South East Governors Proscribe IPOB, Reaffirm Commitment to United Nigeria

  • DHQ declares IPOB terrorist organisation
  • No cause for panic, Masari tells non-indigenes  Steer clear of Rivers State, Wike warns
  • Igbos in Kano reject Kanu and his group
  • We’ll not run away from Igboland, say northerners in Enugu  
  • Obasanjo urges Buhari to dialogue with Kanu

By Christopher Isiguzo in Enugu, Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt, Emmanuel Ugwu in Umuahia, Paul Obi in Abuja, Ibrahim Shuaibu in Kano and John Shiklam in Kaduna 

Governors of the South-east zone rose from an emergency meeting in Enugu yesterday and proscribed all activities of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in the region, even as they appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to withdraw the military from the zone. 

On the same day, the Nigerian Defence Headquarters (DHQ) formally declared IPOB a terrorist organisation, while former President Olusegun Obasanjo urged President Muhammadu Buhari to dialogue with IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu.  

In an eleven-point communique issued at the end of the meeting in which they reviewed the prevailing security situation in the zone and its attendant consequences, the governors insisted that they would no longer tolerate the separatist group.

They asked IPOB and all other aggrieved groups to articulate their position on all national issues and submit to the Committee of Governors, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and National Assembly members from the zone through the chairman of the South-east Governors’ Forum, David Umahi of Ebonyi State.

In the Communique which was read by Umahi, the governors also noted that the entire zone including the Ohanaeze Ndigbo and National Assembly members reinforced their commitment to a united and indivisible Nigeria.

“All governors of the south east zone are to ensure compliance in their respective states,” Umahi said.

They insisted that police be allowed to perform their traditional role of maintaining law and order.

The governors also reinforced their desire for the restructuring of Nigeria where all national issues will be discussed and amicably settled to achieve justice and fairness to every Nigerian.

They also reiterated their earlier position that the November 18, 2017 gubernatorial election in Anambra State must hold contrary to the order by the now proscribed IPOB.

The governors noted that they had taken concrete steps to protect lives and property of both indigenes and non-indigenes in the zone, adding that they are in touch with the Northern Governors Forum, who they said have equally assured them of the safety of “all our people living in the north and we have also planned for exchange of visits between the governors to reinforce the confidence of Nigerians in this respect”.

They reassured Nigerians that full investigation on all allegations of killings, maiming and other unlawful conduct in the zone within the last couple of days have commenced, adding that they are in agreement with the security agencies that appropriate action be taken against anyone found culpable.

The governors therefore advised all residents of the zone to be law abiding and go about their normal businesses as government of each of the states remained committed to protecting everybody.

Those who attended the meeting were Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu), Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia), Willie Obiano (Anambra), Dave Umahi of Ebonyi state and chairman of the forum, and Prince Eze Madumere, Deputy Governor of Imo State.

Others include the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu; President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nwodo; former Deputy Governor of Ebonyi State and Vice President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Prof Chigozie Ogbu and Prof Joy Ezeilo representing the Human Rights Community.

Umahi said the leadership of IPOB was invited to the meeting but could not attend.

DHQ Declares IPOB a Terrorist Organisation  

The Nigerian Defence Headquarters (DHQ) has declared IPOB a militant terrorist organisation.  

The Director of Defence Information, Major General John Enenche said “the antics of IPOB clearly indicate that it is not a peaceful organisation.” 

He said: “The Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) group which has posed to be a security challenge in the Country, has been metamorphosing from one stage to the other.   

“After due professional analysis and recent developments, it has become expedient to notify the general public that the claim by IPOB actors that the organization is nonviolent is not true.  

Enenche added that IPOB illegal activities includes the formation of Biafra Secret Service and Biafra National Guard, unauthorised blocking of public access roads and extortion of money from innocent civilians at illegal road blocks. 

He listed their other offences to include possession and use of weapons (stones, molotov, cocktails, machetes and broken bottles among others on a military patrol on 10 September 2017 and physical confrontation with troops by Nnamdi Kanu and other IPOB actors at a check point on 11 September 2017 and also attempts to snatch their rifles.

“From the foregoing, the Armed Forces of Nigeria wishes to confirm to the general public that IPOB from all intent, plan and purpose as analysed, is a militant terrorist organisation.   

“Therefore, parents and particularly unsuspecting residents of the South east and other Nigerians should advice their wards to desist from joining the group, he said. 

Steer Clear of Rivers State, Wike Warns IPOB  

Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has declared that the state government would not tolerate any attack on other Nigerians living in the state by members of IPOB or any other group. 

