Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike has explained that the ongoing operations by security agencies in Oyibo Local Government Area was against members of the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and not the Igbo.
The governor, who said he had no regrets waging war against IPOB, insisted that he did not order soldiers or policemen to kill any Igbo living in the state. He described such allegation as balderdash.
Wike spoke in a live television interview in Port Harcourt just as IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu claimed that soldiers killed 100 of his members and inhabitants of the oil-rich council allegedly on the “instruction of the governor.”
Although the Nigeria Army has since the weekend remained silent on the controversy, a group, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), called on President Muhammad Buhari to immediately order a probe of the alleged killings.
Also yesterday, another group, the Ogbakor Ikwerre, USA/Canada (OIUSA) Inc, berated Kanu, saying it had already reported him to the British High Commission in Nigeria, the United Nations Security Council, the American Embassy in Abuja and Lagos and the European Union Security Organisation.
IPOB members were said to have killed six soldiers and four policemen in Oyigbo under the guise of #EndSARS protests.
They allegedly made away with their guns and burnt 50 vehicles and police stations in the council.
The incident made Wike to impose a 24-hour curfew that further heightened tension when the Army stormed the council to recover the stolen rifles and apprehend the hoodlums.
During the television interview on Monday, the governor described the activities of IPOB as unfortunate. He lamented that the outlawed group had tried many times to use Oyigbo as a base for their operations.
Wike said the #EndSARS protest was going on peacefully until IPOB members hijacked it and unleashed violence that resulted in the destruction of properties.
He insisted that his government would not allow IPOB to realise its wish of taking over any part of Rivers and blasted “somebody” he referred to as minister for sponsoring propaganda that he ordered the military to kill the Igbo in the state.
He said: This is not the first time IPOB has used Oyigbo as a launching ground, security is aware, IPOB has been doing that. How could it have been #EndSARS movement?
“The country knows that if there is one man that is not liked by the military, it is me, because I will speak my mind against them.
“I don’t know when I became a friend now to order the military to go to Oyigbo to start killing people. It is very funny. That is why I said that somebody is trying to sponsor propaganda against me that I am killing the Igbo and I laugh.”
The governor wondered why IPOB would cause havoc in the state and denounced its members for attempting to claim and rename some communities and local government areas in the state.
He said: “Why will IPOB use a local government to begin to launch attack not only on properties, but on innocent Nigerians and the security operatives. Rivers State was peaceful, IPOB woke up in the morning that they were doing EndSARS protest and killed six Army operatives and burnt one. Killed four police officers, destroyed all the police stations in Oyigbo. Burnt down all the courts.
“And you know that when you kill a security personnel, they will be angry and they will never let you go.
“I don’t need to call the army. I don’t have a relationship with them and I don’t have the powers. I have no access to them. Even when the former GOC was here, he never saw me for one day till the day he left here.
“IPOB tried to rename communities through their so-called leader Nnamdi Kanu when I am governor here. They start to change the names of communities and local governments in my own state, when I am governor. They went there to hoist flags like Boko Haram in the Northeast, and you said we should allow that.
“The security agencies got there and in peoples houses, they saw shrines with IPOB flags and Nnamdi Kanu’s picture. It is so terrible that if you continue to allow these boys to operate from there, before you know it, the state is gone. And not under my watch will I allow that.
“They went to a school in Kom-Kom; a school we built and hoisted IPOB flag . It is in the course of this whole thing we started finding out. You cannot say as a sitting governor, a body that has been proscribed by court, by law and which you have not set it aside or appealed against it, and the Federal Government has said the body is a terrorist organisation, then as a governor, because of politics I will sit down. I won’t allow that. People saying, I sent the military to Oyigbo to start killing Igbo people, it is balderdash.
“We must come out heavily against this terrorist organisation. I have no regrets about that. Even the Southeast Governors never supported IPOB. If me I am not from the Southeast, from the Niger Delta, why will I support IPOB? On what basis?”
Wike emphasised that he does not hate the Igbo, adding that the state had always enjoyed good relationship with them,.
“With due respect, how would I hate Igbos? It is unthinkable, it is impossible. We have lived with the Igbo all our lives in the (defunct) Eastern region and we related very well. We have done everything together.”
Wike also said he had received threats from IPOB members in the US and other countries.
“I said to them that I am not (Ike) Ekwerenmadu that you will harass. I am not Amaechi. I dared them. I will not look back on the street of Europe. Nobody can intimidate me on that,” he boasted.
Wike however explained that a security council meeting agreed to form Neighbourhood Watch that will have its operatives trained by the Army, police and DSS(Department of State Services).
But Kanu, in a statement by IPOB’s Media and Publicity Secretary, Emma Powerful, said: “Yesterday (Sunday) and this morning (Monday), more than 100 people had been murdered by soldiers on the instructions of Wike..
“They singled out these helpless people and killed them. Churches where IPOB stay and do meeting were burnt down and the pastor killed with his family following the instruction of the governor.”
He warned of dire consequences of continued killing of the people of Oyigbo, particularly the young ones, adding that the blood of the innocent would seek vengeance.
Also on Monday, Ogbakor Ikwerre, a group comprising Rivers State indigenes living in the US and Canada, lambasted Kanu.
They accused Kanu of making “ inciting and provocative” statement and advised him to desist from his “violent ways.”
The group, in a statement by its President ,Eric WorluWelle, asked : “How dangerous can anyone who puts a bounty on a sitting state governor be?
It said Wike ought to have been congratulated for his timely intervention in the Oyigbo crisis that helped nip in the bud an ethnic conflict between Hausa/Fulani and Igbo residents in Oyigbo.
Even though the Army has maintained silence over the killing allegations, a former member of Ebonyi State House of Assembly, Maria Ude Nwachi, in her popular Facebook page posted a picture of a young businessman reportedly killed in Oyigbo .
She said: “He is from my hometown , he is not a member of IPOB but Army killed him at Oyigbo. Dont rest Abuchi until you take the life of those behind your death and those supporting those behind your death.
“Abuchi scrip off everything that gives their family joy just like they took your parent’s joy.”
A resident of Oyigbo confirmed that the Army burnt a church where IPOB members reportedly used as a venue for their meeting.
He said: “I live in Oyibo and I have been in my house since the curfew started. When the soldiers first arrived, they were very brutal. Those apprehended for violating the curfew were tied and made to roll in the mud. But the number of casualties being reported is highly exaggerated.
“I only know that in the process of burning the church where IPOB members used to gather, a pastor was killed for resistance. But the soldiers are using some information to break into people’s houses. They have arrested some hoodlums and recovered stolen items.”
Efforts to reach the Spokesman of the 6 Brigade in Port Harcourt, Maj. Charles Ekeocha, proved abortive as he neither answered his telephone calls nor responded to a message sent to him.
SERAP also yesterday expressed concern over the human rights violations by the military in Oyigbo.
In a Tweet, SERAP said: “We’re concerned about reports of grave human rights violations by Nigerian military in Oyigbo, Rivers State.
“We urge @MBuhari to immediately order a probe into the reports and ensure perpetrators are prosecuted. Authorities must end attacks on Nigerians in #Oyigbo.”
Meanwhile, suspected IPOB members at the weekend hoisted Biafra flags in Ekele village, in Ado Local Government Area of Benue State.
The flags were seen at strategic locations in the community which shares boundary with Ebonyi State.
A former Chairman of the council, Otse Otokpa, who confirmed the development, said it was not the first time they were seeing the flags.
He claimed that the IPOB members had been threatening to annex part of the council.