There was palpable tension in the North on Friday as Igbo living in the region feared there could be reprisals against them by northerners over alleged attacks on northerners in the South-East and parts of Rivers State in the South-South.
Our correspondents in Adamawa, Kano, Kaduna, Bauchi, Nasarawa, Sokoto, Katsina and Plateau states observed as men of the Nigerian Army, the police, the Department of State Services, the Nigerian Airforce and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps were patrolling several areas in the states on Friday.
For instance, in Katsina, Katsina State capital, one of our correspondents observed as men of the police, the Nigerian Army, NAF, DSS and the NSCDC were patrolling the streets in Hilux trucks.
Some were seen stationed at the popular Kofar Kaoran Roundabout.
Some residents, who spoke with one of our correspondents, said the situation was unusual, adding that it was one they had not witnessed in a long time.
A resident, Musa Ibrahim, said, “Everyone is panicking. The security situation is tight. The way security operatives are patrolling the city is very unusual. I think the security agencies are trying to preempt any attack.”
There was also the heavy presence of security officers in many flashpoints in the Jos metropolis, Plateau State capital, particularly at the Hill Station Junction, Old Bukuru Park and Ahmadu Bello Way.
The spokesperson for the Plateau State Police Command, Matthias Tyopev, told one of our correspondents that the command had deployed 488 police officers in all the flashpoints in Jos.
The Commissioner of Police, Kaduna State Police Command, Agyole Abe, on Friday also said more men had been deployed to monitor various areas in the state.
Across the North, several shops belonging to the Igbo were closed while those who opened for business only did so hours after the Jumat prayers.
Some Igbo who spoke to Saturday PUNCH said their experiences during periods of religious or ethnic crisis in the past showed that Northerners usually attacked them after returning from Jumat prayers.
Saturday PUNCH also gathered that some Igbo had started fleeing the North for fear of reprisals.
On Tuesday, some members of the Indigenous People of Biafra had reportedly clashed with the Hausa community in Oyibo Local Government Area of Rivers State, allegedly killing a northerner.
The incident had led to clashes between the two ethnic groups in the community, leaving several persons injured. The clashes were said to be connected to the Operation Python Dance II currently going on in the South-East by the military to curtail the activities of IPOB.
During the week, a video had emerged showing armed IPOB fighters searching for Hausas in buses in the South-East, apparently to attack them.
On Thursday, the Public Relations Officer, Abia State Police Command, Geoffrey Ogbona, confirmed that the Hausa community in the state was being targeted by IPOB fighters, but assured that normalcy would be restored.
However, one of our correspondents observed that in Katsina, Katsina State capital, on Friday, many non-indigenes, particularly those from the South-East, did not open their shops for business.
In the busiest parts of the city, especially Kofar Kaoran, Sabon Line, Yahaya Madaki Way, IBB Way and Sabon Station, several shops were locked. An Igbo, who owns a bookshop at Kofar Kaoran, Mr. Theophilus Testimony, said he had directed all his shop attendants not to come to work on Friday.
“The state government has assured us of safety, but I’m not ready to take chances. My prayer is that the whole issue will be resolved soon. After all, Nigeria belongs to all of us and poverty does not know any ethnicity,” he said.
Another Igbo who owns a chemist, Andrew Eze, said he was scared there might be reprisals against them.
Most shops operated by Igbo traders on Bishop Street, Jimeta, Adamawa State, were also locked up when one of our correspondents visited the area on Friday.
A store owner, identified simply as Chinedu, said the development arose after a meeting held by their association on Thursday.
“We might be targeted in retaliation for the attacks on Hausas by IPOB members in the South-East, so we decided we should close our shops while we observe the situation,” he said.
In Sokoto State, an Igbo motorcycle spare parts dealer, Uchendu Anene, said he would send his family back to his state, Imo State, on Sunday.
He said, “I don’t want my family to be caught up in any crisis here. I will still try and wait to see what happens here because of my business. Woe betides any Igbo man caught in the North when Hausa people decide to retaliate!
“We have lived among them for 15 years and I know what they can do. In times past, before you knew what was going on, they would have killed several non-indigenes and burnt several shops.”
Some Igbo traders along the ever busy Ahmadu Bello Way in Kaduna, Kaduna State capital, also locked their shops despite police and government assurances to protect their lives and property.
