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Take Action Against IPOB, Now; Page 3 Comment By Daily Trust, Sunday 18 December 2022

The Federal Government of Nigeria must do everything in its power to ensure that the proscribed terrorist organisation, the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) are not allowed to scuttle the upcoming 2023 elections. In its violent rhetoric and even more violent attacks on Nigerians and facilities of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in South-Eastern Nigeria, IPOB clearly aims to disrupt next year’s elections and throw Nigeria into a constitutional quagmire.

News headlines, pictures and viral videos of IPOB’s escalating violence circulating freely over the past weeks make the danger they pose to the peaceful conduct of the elections and overall security of the country imminent. In just the past two weeks, IPOB gunmen have razed down three INEC offices, including the state headquarters of INEC along Port Harcourt Road in Owerri, the Imo State capital.

Over the same period, IPOB terrorists have also reportedly killed tens of people in separate attacks across Anambra, Enugu and Imo states while three of their men were killed in a gun battle with the police, according to various
accounts by the police and eye-witness. But most alarming is IPOB’s attacks against Nigerians from other parts of the country who reside or earn their living in the south eastern states.

Eight northerners were reportedly killed during one of such attack in Imo, among them one mechanic, Auwal Abdulsalami whose corpse was brought home for burial in Jos, by his friend Isa Adamu, also a mechanic working
in the southeast. Adamu had told newsmen that the eight victims were mechanics, truck drivers and their assistants who hailed variously from Plateau, Taraba and Nasarawa states.

Abdulsalami’s pregnant wife is now left to nurse a wound she says would never heal. In the same weekend also, 14 northerners who were driving in a Dangote truck in Enugu were also attacked and killed on the mere accusation of “conveying Fulani” to the South East. At least two witnesses confirmed these incidents to newsmen. And all of these are in addition to similar killings reported over the past two weeks, including the killing of Prince Chidi Iheme, the elder brother to Nollywood actor, Osita Iheme, popularly known as Pawpaw, at a campaign rally in Imo
State.

Daily Trust strongly condemns these killings and the context of a region-wide IPOB-enforced 5-day sit-at-home order within which they occurred. We also warn that unless the federal government acts quickly to rein in IPOB and its murderous gunmen, the escalating violence in the South East portends grave danger for the peaceful conduct of the 2023 elections and Nigeria’s overall national security. In particular, the federal government must realise that IPOB’s systematic targeting of other Nigerians living and working in Igboland could spark reprisal attacks, and thus result in a nation-wide conflagration of attacks and reprisals, an unfortunate turn in such events that all Nigerians know only too well.

That dark but familiar trend must be avoided by all concerned at this time. Yet, it is instructive that these attacks and killings are a direct fallout of a 5-day sit-at-home order proclaimed by a Finland-based leader of IPOB, Simon Ekpa. The IPOB leader’s clearly stated objective is “to stop the election from taking place in Biafraland”. The socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, has rightly condemned Ekpa’s order.

But more needs to be done. It must be noted that IPOB’s rising violence has been built on the back of a tacit support for its secessionist agenda by many Nigerians from the South East who perhaps believe IPOB’s sometimes real, but mostly false and imagined narrative of grievance and marginalisation within the Nigerian political space. The dominant national media’s shameless and unprofessional approach of under-reporting and beclouding IPOB’s violent activities also play a huge part in sustaining and escalating the outlawed group’s reign of terror.

These two support bases are the oxygen which fuels IPOB’s activities and its ever more daring violence against Nigerians and the country’s national and security infrastructure. But support for IPOB’s political agenda
sits in sharp contradiction to today’s Nigerian realities. Igbos living and working in other parts of Nigeria today are safer to pursue their businesses than those at home.

A Nigerian of Igbo extraction now stands as much a chance as any other candidate to win next year’s presidential elections. The second Niger Bridge, which links Igboland to the rest of the country, has just opened for use to all Nigerians. These are but evidence of greater Nigerian integration and belonging, regardless of what IPOB leaders
like Nnamdi Kanu and Simon Ekpa may think or say.

Therefore, to rein in IPOB’s threat to the elections and our national security, the first step is to cut off its oxygen supply. Ohanaeze and all Igbo political and socio-cultural leaders must openly and forcefully denounce and distance
themselves from IPOB’s rising violence. Ohanaeze cannot support Nnamdi Kanu in one breath and then turn around to condemn Simon Ekpa in another because the one is a direct product of the other. The media too must
desist from burying or befuddling IPOB’s terror and unambiguously call it out as it is.

As several governors in the region have openly said, the so-called faceless “gunmen” are IPOB members. Above all, the federal government must wake up to its responsibilities of protecting Nigerians wherever they live. There is enough social media evidence of Simon Ekpa’s incitement of violence in Nigeria to permit his extradition to Nigeria
to face due charges.

Nigeria’s government must work with its Finnish counterpart towards this end immediately. The police and other security agencies must also frontally confront the threat IPOB poses to the elections, with as much dispatch and diligence as they do to other conflicts in other regions. It is time to say enough is enough to IPOB, and show it.

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