Killing of soldiers: Fear as Aba residents relocate

Four days after the killing of five soldiers by gunmen at Obikabia junction in Ogbor Hill, Aba, Abia State, residents of the city are still afraid of reprisal by soldiers.  

Though Governor Alex Otti had during a security meeting with the military authorities vowed to smoke out the killers of  the soldiers  and urged residents to go about their duties without fear of molestation, residents of the Obikabia area have continued to relocate to other areas. Others are still afraid of arrest by the soldiers.

Already, soldiers were alleged to have invaded some areas where they arrested some suspects. The soldiers also invaded Eziukwu and Ngwa road markets in the city and ordered traders to leave.

Some roads in Ogbor Hill area such as Ehere, Umuola, Ukaegbu, Ururuka, New Umuahia, and Obikabia roads have witnessed less traffic as residents have remained indoors.

Vanguard observed that soldiers have deserted all the military checkpoints located at Emelogu junction, Bata junction and Asa road.

It was also alleged  that passengers were being humiliated by soldiers who barricaded the Aro Ngwa, Umuikaa, Isiala Ngwa, and Ntigha junctions along the Aba-Umuahia section of the Enugu-Port Harcourt expressway.

‘Passenger’s humiliation’

A  motorist, who gave his name as Sunny, told Vanguard that the humiliation of passengers by soldiers has been stopped.

He said: ”At the Aro Ngwa, Umuikaa, Isiala Ngwa and Ntigha junctions on the expressway, passengers are ordered to alight and raise their hands before passing the barricade. The Aro Ngwa junction was completely blocked and motorists passed through local routes.

“But the situation is gradually easing off except at Umuikaa junction where soldiers are still forcing passengers to raise their hands. We condemn the killing of the five soldiers but the Army should ensure that innocent motorists should not be made to suffer for what they don’t know.”

Efforts to get the reaction of the Public Relations Officer,14 Brigade, Ohafia, Lt. Innocent Omale, were unsuccessful as he did not respond to text messages sent to his phone number.

We’ll smoke out killers of soldiers in Aba — Gov Otti

However, Governor Otti who spoke at the headquarters of the 144 Infantry Battalion of the Nigeria Army in Asa, Ukwa West Local Government Area, while on a condolence visit to the wives of the slain soldiers, said the state government would collaborate with security agencies to trail the perpetrators of the heinous  crime and bring them to justice.

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He condoled with the Army and announced a package to take care of the families of the fallen soldiers left behind.

The governor commended the Nigerian Army High Command for reducing the tension that had enveloped the state following the initial panic and apprehension that seized residents as a result of the senseless killing.

Otti thanked the Army authorities for not allowing aggrieved soldiers to resort to reprisal attacks on the civilian populace.

He said: “Let me start by sending out words of sympathy to the Nigerian Army, the Brigade Commander (Brigadier General O. O. Diya) himself, and most importantly the families of the five fallen heroes.

“We, as a government, will continue to condemn this dastardly act, a very irresponsible act committed by criminals, who do not want any good for society.

“It’s very sad, but then, it has happened and because it has happened, we will need to move on, but we cannot move on without identifying those who are responsible.

“It’s as if General Diya was with me at the last place that we went to, where I had promised that we would smoke out whoever is remotely connected to this killing, whoever they are, wherever they are, wherever they  run to.

“We are going to work as we have always done, closely with security agencies, particularly the intelligence unit of the security agencies, to ensure that we leave no stone unturned.

“So, I want to reassure the military high command and the leadership of the military in Abia that we are working together to ensure that we bring those people to book.

“The reason I came here (144 Battalion) today is to sympathise with you; to let you know that I feel your pain and I can understand what you’re going through at this time.

“On behalf of the government and people of Abia State, I want to assure you that we are behind you. We know that the military high command will also look after you, but because your husband died here in Abia, we have adopted you as daughters of Abia and your children as children of Abia.”

Abia elders beg military against reprisal

Abia elders have also condemned the killing of soldiers in Aba by non-state actors but begged the Nigerian military not to engage in any reprisal military operation.

