The Nigeria Army said on Sunday that it will no longer condone any form of false allegation of brutality by its personnel from Biafran agitators otherwise known as Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB.
The army also described the secessionist group as a “criminal gang”.
This warning came from the 6 Division of the Nigeria Army, Port Harcourt, in response to allegations by one Emma Powerful, who claimed to be the media and publicity secretary of IPOB. He alleged that soldiers shot dead 11 IPOB members on January 20 during a solidarity rally in Port Harcourt to celebrate the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States of America.
The spokesperson of the Division, Aminu Iliyasu, said soldiers deployed to ensure peace on the street restrained themselves from firing a single shot despite provocations from the protesters.
“The allegation is false, malicious and existed in the figment of his imagination,” the colonel said.
“We therefore wish to warn Mr. Emma Powerful and other like minded mischief makers that the Nigerian Army will no longer tolerate such spurious and unfounded allegations that are injurious to the hard-earned image and reputation of the Nigerian Army, its selfless and dedicated officers and soldiers by any group of criminals regardless of their appellation”.
The army spokesperson said on the day of the protest, “members of the group were mobilized from Abia, Anambra, Enugu, Imo and Cross River States for an alleged rally with dubious intent of molesting innocent citizens, intimidating passers-by and wrecking havoc on commuters thereby disturbing public peace, safety and security”.
“The choice of Port Harcourt (the Garden City) as the epicentre of the protest has left much to be desired. It is however worthy to restate that one of the constitutional responsibilities of the Nigerian Army is to come to the aid of the civil authority whenever the need arises. In line with this constitutional mandate, troops of 29 Battalion Nigerian Army, were deployed in conjunction with other sister security agencies to prevent any loss of life or property with strict adherence to the established Rules of Engagement.
“Despite all provocative attempts occasioned by the stoning of security agents and the smashing of commuters’ windscreens by the violent protesters, troops refused to be cajoled into the criminal gang’s trap to fire a single shot. This is indicative of the troops’ total compliance with their Rules of Engagement. The violent protest was subsequently subdued with the use of tear gas and arrests were made by a sister security agency with no casualty recorded on either side.
“It is however worrisome and disturbing for anyone to falsely accuse troops deployed in support of civil authority who conducted their duty professionally under the beaming lenses of cameras of allegedly killing 11 citizens of our great country. A well observed trend of this criminal gang is the malicious posting of old videos and pictures from their archives on social media platforms which has no bearing on their claims to attract public sympathy and whip sentiments among the citizenry.
“To this end, Headquarters 6 Division Nigerian Army, Port Harcourt, wishes to inform the public that the allegation is not true and should be dismissed as mere propaganda by the separatist group. We wish to restate our total commitment to the protection of lives and properties within the Division’s Area of Responsibility.
“We therefore solicit the cooperation and understanding of all peace loving citizens and further enjoin them to join hands to help eradicating all forms of criminality within Rivers, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom and Delta States. This will no doubt enhance mutual co-existence, peace and socio-economic development of the region”.
IPOB is one of the Igbo groups dedicated to the creation of an independent Biafra country. The leader of the group, Nnamdi Kanu, is in detention where he is being tried by the Nigerian government.