The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) has accused the Nigerian Army of killing five ‘innocent’ residents of Okporo in the Orlu Local Government Area of Imo State.

Since last Friday, there has been a crisis in Orlu after a clash between ESN officers and soldiers resulted in the deaths of people. 

The security agencies were said to have planned a reprisal. Witnesses report sporadic shooting and residents took cover to avoid stray bullets. 

Five persons, including a middle-aged woman, were said to have been killed by stray bullets from guns of the Nigerian Army while some properties were burnt.

The soldiers were said to be drawn from the 34 Artillery Brigade in Obinze.

Speaking to SaharaReporters, IPOB’s Media and Publicity Secretary, Emma Powerful, said the soldiers ran away on sighting operatives of the Eastern Security Network.

Powerful accused Governor Hope Uzodimma of working with the Army to ‘flush and attack ESN officers from the bushes where they are operating’.

He said five innocent people were killed while properties worth millions of naira were destroyed in the area.

He said, “ESN personnel are in the bush and forest chasing Fulani terrorists and herdsmen who are over there terrorising our members and sisters in their respective farms not Nigeria security agencies but they are looking for ESN’s trouble.

“Since the formation and inauguration of ESN by our great leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, on December 12, 2020, they have been inside the bushes and forests; their job is to protect farmers from invaders who made pronouncements that all lands in Nigeria belong to them.

“Every time, Nigerian Army, police would come and look for their trouble in the Bush. Yesterday, they came to Orlu where civilians were doing their normal business thinking that ESN would allow them to do what they did in Obigbo, Rivers State during #EndSARS protest. ESN would not allow what happened in Obigbo happen again in any part of Biafra. The were busy killing innocent people in Orlu yesterday, they killed about 5 innocent people and destroyed properties worth millions of naira in Orlu yesterday.

“ESN arrived and they ran away from Orlu. It was the handiwork of Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodinma, who collaborated with (Emmanuel) Iwuanyanwu, Obiozor and the Army Commander in Obinze to ensure they flush and attack ESN from the bushes where they are operating.

“Hope Uzodinma announced 6am to 6pm curfew in Orlu to deceive the gullible Nigerians who might think he is innocent of what had been happening in Orlu since last week.”

IPOB leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, had in December 2020 launched ESN to protect the people of South-East and South-South regions from terrorists and bandits allegedly trooping in from the North.

Kanu described the outfit as a replica of the Western Nigeria Security Network, also known as Amotekun, earlier launched by the governors of the South-West to curb insecurity in the region.

“The sole aim and objective of this newly formed security outfit known as Eastern Security Network is to halt every criminal activity and terrorist attack on Biafraland,” Kanu had said.

“This outfit, which is a vigilante group like the Amotekun in the South-West and the Miyetti Allah security outfit, will ensure the safety of our forests and farmland which terrorists have converted into slaughter grounds and raping fields.”

SaharaReporters reported that the military had been searching for ESN for days, and that the search had no time frame, as the army was acting on "orders from above."

From drones and hidden cameras believed to be installed by the ESN, a video captured the Nigerian Army helicopters and their vehicles and soldiers searching for the camp of the ESN to make arrests.

Recently, it was learnt that some Nigerian soldiers resigned and joined the ESN, on the grounds that the ESN, being funded by both international and local donors, had better welfare packages for its officers than the military.

“The Kanu ESN boys are not a bunch of rookies and untrained fellows brandishing guns. I personally know five guys from my hometown in Anambra State who left the Nigerian Army to join the ESN. Two of them were formerly serving in Operation Lafiya Dole, Borno State, before they quit.

“We are being reliably informed that there are other soldiers, particularly of the South-East extraction, who will soon leave for other various reasons and they are likely to be recruited into the fold,” a military source told SaharaReporters.

In July 2012, about 356 soldiers in the North-East and other theatres of operation had resigned from the army – some on voluntary retirement, while others cited loss of interest as their reason for disengagement.

The soldiers had written to the army chief, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai, on July 3, 2020, under Reference NA/COAS/001, quoting the Harmonised Terms and Conditions of Service soldiers/rating/airmen (Revised) 2017.

Again, this January, another batch of 127 soldiers resigned from the Nigerian Army and are due to leave by May.

They comprised one Master Warrant Officer, three Warrant Officers, 22 Staff Sergeants, 29 Sergeants, 64 Corporals, seven Lance Corporals and one Private.

SaharaReporters had also reported how a cross-section of Nigerians criticised the Nigerian Army for deploying aircraft and gun trucks to locate Kanu’s ESN camp, saying it was a misplaced priority in the security challenges facing the country.

A few others, however, supported the military saying the ESN could become a regional security threat since the South-East governors had also dissociated themselves from the outfit.

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