June 1, 2024

Soldiers lay siege to Aba over Biafra Day killing of troops

Soldiers lay siege to Aba over Biafra Day killing of troops

By Ugochukwu Alaribe & Steve Oko, with agency reports, Umuahia

Tension is increasing in Aba, Abia state as soldiers have taken over the city following the killing of five of their colleagues at a military checkpoint located at Obikabia junction, Ogbor Hill.

The military, in a statement, vowed to fiercely avenge the killing of the soldiers even as Igbo elders have begged the military to avoid the killing of innocent people.

Gunmen suspected to be enforcers of the sit at home order directed by the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, had attacked the checkpoint and killed five soldiers and burnt two patrol vans as well as their checkpoint.

The tension over the killing has increased with two military helicopters still hovering over the Ogbor Hill area and environs. Vanguard gathered that residents have resorted to scampering to safety whenever they sight the several patrol teams of soldiers who move on top speed.

Vanguard also gathered that soldiers had stormed Cemetery, Ngwa road, Nsulu markets and other business centres and ordered traders to leave the areas. Many schools in the city didn’t open for studies as parents did not allow their children to leave for school while some schools closed before midday.

However, the Aba main motor park was still a beehive of activities when Vanguard visited. Vanguard also noted that soldiers had left the military checkpoints at Asa road and Emelogu junction in Ogbor Hill.

All indoors

Residents of Umuola, Ukaegbu, Ehere, New Umuahia and Ururuka roads in Ogbor Hill and Obohia and Ohanku in Ndiegoro area, as well as adjoining areas have remained indoors for fear of reprisal from soldiers. Fierce-looking soldiers have also barricaded the Aba – Umuahia section of the Enugu – Port Harcourt expressway.

Passengers now alight at Arungwa,Umuekea, Isiala Ngwa and Ntigha junctions and trek a kilometer while raising their hands. To avoid the situation, some motorists navigate through local routes to avoid the numerous military checkpoints on the expressway.

Efforts to get the reaction of the Army Public Relations Officer,14 Brigade,Ohafia, Lt. Innocent Omale, was unsuccessful, as he didn’t respond to a message sent to his mobile number.

The Military High Command has vowed to exert revenge against the Independent Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) following the killing of five soldiers at a checkpoint in Obingwa LGA of Abia state on Wednesday, May 30. In a statement, Maj.-Gen. Edward Buba, the Director of Defence Media Operations said the military would strike back.

According to the statement, “Troops of OP UDO KA deployed at Obikabia Junction Checkpoint in Obingwa Local Government Areas adjourning Aba metropolis in Abia State were attacked and sadly killed by terrorists of IPOB/ESN. The troops deployed to enforce peace in the area and protect the citizens were massively attacked by the terrorists.

“The terrorists, in three-tinted Prado Toyota SUVs and others from built-up areas surrounding the checkpoint, sprang a surprise attack on the checkpoint. The attack sadly took the lives of 5 personnel of the armed forces killed in action.  The armed forces mourns the death of these troops as each and every soldier lost in battle is a terrible loss.

“Meanwhile, investigations are ongoing concerning the attack. Overall, it must be reiterated that the lifeline of the terrorist is the people and this situation is no exemption. Winning the war without the support of the people is close to impossible. The IPOB capitalised on this to perpetrate attacks on the troops. The situation leaves more to be desired.

“Accordingly, it is absolutely imperative that the military retaliate against this dastardly act against troops. The military would be fierce in its response. We would bring overwhelming military pressure on the group to ensure their total defeat.”

Abia govt places N25 million bounty over killers of soldiers in Aba

Meanwhile, Abia State Government, Friday, placed N25 million bounty on the killers of five soldiers in Aba on Thursday. This was contained in a statement issued by the Commissioner for Information Prince Okey Kanu.

As tension continued to build across the state over a possible military reprisal operation in Aba, the State Government has appealed to the military not to be fierce in its response but consider the effects of its action on innocent citizens. The State Government commiserated with the Army over the loss of its men and appealed for de-escalation.

Government said it “considers the attack a serious affront to its resolve by criminal elements who are hell-bent on returning Abia to the dark days of insecurity and fear amongst citizens, especially in Aba, the economic heartbeat of the State”

The statement read:”The Abia State Government has noted with great regret the ugly incident that occurred on Thursday, May 30, 2024 at around 7:45 am at Obikabia Junction, in the Ogbor Hill area, Obingwa LGA, near Aba, where suspected criminal elements operating with several SUVs opened fire on men of the Nigerian Army on security duty, leading to the killing of five soldiers.

