In Retrospect : A detailed account of 2017 Operation Python Dance ll and alleged military invasion of the Afaraukwu country home of the Leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra ( IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu on September 14 ( exactly a year ago). It also captured the raid on the Nigeria Union of Journalists ( NUJ) Press Centre Aba Road Umuahia by some overzealous troops who also damaged some workings tools of the hapless journalists and ultimately desecrated the Press Centre.
Both Kanu and his parents have remained uncounted for ever since the September 14 military invasion of their home. IPOB has issued a sit-at-home order today ( September 14,2018) throughout South East and South South zones urging Biafrans all over the world to remain indoors today to protest the illegal invasion, and as a mark of honour for all Biafran agitators killed during the raid and the entire Operation Python Dance. IPOB which has vowed to lock down South East and South South zones of the country in today’s peaceful sit-at-home protest said no amount of intimidation by the security agencies would make it back down.
The security agencies on the other hand have vowed to deal ruthlessly with anyone found breaching public peace insisting that IPOB remains a proscribed terrorist organisation which must not be obeyed. Investigations by Wawa News Global have however revealed that Abia residents have been griped by fear of the unknown. Resultantly some schools had directed pupils to stay at home although no reasons were given for the directive. Some banks are also likely to close shop to avoid exposing their staff and customers to avoidable harm. Some residents were also overheard expressing support for the sit-at-home order which has already been endorsed by over 12 Igbo groups including the Eliot Uko- led Igbo Youth Movement. Wawa News Global will give you full report of the success or otherwise of the exercise in the next few hours as you enjoy last years’s report of the Operation Python Dance in retrospect . Happy reading:
Mammoth crowd of enthusiastic Biafran agitators shielding Kanu in his Afaraukwu Umuahia home before the raid in 2017
Issues as Operation Python Dance ll takes its toll on Abia
By Steve Oko
Abia residents are still at loss over developments in the hitherto peaceful God’s Own state in the past one week since the commencement of Operation Python Dance II by the Army. The people never anticipated the current situation until last Monday when the military rolled out army tanks on the streets followed by heavy deployment of troops across the state particularly the streets of Aba and Umuahia.
Perhaps as a prelude to what was to come, the Army had last Sunday evening ( September 10) clashed with members of the Indigenous People of Biafra ( IPOB) around the Afaraukwu country home of their leader, Nnamdi Kanu. Three IPOB members were allegedly shot by the soldiers who reportedly headed for the home of Kanu with an Amoured Personnel Carrier ( APC), and three Hilux vans loaded with heavily armed soldiers in combat mood.
Trouble started when the army convoy on ‘ show of force’ reportedly veered into the street leading to Kanu’s house and the IPOB members who had been keeping vigil around the compound attempted to resist them from ” touching Nnamdi”. Kanu had told newsmen later Sunday night that his supporters who formed human shield around his house wanted to prevent the soldiers from driving into the compound when three persons were shot by the army ostensibly in its bid to break the shield.
Our correspondent later visited one of the wounded IPOB members, an indigene of Akwa Ibom State at the Federal Medical Centre Umuhahia where he was receiving treatment. The head doctor of the team on duty at the unit who pleaded anonymity confirmed that the victim had gunshot injury on his right thigh, adding that x- ray would later be conducted to ascertain the degree of his wound.
But the army denied the attack claiming that its convoy on patrol was rather attacked by IPOB. However, Police account which confirmed the incident contradicted the claims of the army , thus leaving the public in confusion over what actually transpired.
According to the then Commissioner of Police, Abia State, Mr. Leye Oyebade, the clash occurred when the army was on patrol. His words: “the repaired military amoured vehicle was used to patrol Umuahia metropolis when it clashed with IPOB members.
I gathered that they ( solders) were shooting sporadically which led to IPOB group that drew out daggers, throwing broken bottles at them.
” Unfortunately, a policeman on guard duties going to work was macheted while a solder and a civilian were injured. All are being treated in the Police clinic for minor injuries”. He said the matter would be investigated to establish the cause.”
But as the outcome of the investigation was still being awaited, on Monday night there were reports of heavy deployment of soldiers and military equipment in the state. Tens of army trucks loaded with combat- ready soldiers accompanied by dozens of military tanks were sighted in Umuahia the state capital. The soldiers were camped at the premisses of the Agricultural Development Programme ( ADP) Ossah.
When contacted, the Public Relation Officer, 14 Army Brigade Ohafia, Major Gbadamosi Oyegoke, said there was no cause for alarm. He said the heavy presence of the army was in line with the Operation Python Dance II which was to commence simultaneously across the five South Eastern states. The army Spokesman who said the mission was for peace and security , urged members of the public to go about their legitimate business without fear.
