Gunmen kill Anglican priest, set vehicles ablaze as IPOB dissociates group from violence

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As the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) struggled to dissociate itself from the fallout of Monday’s sit-at-home protest in the Southeast, the exercise, which was repeated, yesterday, turned bloody.

Yesterday’s sit-at-home was called by IPOB in commemoration of the 2017 invasion by security operatives of the home of their leader, Nnamdi Kanu at Afara, Umuahia in Abia State.

Event turned awry when unknown gunmen invaded the parsonage of an Anglican priest, killing Rev. Emeka Merenu in Ihiteukwa, Orsu Council of Imo State. The Guardian gathered that the assailants after killing the priest, also burnt his car.

Confirming the incident in a telephone conversation, the member representing Nkwere constituency in the state, Obinna Okwara, said the priest was killed on an unfounded allegation that he brought in military men to secure his church and secondary school under his supervision.

A member of the church who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said: “The murder is a tragedy and a very sad one to the entire Anglican Communion. With this ugly incident, everybody now is scared and uncertain about our security in this state.

“The reverend was a sound moral instructor and an academician. In fact, he was the second runner up to the current Principal when they were looking for the substantive principal of St Augustine’s Grammar School, Nkwerre, Imo State.”

At the time of filing this report, the leadership of the Anglican Church was yet to issue an official statement over the incident. Police spokesperson in the state, Micheal Abattam, confirmed the incident. He said: “investigation has commenced.”

In almost total obedience to the sit-at-home order, residents of the 27 local councils of Imo stayed indoors. Markets in ever-busy Ekeukwu, Douglas, Relief, Alaba, Wethdral, Okigwe Roads, Ama JK, schools, banks and other institutions were closed.

Some ugly incidents were also recorded in some other Southeastern states. In Enugu, a bus distributing bread and two tricycles were torched by hoodlums enforcing the sit-at-home order.

The bus belonging to a bread manufacturing firm, Chimex, was distributing bread to shops and retail outlets around Orie Emene market, Enugu East council in the morning. While the driver escaped by the whiskers, the bus, fully loaded with loaves of bread, was looted and set ablaze.

Sources said it took the intervention of the military that started shooting sporadically in the air for the hoodlums to vacate the area.

Similarly, two tricycles popularly known as Keke were vandalised in the area. While one was set ablaze at PRODA junction, the other was destroyed just before Coal City University on the Emene road, Enugu leading to Abakaliki.

RESIDENTS in Anambra State complied with the sit-at-home as they stayed indoors while ignoring Governor Willie Obianos’ directive to resume full economic activities in the state.

Vehicular movement was scanty and the motor parks locked up, while few businesses and markets opened. The Eke market was also scanty as people hastily bought foodstuff and left for fear of being molested.

In Onitsha, economic and social activities remained grounded as markets, shops, artisans workshops, offices, banks and other business premises all remained under lock.

In a reaction, Chief Ifeanyichukwu Eke, accused Southeast governors of being complacent towards encouraging the return of business activities in the region. He wondered what the Ebubeagu security outfit, set up by governors in the region, is doing.

Also, an Awka-based businessman, Nze Golden Muhfor, advised Southeast governors to climb down from their high offices, sit in a closed room and have a meeting in Igbo language with the agitators to return peace to Igbo land.

Residents, however, began to question the rationale behind the seeming trivialisation of the sit-at-home. A political analyst, Joseph Onu, asked the IPOB leadership to “retrace their steps on its frequent sit-at-home order,” stressing, “the people might rise one day against them and that will lead to end of the struggle.”

Onu stated that a struggle, which ordinarily should “bring relief on the residents is now being used to impose hardship on them”, warning that, “there is a limit to which you can take the people for granted.”

MEANWHILE, IPOB has urged residents of the Southeast states to ignore henceforth the Monday sit-at-home. The group, which stated this in a statement by its spokesman, Emma Powerful, insisted that it had long suspended the weekly order because of its economic implications on the people.

Powerful also warned that anybody caught forcing the people to comply with the “purported non-existent sit-at-home order” would be treated as a traitor cum enemy of the people and “must be dealt with.”

He added: “We, the global family of IPOB wish to reiterate once again that we have no other sit-at-home order after September 14. Any other purported sit-at-home, including the suspended weekly sit-at-home on Mondays, does not exist in the diary of IPOB. In fact, after September 14, there is no other sit-at-home this week. Any contrary news or speculations to this effect should be ignored.”

In a related development, IPOB has condemned the attack by persons suspected to be members of the group on Okporo Secondary School in Njaba local council of Imo on Monday. The yet to be identified persons had dispersed students taking their WAEC examination and set ablaze motorcycles belonging to their invigilators.

IPOB described the attack as barbaric, heinous and stupid, and vowed to deal ruthlessly with those behind the act.

“On this note, IPOB strongly condemn the barbaric act by hoodlums and mentally deranged fellows who disrupted a WAEC exam in a school in Imo on Monday. What a stupid madness! Whoever was behind such barbarity must be made to pay for their actions.

“IPOB leadership is hereby promising to replace those motorbikes burnt in the school to their owners and rebuild school blocks burnt by hoodlums in the name of ESN and IPOB volunteers.

“This is not to portray or indicate that IPOB committed the heinous crimes against our people. We promise to set up a taskforce to checkmate those parading themselves as IPOB volunteers and those committing this crime against humanity and our people. We plead to Biafrans to bear with us for this dastardly act against humanity they are using to demonise IPOB in the world.”

The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has asked the Igbo people to blame Southeast governors and security forces for the continuous violence trailing the enforcement of the sit-at-home orders, which IPOB has since denounced.

HURIWA asked Nigerians to be vigilant and rational and never to be hoodwinked into accepting the tissues of lies bandied about by the security forces against IPOB.

HURIWA, in a statement issued yesterday in Abuja, by its national coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, said it is becoming clearer that certain forces working against the economic advancement of the region are behind the continuous deployment of crude violence unleashed against innocent Igbo citizens under the guise of enforcement of the sit-at-home.

HURIWA is, therefore, asking the Igbo citizens to unite and investigate their governors, some of whom have displayed open hatred for the detained leader of the proscribed IPOB, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, and are well known to have procured policemen to kill at will alleged members of the peaceful Eastern Security Network (ESN).

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