The Chief of Army Staff, Maj. Gen. Taoreed Lagbaja, has ordered troops to seize control of areas where the Indigenous People of Biafra enforce their sit-at-home order throughout the South-East states.
The order came after a Finland-based pro-Biafra agitator, Simon Ekpa, announced that there would be a two-week sit-at-home in the South-East region from July 31.
According to him, the order was to demand the immediate and unconditional release of the detained IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, as well as facilitate the freedom of Biafra nation, among others.
Ekpa warned that failure to comply with the sit-at-home order would attract ‘heavy consequences’.
However, speaking in an interview, the Director, Army Public Relations, Brig. Gen. Onyema Nwachukwu, declared that such an announcement was unlawful and would not be condoned.
He said the troops of the 82 Division had been given an order to work with other security agencies to ensure citizens go about their businesses freely.
Onyema said, “The renewed threat by IPOB to compel the people in southeastern 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.
“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.
“Strangely, Simon Ekpa, a notorious terrorist and self-acclaimed leader of IPOB, is in Finland making a living for himself and his family, but ordering the people to shut down their means of livelihood by sitting at home.”
The army spokesman called on Nigerians in the South-East region to disregard the sit-at-home order, urging them to support the security forces to defeat IPOB.
Onyema said, “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.
The Force spokesperson, Muyiwa Adejobi, said that the police had killed and arrested non-state actors enforcing the order, adding that the force would not rest on its oars.
Adejobi disclosed that the police were keeping a watch on the sponsors of the agitators.
He said, “The police will not allow any unlawful order to stand in any part of Nigeria. The sit-at-home order is illegal and unacceptable. We have suppressed and neutralised the non-state actors who have been trying to enforce the order. We have arrested many of them and recovered their weapons.
“We will not relent in our efforts to maintain law and order in all parts of Nigeria, and we assure the people in the South-East to go about their lawful businesses as we have emplaced adequate security measures to protect them. We are keeping watch on the sponsors of these agitators who cause pain and sorrow in the areas.
Meanwhile, the Governor of Enugu State, Peter Mbah, visited the headquarters of the Nigerian Navy in Abuja to seek support for the abolition of sit-at-home in the state.
The governor had, on June 2, declared sit-at-home banned in Enugu, saying it was injurious to the economy of the state.
Despite his declaration, however, sit-at-home remains a feature of the state on Mondays.
Speaking to journalists during his visit to Abuja, Mbah said attracting investors to Enugu State would be an uphill task if sit-at-home persists.
The governor said, “If we must deal with the root causes of insecurity we have in our country, we must adopt both the kinetic and non-kinetic approaches to dealing with insecurity, and we felt that the big elephant in the room is to address those activities that may be an inhibitor to bringing in investors to our state.
“We identified insecurity as one of those inhibitors; we felt that it was a clog in the wheel of our continued development, and that was why, immediately after I assumed office, I convened a Security Council meeting, and following that, we made a pronouncement that we wanted the sit-at-home to end. This is because we have zero tolerance for that.
“There is no way we’ll be able to achieve the exponential picture we have painted, those massive promises about growing our economy and eradicating poverty, it will not happen if we don’t deal with that problem, and of course that requires we tighten our security architecture, and mobilise our security agencies in our state to be able to deal with it.”
Mbah said he looked up to the partnership with the Navy to help bolster security in Enugu State and uphold the unity of the country.
He said, “Thus far, we are getting the required support from the security agencies, and we are hoping to see them join hands with us to be able to deal with this big elephant.
“When I was sworn in, I took an oath to defend the unity of this country, and that is exactly what we’ll do, and we are not going to endorse any behavior that is outside that. So, what we are saying, in effect, is that we look forward to partnering with the Navy in those areas that are necessary to do so to achieve one common goal of building one unifying country, peace, and security.”