By John Alechenu, Peter Okutu, Omeiza Ajayi & Steve Oko, ABUJA
Governors elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, differed yesterday on the security situation in the country.
While PDP governors raised the alarm that insecurity in the country is worsening, the APC said the Federal Government is addressing the situation, stressing that the Bola Tinubu administration will ensure peace in Nigeria.
Both parties spoke yesterday as bandits late Monday night, killed four policemen in Zamfara State as gunmen also kidnapped a Catholic priest and three others in Ebonyi State.
These came on a day tension in the South-East was further heightened by the two-week sit-at-home declared by a factional leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB, Simon Ekpa, from July 31 to August 14.
Ekpa’s declaration, which was a direct response to the decision of governors, lawmakers and Ohanaeze Ndigbo to meet with President Bola Tinubu over the security situation in the South East, came as Enugu residents lamented yesterday that they are yet to recover from the one-week sit-at-home order declared by Ekpa last week, which just ended.
PDP govs on insecurity
Rising from a meeting in Abuja yesterday, the PDP governors noted that the situation is particularly dire in Plateau and Zamfara states, where scores of Nigerians were killed and property destroyed.
Chairman of PDP Governors Forum, Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State, who read the communique issued at the end of the meeting which lasted five hours, said he and his colleagues are calling on the Federal Government and security agencies to rise to the occasion.
He said: “The meeting noted the deteriorating security situation in the country, especially the wanton destruction of lives and properties in Plateau and Zamfara states, among other states.
“The meeting consequently advised the Federal Government and security agencies to rise to the occasion and bring the situation under control.
“The meeting resolved to work together and unite the Forum. The aim of the Forum is to provide a platform for peer review of issues, policies, programmes and achievements (legacy projects) of member-governors across the PDP states.
“The meeting advised the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, the security agencies, and the Federal Government to be neutral in the conduct of the off-season elections in Bayelsa, Kogi and Imo states.
“The meeting noted the deteriorating security situation in the country, especially the wanton destruction of lives and properties in Plateau and Zamfara and other states.
“In the interim, the Forum will cooperate with the Federal Government on issues concerning the welfare of Nigerians and good governance, while striving to maintain the independence and autonomy of the Forum through offering constructive criticisms where necessary.”
In response to a question from reporters about the absence of the Rivers State governor, Simi Fubara, Mohammed said the governor sent in an apology, adding that 12 of the party’s 13 governors attended the meeting which is indicative of the unity in the forum.
Tinubu’s govt ‘ll ensure peace—APC SOURCE
However, a director in the All Progressives Congress, APC, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the Tinubu administration will do its best to ensure peace across the country.
The source said: “From what you said, the PDP governors specifically noted the security situation in Plateau and Zamfara states and called on the Federal Government and security agencies to help nip it in the bud.
‘’There is nothing strange in making such calls, except if you are saying they accused the FG of not having done enough, which I know was not what they said. Security is not a partisan issue and I believe all the governors are in agreement with this assertion.
‘’That is why, despite the PDP now controlling both Plateau and Zamfara states, they still sought the assistance of the Federal Government. The Tinubu administration will do its best to ensure peace across the country.”
Four policemen killed in Zamfara bandit attack
In Zamfara State, the Police Command confirmed the killing of four policemen by armed bandits on Monday night during an attack on Bungudu Local Government Area of the state.
Spokesperson of the command, ASP Yazid Abubakar, said four of their personnel were killed during the midnight attack on a police checkpoint along Gusau-Bungudu road.
“We went there this morning (yesterday) and I can confirm to you that four of our personnel were killed during the attack, they were on patrol where they used to mount checkpoint before moving to another location, the bandits engaged them unaware.”
It will be recalled that the officers had mounted a checkpoint along Bungudu-Gusau Road when the armed bandits ambushed and opened fire on them.
A resident, Ibrahim Bungudu, also said four of the policemen were killed during the attack.
He said the rampaging bandits also shot one person at Tagero village under the Furfuri district of Bungudu Local Government Area.
Bungudu added that several cattle belonging to residents of Tagero village were also rustled by the bandits.
He said: “The bandits ambushed the police along Gusau-Bungudu road, close to Nabature company and killed four. They also rustled many cattle at Tagero village under Furfuri district, one person was shot in the hand in the village.’’
Another resident, Usman Bungudu, also confirmed the attack, saying the bandits attacked the policemen while on checkpoint duty around midnight and killed four of them.
“The incident happened around 12 am when the policemen mounted a checkpoint along Gusau road. The bandits just ambushed and shot at them; they ran away after killing four policemen,” he said.
