The Chairman of the South-east Governors Forum and Governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi, said yesterday that the forum decided to ban the activities of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) to arrest the situation in the region from escalating.
Mr. Umahi, who briefed journalists in his office in Abakaliki, said the leader of IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu, was gradually losing control of the situation and his members, prompting the governors to wade in to prevent further bloodshed. He said the proscription had achieved the desired result.
He said IPOB has lost its original ideal by causing unnecessary tension and killings in the South-East which he said has affected investment drive in the region.
The governor also said that based on the evidence before him, the military did not attack IPOB members on Sunday as claimed by Mr. Kanu and that it was the IPOB members who threw bottles and stones at the military officers who were passing by.
“When you put a small fire, it can go very far and become difficult to control. The IPOB activities were gradually getting out of the control of Nnamdi Kanu. Soldiers were passing on the way when IPOB members started throwing stones and other objects at them and it sparked off the clash between the group and the military.
“It is a shame that when this thing happened, a man called Charles Ogbu sent out phone numbers of all South-East governors, the Senate President and others and all our people could do was to be calling us to insult us. These are people who never experienced any war in their lives,” he added.
He said the lives of northerners and all non-indigenes in the state and zone must be guaranteed at all times, warning that security agencies have been directed to deal decisively with anyone who tries to cause a breach of the peace.
“Our focus is how to save lives of every Nigerian and we believe in a united Nigeria. Lives of people are involved and we must not play politics with that.
“Anybody that wants to foment trouble must be crushed and I want security agencies to beef up security around all the non-indigenes in the state and to report to me any problem because we must maintain the peace,” he said.
The governor called on youth to stop insulting President Muhammadu Buhari and leaders of the country.
He also noted that northern governors will soon visit the South-east, a visit which will also be reciprocated by the South-east governors to the North as a means of fostering unity in the country.
He said majority of the Igbo do not want secession from Nigeria but to be treated fairly and justly in the county.
“That is why we are all talking about restructuring, there is no part of this country that is not feeling marginalised somehow and that is why all the zones are setting up committees on restructuring,” the governor said.
Mr. Umahi, however, noted that injustice or marginalisation should not be a reason to talk about secession, maintaining that dialogue should be the best way to resolve and redress all differences.
He pointed out that the federal government has commenced discussion on the issue of marginalization and that it is not a matter that can be addressed through violence.
Umahi added that the South-east governors’ forum would conduct investigation to find out what really transpired between the Nigeria military and IPOB members.
He further stated that the Operation Python Dance was not aimed at intimidating anyone. He gave instance of the recent killing of a priest by some hoodlums in Owerri, the Ozubulu church shooting, kidnapping, armed robbery in the region as reasons for the operation.
Meanwhile, the whereabouts of the IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu is still unknown. According to one of his brothers, Nnamdi Kanu left the house alongside his parents a day before the troops invaded their residence. He added that Nnamdi’s phones were not reachable and that no member of the family knows where he is at the moment.
A top ranking officer in the Nigeria Army, who spoke to our correspondent on condition of anonymity, said the IPOB leader is not in the custody of the military.