The Nigerian Army has warned youths and other individuals against confronting soldiers on Operation Python Dance 111 (Egwueke 111) in the Southeast geopolitical zone.
The army spoke against the backdrop of reports that soldiers shot three members of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, killing one instantly and injuring two others.
The report claimed the incident occurred at Aba, Abia State, following alleged confrontation with troops of the 144 Battalion as they tried to stop the IPOB members from allegedly pasting inciting materials against the Federal Government.
However, the army’s warning was contained in a statement entitled “Re: Python dance: blood bath in Aba as soldiers storm market, open fire over Biafra referendum posters.”
The statement was signed by the Deputy Director of Public Relations, 82 Division of the Nigerian Army, Col Sagir Musa.
He said that although, two soldiers on duty fired warning shots into the air, nobody was wounded or killed during the incident, adding that six IPOB members arrested were handed over to the police for further investigations.
Musa’s statement read, “The attention of the 82 Division Nigerian Army has been drawn to an online news publication gathering attention in social media …alleging that some soldiers of 144 Battalion on routine patrol in Aba general area of Abia State have shot three persons and one of them died instantly.
“The Division wishes to state that although there was an incident involving 144 Battalion patrol team with some traders at Asa – Nnentu Spare Parts’ Market, in Ugwunagbo Local Government Area of Abia State, at no time was anybody shot at, wounded or killed as lopsidedly and therefore wrongly reported by the medium.
“However, six members of proscribed Independent People of Biafra, IPOB, were arrested and handed over to the Nigerian Police Abia State Command.
“For record purposes, this was what happened; – at about 1200 hours on Wednesday, the 6th of February, 2019. Troops of the Battalion on exercise EGWU EKE 111 were alerted on the massive presence of some youths allegedly disrupting commercial activities and pasting posters with the inscription that ‘there will be no elections in Abia State and entire Biafra land, Support Biafran Referendum, Vote for Biafra, Vote for total freedom from slavery,’ among others which were unusually widely pasted on private shops around Aloaji general area.
“Consequently, as professionally responsive soldiers, the team moved to the area to ensure peace, security and (that) no person was to be harassed or molested by miscreants or violent secessionist agitators.
“Unfortunately, some of the misguided traders and hoodlums loitering around started chanting anti- soldiers commentaries with some of them boldly obstructing troops’ movements. This situation, necessarily, in the circumstance, caused two of the personnel to fire a warning shot to disperse the surging crowd.
“Since that day the situation has been calm and the outlawed IPOB posters have been removed. People are going about their normal businesses unhindered.
“The Division hereby sounds strong warning for any individual or group to desist from confronting troops on legitimate duty. Nigerian Army personnel will not tolerate violent secessionist agitation, are apolitical, neutral, professional and responsive in the discharge of our constitutional roles in line with the vision and policy directive of the Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai.
“Members of the public are please requested to disregard the wrongful publication as there has not been genuine report of any major fracas, rights abuses, shooting, wounding or killing of anybody by soldiers since the commencement of exercise EGWU EKE 111.
“The Division further appreciates and commend the level of cooperation and support received from the public which assisted in the successes recorded so far and request for more.”