IPOB: Tension as violence spreads

PHOTO: AFP PHOTO / PIUS UTOMI EKPEI

• IPOB Alllegedly Kills Four In Asaba, Injures Dozens
• APC Chieftain Cautions Military Against Setting Country On Fire
• Uneasy Calm Still Pervades Jos

The ongoing crises in the South East spilled over to Asaba, the Delta State capital, where four persons were on Friday night burnt to death, by unknown assailants.

The assailants, who are suspected to be members of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), reportedly invaded a part a settlement at Abraka Market, at about 10pm and killed three men, one woman and left several others with injuries.

The assailants said to be armed with guns and other dangerous weapons, fired sporadically into the shacks where the victims were sleeping.

A source in the Hausa community, who pleaded anonymity, alleged that the suspects also threw an improvised explosive into a mosque located at the Cable Point neighbourhood of Asaba, adding that the situation would have been bloody if one brave worshipper had not picked up the device and hauled same into the River Niger before it could explode.

The source added that armed soldiers and policemen came to their rescue, and chased the invaders away, and thereafter ferried the injured persons to the hospital for treatment, and deposited the corpse of the deceased at the mortuary.

Spokesman of the state Police Command, Andy Aniamaka, confirmed the incident, noting that two suspected members of IPOB have been arrested by the police in connection with the incident.

Aniamaka said the suspected militants were arrested in the ceiling of a major hotel, where they hid after the fatal shooting, adding that investigations was on to unravel the motive behind the killings.

He added that the state Commissioner of Police, Zanna Ibrahim, has scheduled a meeting with stakeholders with a view to defusing tension.

In Jos, Plateau State, yesterday, there was unease in the Jos/Bukuru metropolis, as a hotel located in the Hausa dominated settlement was set ablaze in the night, despite the curfew imposed by the state government.

Victory Palace Hotel and Suites, located along Mallam Audu Street, Jos, was burnt down and vandalised and property looted by unknown miscreants.

The hotel provides decent lodging, accommodation, bar and restaurant services. The owner of the hotel was not available for comments, but policemen guarding the place in the aftermath of the incident said they could not say at what time the crime was committed, as they were only drafted to the scene yesterday morning after the offence had been committed.

However, shops belonging to most Igbo traders were still under lock, while some of the owners were seen sitting in front of their locked shops. Others simply locked their shops and went home. On Friday most schools remained closed.

While imposing the curfew on Thursday evening, Governor Simon Bako Lalong, expressed dismay and discontentment that some hooligans and hoodlums could resort to violence as a result of rumours of what might be happening to their kinsmen in the South East.

The State Police Command’s spokesperson, ASP Tyopev Mathias Terna, confirmed this when he said the level of apprehension in the metropolis was occasioned by fear of reprisal attacks by the northerners, in response to alleged happenings in the South East.

Spokesman of the Operation Safe Haven (OPSH), Capt. Umar Adam, told The Guardian that they were on top of the situation, as soldiers have been deployed to flashpoints.

He advised residents against panicking as hoodlums were the ones spreading rumours of attacks so that they would loot people’s property.

In Enugu, a trader, who simply identified himself as Ugochukwu, told The Guardian that the losses incurred by south easterners in terms of human and monetary terms since the crisis started were immense.

A resident of Aba, Abia State, Mrs. Ugochukwu, who runs a small restaurant along Ngwa Road, narrated how her shop was looted after she ran away following heavy shooting that caused panic in the area.

“What we went through was a test of war. I managed to take my children home and never remembered that I run a restaurant for two days, until the curfew was imposed, all one hears is gun shots here and there especially at night,” she said

Asked to quantify her losses she said: “I make at least N80, 000 daily from here after the day’s business. For three days, we have not sold anything because I couldn’t even come out. I was planning to leave town, but the fear was that we could be caught up in the crossfire. That is why we stayed put. Along that Aba-Port Harcourt Road, we heard that several trailers were burnt, bonfires were made, a police station was burnt at Ariaria and many people were killed. These are things that should be of concern because, anyhow you look at it, they affect humanity.

A university lecturer, Dr. George Ikechukwu, stated thatthe military exercise has opened the fabrics of the South East, adding that, “as it is, the economy of the zone is bleeding. You may put it at several billions of naira because I reside here at Faulks Road and I know the volume of business that goes on daily around this axis. Whatever happened in Aba affects the South East.

While the Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, 82 Division, Nigerian Army, Enugu, Col Musa Sagir, said the military exercise in the region “is meant to sharpen the skills of 82 Division troops in the conduct of internal security operations, a chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) Comrade Timi Frank, is of the view that Operation Python Dance II is capable of setting the country on fire if not checked.

He said if the military’s show of force is for peace, the current approach in the region needs to be checked, just as he called on President Muhammadu Buhari, to consider the political implications of unleashing the military on an entire region.

Frank, the party’s deputy publicity secretary while reacting to developments in the South East in a statement in Abuja, said such maltreatment meted to the southeasterners by the military was condemnable all over the world.

He warned that the military action was capable of sabotaging the good intention of the APC-led government and portraying the current administration as a military government.

While calling on Nigerians, especially leaders across board to speak out against what he described as the inhuman treatment of Nigerians, he said, “today it may be the Igbo, but tomorrow may be the Ijaw or Yoruba or any other region, by then there may be nobody to speak out.  This incident is a total disgrace and embarrassment to the Nigerian government.”



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