CONFUSION has continued to rage in Umuahia and Aba, Abia State, as banks, shops and other businesses hurriedly closed for business as the army launched massive crackdown on members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). Two people were feared dead.
Also, youths were said to have set the Ariaria police station on fire on Thursday.
This came as the state governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, said soldiers would be withdrawn from the streets of Umuahia and Aba today.
Tribune Online gathered that as of 10.23 a.m., major roads in the capital city were empty as people were seen running helter-skelter following gunshots heard within the city centre.
However, eyewitness accounts disclosed that two people suspected to be members of the IPOB were, allegedly shot dead, creating tension in the capital city which enjoyed a relative calm on Wednesday.
According to the eyewitnesses, the two men, dressed in black attire were gunned down at Diamond Bank on Akanu Ibiam Road, 50 metres to the Government House gate and their bodies immediately picked up and dumped inside an army vehicle.
The third victim, said to be a bank customer, was hit on his arm by a stray bullet and was also whisked away.
When Tribune Online visited the scene of the alleged killing, a black cap said to belong to one of the victims was on the ground.
At the Afaraukwu area of Umuahia, where the home of IPOB leader is located, residents have deserted their houses, leaving only IPOB members, who were seen around Kanu’s residence.
There were also unconfirmed reports that troops from the Nigerian Army broke into the Afara-Ukwu, Umuahia country home of the leader of the IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu.
About 15 other persons were said to have been arrested during the “invasion” of Kanu’s house by soldiers.
In Aba, residents of the city said gunshots rent the air throughout the night.
The state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Mr Geoffrey Ogbonna, confirmed the incident, saying the police station had been razed.
It was gathered that police had closed the gate leading into the Central Police station in Umuahia.
Reacting to the incident, a human rights activist and constitutional lawyer, Dr Anthony C.B. Agbazuere, has called on the Federal Government and the Chief of Army Staff to immediately withdraw the troops from the state in the interest of peace and tranquility.
According to him, deployment of soldiers was uncalled for, saying section 217 of the Nigeria Constitution condemned the act.
Residents remain indoors in Aba over renewed crisis
Following a resurgence of crisis in Aba, Abia State, on Thursday, some residents have remained indoors, while others are leaving the city in fear.
In areas around Uratta junction, Ariaria junction, Tonimas junction and flyover Enugu-Port Harcourt highway, some people were seen carrying loads and waiting for vehicles to leave town.
At Bakassi bus stop on the highway, policemen threw tear-gas canisters at some youths who gathered at a nearby street.
Medical Director, Holy Wounds Hospital, Faulks Road, Aba, Dr Uchenna Anyanwu, said two persons suspected to have been shot in Ariaria area were brought in dead to his hospital.
He told NAN that a mob, who believed he was on the side of the police, came to his hospital and vandalised his office because he accepted to treat some injured persons.
He wondered why the mob should vandalise his hospital when he was trying to save lives.
At the city centre, shop owners closed their businesses, while commercial banks halted their operations.
Banks, including FirstBank branches at Abayi and Asa Road, Skye Bank on St. Michael’s Road, Union Bank and Ecobank on Factory Road were closed.
Only Heritage Bank close to Ochendo Motor Park was open but with heavy security presence.
NAN learnt that the closed banks received instructions from their state headquarters offices to close and watch events.
Ariaria Market which had been opening for skeletal sales since Wednesday was shut own Thursday morning, following the attack on the Ariaria Police Station by unknown persons.
Soldiers’ll be withdrawn from Aba, Umuahia today — Ikpeazu
Ikpeazu speaking at the Government House, Umuahia, while reacting to the security situation in the state, said soldiers would leave the streets today.
He said the situation in the past few days, which led to the deployment of soldiers ahead of `Operation Python Dance II’, had generated concern from both the government and the people.
“I will also be meeting the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari, to discuss possible ways of relaxing ‘Operation Python Dance II’ in the state for now.”
He added that the withdrawal would not affect pre-existing military checkpoints at various locations in the state and warned mischief-makers to stay away from Abia, as agitations and protests would not be tolerated.
“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.
“The state government will work with security agencies to ensure the protection of lives and property without fear or favour.
There will be no hiding place for you,” he said.
He also urged residents of Aba to fully observe the current curfew in the city and ensure that they cooperate with security agents to maintain peace and order.
Ikpeazu said it was in the interest of the people of Abia for peace and security to be restored, as meaningful progress could not be achieved in an atmosphere of violence and anarchy.
He further advised members of the public to stop spreading rumours capable of throwing the state into disorder, warning that anyone caught perpetrating such acts would be dealt with according to the law.
Group writes Buhari, UN over security threats in S/East
The South-East Renewal Group (SRG) has raised the alarm over what it described as security threat posed by the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) to members of the public in the South-Eastern region of the country.
In separate letters to President Muhammadu Buhari and the United Nations (UN), the group drew the attention of the Nigerian leader as well as the world body to various atrocities being carried out by IPOB members in the region.
It expressed concern that if not quickly put in check, the activities of IPOB would cause sociopolitical dislocation and spark insecurity crisis of regional and national dimension.
The letter, signed by National-Co-ordinator of the group, Mr Charles Mbani, pointed at the recent formation of the Biafra Secret Service (BSS) by IPOB,led by Nnamdi Kanu.
Mixed reactions trail army’s ‘Operation Python Dance II’ in Abia
Different reactions have continued to trail the prosecution of ‘Operation Python Dance II’ in Abia by the Nigerian military.
Speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Port Harcourt, on Thursday, a lawyer, Mr Paul Gbakpo, said deploying the military in Abia was in line with best global practice.
Gbakpo said the activities of the IPOB could be hijacked by miscreants to breach the peace.
A security expert, Samuel Perekeme, has described the operation as unnecessary.
Perekeme, who said the operation was capable of creating tension and suspicion among people, urged the Federal Government to order an immediate end to the operation.
Another resident, Miss Nkem Kinika, a lawyer, said deploying military personnel in a particular region could only create a feeling of insecurity among the people.
“I think there are other ways of handling the situation at hand, it is definitely not by deploying armed personnel in the region,” he said.
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