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IPOB/Army clash: How Gov Ikpeazu saved the S-east from disaster

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But for the timely intervention of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State who cut short his official vacation in the United States (U.S.) the South-East will be on fire now.

Not a few Nigerians believe that the Abia governor saved the state and country from what would have been the biggest post civil war conflagration.

According to Freedomonline, His fast reading of the scenario and imposition of a curfew prevented thousands of innocent lives from being lost on the part of IPOB members and Northerners resident in the state.

Justice Abdul Kafarati of Federal High Court, Abuja on Wednesday granted an interim injunction proscribing activities of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).

Many people are not aware that what really triggered the crisis, which led to the proscription of IPOB by the five governors in the zone, started as a minor clash on September 4, 2017 between a commercial tricycle rider, Maduka Okoro, who hails from Ebonyi State, and soldiers at Isi Gate, Umuahia, the Abia State capital.

Before the incident, the governors had been thinking of how to checkmate the ‘Kanu Menace’.

This is due to the fact that many promising young men had already been lured to become fanatical supporters of Kanu and IPOB. To stakeholders, their agitation was right but the procedure wrong. Kanu was becoming a moving train, crushing everything on its path.

In his determination to lead his people from the ‘wilderness’, Kanu, who was guarded by heavily-armed Egbesu Boys, had breached all the conditions for his bail term by an Abuja Federal High Court.

The governors knew it was time to save Kanu from himself. So, a meeting was scheduled with him.

On August 30, he met the Chairman of South-East Governors Forum and governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi, and Governor Emeka Ugwuanyi of Enugu State.

The Deputy Governor of Anambra State represented his boss, Willie Obiano, at the meeting.

Ikpeazu was far away in the U.S. and the Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha, was also not around. But, Prof Ben Nwabueze and Evangelist Eliot Uko joined the meeting.

After the parley, another date was fixed for Kanu to meet all the governors when the demands made by IPOB members as minimum requirements to drop their agitations will be discussed.

It was in this state of uncertainty that the September 4 incident happened. It is believed IPOB members used the incident as a ‘show of strength’.

The vehicle of the soldiers was damaged and two soldiers injured. Those involved in the fracas were arrested by policemen, arraigned and released on bail. Hundreds of IPOB members stormed the court during the arraignment.

On September 10, soldiers on patrol were blocked by IPOB members wielding machetes, sticks and stones from advancing near Kanu’s father’s house.

In a show of force, the soldiers fired multiple rounds into the air. It later emerged that a soldier and a lady passing by were injured. IPOB claimed that bullets hit one of its members in the leg.

On September 11, there was another clash at a military checkpoint at Ubalaka.

Kanu, Egbesu militants and IPOB members overwhelmed and assaulted soldiers at the checkpoint. Weapons of the soldiers were taken away.

The same day, a group of IPOB members attacked soldiers at Asaga Ohafia and collected their Automatic Kalashnikov (AK) 47 rifles.

The army would take this no longer. On September 12, soldiers moved to Kanu’s neighbourhood with 10 APCs and seven Hilux vehicles, ostensibly to clear road blocks erected by IPOB members who were allegedly collecting tolls from commercial tricycle riders.

While the soldiers were still busy, other IPOB members invaded a private radio station, Flo FM, and replaced the Nigerian flag there with a Biafran flag.

It was on this day that Ikpeazu returned from the U.S. He immediately convened a State Security Council meeting. At the meeting were the GOC of 82 Division of the Nigerian Army, traditional rulers and other stakeholders. The monarchs appealed to the military authorities to pull soldiers away from the streets to be replaced by policemen.

But while this was going on, IPOB leaders had already sent signals to members from neighbouring states to invade Umuahia. Soldiers positioned along the Expressway turned them back and refused to allow them proceed further to Umuahia. Some of the IPOB members, who were stopped at Isiala Ngwa, became unruly and were arrested and allegedly tortured by the soldiers. The video was later posted online.

While Ikpeazu was meeting with the GOC at the Government House, Umuahia, another incident happened between Naval officers stationed at Owerrinta and a group of IPOB members from Imo State. Some Naval officers were allegedly assaulted by the IPOB members who outnumbered the officers.

Meanwhile, the IPOB members from Aba and Rivers State, who were turned back by soldiers, received false reports that soldiers at Isiala Ngwa were killing their members after torturing them.

In anger, they blocked the highway around Aba, burnt a Dangote truck and attacked other travellers. Others streamed into Aba and attacked Northerners.

The contingent from Rivers State also returned to Oyigbo and tried to burn down the mosque at the area. A policeman who tried to protect the mosque and Northerners was killed.

It was this orgy of violence that forced Ikpeazu to impose curfew on that city to prevent breakdown of law and order.

Even with the curfew in Aba, the atmosphere remained charged with widespread clashes between soldiers and IPOB members.

At midnight, some individuals spread rumours of house-to-house attacks against Igbo residents by Northerners and soldiers. Security agents were promptly dispatched and it was later discovered that the rumours originated as a decoy to burn and loot Ariaria International Market. The miscreants were later to burn the police post on September 13.

The meeting between Kanu and the governors to douse the tension on September 15 had to be cancelled because the IPOB leader alleged that a plot had been hatched to kill him on the way to the meeting in Enugu.

It was the day Operation Python Dance across South-East was to start officially.

To douse tension, Ikpeazu announced an agreement with military authorities to commence removal of soldiers from the streets and their replacement with mobile policemen.

Soldiers are to leave the streets and return to their pre-existing checkpoints before the conflicts and continue the task of protecting citizens against kidnappers and armed robbers.

The state government also extended the curfew in Aba to Friday and later suspended resumption of schools till September 25.

Not done with their aggression, IPOB members attacked and held hostage Abia State Commissioner of Police, Leye Oyebade, for an hour before reinforcements came from the Police Headquarters to rescue him.

Also, some Egbesu militants attacked and injured a female naval officer. After the attack, they retreated to Kanu’s abode in Afaraukwu. In retaliation, some naval ratings stormed the place in three Hilux vehicles and opened fire.

That was the first time Nnamdi Kanu’s house received direct hit from troops.

Before this, Kanu and his parents had escaped from the house.

It is believed they are hiding somewhere in the city.

So, Kanu was already in hiding when he heard that the governors had proscribed IPOB and that Defence Headquarters had described it as a terrorist organisation.

Although this could not be verified, it is believed some businessmen with connection in a particular Asian country, are sponsors of Kanu’s IPOB.

Now, security has been beefed up because of the notion that Egbesu militants are planning to launch an unprecedented attack on soldiers, policemen and innocent people in Abia, Imo and Anambra states.

For now, Kanu is out of the scene.

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