The desertion of the community came on the heels of declaration of Ifeanyi Ejiofor, the lawyer to the Supreme Leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, wanted by the state police command over an alleged killing of Oliver Innoma Abbey, the Oraifite Area Commander and the SARS Commander, Ichi Sector, Patrick Agbazue. The two officers led a police patrol team to the compound of Ejiofor in Oraifite, where the police allegedly shot at three persons and wounded scores of others suspected to belong to IPOB.
It was learnt that the seeming police invasion of the house of the counsel to Kanu, who had three days earlier buried one of his elder brothers, irked some youths in the area who allegedly launched a reprisal attack, which is believed to have resulted in the death of Abbey and Agbazue whose remains were burnt and buried near a village market.
The police and IPOB have given differing accounts of the incident in which not less than 20 houses and shops have been razed.
The Commissioner of Police, John Abang, who had visited the scene and vowed to bring the killers to justice, at a press conference yesterday recalled that his command had last Monday got “a formal complaint against one Barrister Ifeanyi Ejiofor (a member of the proscribed IPOB) in Oraifite on alleged case of abduction and assault occasioning harm and malicious damage to property.”
Abang, who was represented by the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Haruna Mohammed said that following the report, patrol teams led by Abbey mobilised and rushed to the scene in order to arrest the suspect who allegedly declined police invitation.
“However, as soon as police arrived at the house, armed men suspected to be IPOB members descended on the police, set ablaze one patrol vehicle and attacked them with rifles and machetes.
“As a result of the attack, two police officers whose identities are being withheld were killed by the suspected IPOB members while others were inflicted with machete cuts. The injured personnel were rushed to a hospital for medical attention and are presently receiving treatment.
“Consequently, the command deployed reinforcements from the state headquarters who cordoned off the area in order to fish out the culprits, while joint patrols are still ongoing in the town to prevent further breakdown of law and order.”
Another version said the two policemen got killed during a clash between rival masquerade groups in Oraifite, Otu Afor, Otu Nkwor and Otu Eke at the weekend in the heat of Ejiofor’s brother’s burial on Saturday.
A source, who pleaded anonymity, said that one of the rival groups had early on Monday morning, two days after the clash, reported the incident to the police who swung into action to effect arrests.
It was learnt that it was in the course of moving to effect arrests that the police stormed Ejiofor’s compound.
IPOB has denied any involvement in the attack and killing of the two policemen.
The group’s spokesman, Emma Powerful, said that the freedom fighters were not in any way responsible for the killing of the security agents, alleging that it was the policemen that killed IPOB members when they visited the house of their leader’s lawyer, Ejiofor, and took away their bodies to conceal the act.
In a statement, IPOB said: “The unprovoked Nigeria police and army invasion of the home of our lawyer, Barrister Ifeanyi Ejiofor, barely four days after the painful burial of his elder brother is proof that those running Nigeria have descended into the abyss of iniquity from which they may never recover.
“Not even during the darkest days of Abacha’s dictatorship did anyone witness such brazen intimidation of a legal counsel or the attempted assassination of a defence counsel in a high-profile case.
“For the police to say there was a criminal complaint against Ejiofor bordering on assault and kidnapping four days after the funeral of his brother is most stupid and laughable. A criminal complaint from who? Who did he kidnap, the body of his dead brother?
“The only reason for this unprovoked criminal invasion with deadly intent is to kill Ejiofor and to stop him from attending the Federal High Court, Abuja next month where he has all but defeated the attorney general in the matter of Federal Government of Nigeria versus IPOB.
“It was the same strategy of ‘invade and kill’ that was deployed at Isiama-Afaraukwu, the home of our leader on 14 September 2017, a month before he was due in court, that was played out in Oraifite.”
The Commissioner of Police, Abang, who disclosed the declaration of Ejiofor wanted at a press conference in Awka yesterday, said it was in connection with the murder of the two police officers on Monday.
Meanwhile, the apex Igbo socio-cultural organization, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, has condemned the Monday attack and burning down of the residence of the IPOB lawyer at Oraifite.
Ohanaeze President General, Chief Nnia Nwodo, in a statement in Enugu also called for a judicial inquiry into the “case of unprovoked attack on Ejiofor”, saying his only “crime is that he peacefully objects to the maltreatment of his people.”
Nwodo stated that Ndigbo observed that the “spurious claim” by the police that Ejiofor was “involved in a case of abduction, assault occasioning harm and malicious damage to property” holds no water as nobody was mentioned as the victim of the allegations.
“Assuming without conceding that Barrister Ejiofor was culpable on a charge of abduction, the only option in law available to the police is arrest and prosecution under the laws of Nigeria and not deliberate arson and wanton destruction of his family home,” Ohananeze said
Nwodo further argued that even before its wrongful proscription, IPOB had never been a violent group and could not have summoned enough force to attack and kill any policeman to warrant drafting in a reinforcement.
Ohananeze Ndigbo also yesterday raised the alarm over military and police checkpoints in the southeast zone, saying Igbo land was under siege.
In a petition to President Mohammadu Bihari which was copied the Inspector General of Police, the group said the checkpoints were being used to extort the people and cripple movements into the zone.
Nwodo said in the petition which he personally signed: “Evidence available to us indicates an unusual number of military, paramilitary and police checkpoints in all routes leading into and within Igbo land.
“To be precise, our report presents the following gory picture: there are 60 checkpoints between Lagos and Onitsha (a major route for Igbo traders) thus:
Lagos to Ore (24), Ore to Benin (23) and Benin to Onitsha (13). Just in Enugu State alone, the checkpoints are uncountable.
“The interpretation of Igbo is that these checkpoints which in the main concern themselves with extorting numerous Igbo passing through them are mere toll gates.
“The nonchalant attitude of the Federal Government and heads of security agencies give the impression that the erection of these ‘toll gates’ is deliberate, extortionist and intended to subdue the will of the people.
“In some instances, these security agents attend these ‘toll gates’ with POS (Point of Sale) machines which they use to force travellers who have no cash but possess debit cards to transfer cash to their private accounts.
“Gladly, one police officer was reported to have been arrested by the Inspector General in respect of this practice recently. As our people prepare to return home for the Christmas, it has become necessary to bring to your attention to this embarrassing misdemeanor.
“It is hoped that you will use your good offices to order officers responsible for this embarrassment to dismantle these “tollgates”. (Guardian)