Two persons were feared dead and scores
wounded, yesterday, when supporters of the Indigenous People of Biafra
(IPOB) and soldiers clashed in Oyigbo, capital of Oyigbo Local
Government Area of Rivers State.
Daily Sun gathered that the clash
started at the popular Oyigbo Express Junction, when IPOB members
received information that some of members had been ambushed by soldiers
and eight allegedly killed at 44 Battalion Asa, in Abia State.
A source said the travelling IPOB
members were said to have allegedly responded to a call from their
second-in-command, Uche Mefor, who they claimed, called in from London.
He reportedly ordered IPOB members to move down to Nnamdi Kanu’s
residence in Umuahia, Abia state.
According to the source, in reaction to
Mefor’s call, IPOB members mobilised and started protesting, with some
of them attacking people they suspected were opposed to the Biafra
It was alleged that some IPOB members
seized three rifles from policemen and burnt a police van at Oyigbo
junction, and forced business and shop owners to lock up, as motorists
and commuters scampered for safety.
A witness, who declined to be named for
security reasons, recounted how “northern traders hurriedly closed their
shops and ran for safety, with some of them running to Oyigbo Police
Station. At the popular Nkwo Oyigbo Market, at Afam Road, people ran
helter skelter, as guns boomed from Oyigbo Express junction, while
soldiers mounted sentry at the railway and near Abriba Quarters, to
provide safety for the northern traders.”
But, spokesman of 6 Division, Nigerian
Army, Port Harcourt, Colonel Aminu Iliyasu, told newsmen that no soldier
was deployed to Oyigbo to stop IPOB members from travelling to Umuahia.
“I am in Bayelsa now, but people have
been calling, telling me that there is a situation in the Oyigbo area.
But, I don’t know exactly where this is happening. But one thing is
certain, no soldier was deployed to Oyigbo and asked to stop IPOB
members from travelling to Umuahia,” said Iliyasu.
The violent clash caused serious gridlock along Aba-Port Harcourt, particularly the Toll Gate axis of Port Harcourt.
Another witness, Chuks Madu, a trader,
who was travelling to Aba, said the bus he was in, was trapped at Toll
Gate for several hours, following blockade by security agents, to
forestall the protest escalating to Port Harcourt. Madu said he had to
return to Port Harcourt, after trekking to Eleme Junction, before
getting a vehicle to his destination.
Meanwhile, different parts of Aba was
tense, yesterday afternoon, after soldiers, under the Operation Python
Dance 2 clashed with IPOB members.
Unconfirmed reports indicated that some people died after the clash.
Trouble started when some IPOB members
left Aba, in the morning, for Umuahia, to stand in solidarity with Kanu,
over alleged invasion of his home town, Afara Ukwu, in Umuahia.
The IPOB members were stopped by
soldiers at Isiala Ngwa Junction, along the Enugu/Port Harcourt
Expressway and were allegedly manhandled, with some of them forced to
roll inside muddy water.
Those who escaped the soldiers’ wrath at
Isiala Ngwa junction, were said to have met another set of soldiers at
Osisioma junction, on the outskirts of the city, which eventually led to
a face-off. The soldiers were said to have shot sporadically as IPOB
members moved towards Ariaria International Market, which caused
pandemonium as people scampered for safety.
The chaotic state which enveloped the
Osisioma axis stretched beyond Ariaria market, to the Flyover junction, a
distance of over eight kilometres, allegedly led to the destruction of
some vehicles and deaths of unconfirmed number of people.
There was pandemonium also within the
city centre when soldiers cordoned off all roads leading to the Central
Mosque, on Mosque Street, to prevent hoodlums from taking advantage of
the situation to vandalise the Mosque.
As soldiers condoned off the area, they
shot sporadically to ward off intruders and people ran for dear lives,
which forced traders to close business for the day and rushed home.
The situation was still tense as at the
time this report was filed. To ease tension, Abia State Governor, Dr.
Okezie Ikpeazu, declared dusk to down curfew in the city.