The Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) has warned members of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) to desist from hoisting its flag or extending its activities in the Niger Delta region, saying that it would not condone any territorial conquest.
PANDEF National Publicity Secretary, Ken Robinson, in a statement warned that Niger Delta region’s friendly and sympathetic disposition to the cause of IPOB and its agitators should not be misconstrued that the region belonged to the Igbo.
Members of IPOB had on Thursday hoisted the Biafran flag in Bakassi Local Government Area, Cross River State.
Residents of the community who were opposed to the hoisting of the flag alleged they were intimidated and harassed by the secessionists agitators who had earlier chased away the security men manning the place. But a reinforced security dispersed the agitators.
In the statement, Robinson informed IPOB that hoisting of flag in another region’s territory amounted to territorial conquest, advising leaders of IPOB to caution their members as such move could be provocative and offensive.
He stated that Niger Delta people are not Igbos and therefore should not be part of their agitation for the Republic of Biafra.
According to the PANDEF Spokesperson, “we want to hear from the people of Bakassi if they belong to the Igbos. They should let us know. But I want to state here that ethnic groups in Niger Delta such as the Ikwerres, Ijaws, Itsekiris, Urhobos, the Kalabaris, the Ibibios and other ethnic groups in the Niger Delta have made it very clear that they are not Igbos and it should be at that.”
Chairman of Bakassi LGA, Iyadim Iyadim, who confirmed the incident, said a curfew had been declared from 7pm.
“By hoisting the Biafra flag, the boys may not know the consequences of their action. Some of these boys are ignorant; some are used by external forces. We have made them know that we are not taking their matter lightly. Security men have been deployed to the area. In fact, we have placed a temporary curfew in the LGA from 7pm.”
He explained that the deteriorating security situation in Bakassi was compounded by the non-resettlement of the Bakassi people and the government’s failure to fulfill its promise to ex-Niger Delta militants who downed their tools and embraced amnesty.
A Niger Delta base security expert, Chief Anabs Sara Igbe, dismissed the hoisting of the flag by IPOB in Bakassi as a joke taken too far, saying such a move was inconsequential and of no relevance to the people of the Niger Delta region.
Meanwhile, the Governor Ifeanyi Okowa-led South South Governors’ Forum said it could not make an official statement on the matter as it had not been briefed.
“We have not received information about it, so we can’t make an official statement about it until we are properly briefed,” said Delta State Commissioner for Information, Charles Aniagwu, in a telephone interview with our correspondent.
The Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Olisa Ifeajika, said security issues, especially those relating to the hoisting of the flag, fell squarely on the table of the president and the federal government, adding that it was not a regional matter.
Also reacting, the Cross River State Government said that any agitations by the outlawed IPOB or any other Biafran agitating groups in the state belonged to history.
The Permanent Secretary in charge of State Security Matters in the Governor’s Office, Dr Alfred Mboto, said the State government and security forces had effectively blocked IPOB from campaigning in any part of the State.
Neither the State Commissioner of police, Aminu Alhassan, nor the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) Irene Ugbo, responded to several calls made to them.
It would be recalled that suspected IPOB gunmen had in the past carried out violent attacks in Akwa Ibom and Cross River States where scores of persons had been killed.
Governor Nyesome Wike of Rivers State was forced to impose a 24-hour curfew in Oyigbo Area of the state, last year, following the hoisting of the Biafran flag and attack on critical infrastructure by suspected IPOB members.