedly locking their shops and I also locked mine. On getting to the road to get Keke to my house in Chobe, I discovered the area was deserted and passengers were stranded so people started running along the routes to their houses to avoid any unpalatable situation."