There was tension in Umuahia, the capital of Abia State, Sunday when personnel of the Nigerian Army reportedly clashed with some pro-Biafra agitators allegedly leading to three people being shot.
The army had been accused by some of the people of being the aggressor as they embarked on a promised show of force in line with the recently announced new phase of Operation Python Dance in the South East region of the country.
Some had accused the military personnel of attempting to force their way into the residential premises of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, but were met with stiff resistance by members of the group.
Speaking to journalists following the incident, Kanu had said, “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 neighborhood that was returning home. But the blaring persisted and was followed up by sporadic gun shots.
“The soldiers 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 was running away in confusion”.
But the army dispelled the claims in its own reaction.
In a statement signed by Major Oyegoke Gbadamosi, the Assistant Director, Army Public Relations, it described the claims that troops invaded the home of Kanu and killed three persons as “fictitious”.
It stated that contrary to claims of it being the aggressor, “IPOB militants” initiated the clash by attempting to prevent their free movement within the state capital.
The army went ahead to release pictures of injured ‘passersby’ it said were proof of its claims of IPOB aggression.
The statement read, “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 3 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. 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 hoodlooms dispersed. No life was lost.
“Therefore the public are kindly enjoined to disregard the rumours going round and the fictitious photographs of purported victims of attack. Both the soldier and the 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 falsehood such as above.
“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”.
Meanwhile, Alaigbo Development Foundation (ADF) had reacted to the announced military operation in the South East via a press statement, describing it as an invasion of Igboland and calling for drastic counter-actions.
In a statement signed by Prof T. Uzodinma Nwala, its president, Prof Nath Aniekwu, its secretary, and
Dr Dozie Ikedife, the chairman of its board of trustees, it stated in part as follows:
“A few days ago the social media was awash with display of movement of tanks and other heavy military equipment into the South-East, the heartland of Alaigbo.
“This has been followed up and confirmed by the Press Briefing by the Chief of Training and Operations, Army Major General DD Ahmadu on what he calls Exercise Egwu Eke (Operation Python Dance)
“According to him, the operation involves the deployment of a whole Division of the Nigerian Army, composed of five Brigades based in Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo States, all in the South Eastern States.
“The operation is being conducted with the involvement of other security agencies such as Department of State Services, the Nigeria Police and Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps, all of whom are to engage in raids, cordon and search operations, anti-kidnapping drills, road blocks, check points and show of force, etc.
“ It will be recalled that on his return from sick leave, President Muhammadu Buhari had declared war on all those demanding Restructuring and Self-determination, with his main focus on the self-determination movements in the Alaigbo terrotories. The Arewa Youth and some of their elders had gone from their Quit Notice to Ndigbo to circulating hate speeches aimed at inciting their people to another orgy of pogrom against Ndigbo. They had also called President Buhari to declare war against all those seeking, justice, equality and freedom.
“Hundreds of Igbo farmers and their children have been killed, their women and daughters raped not only in Alaigbo but in several other non-Fulani areas of Nigeria. In all these the Nigerian Police and other security forces had looked elsewhere while those atrocities have been committed against them by Fulani herdsmen armed with sophisticated weapons.
“This is Military Invasion and Occupation of Alaigbo, nay, Declaration of War against peaceful citizens of Alaigbo!”.
On its planned counter-measures, ADF said, “Since the planned invasion clearly infringes on the powers of the National Assembly, ADF shall call on the National Assembly to stand up and defend her Constitutional authority and integrity. And if the invasion and occupation proceeds as planned, the National Assembly shall be called upon to commence impeachment proceedings against Mr. President.
“Call on civil societies, women and youth in Alaigbo to engage in civil and peaceful demonstrations throughout Alaigbo in protest against the invasion.
“Call on various Igbo groups, the traditional institution, the church and other elders of Igboland including Ohanaeze Ndigbo to raise their voices against the invasion of Alaigbo.
“Send further protest representations to the International Community on the latest attack and occupation of Alaigbo.
“Call on other patriotic and well-meaning citizens and nationalities in Nigeria to come to the aid of the Igbo nation at this time of another planned pogrom against Ndigbo. What else can we call this except FASCISM enveloping the entire Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The elders of Alaigbo and all patriotic Pan-Igbo organisations should liaise with the Governors in Alaigbo in spearheading an Emergency Political Conference of Ndigbo to holistically address the future of Alaigbo and deliberate on the continued threat and assault on our fundamental rights of self-determination and peaceful existence as a freedom-loving people
“Meanwhile, all Igbo groups worldwide should device means of continuing to inform the International Community about what is happening to their people at home and thereby seek their sympathy and intervention, where necessary and possible, to help save Ndigbo against another looming genocide in Nigeria”.
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