Gunmen kidnap Catholic priest, 3 others in Ebonyi
In Ebonyi State, the Catholic community yesterday raised alarm over the kidnap of one of its priests, Very Reverend Fr. Joseph Azubuike by unknown persons suspected to be gunmen.
Fr. Joseph is the Parish priest of St. Charles Parish, Mgbaleze Isu in Onicha Local Government Area of Ebonyi State.
According to a statement, titled “Call for Prayers” by the Catholic Diocese of Abakaliki, Office of the Diocesan Chancellor, Rev. Fr. Matthew Uzoma Opoke, the victim was abducted alongside three other people.
The statement read in part: “Kindly pray for the unconditional release of Very Rev. Fr. Joseph Azubuike who was abducted yesterday being Monday, 10th of July, 2023 close to his parish on his way back from pastoral duties.
“Fr. Joseph is the Parish Priest of St. Charles Parish, Mgbaleze Isu in Onicha Local Government Area of Ebonyi State.
“The abductors are making financial demands but with your prayers, we are going to have them back unconditionally.
“May Mary, Mother of priests, intercede for us. Amen.”
Contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, Ebonyi State police command, Onome Onovwakpoyeya, said her office was yet to be furnished about the development.
“I’m still making contact with our Divisional Police in the area of the incident. Let’s me find out if the matter has been reported.”
Simon Ekpa reacts to S-East leaders’ Abuja meeting, orders two-week sit-at-home
Factional leader of IPOB, Simon Ekpa, also yesterday announced a two-week sit-at-home protest in the South East, barely days after the one-week sit-at-home he declared penultimate week expired.
His declaration was a direct response to South East governors, lawmakers and Ohanaeze Ndigbo’s decision to meet with President Bola Tinubu over the security situation in the region.
Ekpa declared that the sit-at-home protest would take place from July 31, 2023, to August 14, 2023.
In a tweet in the early hours of yesterday, Ekpa said the declaration was in response to the demand from Biafran people clamouring for increased civil disobedience.
“Following the demand by the Biafra people for more sit-at-home civil disobedience, the Biafra Republic Government In-Exile (BRGIE) and Biafra de facto government in homeland wish to notify Biafrans that there will be a sit-at-home civil disobedience starting from 31 July 2023 to 14 August 2023,” Ekpa said.
He said the protest would aim to secure the immediate and unconditional release of detained IPOB leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, who is being held by the DSS.
Ekpa noted that the sit-at-home protest was also a step towards Biafra’s self-referendum, demonstrating that Biafrans were taking charge of their destiny.
He explained that the protest would invalidate the legitimacy of individuals who claimed to represent Nigeria within Biafran territory.
According to the statement, ‘’the sit-at-home protest will follow this schedule: total lockdown in ‘Biafraland’ from Monday, July 31, 2023, to Friday, August 4, 2023.
‘’On Saturday, August 6, and Sunday, August 7, the protest will be on break, allowing for the opening of all ‘Biafran markets’. Another total lockdown will be observed from Monday, August 7, to Friday, August 11, 2023.
‘’The protest will take another break on Saturday, August 12, and Sunday, August 13, 2023, with the reopening of ‘Biafran markets’. Finally, on Monday, August 14, 2023, there will be a lockdown in ‘Biafraland.’’
He called on all market leaders to strictly adhere to the sit-at-home order and treat it with utmost seriousness.
He also urged all oil companies operating in Biafran territory to halt oil exploration during these dates to avoid the potential backlash from Biafran people.
Asking residents to sit-at-home for 2 wks, slap on Police —AIG ZONE 9
Reacting to Ekpa’s directive, the Assistant Inspector General of Police in charge of Zone 9 Command, AIG Echeng Echeng, said the command will not tolerate the two-week sit-at-home order.
The AIG, who spoke through the zonal Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO Bruno Iheanetu, a Deputy Superintendent of Police, DSP, said allowing the order by a non-state actor to stand means the police had failed.
Iheanetu who noted that the police” cannot swallow such order”, said: “Definitely, the police will do their work which is to secure lives and property.
“We cannot ask law-abiding citizens to stay indoors for two weeks because of a sit-at-home order issued by non-state actors.
“Asking citizens to stay at home for two weeks will be a slap on the face of the Nigeria Police. We cannot swallow that.
“If law-abiding citizens are forced to stay indoors for two weeks, that means the Nigeria police have failed!”
The Zonal PPRO said the AIG had already summoned a meeting of all the Commissioners of Police under the command on how to strategically tackle the challenge.
He added that heavy equipment and manpower had been deployed to safeguard lives and property of residents.
“The AIG has summoned a meeting of all CPs in the zone. Equipment and manpower have been deployed to curb the menace of sit-at-home enforcers and other non-state actors in the zone. Operational orders to CPs
“The CPs have been handed operational orders on how to checkmate the excesses of these non state actors.
