Seemingly defiant face of pro-Biafra group, IPOB has taken cover as the Nigerian Amry intensifies search to smoke him out of his hiding place.
The founder of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, and top leaders of his group have gone into hiding following Friday’s declaration by the Nigerian Army that IPOB and other Pro-Biafran groups were terrorists organisations.
Investigations by SUNDAY PUNCH on Saturday revealed that Kanu and his top lieutenants had ‘disappeared’ from his country home in Afaraukwu near Umuahia and other places he frequently visited.
His father, Eze Israel Kanu, is the traditional ruler of the town.
Some IPOB members, who spoke on conditions of anonymity explained that Kanu and others were advised to go underground following the declaration by the Army and the decision of the South-East governors to proscribe activities of pro-Biafra agitators in the region.
An IPOB member said, “We have to apply wisdom to whatever we are doing. We have realised that there is a grand conspiracy against Kanu and other top leaders of our group.
“Just imagine barely few hours after the Nigerian military declared members of IPOB and other pro-Biafran groups as terrorists, our own governors came up with their own outright ban of our activities.
“This definitely will give the soldiers and other security agencies the opportunity to arrest our leader and mount a deadly clampdown on all IPOB members. So, it is better to operate from a hideout for now.”
I can’t disclose my brother’s location — Kanu’s brother
When contacted on phone on Saturday, Kanu’s younger brother simply identified as Fine Boy, refused to tell a reporter where his brother was, adding that only the IPOB leader could disclose his hiding place.
He said, “Only my brother can tell Nigerians where he is, I can’t. I don’t know why the Army should call IPOB a terrorist organisation, it is out of their desperation to arrest Nnamdi and frustrate the Biafran struggle. We have petitioned the United Nations and the European Union.
“The world knows that IPOB is a non-violent organisation, we don’t carry arms, we don’t kill, and we believe violence can never solve any problem.
“Nnamdi will soon disclose his current location and IPOB will also react to the proscription of the group by the South-East governors’ forum.”
Security agencies comb South-East for Kanu, others
Investigations on Saturday also showed that security agencies were combing the South-East region in search of Kanu.
Findings by a correspondent in Abuja showed that the security agencies had been directed to arrest Kanu and other leaders of his group.
The directive to arrest the IPOB leaders was said to have been communicated to the leaders of the security agencies deployed in the region.
The security agencies that were given the directive, according to investigations, include the military, the police and the Department of State Services.
It was gathered that the government felt that it could be dangerous to leave Kanu a free man till the next adjourned date when his case would come up at an Abuja Federal High Court.
His case is said to be coming up later in October.
A top security sources said, “We are seriously looking for him. He has a lot of things to explain to the government concerning his statements, actions and activities.
“We can’t sit by and allow the security situation in the country to be compromised to the extent that an individual will be challenging the Federal Government.
“Government has to do something about an individual that is recruiting young people, giving them uniforms, arming them and referring to them as a secret service.
“We have been seizing arms and ammunitions at the ports; we also need to know what they were meant for.
“This is someone who unilaterally said there would be no election in Anambra State and some people want us to allow him continue with his activities? No, we need to grow above our ethnic and tribal sentiments.”
South-East govs disloyal — IPOB
IPOB on Saturday night condemned the South East Governor’s Forum over its proscription of IPOB’s activities. Its media and publicity secretary, Emma Powerful, said the speed with which the governors announced the proscription of IPOB activities showed that the governors were disloyal.
IPOB said, “We want to find out how the governors who do not know the foundations of IPOB, would make such a statement when they know that IPOB had staged 297 peaceful protests and rallies both at home and in Diaspora without a single record of violence or crime.
“With the record on ground, IPOB under Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, is one of the most peaceful organised freedom fighting group in the world today. It is dangerous that the governors who are the chief security officers of their respective states in the zone would decide to hand over their people to the enemies who were out to kill, maim and destroy because of their selfish reasons. We are also aware that late Chief Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu and General Philip Effiong protected their people during the first pogrom and ethnic cleansing from 1966’to 1970.
“These governors and their collaborators are in the forefront to eliminate our leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and other peaceful members of IPOB. It is on record that IPOB activities are peaceful since the inception and nobody can prove where and how IPOB activities became violent over night.
“The solders brought in to eliminate or murder our leader and IPOB members, including the innocent civilians across Biafra land, are still going from house to house picking anyone suspected to be IPOB or seen with any Biafra insignia. IPOB under Kanu must remain a nonviolent group in the pursuit for Biafra freedom, despite the high handedness meted against IPOB members and our leader.”