“The Abia State Government wishes to commiserate with the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Taoreed A. Lagbaja, and the Military High Command in the country for the unfortunate incident and pray for the peaceful repose of the soul of the gallant soldiers who died in active duty.

“This is more regrettable in the light of the fact that unprecedented investments have been made in the last one year to restore the city’s public infrastructure and reposition it as an attractive investment destination for local and foreign businesses.

“The Government will therefore respond appropriately to reassure citizens, investors and friends of Abia across the world that it would be relentless in bringing the full wrath of the law to bear on anyone or group who constitutes the slightest threat to the peace and security of the land, whatever be their motivation.

“To underscore its resolve, the State Government is offering a N25 million (Twenty-five Million Naira) reward to anyone with useful information that could lead to the location and arrest of any of the criminals connected to the unfortunate killings, and the subsequent state of apprehension across the city of Aba and environs.

“The security formations in the State have been directed to treat informants with all the confidentiality required to guarantee their full cooperation and assistance until the criminals are fully apprehended and brought to book.

“Furthermore, the Abia State Government will, in line with its commitment to the welfare of the security operatives working within its territory, take up the responsibility of supporting the families of the slain soldiers, including payment of regular stipends to their spouses, and the education of their children to university level. It is the least the State can do for the soldiers who died in brave service to their fatherland.

“The Government will also like to specially appreciate the officers and men of the Nigerian Army in the State for maintaining a high sense of professionalism in their response to the very distressing event.

“The State will also encourage our military and security personnel to continue to show restraint, whether at the checkpoints, on patrol, or while engaged in other security duties, even as the Government continues to work with all relevant stakeholders, including the security high commands, traditional and community leaders to gather and process all intelligence information which will ultimately lead to the capture of the perpetrators of the heinous crime at Obikabia Junction, and anyone directly or remotely connected to it in any form.”

Igbo elders beg military

Similarly, Igbo elders have begged the Nigeria military not to be brutal in its revenge of the killing of five soldiers for the sake of innocent people. The elders appealed to the military authorities to rather deploy intelligence and fish out the perpetrators of the heinous attack instead of embarking on any military confrontation considering the collateral damage associated with such military engagement.

Speaking with Vanguard in Umuahia, former Governor of Abia State, Senator Theodore Orji, condemned in strong terms, the attack on the innocent soldiers, but appealed to the military not to resort to any reprisal attack.

The former Governor rather urged the military authorities to deploy intelligence and fish out the perpetrators and deal with them instead of embarking on any military operation.

Reacting also, former Senate President, Senator Adolphus Wabara, strongly condemned the “senseless and barbaric attack”, but pleaded with the military authorities to temper justice with mercy for the sake of innocent citizens who are usually the victims of any reprisal attack. This is very unfortunate and condemnable.

“My heart goes to the Nigerian Army and the families of the deceased soldiers. I urge them to bear the loss with maturity and forgiveness. It’s very regrettable to lose a soul how much more a soldier with all the heavy investments in their training.

“But let them temper justice with mercy because it is usually the innocent people that bear the brunt of any reprisal attack.”

Similarly, former Chairman of the Nigeria Economic Summit, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, also condemned the killing of soldiers but appealed to the military to be considerate in its response.

Mazi Ohuabunwa who said that the perpetrators of the attack were unlikely to still be in the vicinity, pleaded with the military to consider the rules of engagement in dealing with the situation. He condoled with the Nigeria Army and families of the deceased soldiers over the attack but called for maturity in their response.

In the same vein, the Methodist Bishop of Umuahia Ecclesiastical Diocese, Archbishop Raphael Opoko, has appealed to the military to soft-pedal in its threat to respond fiercely. Opoko who also strongly condemned the needless attack, appealed to the military authorities to consider the fate of innocent citizens in the eventuality of any reprisal military operation.

“The killing of the soldiers is bad. Shedding of blood is strange to the Igbo society. So, we appeal to the Army to be merciful because it’s not good for innocent citizens to bear the consequences of what they did not do.

“We appeal to the military not to be fierce in its response. Let there be a collaboration with the state government in the efforts to fish out the culprits.”

Vanguard News