Operatives of the Nigerian Army on Monday again attacked residents of Okporo, Orlu Local Government Area of Imo State, killing about five persons.
SaharaReporters gathered that many persons were also injured when the soldiers stormed the community suspected to be the operational base of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) security outfit, Eastern Security Network (ESN).
The attack by the soldiers was said to be a reprisal after members of the ESN engaged them in a shootout last Friday.
SaharaReporters gathered that one person died at the community market square during the security operation last Friday.
Also, about 10 buildings, including a church, Blessed Holy Trinity Sabbath Mission, were allegedly set ablaze by the soldiers.
“They came back today and started killing our people, I can’t confirm the number of casualties now but they are more than five. They were here last Friday and killed one person at the market square. About 10 buildings were also burnt by these masked security agents on Friday.
“Imo State is not safe presently; Governor Hope Uzodinma shouldn’t allow soldiers to kill all his people,” a source told SaharaReporters.
IPOB leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, had in December 2020 launched ESN to protect the people of South-East and South-South regions from terrorists and bandits allegedly trooping in from the North.
Kanu described the outfit as a replica of the Western Nigeria Security Network, also known as Amotekun, earlier launched by the governors of the South-West to curb insecurity in the region.
“The sole aim and objective of this newly formed security outfit known as Eastern Security Network is to halt every criminal activity and terrorist attack on Biafraland,” Kanu had said.
“This outfit, which is a vigilante group like the Amotekun in the South-West and the Miyetti Allah security outfit, will ensure the safety of our forests and farmland which terrorists have converted into slaughter grounds and raping fields.”
He added that the establishment of the security outfit became necessary following what he described as the “failure” of the governors of the South-South and South-East to put in place measures to protect the people in those regions.
SaharaReporters earlier reported that the Nigerian Army had deployed combat helicopters, gun trucks and soldiers to search some forests in the South-East states where the ESN was suspected to be camping.
SaharaReporters reported that the military search had been ongoing for days, and had no time frame, as the army was acting on “orders from above.”
From drones and hidden cameras believed to be installed by the ESN, a video captured the Nigerian Army helicopters and their vehicles and soldiers searching for the camp of the ESN to make arrests.
Recently, it was learnt that some Nigerian soldiers resigned and joined the ESN, on the grounds that the ESN, being funded by both international and local donors, had better welfare packages for its officers than the military.
“The Kanu ESN boys are not a bunch of rookies and untrained fellows brandishing guns. I personally know five guys from my hometown in Anambra State who left the Nigerian Army to join the ESN. Two of them were formerly serving in Operation Lafiya Dole, Borno State, before they quit.
“We are being reliably informed that there are other soldiers, particularly of the South-East extraction, who will soon leave for other various reasons and they are likely to be recruited into the fold,” a military source told SaharaReporters.
In July 2012, about 356 soldiers in the North-East and other theatres of operation had resigned from the army – some on voluntary retirement, while others cited loss of interest as their reason for disengagement.
The soldiers had written to the army chief, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai, on July 3, 2020, under Reference NA/COAS/001, quoting the Harmonised Terms and Conditions of Service soldiers/rating/airmen (Revised) 2017.
The approval of the voluntary disengagement of the 356 soldiers was contained in a 17-page circular from Buratai, AHQ DOAA/G1/300/92, signed by Brig Gen T.E. Gagariga for the army chief.
Again, this January, another batch of 127 soldiers resigned from the Nigerian Army and are due to leave by May.
They comprised one Master Warrant Officer, three Warrant Officers, 22 Staff Sergeants, 29 Sergeants, 64 Corporals, seven Lance Corporals and one Private.
SaharaReporters had also reported how a cross-section of Nigerians criticised the Nigerian Army for deploying aircraft and gun trucks to locate Kanu’s ESN camp, saying it was a misplaced priority in the security challenges facing the country.
A few others, however, supported the military saying the ESN could become a regional security threat since the South-East governors had also dissociated themselves from the outfit.
On Twitter, several Nigerians believed that the military action was a misplaced priority and such enthusiasm and energy were not seen in the North-East against the Boko Haram terrorists nor against the bandits in the North-West.