The President, Igbo Community Welfare Association in Kaduna, Mr. Chris Nnoli, said he wasn’t happy that his kinsmen couldn’t go about their business.
Northern govs place security on red alert, assures safety
Meanwhile, governors of the 19 states in the North on Friday said security had been placed on red alert in all parts of the region to checkmate any retaliatory move from the people against the alleged attack of Hausa and their property in the South-East.
The Borno State Governor and Chairman of the Northern States Governors Forum, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, in a statement also called on northerners not to attack any Igbo or other non-indigenes living in the region.
According to the governor’s Adviser on Communications and Strategy, Malam Isa Gusau, Shettima added that northerners must be commended for being “non-violent” in the face of clashes between IPOB members and soldiers in Abia State, which endangered the lives of some northerners there.
The governor called on residents across the 19 northern states to permanently sustain peace, saying no law-abiding Nigerian deserved to be punished for the “mere” fact that they chose to live in any part of the country.
Shettima also said governors in the region were aware of attacks by IPOB members in Jos, Plateau State, but were also aware of the step taken by their colleague in the state, Simon Lalong, who had immediately declared a dusk-to-dawn curfew.
The governors, however, noted that despite the “patriotism” displayed by northern residents, their administrations had since placed security forces on alert to tackle any unforeseen attempt to cause breach of security.
Meanwhile, in separate statements on Friday, governors across the North assured Igbo and other non-indigenes of safety in the region, saying they shouldn’t be afraid of carrying out their business activities.
Katsina State Governor, Aminu Masari, through his Senior Special Assistant, Media, Abdu Labaran, said the state was safe for every resident regardless of their religious, ethnic or regional background.
The Bauchi State Governor, Mohammed Abubakar, in a statement he personally signed, also appealed to all Nigerians to desist from fanning the embers of disunity by spreading hate and falsehood.
Other governors who called for caution and assured Igbo of their safety were the Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong; Nasarawa State Governor, Tanko Al-Makura; Adamawa State Governor, Mohammed Bindow; Kano State Governor, Dr. Abdullahi Ganduje; and Niger State Governor, Abubakar Bello.
In a related development, Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, warned IPOB members against attacking Nigerians from other parts of the country in the state.
Nothing that the state belonged to all, the governor said in a state-wide broadcast on Friday that his administration would not tolerate any attack by any group on other Nigerians living in the state.
Fayose alleges ethnic cleansing, criticises Buhari
Meanwhile, the Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose has described as ethnic cleansing the alleged maltreatment and killings of IPOB members by the military in the South-East, saying that he had forewarned that President Muhammadu Buhari’s second coming would be like the dark days of the military government in 1984, when the nation quaked under heavy militarisation.
He said, “I have said it before now that it is only God that can help the Igbo people. What I see going on is ethnic cleansing. When you see the video clips of the occupation and the behaviour of the soldiers, it leaves much to be desired, but they couldn’t act like that without a whistle-blower, somebody is behind them telling them go and cleanse the people.
“That is recklessness; human rights violation in Nigeria today is second to none. And I hope the international community would not be quiet on this. It is unfortunate.”
Sultan urges Muslim clerics to preach peace
Following heightened tension across the country, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Mohammed Sa’ad Abubakar 111, on Friday sued for peace.
The Sultan, who is also the President-General of the Jaamatul Nasril, called on Islamic preachers across the country to preach peace in order to douse the tension in the country.
Addressing a press conference in Kaduna on Friday, the Sultan, who spoke through the JNI’s Secretary General, Dr. Khalid Abubakar Aliyu, noted that what Nigeria needed at this time was for the citizens to rise above ethnic and religious affinities and join hands in assisting the government to tackle the socio-economic challenges confronting the country.
He also called on the Federal Government to rise up to its responsibility of protecting lives and property in the country, while urging parents to call their children to order to ensure peace and stability.
“We call on the government to rise up to its responsibility by ensuring the safety of Nigerians nationwide. Nobody should be seen to be above the law,” the Sultan said.
Similarly, the JNI, Plateau State Chapter, in a statement signed by its Director of Publicity, Sani Mudi, on Friday, appealed to Muslims in the state to shun acts capable of disrupting peace in the state.
