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Tension in South East Over Missing Nnamdi Kanu

UMUAHIA, Nigeria (Reuters) – A secessionist leader seeking independence from Nigeria has been missing since an alleged military raid more than two weeks ago left his house in the city of Umuahia riddled with bullet holes, its windows smashed and doors hanging off hinges.
The disappearance of Nnamdi Kanu, after the raid the army says did not happen, threatens to ignite separatist unrest capable of destabilising southeastern Nigeria, a region where a million people died in a 1967-70 civil war over the short-lived Republic of Biafra.
Kingsley Kanu, 48, said he was with his older brother Nnamdi, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) leader, at their family home on the evening of Sept. 14 when soldiers stormed in.
“They were shooting everything they saw,” he said, pointing to bullet holes in walls and windows.
“They came here just to kill everybody,” he said, adding that around 20 IPOB members were shot dead but most of the bodies were taken by soldiers.
Reuters witnesses – a reporter and TV cameraman – on Sept. 27 saw six corpses with bullet wounds in a morgue, who IPOB said were among their members.
Two resembled men in photographs held by weeping relatives who told Reuters their brothers were killed in the raid, though nobody could verify the identities of the four others.
“The military did not raid Nnamdi Kanu’s residence,” a military spokesman told reporters in the capital, Abuja. “Nnamdi Kanu is not in the custody of the military.”
The allegation and denial are the biggest flashpoint of a military deployment in the southeast that began in September.
Civil society groups and analysts say the military presence, last month’s designation of IPOB as a “terrorist organisation”, and its leader’s disappearance could prompt the separatists to abandon their policy of non-violence.
President Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim northerner, made a crackdown on secessionists the focus of his first speech in August after returning from three months of medical leave in Britain.
He then held talks with armed forces chiefs who days later launched Operation Python Dance, which the military said was intended to reduce violent crime and “secessionist agitations”.
Soldiers with rifles are present across Umuahia, capital of Abia state, in armoured vans and at checkpoints where motorists are routinely questioned.
Buhari is already contending with Boko Haram’s jihadist insurgency in the northeast and seeking to maintain a ceasefire with militants in the southern oil-producing Niger Delta.
But some say the former military ruler risks exacerbating the situation, just as militant attacks in the Niger Delta surged last year after troops were deployed.
HEAVY-HANDED?
“The government’s heavy-handed approach will only shore up local support for a radical group that previously struggled to broaden its base,” said Malte Liewerscheidt of global risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft.
Ryan Cummings, director of Africa-focused risk management company Signal Risk, said the Igbo ethnic group that dominates the region, and has long spoken of being marginalised, felt targeted.
“The government has allowed insecurity to burgeon in other areas of Nigeria without similar deployments,” he said, citing attacks by Fulani herdsmen that have killed hundreds of people in central Nigeria over the last few years.
Tension followed the arrival of troops in the southeast.
Abia’s governor imposed a curfew in the city of Aba last month. Several days of tension between IPOB members and troops led to claims by the group that Kanu’s house had been besieged by soldiers, which the military denied.
Videos circulating on social media including footage purportedly showing troops in Abia using sticks to flog men stripped to the waist, which the army said it was investigating, have heightened anger.
“The presence of the army scared our people. People spoke about what happened during the Biafran war,” said Onyebuchi Ememanka, a special adviser to the state’s governor who is a member of the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
“There were no serious security challenges that would justify the deployment of troops,” said Ememanka.
He said he never saw IPOB’s members carrying weapons, though he added that a uniformed national guard and secret service had held parades in the last few weeks, which he called a “new dimension”.
Red, black and green paint – the Biafran flag’s colours – daubed on walls and tree trunks across Umuahia follow calls for a referendum on independence.
Kanu’s release on bail in April, after being held for nearly two years on charges of criminal conspiracy and treasonable offences, brought attention back to the issue.
However, talk of secession among people on the streets of Umuahia mostly hinged on whether or not they had the right to make a democratic choice about their future rather than aligning with IPOB’s belief in a need for a separate state.
Opinions tend to be divided along generation lines, with younger people born long after the war expressing an interest in a referendum while older people who remember the war or grew up hearing stories about the conflict are often wary of even discussing the subject.
However, a pronouncement earlier this year by activists in the northern state of Kaduna that Igbos, who are mainly Christian, should be evicted stirred ethnic tensions. The dispute acted as a lightning rod for frustrations against Buhari, who fought in the civil war on the government side as a young soldier.
A lack of development in the southeast for decades has cemented a belief among Igbos that they have been marginalised.
IPOB ARRESTS
Michael Ogbizi, Abia state police commissioner, said 74 IPOB members had been arrested since Sept. 12 and charged with offences including murder and arson.
Many charges related to the burning down of a police station in mid-September in Aba where nine people died. Ogbizi said police had no records of IPOB members being killed.
An IPOB spokesman denied the group was involved in the fire.
Amid differing opinions about the group’s past conduct, Kanu’s disappearance has created uncertainty about its future.
“If they [the army] have killed him, let them give us the corpse,” said the IPOB leader’s brother, adding that his missing 82-year-old father and 67-year-old mother should be released if they are being held.
Liewerscheidt said if Kanu were to die at the hands of the authorities parallels could be drawn with the origins of the Boko Haram insurgency that began after the death of Mohammed Yusuf, the Islamist militant group’s founder, in police custody.
“This would likely transform IPOB into precisely the terrorist organisation the military claims it already is,” he said.
AmarSim Associations Development Consultants

