How DSS, IPOB Clashed In Enugu
The Enugu State Government-owned Community High School, Emene, on the outskirts of Enugu, the state capital, is a quiet environment known for academics. The school, in Enugu East Local Government Area, is also known as a playground for youths, including the members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), who use the school field to engage in physical exercises.
However, Daily Trust on Sunday was informed by some residents of the area that the quietness of the school was practically destroyed on Sunday, August 23, 2020, when blood flowed following shootings between security forces and the youths during which both sides had casualties.
An old gateman in the high school told a Daily Trust correspondent that, “The boys have been using this place for playing football, and after playing they would disperse peacefully. This had been going on for several months and there had never been a confrontation of any type. But last Sunday, I was told that a team of the Department of State Services (DSS), military and police was mobilised as if they were going to confront Boko Haram or herdsmen, and they descended heavily on the unarmed youths playing football thereby leading to the deaths of some people.”
The gateman went rhetorical: “But the question is; why did the security men come to the place where youths were playing football and doing their normal Sunday physical fitness? Who authorised them to come? I am not passing judgment, but any sane person would ask the same questions because the boys had been playing here over time without any known incident. This is the summary of the tragedy. Now, tell me, if the security agents hadn’t come to disturb the boys who were playing, how would trouble have started? Would there have been shootings and deaths?”
A female resident, Madam Monica, whose compound, a two-story building is located opposite the high school, recalled that “bullets were raining on the roof of our house on that Sunday and it was not advisable or safe for anyone to venture out.
“My daughter ran back into our room panting. I asked her what was wrong and she said security men were after IPOB people doing exercises in the school compound. The security agents blocked the whole entry and exit points. In fact, the trauma is still with us. Even when we hear any noise or sound now, we think it’s the sound of gun; we suspect that they have come again. I have lived in this area for many years. I have never seen this type of madness before. I saw two corpses; one was hidden inside a culvert. I was later told that the person was lynched because after being ‘warned’ he continued filming the incident with his camera.”
Madam Monica said because IPOB members usually wore black, the security men saw every individual wearing black as a suspect.
Another resident of the area, Godfrey Okoye, said no sooner had he returned from the 05:30am mass at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church than he started hearing deafening gunshots.
Okoye said, “I was home and as I came out I started hearing gunshots, so I ran into the room. I remained indoors till evening when the crisis subsided. It was when I saw on the internet pictures of corpses and the stories behind them that I realised what actually happened in our neighbourhood.”
Another resident, Mr. Ani Festus, who claimed that he “saw everything live” because he resides on the second floor of a three-storey building in the neighbourhood, said, “It was like a movie, as I started hearing sporadic gunshots within the school compound. I observed that the armed men wearing black shirts marked ‘DSS’ were targeting the young men inside the school compound. But as they shot at them, some would fall down while others would give them (security men) a hot chase.
He further said, “Thereafter, the security men went and reinforced; this time, they came with the military and the police. I think they were not less than 50 loaded in over 25 Hilux vans. As they stormed the road, they began to shoot at the protesting boys who were not bearing arms.”
He recalled that sometime in September, 2017, the security forces killed over 20 unarmed IPOB members in Aba and Afaraukwu, Umuahia, Abia State, when they attacked youths at Nnamdi Kanu’s father’s residence.
He further said, “Because the governors in the South East did not insist on the probe and possible prosecution of the killer-security men at the time, that’s why you saw the one that happened last Sunday. It will continue as long as the killers will always go free. The governors don’t know how to protect their citizens like their counterparts in the South West. It’s a big shame. The boys are not bearing arms; do they want them to start carrying weapons? That won’t augur well for all of us.”
The Enugu State Commissioner of Police (CP), Mr. Ahmed Abdurrahman, confirmed the killings, insisting that only four persons lost their lives in the crisis, and that the police recovered the corpses shortly after the incident, and accused IPOB members of causing the deaths.
CP Abdurrahman, who briefed newsmen in Enugu on the incident, said the police arrested five IPOB members involved in the crisis that began in the early hours of Sunday.
He said the civil unrest caused by the mayhem disrupted human and vehicular activities for several hours on the Enugu-Abakaliki Road, specifically within the Emene community.
He further said the DSS went on a covert operation in a particular location in Emene early Sunday morning; but that they were overwhelmed and two of their officials abducted by the IPOB members.
He added that the DSS had to call in the police for their rescue while the police had to call in the military to quell the escalating mayhem.
The CP explained that, “This morning I received a distress call that IPOB members were firing sporadically and scaring people along the Enugu-Abakaliki Road; precisely in Emene community axis of the road,” and added that the police was able to rescue one of the DSS officials.
He said, “However, four persons lost their lives. One was hacked to death with a matchet and one innocent passerby set ablaze.”
However, in an interview with one of the IPOB members arrested by the police, Ebube Agu, he claimed that the members were only doing physical exercises before they were accosted by officials of the DSS.
Agu also claimed that the IPOB members were not armed as alleged by the police commissioner.
Following the development, Gov. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has summoned an emergency State Security Council (SSC) meeting to hold on September 1, 2020, at the Executive Chambers of the Government House, Enugu.
In a statement, the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Prof. Simon Ortuanya, noted that during the meeting “all security agencies in the state are expected to brief His Excellency, the governor, fully on the immediate and remote causes of the clashes, as well as advance measures to avert such occurrences.”
Also, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide has said it would dig to the root cause of the issue, as its President General, Chief Nnia Nwodo, said the group would make its position known after the security meeting with Gov. Ugwuanyi.
However, the military authorities have placed troops of 82 Division ((82Div), Enugu, on alert following the development and the threat of “an eye for an eye” by IPOB spokesman, Emma Powerful, who issued a statement claiming that scores of their unarmed members were brutally killed by security agents.
In a signal dispatched to different formations and unit commanders, the army directed troops to be at alert and avoid losing their weapons to criminal elements, adding that commanders must sensitise their men to maintain high alert.
Reacting to the clash, the Department of State Services (DSS) said two of its operatives were killed by members of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) at Emene in Enugu State.
The secret police said its patrol team was attacked by members of the organisation, leading to the death of the operatives.
A statement issued by DSS said the two personnel died “in what was clearly an unprovoked violent attack launched by IPOB on the team.”
The security agency, has, therefore, vowed to track the perpetrators and bring them to justice.
“DSS wishes to inform the public that its patrol team was, today, August 23, 2020, attacked in Emene, Enugu State by members of the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
“The service lost two personnel in what was clearly an unprovoked violent attack launched by IPOB on the team,” the statement signed by its spokesman, Dr. Peter Afunanya, said.
It added: “All measures have been put in place to ensure that their killers and everyone involved in this dastardly act are promptly apprehended and brought to justice.
“Consequently, a full-scale investigation will be carried out with regard to the incident. The service hereby condoles with families of the departed officers and also prays for the repose of their souls.”
DSS also reaffirmed its commitment to assiduously work with other security agencies to maintain public safety and order, urging law abiding citizens and residents to go about their normal businesses without fear.