But the IPOB Leader Kanu cried foul. He said the operation was a ploy to intimidate and molest Biafra agitators. He further alleged of a sinister plot to assassinate him and ultimately quell the agitation for Biafra. He called on the international community to hold the Federal Government responsible for any harm on him and eventual crisis in the state or the South East zone which had remained peaceful before the ” unwarranted operation python dance”.
Then on Tuesday morning, Umuahia residents woke to see military tanks on the streets with a convoy of army trucks loaded with stern-looking soldiers – all fully armed . It was called ” show of force”. Some residents watched the convoy curiously as a strange sight while others watched in bewilderment. Those familiar with the implications of having ‘ the kaki boys’ on the street became apprehensive.
As the convoy made their way from the popular Isi Gate axis of the metropolis towards Abia Tower roundabout Aba Road, the exercise turned to ‘operation media dance’ as journalists who had curiously watched the convoy from the balcony of the Nigeria Union of Journalists ( NUJ) office had their bitter taste of the operation. The convoy had made a detour and about 20 fierce-looking soldiers raced up to the up-stair housing the NUJ Press Centre.
They alleged that the journalists were taking shots of the convoy as it passed by, an allegation the men of the pen profession laboured in vain to disprove as the soldiers immediately and impatiently descended on them. Their working tools including iPads, phones etc were destroyed by the rampaging soldiers. A national officer of NUJ and the state Correspondent of The Oracle Newspapers, Comrade Boniface Okoro was also slapped by the soldiers as he attempted to respond to their inquiries.
The invasion of the NUJ Press Centre by the army sparked rage, national and international condemnation almost immediately as the ” cowardly act” according to some critics hit the airwaves and dominated the social media. As individuals, groups and various organisation from across the globe poured their venom on the army for desecrating the Press Centre, the Commander, 14 Brigade , Ohafia, Brigadier Gen. Abdul Kalifah Ibrahim, raced down to the centre to see things for himself.
Gen. Ibrahim who was accompanied by his counterpart at the Naval Command and Logistics , Owerrinta, Navy Commodore Abdulahi Aminu, immediately apologised for the unprovoked attack which he described as ” a disaster of unimaginable proportion”.
He also promised to pay for the damaged items and the missing cell phone, and to fish out the overzealous soldiers behind the ” unauthorised operation” with a view to sanctioning them. Even though the Army chief brought part payment of the damages, it remains unclear if the invaders have been identified and punished accordingly.
On Wednesday, the heavy presence of soldiers had almost disappeared from the streets, a development some residents and analysts attributed to the angry reactions and global condemnation that greeted the unprovoked military invasion of NUJ office. But before dusk, there was panic again across the state capital as heavy gun fire erupted at the vicinity of the home of IPOB Leader. Similar incidents were reported in some parts of Aba metropolis where soldiers allegedly shot at IPOB members who were heading to their Leader’s house in Umuhaia to join the human shield around the compound.
Following the rising tension and frenzied security situation across the state especially in Aba, Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu announced a three- day curfew on the commercial city. The woes of residents increased as a result of the curfew which had adverse effect on economic and social lives. There were reports of human rights abuse by the military who allegedly shot at suspected IPOB members in Aba. There were also reports that the soldiers on Wednesday night moved to some houses and shot some people, an allegation the army dismissed as cheap propaganda by IPOB.
There were also disturbing videos of some suspected IPOB members who were being forced to lie in mud waters and drink same after which they were fired at by the army on the Aba- Umuahia expressway. But in a swift reaction, the Deputy Director Army Public Relations, Col. Sagir Musa of the 82 Division Enugu, said some of the pictures were pre- recorded by IPOB to whip up sentiments. He however, said the Army was investigating the video to establish its source and authenticity.
The tensed security situation in the state almost degenerated into full blown crisis as the Ariaria Police station was reportedly touched by irate Aba residents. According to reports, the residents were said to have been angered by the inability of the Police to come to their rescue on Wednesday night when some armed men in military uniform were allegedly moving from house to house shooting innocent residents in their sleep. Army had denied any involvement in such barbaric act but residents alleged that the corpses of those shot were also collected by the killers.
As tension mounted on Thursday morning, Umuahia which had witnessed relative calm on Wednesday almost went on flames as soldiers shot to death two suspected IPOB members right in front of the Abia Government House along Bank Road. The third victim said to be a bank customer withdrawing money from a nearby Automated Teller Machine ( ATM) was quickly rushed to FMC for medical attention.
