Governor Nyesom Wike has announced a ban on all activities of Igbo group, the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, in Rivers State. The group is agitating for secession of Igbo (Biafra) from Nigeria.
The ban came on the heels of the indictment of the group by the police in the series of violence that had rocked Oyigbo Local Government Area and other parts of the State in the wake of the #EndSARS protests since the beginning of the week.
The Governor had on Wednesday declared a 24-hour curfew in Oyigbo and other parts of the state to contain the activities of the group.
However, the Rivers State Police Command said the curfew did not deter the group as over 500 of its members attacked and burnt down two of its stations, 15 cars, including an armoured personnel carrier even after the imposition of the curfew.
Violence by the group continued from Thursday till early hours of Friday with reports that many residents of Oyigbo government were forced to flee the area as its members engaged in a gunfight with security operatives.
Many houses were reportedly set ablaze in the gale of violence, while many people were also injured.
While announcing the ban on the organisation on Friday, Governor Wike said the activities of the banned IPOB were not just dangerous to life and property, but also constituted clear and present threat to the existential interest and aspirations of Rivers State and all her people.
He added that the proscription order on IPOB in Rivers was a reinforcement of the earlier ban of the activities of the group across the nation by the Federal Government.
The Governor added that with the proscription, no form of procession or agitation by the group or any of its affiliates was allowed to take place in Rivers henceforth.
‘Security agencies are hereby directed to stop any form of procession or agitation by IPOB in Rivers State or any part thereof and arrest and prosecute any person or group that identifies with the membership or activities of IPOB in the State; Government will issue an executive order to strengthen and ensure the effective enforcement of these measures,” he said.
He disclosed that he would be meeting with all leaders of youth groups and community development committees in the State on Monday 26th October 2020 to take holistic measures to counter and stop all IPOB activities in Rivers State;
The governor also declared one Mr Stanley Mgbere, wanted for leading members of IPOB to cause the recent violence and destruction of life and property in Oyigbo.
He said a ransom of ₦50m would be given to any person with useful information that would lead to arrest and prosecution of Mgbere.
Wike recalled that since IPOB was classified as a terrorist organisation by the Federal High Court and subsequently proscribed in September 2017, the group has carried out intermittent processions in parts of Rivers State, especially in Oyigbo and some notorious suburbs in Port Harcourt Local Government Areas.
According to him, IPOB aim had been to disturb the peace of the State by unleashing violence and destruction on lives and property at will.
The Rivers State Government, according to the governor, had severally pleaded, warned and even advised IPOB and its members to discontinue its insurrectional actions in Rivers State to no avail.
Instead of heeding the warning, he said IPOB unleashed another orgy of violence and destruction inflicted at Oyigbo Local Government Area and some parts of Port Harcourt City Local Government Area on Tuesday 21st October 2020.
He said this evil, wicked and audacious action resulted in the unnecessary loss of scores of lives, including soldiers and police officers, and the destruction of both public and private properties, including police stations, court buildings and business premises.
Wike also claimed that members of the group also visited physical violence on members of some targeted community which, but, for the quick intervention of the State Government and the security agencies, would have resulted in some form of internecine bloodbath in the State.
“Today, IPOB continued with its devilish and destructive activities at Rumukwurushi, Iriebe and Oyigbo in open defiance of the State Government’s curfew on human movements.
“Security intelligence and surveillance have revealed that IPOB has continued to expand its membership drive, holding meetings regularly, and expanding its logistical base, including the maintenance of illegal detention cells in Emenike and other parts of Diobu, Port Harcourt.
“As a matter of fact, Oyigbo town has practically become the group’s main operational base in Rivers State, from which they’ve become notorious for launching premeditated violence and terror on the State, businesses and innocent citizens.
“As a people, we have become very much unsettled by the terrorist acts and endured the continuing irritations, violence, destruction and provocations of IPOB in and against the people of Rivers State.:
The governor noted that as a stranger element with strange political ideology, IPOB had no legal or moral right to invade Rivers State or any part therefore at its behest; to disturb public peace, and subject life and property to violence or threat of destruction under any guise.
He emphasized that “Rivers State’s love, accommodation and hospitality towards all who reside in and do business in the state are being mistaken for weakness by the banned IPOB.”
According to him, “I wish to appeal to the people of Oyigbo Local Government Area to remain calm and not to take the laws into their hands despite the intense provocation as government has the capacity to deal with the challenge and ensure the safety of life and property in the Local Government Area.
“We will soon carry out on the spot inspection and assessment of the destruction they have suffered and take appropriate measures to mitigate the loss and damage caused to lives and property.”
Wike expressed his heartfelt sympathies to the families of all those that have either lost their loved ones or suffered damages to their properties from the destructive acts of IPOB in our State. (Additional reports from SS)