The Chief of Army Staff, Maj. Gen. Taoreed Lagbaja has directed troops of the Nigerian Army to assert control over regions where Simon Ekpa, a self-acclaimed disciple of Nnamdi Kanu, detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, imposed a sit-at-home order in the South-East.
He spoke as the Anambra State Commissioner of Police, Aderemi Adeoye assured yesterday that the state police command would continue to provide security in Anambra for people who want to go about their businesses without hindrance, stressing that the police have no business with people who prefer to sit at home when they are supposed to be working to earn their living.
This is even as the Labour Party presidential candidate during February 25 presidential election, Peter Obi, has described the insecurity in the South East region as ‘criminal activity’.
He said though the activities were being attributed to the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, the proscribed group has constantly distanced itself from the crimes.
Army Chief deploys troops to counter IPOB’s sit-at-home order
Lagbaja’s directive was in response to an announcement made by Finland-based pro-Biafra agitator, Simon Ekpa, who ordered a two-week sit-at-home protest scheduled to commence on Monday, July 31.
Ekpa said the protest’s aim to demand the immediate and unconditional release of the IPOB leader Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, was sacrosanct, noting that the sit-at-home order was to facilitate the freedom of the Biafran nation, among other objectives.
The pro-Biafra agitator, however, warned that disobeying the sit-at-home order would have serious consequences.
The Director of Army Public Relations, Brig. Gen. Onyema Nwachukwu however declared Ekpa’s announcement unlawful and stated that it would not be tolerated.
Nwachukwu said that the 82 Division of the Nigerian Army, in collaboration with other security agencies, has been directed to conduct robust patrols, secure flashpoints, and ensure that citizens can freely carry out their lawful activities.
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“The renewed threat by IPOB to compel the people in southeast Nigeria to sit at home is not only appalling but a violation of the fundamental rights of southeastern Nigerians and, therefore, unlawful. This will never be condoned,” Nwachukwu stated.
“The Chief of Army Staff has handed down clear directives to the 82 Division of the Nigerian Army operating in synergy with other security agencies to ensure robust patrols to dominate all flashpoints and emplace measures to ensure citizens are free to go about their legitimate businesses.”
The army spokesperson, however, called upon Nigerians in the South-East region to disregard the sit-at-home order and encouraged them to support the security forces in their efforts to counter IPOB.
“We implore the good and enterprising people of the South-East to shun all forms of cajoling or threats aimed at unlawfully compelling them to be reclusive by sitting at home. We urge them to join forces with the security operatives to resist this illegality perpetrated by IPOB.
“Similarly, the police have vowed to resist the sit-at-home order in any part of the South-East.”
He noted that Ekpa, who claims leadership of IPOB, resides in Finland and issues command from there while expecting people in Nigeria to comply with his orders, which the army finds unacceptable.
Similarly, the Nigeria Police Force has vowed to resist the sit-at-home order in any part of the South-East.
The Force spokesperson, Muyiwa Adejobi, confirmed that the police have taken action against non-state actors enforcing the order, resulting in arrests and the confiscation of weapons.
Adejobi assured South-East citizens that adequate security measures had been put in place to protect them and urged them to continue with their lawful activities.
We’ve no business with those who prefer to sit-at- home —Anambra CP
His statement came on the heels of the self-acclaimed Biafra agitator, Simon Ekpa that there would be a lockdown of the South East for two weeks from July 31, 2023.
Addressing reporters at the state police headquarters, Adeoye described as unfortunate, a situation whereby people now work for four days a week, but get a salary for five days.
He said: “From the point of law enforcement, sitting at home is an illegal affair. Those making the declaration for the sit-at-home belong to an organization that competent courts have described as illegal.
“Our duty as security agencies is to provide adequate security for the people to the best of our ability. But it is the people who have the prerogative to decide whether to sit at home or not.
” We cannot enter anybody’s house to drag him out because if we do that, we will be infringing on the person’s fundamental human rights since he has freedom of choice.
“Despite the action of security operatives, some people support the sit-at-home, which is rooted in the agitation for a separatist enclave called Biafra. “Those who work for four days see Mondays as an extra holiday. As long as we can protect those doing their businesses, we have no business with those who prefer to sit at home.”
Adeoye vowed that under his watch, Anambra would be a hot place for criminals, adding that the command would collaborate with other states in the South East to secure the zone.
Obi laments impact on S-East businesses, blames criminals
According to the Labour Party Presidential standard bearer, what is going on in the South-East is essentially a criminal activity.
“Also disturbing is the continued disruption of business and social activities in the South East region over the Sit-at-Home directive purported to be coming from the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB, when the body has publicly denied issuing such directive.
“What is going on in the South East therefore is essentially a criminal activity that must be nipped in the bud, with all hands being on deck, security agencies, and the people alike,” Obi said in a series of tweets on his Twitter handle on Thursday.