Enforcement of ban will cause bloodshed, says MASSOB
The Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra, on Saturday said the South-East Governors Forum has no powers to proscribe the activities of pro-Biafra groups in the zone.
It warned that any attempt by the governors to enforce the proscription will lead to loss of lives. MASSOB said the decision taken by the governors cannot stand.
National Director of Information, MASSOB, Samuel Edeson, in an interview with SUNDAY PUNCH in Enugu, described the pro-Biafra groups as independent associations of people whose rights to self determination are backed by the United Nation’s Charter.
Edeson argued that the governors can only enforce the proscription after amending the laws of South-East states to criminalise self determination.
According to him, “The governors said they will enforce the proscription, the only way they can do that is by using the shoot-on-sight approach which was started by the Buhari administration. In that case people will die.
“The fact is that MASSOB was never registered under the Nigerian government; neither did we register under the Corporate Affairs Commission.
“We are an independent organisation, we are freedom fighters — there is nowhere in the world where a self determination group is proscribed.
“It (proscription) cannot stand; nobody can drive us away from our father’s land.”
Ohanaeze Ndigbo also faulted Nigeria army’s declaration of IPOB as a terrorist organisation. Ohanaeze said, “IPOB is not a terrorist organization going by extant national and international laws, especially the terrorist prevention Act 2011, as amended in 2015.”
It however praised the South-East Governors for stopping conflict in the region. In a communique read by the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo, the group condemned the military operation in the zone and urged the army to terminate the exercise henceforth.
No going back on IPOB, others’ proscription – Govs
The Chairman of the South-East Governors Forum who is also the Governor of Ebonyi State, David Umahi, has attributed the proscription of the activities of the Indigenous People of Biafra to the agitation for secession by the group.
Umahi spoke in Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State capital, on Saturday while briefing journalists on the resolution of his colleagues on the activities of IPOB and the “Operation Python Dance” launched by the military in the South –East.
The governor insisted that the decision would be enforced in the five states.
He said, “The Igbo are not looking for secession at this time, it is not the solution to our problem. If we want Biafra, it is the leaders of the South-East that would be in the fore-front of it, not any other person.
“The ideals and beliefs of IPOB have gone beyond the initial thought of IPOB leaders. Anybody can agitate but it must be devoid of insults from any sources.
“President Muhammadu Buhari has shown maturity in the handling of insults, there must be disagreement, but such disagreement must not degenerate to insulting the President of the country.”
Umahi said there was no way the South-East governors would have supported the activities of IPOB.
He said, “We have the people’s mandate, our task is to avoid shedding of blood and ensure a peaceful existence of our people.
“We had invited Nnamdi Kanu on two occasions, and he honoured our invitation. We told him that he cannot be insulting President Buhari, it is not the solution to the problem of the South-East geo-political zone of the country.”
On the allegations of torture allegedly committed by soldiers involved in the “Operation Python Dance” in Umuahia and Aba, Umahi said the South-East Governors have set up a committee to investigate all the allegations.
He said, “We must reiterate that any body found culpable will face the full wrath of the law and be prosecuted.”
Obasanjo’s advice on Kanu, personal opinion — Presidency
The Presidency has said that former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s recent comment on the Biafran agitation is his opinion.
Obasanjo was reported on Friday to have advised Buhari to invite IPOB leaders for negotiations.
When asked on Saturday if Buhari would heed Obasanjo’s advice, the President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, said Obasanjo’s comment was not a law or a rule.
He said, “It is an opinion that he has proffered and when you proffer an opinion, it is not a law or a rule. It is now left for the person who was given the advice to consider it.”
Junaid, Balarabe berate Obasanjo
Meanwhile, two northern elder statesmen, Dr Junaid Muhammed and Alhaji Balarabe Musa, have disagreed with Obasanjo over his comments on IPOB agitations, saying that the retired general lacked credibility.
The former president was quoted to have said the deployment of troops in the South- East was not the solution to the Biafran agitation. He also said Buhari should invite IPOB leaders for negotiations.
Muhammed, a Second Republic lawmaker, said, “The statement credited to Obasanjo, if he, indeed, said so, must be condemned by all right-thinking Nigerians. It is irresponsible and demoralising to the army and the police who are confronting terrorists wherever they are.
“It confirms that the ex-president is a hypocrite who is playing games with even the sacred ideals of our national existence.
