The leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra and founder of the Eastern Security Network, Nnamdi Kanu, has called on members of the ESN to a cease-fire with the Nigerian military and return to the forests.
Kanu noted in a post on Wednesday evening that according to available information, the army and police had withdrawn their forces from Orlu in Imo State, so the ESN should also withdraw.
Orlu has been in crisis since last Friday, with residents, police officers and soldiers reportedly shot dead after a clash between the military and ESN officials in some communities.
The soldiers failed to arrest any of the ESN personnel, who reportedly overpowered the army, citing traditional forces.
The soldiers reportedly retreated, with one of them seen in a viral video being rescued by some civilians and taken to a private company to seek safety from the rampaging ESN personnel.
Witnesses reported sporadic gunfire as residents took cover to avoid stray bullets.
Five people, including a middle-aged woman, were reportedly killed by stray bullets from Nigerian Army rifles, while some houses were burned. The soldiers were said to be from the 34 Artillery Brigade in Obinze.
On Tuesday, some elder statesmen in Imo State also condemned the destruction of lives and properties in Orlu by the clashes and called on the government to restore law and order.
The stakeholders in a communiqué called for justice for those killed by the military, adding that the state governor, Hope Uzodinma, must show leadership at this “critical time.
On Wednesday night, IPOB leader Kanu said that the information he has is that the military and police have agreed to withdraw from the contested areas.
He said, “Credible information indicates that the army and police reinforcements deployed from Owerri have been ordered to withdraw from Orlu.
“For this reason, I hereby direct the officers and men of the Eastern Security Network to withdraw while remaining vigilant against any terrorist activities by the Fulani in Biafra land.”
SaharaReporters had reported that a fighter aircraft of the Nigerian military flew over the tense Orlu communities on Tuesday and Wednesday to locate and engage ESN operatives accused of killing soldiers and causing mayhem in the area.
The plane had attracted the attention of residents who believed that the plane was sent to locate and fight the ESN militants.
SaharaReporters had seen a video of the military plane hovering over the area on Tuesday.
“A helicopter was stationed in Orlu. The military hovered over civilians’ homes. They were told to go into the forests and attack the ESN agents. There is tension everywhere,” said a resident who did not want to be identified.
But Kanu noted that the ESN officials should withdraw because the military and police had also agreed to withdraw their men.