While commending the governors from the region, he said the states’ helmsmen need to be more strategic and intelligence-driven.
He said, “The South East Governors are to be commended for their renewed efforts at curbing this menace but there is a need to be more strategic and intelligence-driven in our approach to reducing the suffering of innocent people.
“Security agencies should take necessary and quick steps to arrest the ugly incidents because the country cannot just be spilling the blood of innocent citizens. We as a people through our various governments should up our value for human lives in the way and manner we respond to issues that touch lives. The implications of an insecure environment for development are far-reaching because no investor will consider going to an area where their resources will not be safe and secure.
“Therefore, I will like to urge critical stakeholders in these areas, traditional, Christian, and Muslim leaders to continue pushing for peace among their people in the way and manner they conduct themselves.
“The various governments at all levels should also take deliberate steps to address the issue of poverty and youth unemployment because the provision of stomach infrastructure is the surer way to tackle insecurity.
“Also, urgent steps should be taken consciously and intentionally to ameliorate the hardship of the people.”
Simon Ekpa tackles Peter Obi, Army
Reacting to the Peter Obi’s statement on the sit-at-home directive in the south-east, Simon Ekpa in a terse tweet, Ekpa said the former governor of Anambra has now become the spokesperson of the separatist group.
Reacting to Obi’s statement in a terse tweet, Ekpa said the former governor of Anambra has now become the spokesperson of the separatist group.
Also reacting to the Army’s decision to neutralize sit-at-home enforcers, on his tweeter handle, said: If you come to Biafra land to kill Biafrans, I promise you will die there. Biafra Liberation Army will neutralise you. We have activated the operation python must die. All of you terrorists, @HQNigerianArmy going to Biafra land should write your will before leaving from your location.”
People obey sit-at-home order to avoid death —Uzodinma
Meanwhile, Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State, yesterday, said that people in the South-East obey sit-at-home order by IPOB to avoid being killed.
The governor also denied having knowledge of the presence of the ‘men’ of the former Niger Delta militants, Asari Dokubo operating in Imo State to maintain peace as he (Dokubo) recently claimed.
Also reacting to the issue of the self styled Biafran Prime Minister, Simon Ekpa, who stays in Finland to give stay-at-home order in the South-East, is to be handled by the Federal Government as the issue of foreign affairs is under the exclusive list.
Senator Uzodimma spoke after he met behind closed doors with President Bola Tinubu at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Uzodinma insisted that as non-state actors, IPOB has no authority to issue the order but people stay away because of the amount of killing perpetrated in the area.
His words: “The situation in the South-East is not as simple as some people think. There’s no government directive for the sit-at-home procedure to either local government directive or any state or the zone.
“But the situation is that because of the indiscriminate killing of people and high level of insecurity, our people are so afraid to come out, not only because there’s any sit at home.
“It is perception management that we’re trying to do. So, there is too much fear into the people. Otherwise, how can non-state actors give sit-at-home order and it will be obeyed.
“People are scared. People are afraid because of what they’ve seen in the past. And nobody wants to die, neither me nor anybody.
“So, that is why the federal government comes in to step up very high security measures to manage the situation. The sense of security will come back to the citizenry and they will be able to go about their businesses.”
On his visit to the villa, the governor said: “My visit has to do with the security situation in the country. If you recall a few days ago, we had a meeting of the leadership of southeast, political and non-political leaders in conjunction with the leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, and among the resolutions from that meeting was to visit Mr. President to support and intervene in our resolve in addressing the issue insecurities.
“The southeastern part of the country, of course, you are aware, has been bedevilled with this high level of security ranging from banditry, kidnapping activities of unknown gunmen.
“To the extent that most of the states, five states in the Southeastern part of the country a lot of resources have been expended, community efforts have been invested, yet the problems seem not to be abetting.
“So, the leadership in the zone met and agreed that working with the forum of governors from the southeast, we come to Mr President to formally request his intervention and additional support from the federal government to ensure that there is peace in the southeastern part of the country.
“The people of the southeast believe in the unity of the country. And that’s an integral part of the Nigerian project also needs serious attention in terms of provision of security for our people to go about their businesses.”
On the claim by the former Niger Delta militant that his ‘men’ were operating in different parts of the country including Imo State, the governor said he was not aware of anything like that.
He said: “I don’t know whether his men are police officers of the Nigerian army. I don’t know who Asari Dokubo’s men are and so there will be no way for me to answer this question. Can you please find out for me, who are his men? And how do we identify his men.”
Simon Ekpa’s case should be handled by FG
Fielding questioned whether the leaders of Southeast are thinking of diplomatic options to follow up on Simon Ekpa that stays in Finland to give stay-at-home order in Southeast, he said: “So you can see again that diplomacy and the foreign policy programmes are also in the exclusive list. And we are worried about the level of insecurity in the region and the contributions of some people within and outside the country.
