The recent security challenges in Abia state has prompted Governor Okezie Ikpeazu to impose a 3-day curfew in Umuahia and Aba to ensure peace in the region.
For the period, the stay-at-home will run between 6 pm and 6 am, according to a statement personally signed by the governor on Thursday, September 14.
The state government’s action is coming after the recent clash between soldiers and members of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) in the state.
Addressing newsmen at the Government House, Umuahia, Governor Ikpeazu noted that the state had noticed the skirmishes between some groups in the state, especially IPOB members and men of the Nigerian Army.
He urged residents of the state to remain law-abiding and go about their lawful business without fear of molestation. His words:
“Government notes and has observed the frenzy of activities of members of IPOB within Afara – Umuahia, the ancestral home of the leader of IPOB for some months now.
“Government is equally aware of the recent proclamation by the Nigerian Army of Operation Python Dance II within the South–East geo-political region of Nigeria.
“The operation, as declared by the Army, is intended to check kidnapping, banditry, assassination, secessionist activities within the region, amongst other forms of criminal activities.
“The recent confrontation between the Nigerian Army and members of IPOB on Sunday, 10th September 2017, could presumably be attributed to the commencement of the said Operation Python Dance II.
“While the Government of Abia State recognizes the right of the Nigerian Army and other security agencies to perform their statutory duty of protection of lives and property of Nigerian citizens, such duties must be carried out within acclaimed Nigerian and international standards of engagement with the civil populace, with due respect to the human rights of citizens and sanctity of human lives.”
“The Abia State Government is committed to the protection of the lives and properties of its citizens and others residing and doing business within the geographical entity called Abia State.
“Abians and others living within Abia, are advised to remain law abiding and carry on their lawful businesses without fear, as efforts by Government will be made to reduce friction between the civil populace and military personnel in the state.
“Meanwhile, Aba residents are advised to observe a curfew from 6 pm to 6 am from today 12/09/2017 to 14/09/2017.
“Persons residing within the State are strongly advised to remain law abiding, while going about their lawful business without fear of molestation, and, not engage in any form of confrontation with military personnel or other security agents.
“The Government recognizes the Constitutional Right to Freedom of Movement for all Nigerians but objects to the influx of people into Abia State for purposes of unsettling the enduring peace in the State.
“Finally, Abia State will cooperate with security agencies to maintain the rule of law and order in the State.”
Abia has been under security focus because of the activities of the separatist group and its leader Nnamdi Kanu.
After the Army deployed troops for “Operation Python Dance II” last week, Nnamdi Kanu had on Sunday, September 10, alleged that troops shot and injured his men near his Umuahia home during a “show of force”.
But the military denied the allegation saying its men only shot into the air to scare away a mob that threw stones at its convoy.
There have also been unconfirmed reports that there was tension in different parts of Aba, as soldiers reportedly clashed with members of IPOB.
Some members of IPOB who left Aba for Umuahia in solidarity with Kanu were alleged to have been stopped by soldiers at Isiala Ngwa junction on the Enugu/Port Harcourt Expressway.
The IPOB members who escaped after being stopped by the soldiers were said to have met another set of soldiers at Osisioma Junction, a few kilometers away and a face-off reportedly ensued.
The soldiers were said to have shot sporadically into the air while the IPOB members moved towards Ariaria International Market. There was confusion as people ran helter skelter.
The chaos at Osisioma stretched beyond Ariaria market to the Flyover Junction, a distance of over eight kilometres. Some vehicles were destroyed. Many people were injured.
There was pandemonium within the city centre as soldiers cordoned off roads leading to the Aba Central Mosque to prevent hoodlums from vandalizing the facility. They shot into the air to ward off intruders, and people ran for their lives. Traders hurriedly closed their business.
Also, on Tuesday, September 12, soldiers invaded the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) secretariat in Umuahia where journalists were watching the military ‘show of force’. Accusing the reporters of writing stories that are against them, the soldiers attacked and smashed some of their electronic gadgets.
In reaction to the tensed situation in Abia State, the Commissioner of Police, Leye Oyebade, said there was no cause for alarm.
“We are managing the situation. We know that people are apprehensive because they see a lot of military presence. It’s a special operation approved for the South East.
“Military high command sensitized members of the public on what is going on. That is exactly what is going on now. Their presence should be complementary efforts to support what we have been doing so far. We finished our security meeting and I advised the Governor to make a public announcement to assure members of the public that there is no cause for alarm.
“So far, we have not recorded any casualty. What is happening is that wherever they see the patrol vehicles, IPOB members threaten them with broken bottles. They should not see it that way. I assure you that we are on ground to ensure that all commuters and those going about their lawful duties are given free passage.”