Piqued by the reported killing of their members, some of the IPOB members keeping vigil around Kanu’s house quickly rushed to the scene but before they could arive, the soldiers were said to have disappeared with the corpses of the two victims. This was said to have infuriated the crowd of IPOB members with their sympathisers as they immediately pushed for the official residence of the Commissioner of Police located close to Kanu’s home to protest the brutality of the soldiers.
The the CP who was incidentally on his way out of the state following his transfer to Lagos, was said to have met with the surging crowd at the gate to his house and calmed them, thus preventing further escalation. The incident had caused panic across Umuahia metropolis as residents who had left their homes for the day’s business quickly hurried back. Banks along Library Avenue also shut down operations and remained closed up till Friday evening. The roads were virtually deserted as residents became more apprehensive.
The quagmire became messier around Thursday evening ( September 14) when another heavy shooting by the army was heard from the home of IPOB Leader. The gunfire which persisted for close to an hour forced residents of the area to flee. Business owners in other parts of the town quickly closed shops and hurried to their houses. The roads were immediately deserted. A family member of Kanu who spoke to our correspondent in hushed tones during the gunfire said their compound had come under attack by the military.
Later in the night, the source said four corpses of IPOB members were still lying in the compound after the military raid. He said over 20 other corpses were taken away by the invading army which also allegedly arrested over 15 IPOB members forming human shield around the compound. A dog belonging to Kanu’s father was among the casualties according to the family source popularly known as Fineboy.
His words: ” They broke into the palace after heavy shooting and turned the throne upside down. They killed four people and wounded so many others before arresting 15 persons. You can come and take pictures of how they scattered the whole palace”.
Meanwhile Kanu’s whereabouts after the attack is still unclear as at the time of filing this report. The source could not confirm whether or not the IPOB leader was among those taken away by the invaders. The whereabouts of his parents believed to be in the compound before the raid also remains unknown.
When contacted, the Army Spokesperson , 14 Brigade Ohafia, Major Gbadamosi Oyegoke, said he was not in a position to comment on it but asked newsmen to direct their inquiries to dedicated lines for the operation.But efforts to reach the dedicated numbers failed as the call could not push through.The Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, 82 Division Enugu, Col. Sagir Musa, did not also pick calls put across his cell phone as at the time of filing this report.
On Friday morning when our correspondent visited Kanu’s home for on- the -spot assessment cars riddled by bullets, broken chairs, shattered windows , smashed doors and blood stains were the common sight around the palace. Some of the bullets even perforated the wardrobe in Kanu’s main bedroom. Scattered clothes and other belongings littered in some of the rooms while furniture were overturned. The hand of Kanu’s effigy was also broken.
One of the IPOB members guarding the deserted compound said over 50 IPOB members were killed during the attack. He alleged that the soldiers carted away the corpses of the victims apart from the four that were recovered from some of the rooms after the attack. He also said six more bodies were recovered from the bush on Friday morning.
The Afaraukwu kinsmen of Kanu also counted their loss during the visit by our correspondent. They were observed digging a grave to bury one of their own killed by soldiers during the raid. A relative of the victim, Pastor Chibunna Odoemenam told our correspondent that the village was in mournful mood. He said that they had earlier recovered six more bodies from the bush. He said the village had recorded heavy loss following the attack, adding that the blood pressure of the aged had gone high.
Odoemenam condemned the military invasion as well as the operation python dance which he said had rather disrupted the peace of the state. He appealed to the United Nations for intervention.
Meanwhile, Abia residents are still griped by fear. Some are fleeing to their communities in the hinterlands while non- indigenes go to their states. The military high command had since over-ruled Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu on the possible termination of the operation. Army insists that the operation will last for its full course ( one month). Ikpeazu had Thursday announced that soldiers would by the next day withdrawn from the streets of Aba and Umuahia. Although the soldiers have tactfully withdrawn from the streets, their presence in the state is still very visible.
The operation has continued to take its toll on the economy of the state. Economic activities have been paralysed as most markets in Aba have remained locked down. Sadly two, resumption date for schools across the state has been shifted to Seltember 26. The curfew imposed on Aba had been extended twice, and is likely to be extended further as there is no signs the operation might be halted any time soon despite public outrage trailing it.
Critics fault the deployment of soldiers in South East. Some say it was intended to crush Biafra agitators. They condemn the use of brute force against peaceful agitators. The recent proscription of IPOB by South East Governors Forum , and the branding of the group as terrorists by the Federal Government have sparked further rage among the people who say the group has the right to agitate for self- determination so long as it pursues its agenda in a peaceful manner.
Unless there is urgent intervention by the United Nations and the international community, the South East zone may be in for another devastation akin to the better- imagined years of the Nigeria civil war. As emotions run high, there are also fears that the crisis may spill over to other parts of the country and assume ethnic and religious dimension if the soldiers are not quickly taken off the zone.