“Obasanjo without recourse to parliament deployed Nigerian armed forces to Zaki Biam in Benue State and Odi in Bayelsa State.
“He did not seek any audience with those victims, and it is mischievous that the former president has now come up with some advice.”
Also, Balarabe Musa, former governor of old Kaduna State, said, “Obasanjo is not credible enough to give such advice. We are talking about a problem, but what did Obasanjo do when he was there?”
Similarly, the Arewa Consultative Forum on Saturday applauded northerners for maintaining peace and understanding in the face of provocation in the aftermath of the clash between the Nigerian Army and IPOB
The northern body through its National Publicity Secretary, Muhammad Ibrahim Biu in a statement made available to journalists in Kaduna, also condemned the clash which led to the killing of some northerners in Rivers State.
The group commended the South-East governors on the ban placed on IPOB.
Afenifere seeks dialogue
On its part, the pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, endorsed the call by Obasanjo that Buhari should negotiate with IPOB.
Afenifere said the Biafran agitations could only be resolved through dialogue, noting that after the civil war, the country still engaged in dialogue for national integration.
The Afenifere spokesman, Yinka Odumakin, said no step or effort that could douse the tension across the country and bring peace to the polity was too much to take.
He said, “We are for dialogue in Afenifere and support any effort that could lower tension in the country, efforts that would bring harmony and understanding.”
CAN president asks Buhari to dialogue with Kanu
The President of Christian Association of Nigeria Rev. Samson Ayokunle, has advised the Federal Government to invite the agitators for talks with a view to finding a lasting solution to the crisis.
He said, ‘’The best way to win is to have a dialogue table whereby the Federal Government should hold on to the superior argument. That is what can move us forward.”
Ayokunle, who is also the President, Nigeria Baptist Conference, said violent agitations would further compound the problems facing Nigeria.
The cleric spoke at the inauguration of the new gate of the Bowen University, Iwo in Osun State, and inauguration of a radio station on the campus, 101.9 FM.
Ayokunle therefore urged IPOB and other groups to embrace dialogue, saying that was the only way their grievances could be made known legitimately.
IPOB activities within civil order — INC
The National President of Ijaw National Congress, the apex sociocultural umbrella body for the Ijaw people, Dr. Boma Obuoforibo, on Saturday said the use of force to silence agitating youths in the South Eastern part of the country would not bring about peace.
Obuoforibo said although the Ijaw people don’t support the call for secession, the IPOB members by their activities, had not degenerated to the point of being branded as a terrorist group.
He said, “The constitution only allows police to handle civil matters. The army’s primary responsibility is for external aggression except the situation has degenerated to a stage when the army is advised to come in. Sending the army to a civilian population is not allowed.”
The Ijaw Youth Congress also appealed to Buhari to retract the appellation of terrorists recently given to IPOB members.
The IYC maintained that the right to peaceful agitation or assembly or peaceful quest to self-determination did not amount to an act of terrorism.
Making reference to the Terrorism Prevention Act, 2011 as amended, the spokesman of the group, Mr. Henry Iyalla, said it was wrong of the Nigerian Army to tag IPOB members as terrorists without following the dictates of the Act.
Security beef up in Bauchi, calm in Ebonyi, Enugu, Owerri
Security has been beefed up in Bauchi State in view of the uprising and the clash between soldiers and IPOB members which has caused tension in many cities across the North.
The development, SUNDAY PUNCH learnt, was to forestall any breakdown of law and order in the State.
A correspondent observed movement of combined teams of armed security agencies in Hilux vehicles numbering over 20.
The team comprised personnel of the Nigerian Army, Nigeria Police Force, Nigerian Air Force, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Department of State Services and the Federal Road Safety Corps.
The Police Public Relations Officer, Bauchi State Command, Kamal Abubakar, said the command was battle-ready.
He said, “In view of the ongoing security situation in the country especially the operation in the South-East and security reports coming from neighbouring Plateau State on pockets of crises, the Bauchi State Command is ready.”
But residents of Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State capital, have been going about their legitimate and lawful businesses without any fear of molestation.
Abakaliki, Afikpo, Onueke and Ohaozara remained calm and have not witnessed the presence of military personnel since the military show of might started in the Sout-East.
One of our correspondents observed on Saturday that there was still a heavy presence of soldiers and policemen at strategic locations in Umuahia, the Abia State capital.
On Eket Street, where the Umuahia Central Mosque is located, soldiers were seen guarding the building with a military van stationed at one end of the road.