The Anglican Archbishop of Jos, Benjamin Kwashi has issued an urgent call for the aversion of bloodshed, with barely two weeks to the ultimatum given by Northern Islamic youth groups to the Christian Igbo tribe to quit the northern region or face forceful eviction.
In a ramping up of tensions the Nigerian army has sent troops to Abia State, southern Nigeria, the operational base of Biafra, the regional movement calling for self-realization and independence from Nigeria.
The troops are part of an operation called “Python Dance II within the South – East geo-political region of Nigeria,’ intended at check kidnapping, banditry, assassination, secessionist activities within the region, amongst other forms of criminal activities,” according to the Abia State Governor Okezie Ikpeazu. But the troops clashed with civilians and agitators forcing the governor to impose a curfew.
The Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) were informed that the army was in the state to arrest their leader, Nnamdi Kalu, “A call was made by IPOB second in command, Uche Mefor, who through the Radio Biafra in London, ordered IPOB members to move down to the residence of Nnamdi Kanu in Umuahia and resist any attack by anybody,” according to a local report.
An editor working for the state media in Kaduna, said, “What President Muhammadu Buhari and the Army have done is to send the signal that he is behind the Muslim northern youths who are calling for the arrest of the leader of the Biafra movement… He refused to arrest the Muslim youths who gave the ultimatum and chose to fulfil their demand to harass the southern movement. This will be interpreted as sending in the troops to protect Muslims while the northern youths attack southern Igbos,” he said.
An online video, which has gone viral showed Nigerian soldiers beating up the Igbo youths protesting the invasion of their homeland.
In a statement, the army said, “We have gotten complaints of the said video, and have commenced an investigation into the matter and the report would be made public. The General Officer Commanding 82 Division, Major General Adamu Abubakar, is investigating it and whatever it is, we will definitely let the public know about the outcome.”
The tension across the region was further heightened when the army also attacked and beat up journalists, and smashed their camera, at their secretariat for taking pictures as the troops patrolled the streets. “The soldiers surrounded the journalists and cocked their rifles, alleging that someone took their pictures when the show of force was ongoing,” said Ugochukwu Ugorji, correspondent of the Nation newspaper. “When some of us tried to introduce ourselves as journalists to the military men, they shouted at us, saying: ‘shut up, I will kill you!’; while another shouted, ‘kill them like chicken’,” the reporter said.
The military action triggered tension in Kaduna State where Christian Igbo traders were reportedly harassed by Muslim youths. The Kaduna police commissioner, Mr Agyole Abeh, was forced to go into the city centre to ‘dispel any rumour’ of the attack on the Igbos.
The story was however different in Jos, Plateau State where, Muslim youths attacked Igbo traders in Katako market. An eye witness told Global Christian News that the Muslim youths “went to the shops of the Igbo business men and stabbed some of them.” Another witness said the attack threw the city centre into chaos.
“Three are critical. News reaching me has it that he is receiving treatment in Ola hospital in Jos,” he said.
The Plateau State government on 16 September imposed a “dusk to dawn (6pm – 6am) within the Greater Jos – Bukuru Metropolis, until further notice. The deployment of security personnel to all flash points within the metropolis has also been directed to ensure compliance with the curfew order and to avert any further breach of law and order,” said press secretary, Samuel, Emmanuel Nanle.
Archbishop Benjamin Kwashi, in a message to Christians in Jos, said, “We must raise a cry to heaven for the situation in Abia state with IPOB and the military. God’s sovereign intervention is our plea, lives must not be recklessly lost. Let us plead for aversion of bloodshed. A simple honest cry to God brethren.”
Hassan John is West Africa Editor, GCN and Priest of the Anglican Diocese of Jos
Image Credits: victims of attacks in Jos/Chiwendu Nwuko