By Chris Njoku, Owerri and Gbenga Omokhunu, Abuja
Leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, on Sunday said the South will be more secure if the regions work together.
He said the Eastern Security Network (ESN) was determined to secure the Southeast forests from criminals.
“There is need now, more than ever, for the emergence of an equally vibrant youthful leader from the Middle Belt as we now have in Yorubaland.
“Our promise remains that no indigenous tribe or ethnic group in Nigeria will be left behind if we work in tandem…,” Kanu said.
Reacting to Friday’s alleged clash between Army and the ESN at Okporo, Orlu in Imo State, Kanu said the security outfit meant well for Igboland and wondered why security agencies are after them.
The IPOB leader, in a statement by the group’s spokesman Emma Powerful, said the ESN only operates in the bushes.
“Nobody has ever seen ESN along the road or street but anyone looking for us must come inside the bush, not the streets.
“We are warning those looking for our men to steer clear because we are determined to protect our bushes and forests throughout Biafraland against the foreign invaders,” Kanu said.
He expressed gladness that Nigerians have realised their “common enemy”, which he said included those determined to “forcibly take over our ancestral lands”.
Kanu said: “It gladdens my heart that all Nigerians, especially those blinded by political patronage, have realised that all peoples and ethnic nationalities indigenous to ‘Nigeria’ have one common enemy: a band of rapists and murderers assembled from across the country to forcibly take over our ancestral lands in the name of keeping Nigeria one and promise of Southern Presidency in 2023.”
Also yesterday, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) said it was out of place for IPOB to set up the ESN without legal backing by the state houses of assembly.
In a statement by the National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Affairs Director Miss Zainab Yusuf, the group said the lack of good leadership by the governors of the Southeast and their apparent lethargy in finding a home-grown security mechanism in partnership with the statutory security institutions gave rise to ESN.
It asked IPOB to get the buy-in and support of the state lawmakers so that proper legislation can be passed to legitimise it.
The group urged the Southeast and Southsouth to work in synergy with the statutory security institutions recognised by the Constitution.
HURIWA said the setting up of vigilantes is an idea whose time has come because the law allows people to take steps to save their lives and property from armed non-state actors.
It resolved to write the Chief of Army Staff on the need to ensure that soldiers carrying out any internal military operations must comply with the rules of engagement.
HURIWA is concerned about soldiers allegedly inflicting mass collateral damage to communities and causing needless deaths where such operations happen.
The rights group recalled a report that one person was feared dead while scores were wounded in the clash between the Army and ESN in Okporo.
The group cited another report that about five buildings, including the Blessed Holy Trinity Sabbath Mission, were set ablaze by “some armed security operatives” who invaded the area.
HURIWA urged the Army to exercise restraint in dealing with IPOB members.