•Ugwuanyi, Ohanaeze vows to get to the root
Emene, a satellite town near Enugu metropolis was turned upside down recently. On that day, young people who have not physically witnessed a war had a foretaste of what war looked like.
Men of the Department of State Services (DSS) early in the morning invaded St. Patrick’s Secondary School, Emene. Their mission? They had gone to disperse suspected members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), who were said to be engaged in sporting activities including martial arts training.
The training had been going on for about five months. Eye witness accounts said trouble started at about 7.00am when some DSS personnel stormed the venue of the training in a bid to either stop or disperse the group. The development spiraled out of control as tempers flared leading to a bloody encounter.
The group reportedly overpowered the DSS agents forcing them to send a ‘Save our Soul’ (SoS) message to the State Command of the Nigerian Police for reinforcement. The police by extension also called in the military and Air Force!
Not long afterwards about a dozen patrol vans loaded with well armed security agents comprising police, soldiers and DSS, arrived the scene and started shooting sporadically at the IPOB members. Residents said sounds of gunfire and teargas fumes filled the air between St Patrick Secondary School and St Joseph Catholic Church along the old Abakaliki Road, Emene.
Another account said there were casualties on both sides. A DSS operative shot dead an IPOB member. In a reprisal, the operative was hacked down and another set ablaze ininstantly.
“The St Patrick Secondary School premises were flowing with blood,” volunteered another person who witnessed the orgy of violence, as they IPOB members were chased into the school. Many worshipers who were on their way to church were said to have scampered in different directions for safety while those already in the church had to endure tear gas fumes that enveloped the entire environment.
The situation remained tensed as security agents flooded the area, restricting movement of persons and vehicles as they searched for IPOB members. A particular resident revealed that police and the military were aware that the boys undertake martial arts training and other sporting activities in that place. He said that the school field was a hub of sporting activities during weekends for other residents.
According to him the residents never complained about the presence of IPOB members because they never constituted a nuisance to anybody which he said may have informed the decision of the police and military to allow them be for about three to five months, before men of the DSS invaded the venue. When the dust finally settled, allegations and counter allegations followed as the IPOB members and the security agencies traded blames.
IPOB through its Media and Publicity Secretary Emman Powerful alleged that armed soldiers and policemen murdered 21 and abducted 47 of its members during the clash. IPOB denied the DSS claims that its members killed two of their personnel as members of the organisation do not carry any form of weapons or arms as they had always been peaceful and would remain peaceful.
The statement read in part: “The Nigerian government and her security agencies have once again exhibited another crude round of killings and massacre against the peaceful and unarmed IPOB family members in Enugu State today August 23, 2020. “We are surprised how Nigerian agencies in their respective formations like army, police and DSS would be slaughtering our people without any provocation. This rampant killing of innocent members of IPOB will be reciprocated in due cause.
Members of IPOB have been slaughtered and others arrested in their numbers across different locations in Enugu State today Sunday 23, 2020. “We must warn and put the whole world on notice that Nigerian Government and her security operatives should stop killing our people because we are peaceful organization with the mandate of restoring Biafra sovereignty within the shortest period.
“Today, the Nigerian security personnel stormed IPOB meeting ground in Enugu and started shooting sporadically which consumed lives of 21 and arrested 47 members for no just cause or provocation.”
On her part the DSS headquarters through its Public Relations Officer, Peter Afunanya, said in a statement titled: “Unprovoked violent attack on DSS patrol team in Enugu”, alleged that IPOB members attacked her men in Enugu. He said: “The Service lost two personnel in what was clearly an unprovoked violent attack launched by IPOB on the team.
“The Service hereby condoles with families of the departed officers and also prays for the repose of their souls. “However, all measures have been put in place to ensure that their killers and everyone involved in this dastardly act are promptly apprehended and brought to justice. Consequently, a full scale investigation will be carried out with regard to the incident.
“Once again, the Service reaffirms its commitment to assiduously work with other security agencies to maintain public safety and order. It, therefore urges law abiding citizens and residents to go about their normal businesses without fear.”
The Police Command in Enugu State on her part said four persons were feared dead during the bloody encounter. Briefing jour- nalists on the incident, the state’s Commissioner of Police, Mr. Ahmed Abdurrahman, said that police arrested five IPOB members involved in the clash. Abdurrahman said that the civil unrest caused by the mayhem disrupted human and vehicular activities for hours in the Enugu-Abakaliki Road precisely within the Emene community in the outskirt of Enugu metropolis.
He said that the DSS went on a covert operation in a particular location in Emene early Sunday morning; but they were overwhelmed and IPOB members abducted two of their officials.
According to him, DSS had to call in the police for their rescue; and the police had to call in the Nigerian Army and Air Force to quell the escalating mayhem quickly. “This morning I received a distress call that IPOB members were firing sporadically on the air and scaring people along the Emene- Abakaliki Road precisely in Emene community axis of the road.
“The police quickly mobilized its officers and men from Divisions, Units and Area Command led by the Police Area Commander Metro that went to the scene but they were faced with heavy gun fire from the IPOB members and the police responded appropriately.
“However, in the cause of the development, I also invited the Nigerian Army and Nigerian Air Force, since we operate in unison and synergy, to ensure we restore normalcy quickly in that axis of Enugu,” he said.
