The Nigerian Army has said a soldier and an IPOB member were killed during a gun battle in Oru East Local Government Area of Imo State where troops dispersed some IPOB members who were setting properties of residents ablaze.
According to a statement signed on Tuesday by Major Abubakar Abdullahi, the Acting Deputy Director Army Public Relations 82 Division Nigerian Army, the IPOB members set ablaze properties of innocent residents to compel them to comply with the sit-at-home order.
“Troops conducting Exercise Golden Dawn have dispersed IPOB/ESN hoodlums carrying out arson while enforcing the illegitimate Sit-at-Home order imposed by the proscribed group at Awo-Mmamma Community, Oru East Local Government Area of Imo State on 22 November 2021.
“In the quest to compel citizens to comply with the unlawful order, IPOB/ESN criminals indulged in harassment, intimidation, and physical abuse of commuters going about their lawful businesses. The criminals went further to carry out arson and destruction of businesses and homes at Ishieke junction (along Owerri-Onitsha expressway) as a vendetta against the citizens for not complying with the illegal order.
“The hoodlums who had earlier blocked the highway, set ablaze a commercial vehicle heading towards Onitsha. Vigilant troops responding to distress calls by motorists and shop owners swiftly moved to the scene and engaged the hoodlums in a firefight. The troops overwhelmed the hoodlums forcing them to scamper in different directions.
“The troops pursued the hoodlums to their hideout in Akatta Community in Oru East LGA, where a member of the group was neutralized in the shootout. While the troops engaged the hoodlums in their hideout, other members of the group who alleged that some individuals had volunteered information to the troops mustered at Ishieke junction and set ablaze houses and businesses of law-abiding citizens.
“The troops again returned to the junction to disperse the hoodlums. Unfortunately, a gallant soldier paid the supreme prize in defence of the people,” the statement by the Nigerian Army read in part.
The military added that there has been an upsurge in criminalities such as kidnapping, carjacking, robbery, unwarranted killing, and arson in Imo State since April 5, 2021, when some unscrupulous elements invaded the Custodial Centre in Owerri and freed more than 1,800 inmates.
“Even in the face of unwholesome propaganda by IPOB/ESN, other criminal elements and their collaborators to misinform and mislead Nigerians on the truth regarding the arson at Awo-Mmamma, the NA will continue to remain professional,” the statement added.
The Nigerian Army, therefore, appealed to residents of Imo State to ignore all propaganda and threats and go about their legitimate business.