“The Federal Government still remains the only platform that can dress both foreign and local content contribution to this problem.”
Court dismisses Nnamdi Kanu’s rights suit against DSS
Meantime, a Federal High Court, in Abuja yesterday, dismissed a fundamental rights enforcement suit filed by Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra against the Department of State Services.
Justice James Omotosho, in a judgment, held that Kanu’s suit lacked merit and ought to be dismissed.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Kanu, in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/482/2022 and filed by his lawyer, had sued the Director General of DSS, DSS, and the Attorney-General of the Federation as 1st to 3rd respondents respectively.
In the suit, the IPOB leader alleged that the DSS subjected him to different inhuman treatments, including denying him his right to wear any clothes of his choice like the Igbo traditional attire called “Isi-Agu,” while in their facility or any time he appeared in court for his trial.
He alleged that the security outfit while allowing other inmates in their custody the freedom to choose and wear any clothes of their choice, he was restricted to wearing only a single clothing.
The applicant also accused the DSS of subjecting him to torture, breaching his right to dignity, among others.
He, therefore, sought an order directing the respondents to allow him to put on any clothing of his choice while in the facility or when appearing in public, among other reliefs.
But in a counter affidavit filed by the DSS and its DG, they urged the court to dismiss Kanu’s claim.
They said that their operatives had not and had never tortured Kanu either physically or mentally while in their custody.
According to the DSS, the applicant (Kanu) is kept in their facility where every other suspect is kept.
They said it was untrue that other suspects were allowed to put on any clothing of their choice, including Hausa and Yoruba traditional wear.
They said that the facility was not a recreational centre or traditional festival where Kanu and other suspects would be allowed to adorn themselves in their respective traditional attires.
They argued that there is a Standard Operation Procedure (SOP) on dress code by persons in their facilities.
According to DSS, the clothes have colours of the non-existing Biafra Republic, which is the subject matter of the applicant’s criminal trial.
They said the Isi-Agu attire, popularly called chieftaincy attire, was not a suitable dress for persons in detention facilities and was against its SOP.
They also argued that Justice Binta Nyako, where Kanu is currently standing trial, had directed that Kanu should be allowed to wear any plain clothing of his choice and that anything contrary would contravene the court’s directive.
The DSS said they never breached his right to human dignity as alleged by the IPOB leader.
Delivering the judgment, Justice Omotosho held that the right to human dignity is contained in Section 34 of the 1999 Constitution.
He said it was clear that a right to human dignity is related to the right against torture, and inhuman treatment, among others.
The judge held that Kanu’s case did not relate to torture or forced labour as he was never tortured while in custody based on the evidence before the court.
He said a right to dignity was not a right to change clothes as an inmate in a prison.
“The applicant cannot come to court to seek rights which are not in the constitution,” he said.
Besides, Justice Omotosho held that Kanu failed to provide the photographs and names of inmates who were allowed to wear different attires while in custody.
He said the onus was on him to prove his case but the applicant merely rely on bare facts without any evidence.
He described the IPOB leader’s allegations as “a hypothesis without concrete evidence.”
The judge, consequently, dismissed the case for lacking merit.
Enugu monarchs commend Mbah’s efforts
In a related development, traditional rulers across Enugu State have commended the state governor, Dr. Peter Mbah, over his laudable security measures since he assumed office, assuring his administration of their cooperation in strengthening community policing in their respective communities.
The royal fathers who converged on Wednesday in the House of Chief chamber at the Enugu State House of Assembly Complex further urged the governor to be more ruthless in flushing out kidnappers and enforcers of sit-at-home order, stressing that such aberrations were not known to the Igbo people.
At the interactive session with the governor, the traditional institution charged Mbah to deploy joint security operatives across different communities in the state to reinforce the confidence of their subjects so that they could go about their normal businesses.
They lamented that the illegal Monday sit-at-home order being enforced by some criminal elements to intimidate innocent residents did not represent the true identity of the Igbo people.
Explaining to the governor that they had resolved to support possible stringent measures that his government deemed proper to secure the state and make it the choice destination for investment and hub of industrialisation in the southeast zone, the traditional rulers assured of their readiness to take charge of their communities as chief security officers.
Some of the traditional rulers who spoke on behalf of their senatorial districts included Igwe Simon Osisi Itodo, Igwe RSN Eze, Igwe Lawrence Agubuzu, Igwe Godwin Madu, Igwe Julius Nnaji, Igwe Greg Ugwu, among others.
They noted that kidnapping incidents and other security breaches in the state, particularly along the Nike-Ugwogo-Nsukka road had been flushed out as a result of the timely security response by the governor, enjoining him to keep up with the pace.’