The governor also declared that Rivers State belongs to all those who live in it, saying that the state heartily welcomes any Nigerian who resides in the state and carries out lawful businesses.  

In a state broadcast yesterday on the security situation in the state, Wike said: “Rivers people fully subscribe to Nigeria’s corporate existence and its indivisibility. As a people, we shall continue to support the unity and peaceful co-existence of all ethnic nationalities and work towards actualizing our collective aspirations for a just, inclusive and progressive nation. 

“Rivers State belongs to all those who live in it. Therefore, we shall not tolerate any attack by any group on other Nigerians living in Oyigbo or any other part of the State. We warn troublemakers those who are bent on causing violence on others to steer clear of Rivers territory. 

“Nobody should take our hospitality and peaceful disposition for weakness, as we are capable of dealing decisively with any situation that threatens peace and serenity in the State.” 

He called on Rivers people to be vigilant and not allow themselves to be used by anybody to foment trouble in our State.

IPOB has been enmeshed in conflict with members of the public and the police in Rivers State, especially in the Oyigbo axis of the state since Tueday. The police have confirmed the death of an anti-riot police officer when suspected members of IPOB attacked a police post in the area. A mosque was also destroyed while people believed to be of Northern extraction were allegedly molested. 

The police arrested and arraigned 32 persons for their alleged involvement in the violence unleashed by suspected members of IPOB. Most of those arraigned were remanded in prison.   

No cause for panic, Masari tells non-indigenes 

Also yesterday, Governor Aminu Bello Masari of Katsina State called on non-indigenes in the state to focus on their legitimate endeavours, assuring them that they have no cause to fear for their safety. 

The Governor, who spoke against the backdrop of the heightened tension between the Nigerian military and some irredentist militants in the South Eastern part of the country, said Katsina State was safe for every resident regardless of their religious, ethnic and regional background.

“Let me once again call on and reassure our fellow Nigerians from outside Katsina, who chose to live among us in pursuit of their livelihood, to go about their lawful activities with hope and confidence in the belief of our ability and willingness to give adequate protection to everybody without prejudice to any group. 

“We will lead in accordance with the oath of office we swore to uphold, which is “to treat all manner of people without fear or favour, ill will or affection. This national covenant is in rhyme with our age-long slogan of “Katsina is Home of Heritage and Hospitality.

“We make bold to state without fear of contradiction that Katsina is the most peaceful state in Nigeria, where differences in background are non-issues as far as the indigenes are concerned. It is in our religion and culture to treat our guests with no less decorum and hospitality as we would ourselves. Accordingly, we will not fold our arms and allow anybody or group to breach the peaceful ambience Katsina State is famed for.

“Let me urge our people to live by these ethos and disregard any information which is capable of breaching the peaceful ambiance in the state. We should regard all Nigerian as brothers and sisters. While we are at it, let us not forget to always seek God’s intercession for our various challenges through regular prayers for the nation and our leaders,” said Masari in the statement signed by his media aide Abdu Labaran Malumfashi. 

Igbos in Kano reject IPOB, Kanu

The Kano State chapter of Igbo Community Association yesterday disowned Nnamdi Kanu and IPOB.

Addressing reporters at Igbo House Kano, the President General of the association, Chief Ebenezer Chime said: “We unequivocally state that we dissociate ourselves from the activities of IPOB and its leader Nnamdi Kanu.”

The Igbo leaders also encouraged their members not to panic based on assurances from security agencies.

“We want to use this medium to condemn in the entirety the avoidable crisis happening in Abia State. In as much as we will not dwell on apportioning blames or asking for who is right or wrong, we are strongly advocating for peace and unity in the land,” he said.

JNI Calls for Calm As Igbos Close Shop in Kaduna 

The umbrella body for Northern Muslims, the Jama’atu Nasril Islam, (JNI) under the leadership of the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, has cautioned Muslims against any form of revenge over the IPOB crisis. 

The JNI in the statement signed by its Secretary General,  Dr.  Khalid Abubakar on behalf of the Sultan, said all Jummat Mosque Imams had been advised to use the Friday prayers to pray for peace and unity of the country and to charge their congregation not to react in any way to what is happening in the South East. 

The statement appealed for calm and expressed the believe that government would tackle the situation adequately.

 Most Igbo traders in Kaduna did not opened shops yesterday for fear of being attacked. 

Those who had earlier opened their shops eventually closed and returned home  following uncertainty over their safety, even though security personnel were seen patrolling the metropolis.  