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45 comments

  1. It is a lie, everything is calm. People go on their normal business. No time to think about Kanu.

  2. Nnamdi is not missing, is hiding, to curse more trouble for his Igbo followers. I really pity them

  3. OPERATION PYTHON DANCE AND BIAF-RATS!

    Chuks Okolie wrote:

    For long Nnamdi Kanu has being beating the drums of war and the python decided to come with her musical equipment in order to partake in the dance.The most funniest thing is that as soon as the python arrived she went straight to afara-uku in abia state to set her musical instruments. While the python was busy testing her microphone, three biaf-rats could not stand the sound and ran out of their hole and had a fatal injury.

    Now the funniest of all is that the same biaf-rats that has been chanting war songs are now shouting for help just at the first stage of the python’s testing of her microphone. Now, if the Biaf-rats cannot stand the sound of a common testing of microphone, what will now happen when the python begins to dance to music like skelewu and Terry G’s kind of music? Kanu, its not too late to turn back. Now your foolish followers are now aware that you are ill prepared and making empty noise just to satisfy your pocket. Anyi bu Ndi Ichie are watching.

    Igbo Kwenu! Eeehh..
    Kwenu! Eeehh..
    Kwezu e nu ooooo….eeehhh.

    Long live Chuks Okolie!
    Long live Ndi’igbo!!
    Long live President Muhammadu Okechukwu Buhari, GCFR!!!
    Long live Nigeria!!!!

  4. Not funny at all, I can see u share common

  5. U share common sense with ur deluded leader mumuhari! Call for freedom is not call for war, he that fights and ran away lives to fight another day.

  6. WHICH TENSIONS? MAKE ANY IDION COME OUT NOW?

  7. Buhari is evil and apc government is a total failure

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  10. Wetn be kunu? Or! you mean that albino zebra coward who ran away fro Python dance?

  11. Its lies no any tension as everyone goes to his/her normall business, as iam talking now iam at umuahia for a friend traditional marriege

  12. Tension for where??? Albino is on the run,,only mouth he sabi

  13. In 2012, the Minister of Aviation, Mrs. Stella Oduah, sacked eight general managers at the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), six of whom were Yoruba.

    Shortly after that, Stella Oduah from the South East employed 75 workers, 40 of whom were from the Southeast, her geo-political zone.

    At the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), another agency under the minister, she recruited about 107 workers, with 68 per cent hailing from the Southeast.

    Stella Oduah minister sacked the Rector of the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, Zaria, Captain Adebayo Araba and replaced him with Captain Chinyere Kalu from the Southeast.

    ================================

    When all these were going on, under Goodluck Azikwe Jonathan, the Yoruba did not call Igbo “cows” and “animals”. I don’t remember anyone organizing a Radio to call for the dissolution of Nigeria during that time. Of course, IPOB was silent, Ben Akabueze, Emeka Anyaoku, Pat Utomi and other Igbo leaders of thought did not remember “Igbo marginalization” during that period.

    This is just to remind us all that, marginalization is only a song for the elites. They beat the drum louder when they are no longer part of the main “chop-chop” cabinet.

    Rita Umeh

  14. Python dance, panacea for peace. Kudos Nigerian Army.

  15. who is missing Kanu or who aproko igbos do you think Nigerians are fools like you people lolz

  16. He jumped bail to London:)

  17. The bloody bastard is no body to cause any tension in the south east, he can be on exile forever

  18. Nigerians can not survive without Biafrans

  19. It will only take time to share this country but I promise you guys one day it will come to pass.

  20. Forget it they knew he can’t make it

  21. Peace came back after three years of civik war,likewise,peace will absolutely come back after the artificial tention in that area…one soul does not worth millions. It now appear like somebody started what he cannot finish..

  22. Tension my arse! Place a bounty on his head, and the same IPOB members will produce him and collect the cash. No more sales of caps, armbands, t shirts, hand fans etc. Biz is bad! Lol.

  23. Tension for what? How many of his type missed. What about missing Chibok girls is he better than them. A terrorist leader for that matter.

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