Governor of Abia State goes to war with Army over military occupation in his territory.
On Thursday, September 14, 2017, Governor Ikpeazu declared that he had reached an agreement with the army concerning the withdrawal of soldiers from the streets of Aba and Umuahia—two of Abia’s busiest towns.
The deployment of troops in the Southeast with Abia as operational base, has led to plenty of tension and unrest in the Southeast where the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) has been agitating for a separate nation from the present Nigerian set-up.
Governor Ikpeazu had declared that; "The security situation in the State in the past few days, which led to the deployment of soldiers into our State ahead of the Operation Python Dance II, has become of great concern to both the government and the citizenry.
"After several interventions, I want to inform you that by tomorrow morning, there will be withdrawal of soldiers from the streets at Aba and Umuahia, apart from the pre-existing military checkpoints at various locations in the State.
"With the expected exit of soldiers from the streets, we must warn that we will not tolerate agitators and protesters taking over the streets for any reason at all”.
The Governor’s comments were interpreted to mean Operation Egwu Eke (aka Python Dance II) was on its way out of Abia State.
A few hours later, however, the army released a statement of its own to say “Operation Python Dance II” isn’t about to scale down in Abia State.
In a statement issued by Brigadier General Sani Kukasheka Usman who is the Director of Army Public Relations, the Nigerian army said the military occupation in the Southeast will continue as planned.
“The attention of the Nigerian army has been drawn to some stories in the media that it is withdrawing its troops from Exercise Egwu Eke II, crediting such information to Abia State Governor and the GOC 82 Division Nigerian Army. This is not true. The Nigerian Army wishes to enjoin members of the public to disregard such rumours”, the statement read.
The Army added that: “for the avoidance of doubt, the Abia State Governor stated that “there will be gradual withdrawal of soldiers on the streets of Aba and Umuahia from tomorrow”.
“This should not be misconstrued as withdrawing of troops earmarked for Exercise EGWU EKE II. The GOC 82 Division has not said such thing.
“Consequently, we wish to state that Exercise EGWU EKE II is commencing tomorrow as scheduled.
“Commanders have been instructed to ensure that all hands are on deck to commence the Exercise to its logical completion”.
Sam Hart, who is a Senior Special Assistant to the Abia Governor on Public Communications, says the army occupation in Abia has all but crippled the State’s economy.
Hart also added that a few persons “high up” are benefiting from the current chaos and insecurity in Abia.
“There's a lot going on. Some people high up obviously are not interested in ending this. They have an agenda they want to see through”, Hart said.
“We have credible Intel that the Governor's announcement pissed 'them' off and led to calls to line commanders to ignore and proceed. Ok. Kainene.
“We will continue our diplomacy. This is economic blockade. No meaningful economic progress can be made while this siege persists.
“Businesses are the first casualties in a state of unrest and tension. Banks and shops have been closed for three days. They don't care. We do”.
Hart said Abia can no longer afford the cost of the insecurity.
“This is also taking a huge toll on our fragile finances. 100s of millions have been paid out within the week to security agencies.
“There is no other order of business in the State this whole week other than paying security agencies to keep the peace. For how long?
“The Governor of a State is titular Chief Security Officer but lacks powers to order a constable yet Governors bear the full cost of security.
“You create chaos then get paid to contain the chaos you created. If this isn't a brilliant 419 scheme, show me another.
“Within a week, we have been set back years in security and perception. Non-indigene staff of companies have left. How long will rebuilding take?
“Contractors have all left site. In the middle of the period we are trying to build bad roads. Who bears the brunt? How long to remobilise?
“Aid agencies, foreign and multilateral organisations have all recalled their staff. Some back to their countries. Are we at war?
“Who is counting the cost? Who will bear the consequences? Who will clean up the mess you have made? At what cost? Who will answer questions?
“We take a giant step towards restoration of peace and you choose to throw spanners in the works. We are taking notes. We will remember”.
The Igbo socio cultural group, Ohaneze Ndigbo, leaders of thought in the Southeast and political office holders who hail from the Southeast, have all asked the army to withdraw troops in the name of Operation Python Dance II, from the Southeast.
Soldiers have clashed with IPOB members before the commencement of the Operation.
The army says Operation Python Dance II will last from September 15 to October 14, 2017.
"It is pertinent to mention that Operation Egwu Eke II is set to be another epoch-making exercise that would make the nation proud of the Nigerian Army’s determination at sustaining its constitutional role of defending the territorial integrity of the nation as well as its commitment to aid the civil authority to bring about peace and security in the Southeastern part of the country," the Army said in a previous statement.