The Chairman of the South-east Governors Forum and Governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi, has said the forum decided to proscribe the activities of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB to stop the rising tension in the zone.
Mr. Umahi, who briefed journalists in his office in Abakaliki said the leader of IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu, was gradually losing control of the situation and his members prompting the governors to wade in to prevent further bloodshed.
He said the proscription had achieved the desired result.
He said IPOB has lost its original ideal by causing unnecessary tension and killings in the South-east which he said has affected investment drive in the region.
The governor also said that based on the evidence before him, the military did not attack IPOB members on Sunday as claimed by Mr. Kanu and that it was the IPOB members who threw bottles and stones at the military officers who were passing by.
“When you put a small fire, it can go very far and become difficult to control,” Mr. Umahi said.
“The IPOB activities were gradually getting out of the control of Nnamdi Kanu. Soldiers were passing on the way when IPOB members started throwing stones and other objects on them and it sparked off the clash between the group and the military.
“It is a shame that when this thing happened, a man called Charles Ogbu had to send phone numbers of all South-east governors, the Senate President and others and all our people could do was to be calling us to insult us. These are people who never experienced any war in their lives.”
He said the lives of northerners and all non-indigenes in the state and zone must be guaranteed at all times, warning that security agencies have been directed to deal decisively with anyone that tries to cause a breach of the peace.
“Our focus is how to save lives of every Nigerian and we believe in a united Nigeria. Lives of people are involved and we must not play politics with that,” he said.
“Anybody that wants to foment trouble must be crushed and I want security agencies to beef up security around all the non-indigenes in the state and to report to me any problem because we must maintain the peace.”
The governor called on youth to stop insulting President Muhammadu Buhari and leaders of the country as according to him, this was bad.
He also noted that the northern governors will soon visit the South-east, a visit which will also be reciprocated by the South-east governors to the North as a means of fostering unity in the country.
He said majority of the Igbos do not want secession from Nigeria but to be treated fairly and justly in the county.
“That is why we are all talking about restructuring, there is no part of this country that is not feeling marginalised somehow and that is why all the zones are setting up committees on restructuring,” the governor said.
Mr. Umahi, however, noted that injustice or marginalisation should not be a reason to talk about secession maintaining that dialogue should be the best way to resolve and redress all differences.
On operation Egwu Eke II (Python dance II), the governor said the exercise was never targeted at IPOB but intended to curb rising incidents of crime especially kidnapping and armed robbery in the state.
He noted that no one including the military expected that there will be violence as the Egwu Eke II that was staged last year was largely successful.
Heads of security agencies in the state and some principal officers of the state government attended the briefing.
The South-east Governors Forum rose from its meeting on Friday to announce the proscription of IPOB in all the five states of the zone.
They also appealed to President Muhammad Buhari to withdraw soldiers from the zone while the police carry out their constitutional duty of securing lives and property.
The meeting was also attended by Governors Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu), Willie Obiano (Anambra) and Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia) while Rochas Okorocha of Imo was represented by his deputy.
Also in attendance were the Ohanaeze leadership led by Chigozie Ogbu, former deputy governor of Ebonyi State, who represented John Nwodo, the President General of the socio-cultural organisation.
The National Assembly members led by Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, and the GOC 82 Division of the Nigerian Army, Adamu Abubakar, were also in attendance.
Clashes between IPOB members and the security officials have led to several injuries in Abia with a police station also burnt.
IPOB wants an independent country of Biafra and says it is a non-violent organisation, although its leader, Nnamdi Kanu, recently said the group may reconsider its non-violence stance.