Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State said on Thursday that soldiers would be withdrawn from the streets of Umuahia, the state capital, and Aba, its commercial nerve centre, today.
Ikpeazu made this known at Government House, Umuahia, while reacting to the security situation in the state.
He said the situation in the past few days, which led to the deployment of soldiers ahead of `Operation Python Dance II’, a military exercise by the Nigerian Army, had generated great concerns to both the government and the people.
“I will also be meeting the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari, to discuss possible ways of relaxing Operation Python Dance II in the state for now.”
He added that the withdrawal would not affect pre-existing military checkpoints at various locations in the state and warned mischief makers to stay away from Abia, warning that agitations and protests would not be tolerated.
“Mischief makers who want to use Abia as their base, let me announce to you that henceforth, Abia will be too hot for you to carry out your wicked acts.
“The state government will work with security agents to ensure the protection of lives and property without fear or favour. There will be no hiding place for you.”
He also urged residents of Aba to fully observe the current curfew in the city and ensure that they cooperate with security agents to maintain peace and order.
Ikpeazu said it was in the interest of the people of Abia for peace and security to be restored, as meaningful progress could not be achieved in an atmosphere of violence and anarchy.
He further advised members of the public to stop spreading rumours capable of throwing the state into disorder, warning that anyone caught perpetrating such acts would be dealt with according to the law.
“I swore to protect lives and properties of all Abians and residents and that I must do.
“I, therefore, call on all to support our efforts at making sure that lasting peace prevails in our dear state,” Ikpeazu added.
However, the Nigerian Army, last night, said Operation Python Dance II currently ongoing in the South East, will continue.
The Army in a statement signed, last night, by Director, Army Public Relations, Brigadier General Sani Kukasheka Usman, asked the public not to misconstrue the statement of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State, yesterday, to mean that the Army was totally halting the Operation Python Dance II in the South East, including Abia State.
The statement read: ‘’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 General Officer Commanding 82 Division Nigerian Army. This is not true. The Nigerian Army wishes to enjoin members of the public to disregard such rumours.
‘’For the avoidance of doubt, the Abia State Governor in his speech 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 General Officer Commanding 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.
‘’We wish to state further that the successful completion of the exercise will dovetail into the various states security outfits till the end of this year.
‘’Members of the public, especially in the areas where the exercise will take place, are please enjoined to go about their lawful businesses. We wish to also state that we would not allow any individual or group to jeopardize the conduct of the field training exercise through unlawful or criminal activities. ‘’Hoodlums and criminal elements are once again warned to be law abiding and not cause any breach of peace.
‘’We, hereby, reiterate that our troops would conduct themselves in the best professional manner, abide by the Rules of Engagement and Code of Conduct in line with requirements of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Any act of indiscipline by any of our personnel would be decisively dealt with.
‘’While we enjoin all Nigerians to go about their normal businesses, the Nigerian Army urge all to support the troops as they carry out their constitutional duties and make exercise EGWU EKE II a success.’’
Governor Ikpeazu had earlier spoken amid reports of heavy shooting around IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu’s home in Umuahia, yesterday, with about four persons feared killed. This, however, could not be confirmed at press time.
The announcement came as 82 Division of Nigerian Army said it is investigating a video clip trending on social media and other platforms purportedly showing troops humiliating some people at a check-point in Abia State.
Also, yesterday, the Inspector-General of Police, IGP, Ibrahim Idris, said the police hierarchy is in touch with South-East governors, asking them to mobilize political leaders on how to intervene in the charged security situation in the zone
Meanwhile, Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong, on Thursday, imposed a dusk to dawn curfew on the Jos metropolis.
A statement by the Director of Press and Public Affairs in the Government House, Dr. Emmanuel Nanle, said the decision followed rumours that there could be violent reactions within the Jos metropolis in response to the crisis in Abia State.
He said, “Following the unfortunate reaction and spread of rumours within the Jos metropolis in response to the agitation by IPOB, the Executive Governor of Plateau State, Rt. Hon. Simon Bako Lalong, has directed an immediate imposition of curfew from dusk to dawn (6pm – 6am) within the Greater Jos – Bukuru Metropolis until further notice.
“This is to forestall any breakdown of law and order. The Executive Governor has directed the immediate deployment of security personnel in all flashpoints within the Jos metropolis to ensure compliance with the curfew and to avert any further breach of the peace.”
Also, the Kaduna State Government and the police in the state assured non-indigenes of adequate security.
The state police commissioner, Agyole Abe, while dispelling rumours that the Igbo community was living in fear, said there was no cause for alarm.
The CP, in a meeting at the command’s headquarters with Igbo and the Yoruba communities in the state, advised residents to go about their business without let or hindrance.
Abe added, “There is no crisis in Kaduna, the state is peaceful. I advise everybody to open his shops as usual and do your business.
“Don’t be apprehensive; the rumour (of attacks) is baseless and unfounded. Our men are on the alert all the time to ensure peaceful atmosphere in the state,” the CP said.
The leader of the Igbo, Chief Chris Nnoli, and his Yoruba counterpart, Yinka Olapade, blamed the social media for the rumour and assured the police that they would take the message back to their people that Kaduna was peaceful.
Meanwhile, the Kaduna State Government also assured all residents of their safety, noting that the state government and security agencies had taken appropriate action to protect lives and property.
Governor Nasir el-Rufai’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr. Samuel Aruwan, in a statement, urged residents to go about their normal duties.