A former presidential candidate in Nigeria, Kingsley Moghalu, has accused the Nigerian Army of arson in Imo State, Nigeria’s South-east.
Shops and a hotel were set ablaze in a community in Oru East Local Government Area of Imo State on Monday, after a deadly clash between soldiers and suspected members of the pro-Biafra group, IPOB.
A soldier and a suspected member of IPOB were shot dead during the clash.
“The wanton destruction of civilian property in Awonmanma in Imo State by soldiers of @HQNigerianArmy in response to the killing of a soldier by some individuals is unfortunate,” Mr Moghalu (@MoghaluKingsley) said in a statement he posted on Twitter on Wednesday.
“That soldier did not deserve to die, and his killing was also wrong, but there is something called proportionality in responding to this sort of incident,” he said.
Mr Moghalu, a lawyer, was the presidential candidate of the Young Progressives Party in 2023.
His statement reinforces claims by the locals that soldiers burnt down the shops as a reprisal for the killing of a soldier.
But the army has denied the accusation.
The army said the shops were razed by IPOB members ”who were angry that their owners opened them in disobedience to the sit-at-home order by the group.”
Abubakar Abdullahi, a major and the spokesperson for the 82 Division of the Nigerian Army, said in a statement on Tuesday that IPOB members also set ablaze some businesses and homes at a road junction – Ishieke junction, along Owerri-Onitsha Express Way – “as a vendetta against the citizens for not complying with the illegal order.”
The South-east is being unnecessarily militarised, Mr Moghalu said.
“Now that security threats appear to have reduced in the South-east after the Anambra governorship election, what is the justification for the continued militarisation of the region with multiple checkpoints, and soldiers reportedly collecting money from innocent transporters and commuters?
“The unnecessary militarisation of civilian spaces creates a siege mentality. This is unhealthy for nation-building and national cohesion,” he said in his Twitter statement.
The agitation for an independent republic of Biafra, championed by IPOB, has led to several killings and destruction in the South-east.
After the Monday clash between the soldiers and suspected IPOB members in Imo, a police officer was shot dead and a police facility set ablaze the next day in the state.
There has been pressure on the Nigerian government to release the IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu who is in detention in Abuja where he is facing trial for alleged treason.
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