The recent killing of five soldiers at Obikabia Junction in Ogbor Hill, Aba, Abia State, by gunmen on May 30, 2024, is cowardly and condemnable. The perpetrators of the dastardly act must be fished out and severely punished. The soldiers were on duty to ensure the security of citizens following the sit-at-home order by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) to honour those who died during the Nigerian civil war, when they were brutally murdered by gunmen.

According to the military, the gunmen who carried out the surprise and unwarranted assault, came in three-tinted Toyota Prado SUVs and others, from built-up areas surrounding the checkpoint. Two operational vehicles belonging to the army were burnt and sundry weapons carted away. Six civilians were equally reportedly killed in the crossfire that ensued between the gunmen and the troops.

We condemn the killings in all ramifications. It is unfortunate that the soldiers were killed on the day IPOB activists had set aside to honour those who lost their lives during the 1967-1970 Nigerian civil war. The incident occurred barely two months after the massacre of 17 soldiers in Okuama, Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State. We loathe the recurring attacks and killing of soldiers and policemen on duty by gunmen in recent times. The development is disturbing and unacceptable.

Expectedly, the Aba killing has elicited several reactions. The military has blamed IPOB and its armed wing, the Eastern Security Network (ESN), for the unprovoked murder. It also vowed to brutally avenge the killings. However, IPOB has vehemently denied any involvement in the killing of the soldiers in Aba, saying that the attack was sponsored to blackmail the organization on a day mapped out to honour its fallen heroes and heroines in the Nigerian civil war. Its lawyer, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, has also exonerated the group from the killing of the soldiers. 

President Bola Tinubu described the killing as cowardly and barbaric. He also urged the security agencies to fish out the masterminds and perpetrators of the incident and those calling on people to stay at home. “Their action is nothing but a treasonable offence,” he stated. At the same time, the governor of Abia State, Alex Otti, has raised the N25 million bounty placed on the killers of the soldiers to N30 million.

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Similarly, the House of Representatives has asked security agencies to carry out a comprehensive investigation into the circumstances leading to the murder of the soldiers. While decrying the needless and gruesome murder of the soldiers, the House asked its committees on Defence to interface with the Armed Forces to ensure a comprehensive investigation to fish out those responsible for the murder.

We sympathise with the military and the families of the fallen soldiers and call for restraint on the part of the military in handling the matter. Let the security agencies fish out the perpetrators of the heinous murder and prosecute them. It is good that the President has ordered that the killers should be identified and enforcers of sit-at-home arrested. Governor Otti, in raising the bounty on the killers from N25 million to N30 million, has also demonstrated leadership. Sadly, similar attacks on soldiers had earlier taken place in Okuama, Delta State. There is urgent need to find out why soldiers and policemen have become targets of such heinous attacks.

Going forward, IPOB should lawfully carry out its activities. The group should desist from the sit-at-home order, which has ruined the economy and sundry businesses in the South-East region. It has also made living unbearable for many households in the region. The Monday sit-at-home has cost the region trillions of naira and discouraged local and foreign investments in the region. Many citizens are daily migrating from the region to other parts of Nigeria.

We call on the governors of the South-East to provide the much-needed leadership and good governance to the people and curb the rising insecurity in the region. It is sad that the governors have not jointly addressed the socio-economic challenges facing the region. Let them lead by example and ensure the existence of elected officials at the local government level in the region. The absence of elected officials at the third tier of government is driving poverty and insecurity in the South-East.

In the same vein, the federal government should muster the political will to address the restiveness in the region. It should not see it as an Igbo problem. It goes beyond that unfortunate tag. Let the federal government begin to engage IPOB and other agitators in the zone the same way it engages insurgents and bandits in the North-East and North-West regions.  

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