Northerners in Owerri seek refuge in military barrack
Meanwhile, some Northerners in Imo State have been fleeing the state following the recent attacks on them by IPOB members.
One of our correspondents who visited Ama Hausa, a popular area where Hausa people live in the state, was told that they had become targets of attacks.
One of them, who identified himself as Musa, said, “The attacks on our people are becoming unbearable. The day Owerri market was demolished, the people used that opportunity to break our shops, looted both goods and money and demolished the shops of our brothers.
“At the World Bank area, where our people also do petty businesses, some IPOB members have been attacking our brothers, stealing their money.
“In the Mbaise area, where our people sell cows, they have invaded the place. It is only through Allah’s grace and the help of one traditional ruler in the area that we are still living.”
Another Hausa man, Mallam Usman Ahmed, said that some of his kinsmen had fled.
He said, “Those who were victims of the recent Owerri crisis have fled to 34 Artillery Brigade in Obinze, Owerri West Local Government Area. They are there for their dear lives instead of being killed in the crisis.”
When Saturday PUNCH visited a mosque in the area at around 2pm, it was observed that the worship centre was not filled to the brim as many Hausa had fled other parts of Owerri for Obinze area because of the military barrack there.
IG deploys more personnel, helicopters in S’East
Following the violent clashes in the South-East, the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, has placed the Nigeria Police Force on red alert.
He has also deployed some riot personnel in the region to tackle IPOB agitators in the region.
Saturday PUNCH learnt that the police leadership had also posted more personnel in other parts of the country to prevent any spillover of the crisis in the South-East.
In only Aba, Abia State’s commercial nerve centre, it was gathered that over 500 mobile policemen were deployed to restore peace in the troubled city.
The Force Public Relations Officer, Jimoh Moshood, told one of our correspondents on Friday that helicopters and other surveillance equipment had also been mobilised to the zone to protect all the residents.
He explained that with the Force on red alert, no policeman would be allowed to go on leave.
Moshood said, “The IG has directed all Assistant Inspectors-General of Police and Command Commissioners of Police to be on red alert and we have carried out massive deployment of mobile policemen in the South-East and helicopters for surveillance and aerial patrol.”
He added, “The same level of deployment done in Anambra State ahead of the governorship poll has been recommended for other states in the South-East with more concentration on Abia State.
“More deployments were done in the last 24 hours to calm the situation, but we are closely monitoring development. We are also deploying (officers) in the South-South and South-West to protect both the indigenes and non-indigenes.”
Moshood disclosed that “stop and search” operation had also been introduced to comb for hidden arms and other dangerous weapons.
“Stop and search patrol has been introduced in areas where we didn’t have them before, and we are raiding all dark spots and other areas where certain groups are terrorising the citizens in Abia and in other parts of the South-East,” he said.
Ikpeazu extends curfew, schools’ resumption
As peace has yet to be fully restored in Aba, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu has extended the curfew in the town to Sunday, September 17.
In statement by the governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Enyinnaya Appolos, Ikpeazu said after a profound review of the security situation across the state, he was compelled to extend the current curfew imposed on Aba to enable the state to consolidate the peace and normalcy that was gradually returning to the city.
He said, “The government is, therefore, seeking your (Aba residents’) continuous support and understanding for the further extension of the dusk-to-dawn (6pm to 6am) curfew at Aba to Sunday, September 17, 2017.
“Furthermore, in order to ensure the safety of our children and who are billed to resume school on September 18, 2017, we hereby direct that the resumption be postponed till September 25, 2017 across the state.”
NLC urges FG to address insecurity
The Nigeria Labour Congress on Friday urged the Federal Government to urgently arrest the worsening inter-ethnic crisis in the country.
The NLC President, Mr. Ayuba Wabba, said in a statement that the Federal Government must handle the ongoing agitations and the attendant inter-ethnic violence recorded in Jos, Port Harcourt and Umuahia (Abia State) with efficiency in the interest of the country.
Wabba, who commended the efforts of the government to secure people’s lives and property, urged the security agencies, including the military, to avoid acting in ways that could strengthen the cause of those behind ethnic division in the society.
Wabba also condemned the attacks on journalists by troops of the Nigerian Army at the premises of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Umuahia chapter, during the week.