With the federal government's deliberate pursuit of all measures to outlaw the separatist group, Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) and the on-going military exercise codenamed “Operation Egwu Eke (Python Dance)” in the south-east geopolitical zone, there are speculations that the leader of the group, Nnamdi Kanu may be hiding somewhere in the creeks of the Niger Delta.
This move, TNN learnt, was due to apprehension among his henchmen that the same treatment meted out to the leader of the Shi'ite religious group, Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) in Kaduna State, Ibrahim El Zakzaky would be extended to him should he be arrested by either the police or the Army.
A source hinted TNN that upon the arrival of soldiers ahead of the Operation Egwu Eke in Abia State, he was hastily frittered away through the Imo River to one of the militant camps in Rivers State.
This move, the source said infuriated the soldiers who allegedly had specific instructions to apprehend him dead or alive to face charges of terrorism and treason owing to his threats to go to Abuja and bring back the head of President Muhammadu Buhari and the nefarious activities of members of his group in different parts of the south-east and south-south.
Confirming the information to TNN, an aide to an ex-militant leader in Rivers State revealed that when the IPOB leadership received reliable intelligence that Operation Egwu Eke was to take place and that the real motive was to arrest Kanu and shut down the IPOB and every form of agitation for Biafra, calls were put across to some key figures in the Niger Delta struggle who in turn pleaded with the ex-militants to take him to safety.
Also corroborating our source's position, a top security official said that “our men acted too slowly and allowed these boys to get him out. But we are on their trail and we know where they took him to. Though they keep moving him, we shall get him in no time at all.”
The federal government on Wednesday got an order of a federal high court in Abuja proscribing the IPOB and declaring it a terrorist organization. It further banned its activities anywhere in Nigeria especially the south-east and south-south.
The defence headquarters had earlier described the group as a terrorist organization based on its activities at different times and in different areas of the country. In a statement by director of defence information, Brigadier General Paul Enenche, it listed the attack on the police and military by the group, among others as reason for declaring it as a terrorist group.
This position by the defence headquarters triggered a flurry of criticisms by different personalities and groups, including the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, president of Ohaneze Ndigbo, John Nwodo. They condemned the declaration of defence headquarters, saying it was unconstitutional.
Tension, however, remains high across the south-east and south-south as the police and Army continue the manhunt for Kanu and other leaders of IPOB. Some members of the now proscribed group who spoke to TNN at Oyigbo decried the approach of the government, describing it as highhanded.
A combined team of different police squads were still stationed at different parts of Oyigbo where six people including a policeman were killed by suspected members of IPOB as fallout of the invasion of the army on the home of Kanu in Afara-Aku, Umuahia, Imo State.