“Many of the IPOB members escaped with bullet wounds in the gun duel that ensued between the security agencies and the miscreants (IPOB),” he said. However in an interview with one of the IPOB members arrested by the police, Ebube Agu, he alleged that the members were only doing martial art for self-defence before they were accosted by officials of the DSS.
Agu also insisted that IPOB members were not armed as claimed by the police. Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi visited the scene later on Sunday evening to get a first hand information about what transpired.
The governor was assured by residents of the area and the security agencies that normalcy had returned and that the place was calm. However more eyewitnesses, who spoke to journalists, said that the law enforcement agents shot and killed one of the IPOB members who resisted an attempt to arrest them.
According to the account, the shooting of IPOB member and wounding of others triggered a bedlam as the incensed group who were said to be unarmed responded in anger.
A police officer, who volunteered information on condition of anonymity, blamed the DSS poor handling of the situation for the bloody clash, adding “if they did not shoot the IPOB members this situation would have been prevented.”
Another source within the State Police Command blamed the DSS for mishandling the situation. He said the DSS did not even notify the police before embarking on the operation, and only sent SoS when the situation became terribly bad.
A retired military officer, who resides around the scene of the incident, told journalists on condition of anonymity that excessive force employed by the military and other security operatives was unprofessional, saying that the way they opened fire on unarmed citizens as if they were in a war front with foreign enemies, and in a densely populated suburb, left a sour taste in the mouth. He said it was only by the grace of God that innocent residents did not fall to the flying bullets.
The Deputy National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo worldwide, Mazi Chuks Ibegbu Ibegbu, expressed regret over the bloody clash and shooting, noting that Nigeria security agents are yet to learn the rudiments of civilian -military relationship and the need to respect human life.
The Ohanaeze deputy spokesperson noted that security agents appear to be going about looking for the trouble of IPOB members even when there was no need for that. Ibegbu noted that though investigation was still ongoing, but that “it was the same overzealousness by Nigeria security agents that caused the present Boko Haram imbrogolio.”
According to him: “The Shiite crisis in Nigeria was also caused by the high handedness of Nigeria security agents. Why are our security agents always courting trouble? Why not face criminals and killers all over the country instead of unarmed innocent Nigerians?
“They are always quick to claim that the IPOB people opened fire on them but there is no evidence of that at the end. They just go about looking for trouble where there is none,” Ibegbu lamented calling for full in vestigation into the killings.
Meanwhile Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi on Thursday summoned an emergency State Security Council meeting. This is even as Ohanaeze Ndigbo vowed to get to the root of the killings. The security meeting held on September 1, at the Executive Council Chambers, Lion Building, Government House, Enugu.
At the end of the meeting with all the heads of security agencies in the state, Ugwuanyi reiterated his commitment to unravel the causes of the civil disturbances as well as put further machinery in motion to forestall future recurrence. He expressed sadness over the loss of lives during the untoward events.
The governor said: “As the Chief Security Officer of the state, I am at all times committed, to doing all within my powers, to ensure the security of lives and property in Enugu State.” He added: “Following the emergency Security Council meeting, it has become necessary to give those responsible for getting to the root of these unfortunate developments a little more time to complete their work”.
Ugwuanyi further said: “The events of the 23rd August, 2020 which culminated in the loss of lives of members of Nigerian security agencies and residents of Enugu State as well as recent reports of attacks on Railway Police Station, Ogui, on 28th August, 2020 and Unity Police Station, Abakpa, on 30th August, 2020 where weapons were reportedly carted away, have been matters of great concern to me.”
The governor therefore asked those in custody of weapons snatched from security agents to return them to the agencies or the nearest traditional ruler who will return same to the appropriate security agency.
While appealing for calm and understanding of all concerned “as we work together to sustain the long existing and cherished peace in Enugu State,” the governor disclosed that the State Security Council in the meeting approved the immediate joint patrol by all security agencies and a meeting with traditional rulers, religious and opinion leaders to hold on Thursday, September 3, 2020, at the Government House, Enugu.
On his part, President General of Ohanaze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo has called on the general public to discountenance fake social media posts attributed to him, in which he was alleged to have taken sides with the security agencies. Special Adviser on Media Affairs to Nwodo, Emeka Attamah, said Ohanaeze was yet to officially react to the development as it was still investigating the matter.
“In the last two days, news has broken out about clashes between IPOB and the Nigerian Security agencies in Emene, Enugu State. Since the outbreak of this development, Ohanaeze has been involved in getting to the root cause of this development.
“Whilst these investigations were going on, fake Twitter accounts and fake Facebook accounts and press releases bearing the name of the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, have inundated the social and mass media. It has become necessary to make it abundantly clear that Chief Nwodo, until now, has not commented on this development.
“After an exhaustive meeting with the Enugu State Governor, who by law is the Chief Security Officer of the State, Ohanaeze was briefed of efforts by the State government to unravel the cause, extent of fatalities and those responsible for them in a State Security Council meeting scheduled for September 1, to hear and evaluate the accounts of all concerned in this sad development.
“Ohanaeze is saddened by the grave fatalities occasioned by this development and is determined to get to the root cause of this unfortunate event. We mourn the sad loss of all our children and other Nigerians whose lives were wasted by this sad development. Our final statement on this subject will be made in due course.”