‘Python Dance Not Meant to Intimidate Citizens’

The Minister of Interior, General Abdulrahman Danbazzau has reassured Nigerians that Operation Python Dance was not meant to intimidate citizens, but rather, to ensure that law-abiding citizens are protected. 

The Minister, who disclosed this in Jos, Plateau State yesterday, said he was in Jos on a fact finding mission and also on solidarity visit to the government and people of the state over the fracas in the state on Thursday night. 

He said: “I don’t know the details of that Operation Python Dance; probably the minister of defense will be in a better position to explain that. But I want to believe that the essence is not to intimidate but to ensure that law-abiding citizens are protected. And we want to assure you that nothing will be done to harass law-abiding citizens.” 

On the reprisal in Plateau, Danbazzau said, “Of course, it is the responsibility of government to protect the lives and property of the citizens; and we are happy that the governor of the state has done just that.”

Meanwhile, the Governor of Plateau state, Simon Lalong has confirmed that two persons died in the Thursday night reprisal, adding that the report reaching him also indicated that several others were injured and are being treated in some hospitals across Jos. 

The governor stated this at a meeting with community and religious leaders resident in the state, which held at the Rayfield Government House, following the fracas that engulfed Jos Thursday night.

Lalong assured citizens of his administration’s commitment to peace and stability in the state, saying that all non-indigenes in Plateau state were safe and urged them to go about their legitimate businesses without fear. 

“The incident took us by surprise. I call on community and religious leaders to caution their wards at home as any culprit arrested would not go free as nobody is above the law.” 

We’ll Not Run Away from Igboland, say Northerners in Enugu

Despite the tensed atmosphere in the South-east, northeners living in Enugu State yesterday vowed to remain in Igboland as their security was not threatened. 

The northerners insisted that they were at peace and not under any threat to run away from the state following bloody skirmishes between the Nigerian army personnel and members of IPOB.

Speaking to newsmen after their Jumat service at Owerri Road Central Mosque, Asata Enugu, the Deputy Chief Imam, Murtala Mohammed said Muslims in Enugu were at peace with their hosts in the state. 

“There is no problem, we are happy with the people. Every day I encourage my people to stay in peace and shun anything that will lead to violence,” Mohammed who spoke through an interpreter said. 

He expressed gratitude to the Enugu State government for ensuring daily security surveillance of the areas occupied by northerners.

“May God bless Nigeria and Enugu state,” he prayed.

He however called for increased security surveillance around Abakpa, especially along Liberty-Nike Road, saying that some hoodlums attack their brothers selling wares at night along the axis. 

He said the attackers were criminals and not pro-Biafra agitators. 

Obasanjo: Buhari Must Meet Nnamdi Kanu

In a related development, former President Olusegun Obasanjo has advised President Buhari to meet with Nnamdi Kanu “before violence between the army and separatists escalates into a full-blown conflict.”

Speaking to Newsweek in London, Obasanjo said that the heavy-handed tactics of the Nigerian state against pro-Biafra activists had not succeeded, and a more conciliatory approach was needed. 

“I don’t see anything wrong in Buhari meeting with Kanu. I would not object to that; if anything, I would encourage it,” Obasanjo said.

“I would want to meet Kanu myself and talk to people like him, people of his age, and ask: ‘What are your worries?’ not only from the South-east but from all parts of Nigeria.”

Ozekhome: DHQ Declaration on IPOB not Justified by Law, Constitutional Backing

Human Rights Activist and legal luminary, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN yesterday said the Nigerian Defence Headquarters (DHQ) declaration of the Independent People of Biafra  (IPOB) as a militant terrorist organisation is not justified by any law or constitutional backing. 

Ozekhome also took a swipe on the federal government and the military for treating herdsmen with kid glove, where displaying a penchant of hatred and bias for other groups. 

He said: “I do not believe the istances cited by the Defence Headquarters justify declaring IPOD a terrorist organization.

“The last time I checked, I can’t remember any of such organizations operating in the country being declared terrorist organizations.”

He added that “the herdsmen who go on rampage daily, maiming, raping, killing, those responsible for the Agatu massacre,

“Shiites massacre, Southern Kaduna progrom, indiscriminate killings, brazen quit notices givers, across Nigeria, etc, have never been arrested, prosecuted, let alone being proscribed and stigmatized as terrorist organizations.

“We must surely have and operate two sets of laws for two sets of peoples in Nigeria. Nigeria, we hail thee. A government should be seen to be fair to all component parts of Nigeria,” Ozekhome submitted.