“We have identified the black spots, and we have the nipping points. Manpower and heavy equipment have been deployed to man all the black spots,’’ he said.
The Police spokesperson said the aim of the operational orders was to reduce the movement of the non-state actors enforcing sit-at-home order.
He said: “ It’s only when they have free movement that they will unleash mayhem on the people. Heavy equipment and manpower have been deployed to the black spots to reduce their movements.
“We have also increased visibility policing in Abia, Imo and Ebonyi states under Zone 9. The patrol teams we have rolled out are heavily armed to protect law-abiding citizens”.
The PPRO warned those behind the sit-at-home order against infringing on the rights of law-abiding citizens, warning that such an attempt will have dire consequences.
He also urged parents to advise their children against taking laws into their hands.
But reacting to Ekpa’s declaration, the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, said the agent provocateur who allegedly incensed South East youths to observe sit-at-home for no reason, hid himself to avoid the anger of Biafrans who organised a rally in Finland on July 7.
In a statement, the group’s Media and Publicity Secretary of Indigenous People Of Biafra, IPOB, Emma Powerful, said Ekpa carefully sat indoors during the rally held in front of his house in Lahti, Finland.
According to Powerful, the rally “was organized in line with IPOB’s global sensitization agenda on the plight of Biafrans and illegal incarceration of our leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu. IPOB hardcore were at Lahti, Finland, on July 7, 2023, to continue the sensitization rally around Europe.
“The organizers, all hardcore, took time off their busy schedule to attend the Finland rally as the imposter went into hiding at the news that IPOB was in town.
“It is unfortunate that during the epic event at Lahti, Finland, the self-acclaimed Biafra leader was nowhere to be found. Finnish people wondered why he didn’t show up to address his people but chose to hide, even when the rally took place in front of his apartment building.
“We thought he dared IPOB to come and protest in Finland, but at last, he was nowhere to be found. How can a true IPOB member hide from comrades? We are using this medium to warn ignorant followers of this scammer to retrace their steps before it is too late.
“It is obvious that there is nothing in the fish brain. The message has been passed to the Finnish people so that they will not be deceived.
“Biafra agitation is not for criminals and scammers who were paid by our enemies to create insecurity and criminality just to blackmail IPOB and Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, and more to make Biafra agitation unappealing to our people
“Those contracted and backed by the compromised Nigeria security and government to enforce a non-existing sit-at-home will be held accountable someday.’’
We can’t cope, again-ENUGU RESIDENTS,
Similarly, residents of Enugu, the capital of Enugu State, yesterday lamented the negative impact of the frequent sit-at-home order by non-state actors in the South-East geo-political zone.
They made their feelings known in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Enugu.
The residents, among whom are traders, artisans, and legal practitioners, said their various means of livelihood were being drastically affected.
A trader at Ogbete Market, Mr Jude Uwazurike said that his business was gradually decreasing by the day as a result of frequent closure of the market.
He said: “I sell clothes (abada) at Ogbete Market and I can say without mincing words that I was doing well in my business before now.
“However, as I speak, I am just managing to survive because this issue of closing shop every Monday and sometimes just ordering people to remain indoors for days is no longer a joke. “
He said that he used to travel to Aba, in Abia weekly to buy goods but lamented that he rarely traveled these days due to lack of sales.
“The truth is that after these lockdowns, people tend to be famished, tired, and withdrawn for the rest of the days, “ he said.
Uwazurike appealed to the relevant authorities to do something by either releasing Mazi Nnamdi Kanu or in the alternative rejig the security apparatus in the region.
In the same vein, Mrs Nnena Okpo, a dealer in perishables at the Holy Ghost market said her business had almost collapsed due to sit-at-home.
Okpo said she was losing hope about the situation in the South East zone unless something is urgently done to change the situation.
“It is no longer funny, the whole thing looked like a joke when it started in 2021 but today you can count several businesses that are still standing strong.
“I deal in perishables, apart from Monday’s sit-at-home order by IPOB, now someone stays in Finland and gave a directive for seven days of lockdown, not minding what people go through, “ she said.
She said it had been difficult to survive in the business because of the perishable nature of the business
“I have to eat from the business and watch the rest perish. I see my goods, my money rotting and there is nothing to do, “ Okpo said.
A legal practitioner, who did not want his name in print, also said that the lockdown in Enugu State and the entire South East is taking a huge toll on the legal profession.
According to him, many people thought that it was only businessmen and women that suffer the consequences.
“The truth is that we in the legal field, suffer it the more. Litigants also suffer as a result.”