Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia has declared a three-day curfew that will last between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. in the commercial city of Aba with immediate effect.
Ikpeazu made the declaration in a statement made available to newsmen in Umuahia on Tuesday.
He said that the measure was to calm tension occasioned by the proclamation of a military operation code-named ‘Operation Python Dance 2’ in the South-East.
He said that his administration was committed to the protection of lives and property and had to take such measure to protect residents of the state.
“Abia State has for the past few days been the focus of security searchlight.
“This is occasioned by the reported skirmish between some groups in the state, especially the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) with men of the Nigerian Army.
“Government notes and has observed the frenzy of activities of members of IPOB within Afara – Umuahia, the ancestral home of the leader of IPOB for some months now.
“Government is equally aware of the recent proclamation by the Nigerian Army of Operation Python Dance II within the South-East geopolitical region of Nigeria.”
Ikpeazu said that the military operation was to check kidnapping, banditry, assassination, secessionist activities within the region, among other forms of criminal activities.
“The recent confrontation between the Nigerian Army and members of IPOB on Sunday, 10th September, 2017, could presumably be attributed to the commencement of the said Operation Python Dance II.”
The governor said that the state is a component part of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and that he subscribed to the supremacy of the Nigerian Constitution and all other extant laws.
“The state government recognises the right of the Nigerian Army and other security agencies to perform their statutory duty of protection of lives and property of Nigerian citizens.
“Such duties must, however, be carried out within acclaimed Nigerian and international standards of engagement with the civil populace, with due respect to the human rights of citizens and sanctity of human lives.
“Meanwhile, Aba residents are advised to observe a curfew from 6p.m to 6 a.m. from Sept. 12 to Sept. 14.
“The government recognises the constitutional right to freedom of movement for all Nigerians, but objects to the influx of people into Abia State for purposes of unsettling the enduring peace in the state.”
Ikpeazu urged residents of the state to go about their normal legitimate businesses without fear or favour.
Meanwhile, Dr Unya Okocha, a medical doctor with Abia State University Teaching Hospital (ABSUTH), has reacted to the development.
Okocha told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Aba that the curfew was necessary to stop possible bloodshed that could arise from confrontation with military men.
He said that the cause of the trouble was that after Sunday’s clash with IPOB men in Umuahia, the army surrounded Nnamdi Kanu’s house with armoured cars.
According to him, the anger of the IPOB people is rising and extending to Aba, hence the action by the state government to forestall clashes that can be bloody.
He said that the curfew would take social and economic toll on the residents of the commercial city.
However, in a reaction, Maj. Oyegoke Badamosi, the spokesman of 14 Brigade, Nigerian Army, Ohafia, said that the army was quelling erupting unrest in Aba.
Badamosi said that the army in Aba swung into action when it found that some miscreants were making bonfires on the roads to cause trouble in the city.
Meanwhile, reliable police sources told NAN that some miscreants seeking opportunity to commit crimes had hijacked “IPOB sympathy protests” in Aba and turned it against the people.
The source said that the action degenerated to breaking and looting of shops, resulting in the closure of Ariaria and other notable markets in the city, including roadside shops.