Thousands of members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) on Sunday evening formed a human barricade around the Afaraukwu palace of Nnamdi Kanu’s father in Umuahia to prevent heavily armed soldiers from arresting their leader.
News Express gathered that the soldiers stormed the palace in an armoured tank and about three Hilux vans loaded with soldiers in a bid to arrest Kanu.
Panic-stricken residents of the area were said to be running helter-skelter during the invasion which Kanu’s father, Eze Israel Kanu, described as shocking and unwarranted. Nnamdi Kanu told newsmen that he has not been invited by any authority and wondered why the Gestapo style was employed to re-arrest him.
While the siege lasted, it was learnt that three persons were shot and scores wounded.
Kanu, in an interview, said the soldiers were shooting sporadically as they approached his father’s compound, causing panic among residents of the area.
He said they wanted to gain entry into his father’s compound but that IPOB members quickly formed human barricade around the compound and stoutly resisted them.
Narrating what happened, Kanu said: “I was sleeping this evening (Sunday) when suddenly I was woken up by the blaring of sirens. Initially I thought it was the Commissioner of Police who lives in the neighbourhood that was returning home. But the blaring persisted and was followed up by sporadic gun shots.
“They wanted to bulldoze their way into the palace but IPOB members formed human barricade and resisted them. They wanted to break the barricade and fired at three persons and wounded others before leaving. Everybody, including children, were running away in confusion.”
The IPOB leader, however, said no amount of intimidation would make him abandon the struggle for Biafra independence.
“They want to use force and beat us into submission because they have lost the argument but they will fail. They want to trigger war but we won’t oblige them because we are committed to our non-violent philosophy,” he said.
Kanu said he had not received any invitation from any security agency and wondered why the Nigerian Army would want to invade his home.
Voicing his concern, Kanu’s father, who is the traditional ruler of Afaraukwu Community, Eze Israel Kanu, described the invasion as “unwarranted and shocking.”
The monarch said his son committed no crime to warrant military invasion of his palace.
News Express reports that one of the wounded IPOB members was rushed to the Federal Medical Centre Umuahia, where doctors have been battling to save his life.
During a visit to the hospital, one of the doctors on duty at the Emergency Unit revealed that the IPOB member sustained gunshot injury at “the thigh region”.
The doctor, who pleaded for anonymity, said the patient was responding to treatment and would be X-rayed to determine the extent of the gunshot wound.
But in a swift reaction, the Nigerian Army alleged that IPOB members were the aggressors and denied either invading Kanu’s home or killing anybody. A statement issued late last night, signed by Major Oyegoke Gbadamosi, Assistant Director Army Public Relations, 14 Brigade of the Nigerian Army, said: “The attention of 14 Brigade Nigerian Army, has been drawn to fictitious news going round especially on the social media that troops have invaded the home of Nnamdi Kanu and killed 3 persons.
“This is far from the truth. Rather, it was a group of suspected IPOB militants that blocked the road against troops of 145 Battalion while on show of force along FMC-Word Bank Road in Umuahia town, Abia State at about 6.00-6.30pm, today. They insisted that the military vehicles would not pass and started pelting the soldiers with stones and broken bottles to the point of injuring an innocent female passerby and a soldier, Corporal Kolawole Mathew.
“The troops fired warning shots in the air and the hoodlums dispersed. No life was lost.
“Therefore the public are kindly enjoined to disregard the rumours going round and the fictitious photographs of purported victims of attack. Both the soldier and the innocent female passerby have been evacuated to the unit’s Medical Inspection Room and are receiving treatment.
“We would like to use this opportunity to warn mischief makers threatening the peace and security of the country through falsehood such as above.
“Members of the public are please requested to go about their lawful business and report any suspicious activity to the nearest police station or security outfit.”