By Emeka Mamah, Clifford Ndujihe, Kingsley Omonobi, Anayo Okoli, Vincent Ujumadu & Joseph Erunke
UMUAHIA — SCORES of youths were allegedly injured, yesterday, as gunmen suspected to be soldiers, who came in Hilux Pick-up vans, allegedly attacked the Umuahia country home of leader of Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu.
The IPOB claimed, last night, that five people were killed and about 30 others were injured in the attack.
However, videos of the clash showing clubs and stone-wielding youths, who clashed with the troop, indicated that scores were injured.
One of the youths, who was shot on his right thigh was seen battling for life as his colleagues administered first aid.
IPOB Media and Publicity Secretary, Comrade Emma Powerful, told Vanguard that the attackers wore army and police uniforms and drove into the palace of the traditional ruler of Afaraukwu, who is the father of Nnamdi Kanu and started shooting people.
He said in a statement: “We did not clash with anybody or group. The attackers wore Nigerian soldiers and Nigeria Police uniforms and came to kill our leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, in his compound at Afaraukwu, Umuahia and started shooting sporadically and killed five people and up to 30 other people had bullet wounds. After attacking our people, they drove off. They came in five Hilux vans.”
Meanwhile one of the allegedly wounded IPOB members was taken to the Federal Medical Centre, Umuahia, where doctors were battling to save his live.
A doctor on duty at the emergency unit of the hospital said the IPOB member sustained gunshot injury at “the thigh region.”
We neither attacked nor killed anyone — Army
However, a statement signed by Major Oyegoke Gbadamosi, Assistant Director, Army Public Relations, 14 Brigade Nigerian Army 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-World Bank Road in Umuahia town, Abia State at about 6.00-6.30pm, today (yesterday).
“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.
“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.”
Ohanaeze, ECA, MASSOB react
Contacted on the issue, President-General of Ohanaeze, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, declined comments until after consulting with the Abia State Chairman of Ohanaeze and other Igbo leaders.
Secretary of the Eastern Consultative Assembly, Evangelist Elliot Uko, wondered if the attack was a prelude to the Operation Python Dance 11 that the Chief of Army Staff, Lt General Tukur Buratai, has planned to carry out in the South-East.
‘’We (ECA) are warning that if the Army did not fish out the culprits who shot at the residence of Nnamdi Kanu, it will be setting a motion for uncontrollable crisis that will overwhelm the country. ‘’The idea of going to shoot at Nnamdi Kanu’s residence will only deepen the anger and bitterness in the land. This will be idiotic and counter-productive,’’ he said.
Reacting to the development, Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, said the attack was another attempt by the Chief of Army Staff to intimidate the people with an army of occupation.
MASSOB leader, Comrade Uchenna Madu, who frowned at the development, called on President Muhammadu Buhari and the Chief of Army Staff to order the withdrawal of soldiers from the South East without further delay or be prepared to face legal action for alleged violation of human rights.
MASSOB said: ‘’President Buhari should understand that Nigeria as a signatory and member of United Nations and African Nation on human and people’s right which is enshrined in human and people rights charter, should stop violating peoples right in the name of giving security where there is no threat to security.
“The operation python dance or Egwu-eke in Biafran land is act of frustration from Nigerian government and the Chief of Army Staff, who has failed to capture the Boko-Haram leader, Shekau on the stipulated date given to him.
“General Tukur Buratai has never deemed it fit to launch operation ‘machiji or kunama meaning operation snake bite or scorpion sting respectively against the Hausa/Fulani herdsmen who went about killing people, raping women and young girls, setting people’s houses ablaze; instead, he is coming to Biafra land to launch unnecessary security operation that is needless due to no threat to security.
“This All Progressives Congress, APC-led government is full of dictators and human right violators. We cannot run away from our fathers’ land, no amount of military and police deployment will deter us from pursuing our legitimate right for self determination which is Biafra actualization.
“It is unfortunate that Chief of Army Staff and his troop have failed to restore peace in North East where Boko-Haram has been in control for many years now.
‘’Nigerian security agents have failed to arrest Alhaji Yerima Shetima of Arewa youths and the sponsors for the quit notice they issued to Ndigbo, yet they are busy hunting for those that are not hunting them or disturbing them in any way.”
Police confirm clash
The Abia police commissioner, Leye Oyebade, who confirmed the incident, said in a text message that: “I have just spoken to the C.O. [Commanding Officer]. He said a repaired Military armoured vehicle was used to patrol the Umuahia metropolis. I gathered that they were shooting sporadically, which led to the IPOB group wielding daggers, throwing broken bottles at them.
“Unfortunately, a police man on guard duties going to work was macheted by the IPOB group, while a soldier and a civilian were equally injured. All are being treated in the Police Clinic for minor injuries sustained. Normalcy has since been restored.”
The alleged invasion of Kanu’s home came barely two days after the Army announced a deployment of troops to the region on a special operation it called Operation Python Dance II.
Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai, who disclosed this, last Friday, at a press conference, hinted also that the exercise, codenamed Python Dance II, would be in five South Eastern states of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo.
According to the Army boss, who was represented on the occasion by the Chief of Training and Operations, Maj. Gen D.D Ahmadu, the exercise will be conducted in 82 Division area of responsibility of those five states and the exercise is scheduled to take place from September 15 to October 14, 2017.
Buratai said the objective of the exercise was to effectively contain the reported cases of kidnapping and other vices prevalent in the South East every Yuletide season.
“The need for troops to be exercised, refreshed and imbibe the requisite skills to cope with these emerging security challenges within the 82 Division area of responsibility in aid of civil authority necessitates this exercise, “he added.
According to him, emphasis will be placed on raids, cordon and search operations, anti-kidnapping drills, road blocks, check points, patrols, humanitarian relief activities such as medical outreach and show of force to curb the rising threat to national security in the South Eastern part of the country.”
“Exercise EGWU EKE II has become more expedient due to the mindless assassinations (even in religious places), attacks on security personnel and theft of weapons, kidnappings, armed banditry and violent agitations by secessionist groups, amongst other crimes that have recently bedevilled the region.
“It is pertinent to mention that the security, safety and well-being of innocent and law-abiding citizens of the states mentioned above have been adequately factored into the planning of the exercise. Thus, the rights of individuals as enshrined in the constitution would be respected and safeguarded.
“Additionally, EGWU EKE II is also conceptualized to transit into real time operations, thereby fulfilling both training and operational objectives of sharpening operational skills of personnel as well as providing an avenue to conduct operations against violent criminals and agitators when called upon.
“As precursor to a peaceful ‘ember’ period and yuletide, provision has already been made for the smooth conduct of the exercise. EGWU EKE II will be unique with the establishment of Brigade Headquarters in each of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo States.
“It is noteworthy to mention that EGWU EKE II is set to be another epoch making activity that would make the nation proud of the Nigerian Army’s determination at sustaining its constitutional role of defending the territorial integrity of the nation as well as its commitment to aid the civil authority to bring about peace and security in the south eastern part of our dear country in particular, and the entire nation in general,” he said.
He, therefore, advised members of the public, especially residents of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo states not to panic as their safety and well-being was guaranteed at all times.
A similar exercise was conducted between November 27 and December 27, 2016.