The elders appealed to the military authorities to rather deploy intelligence to smoke out the perpetrators of the act.

They argued that embarking on any military confrontation would be catastrophic considering the collateral damage associated with such military engagement.

Speaking with Vanguard in Umuahia, former Governor of Abia State, Senator Theodore Orji, condemned in strong terms, the attack on the innocent soldiers, but appealed to the military not to resort to any reprisal attack.

The former governor urged the military authorities to deploy intelligence to fish out the perpetrators and deal with them instead of embarking on any military operation.

He said: “It’s very unfortunate. It’s very wrong for people to turn around and attack those watching over them. Soldiers are there for all Nigerians and should not be attacked. These soldiers did nothing to warrant this attack. It’s very annoying.

“But I sincerely appeal to the military not to go on full-scale revenge because that will be catastrophic. Let them  mellow  down and tamper justice with mercy.

“Let them concentrate on using intelligence to fish out the perpetrators and deal with them. Let them not escalate the whole thing because there is tension already in the state.”

Reacting also, former Senate President, Senator Adolphus Wabara, strongly condemned the “senseless and barbaric attack,” but pleaded with the military authorities to tamper justice with mercy for the sake of innocent citizens “who are usually the victims of any reprisal attack. This is very unfortunate and condemnable. My heart goes to the Nigerian Army and the families of the deceased soldiers. I urge them to bear the loss with maturity and forgiveness.”

Target culprits, not innocent people — LP

Also reacting, the Labour Party urged the military to target only those that perpetrated the crime.

A statement signed by the LP National Publicity Secretary, Obiora Ifoh yesterday read: “The leadership of the Labour Party has strongly denounced the brutal killing of five soldiers deployed to protect citizens in Abia State over the Biafran Day celebration on Thursday.

“The party, however, calls on the military to go after the perpetrators only to avoid any collateral damage on the side of the innocent and law abiding citizens.

“Labour Party also commends Governor Alex Otti  of Abia State for his prompt action by pledging to support the military in whatever possible means to ensure that the culprits are brought to book and for also announcing a N25 million bounty on the perpetrators of the heinous crime.

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“We urge the military to be professional in their approach for vengeance in order to avoid further loss of lives. Gunmen or whatever names they chose to bear do not deserve to be spared.”

Be professional in fishing out culprits — Nwodo

The former national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Okwesilieze Nwodo, yesterday, also  condemned the attack on the military checkpoint which led to the death of five soldiers at Abia State on May 30, 2024.

Nwodo, who was a governor of Enugu State, equally said anybody inciting attacks on security agents in any part of Nigeria wants anarchy, and added that the killing of the army officers on duty was uncalled for.

He, however, enjoined the military and police personnel to be professional in fishing out the culprits, stating that it would be harsh  on the part of security agents to carry out reprisal attacks on innocent residents of Aba who are unconnected with the assault on soldiers.

Biafra of 1967-1970 no longer viable — IBN

Meantime, the Igbo-Biafra Nationalists Movement, IBN, yesterday, described the Biafra ideology of 1967-1970 as no longer viable.

Spokesperson of the IBN, Chukwunonso Edoziuno, made this known in a statement to newsmen in Owerri.

According to him, their reason was because of the reluctance and delay tactics of the South-South region in joining the Biafra struggle and suggested a change in strategy in the struggle for the Biafra Republic.

Explaining further, the pro-Biafra group said: “We, the Igbo-Biafra Nationalists and the Indigenous People of Igbo Nation for Self-Determination, unequivocally reiterate that the Biafra of 1967-1970 is no longer viable for self-determination. The socio-political landscape has drastically changed, and it is essential to acknowledge these transformations for those who are hard of hearing to finally move forward.

“Our position is clear: mixing the South-East and the South-South/Niger Delta regions for the restoration of Biafra is fundamentally flawed and detrimental.

“Each former component nation must forge its path, respecting the distinct historical and cultural identities that have evolved since the civil war. It is imperative that we, as a community, shed the remnants of colonial mentality that perpetuate the imposition of a singular Biafra ideology on reluctant and discontented partners.”

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