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CONTRARY to Imo State government’s claim that it invited the military to flush out members of the Eastern Security Network (ESN) in Orlu, the Nigerian Army says it did not carry out a military operation in the town, describing a video circulating on the social media on the incident as fake news.
A video circulated on the social media on February 18 showing a military helicopter flying at low level in Orlu, with sporadic gunshots heard as the aircraft flew.
Imo State government, through Cyprian Akaolisa, attorney-general and commissioner for justice in the state, had told journalists in Owerri, the state capital, that Imo government invited the military to help put an end to the criminal activities of members of the ESN.
“The attacks on police stations and killings of policemen during #EndSARS were carried out by IPOB and protesting youths for the sole purpose of hijacking and stealing weapons. They are now using those arms to destroy Orlu.
“They killed 10 policemen, a prominent Orlu son, Ignatius Obiezu, and one Emmanuel Okeke and collected their Hilux vehicles,” Akaolisa stated.
He also accused the IPOB group of being responsible for the deaths of four Muslims who were carrying out their legal businesses in Orlu, stressing that they were shot and killed on claims that they were herdsmen.
Recall that footages of gunshots and aerial surveillance conducted by the security operatives emerged on February 18 on the social media. The video caused apprehension among residents in the state and some concerned indigenes of South-East states.
At the initial stage, many Nigerians were confused on whose instruction the military visited the state to conduct the operation, hence the blame on President Muhammadu Buhari.
“I agree that ESN should be properly set up with all the legal frameworks, but to send in air bombardment into civilian populated areas is an act of terror.
“Buhari should call off this madness now,” Mr Integrity @Integrity56 stated in his post.
In another post, Chiukwujioke @chiukwujioke expressed surprise saying, “So it’s actually true that the Nigerian Army did the #OrluAirAttack all because of the ESN…well blame the south-east governors for being too weak. If Hisbah and Amotekun are recognised, why is ESN different?” However, there was a twist in the whole story.
Attack on Orlu is Fake News – Nigerian Army
As part of the verification process, The ICIR visited the official social media handle of the Nigerian Army, but there was no information concerning a planned operation in the state.
Further check on the Army’s website also did not contain such information. It is, however, unusual for the army to embark on special missions, especially within the country without announcing it to the public.
Several instances are multiple operations carried out in the North-East, as part of measures to overcome the insurgents. In September 2017, Operation Python Dance was initiated by the Army. Before then was Operation Lafiya Dole. There had also been Operation Gama Aiki, Operation Safe Corridor, Operation Safe Corridor, Operation Delta Safe, Operation Crocodile Smile and several others.
The ICIR contacted Mohammed Yerima, a brigadier-general and Army spokesperson, to validate the viral video of the incident, but he simply described it as fake news.
His attention was drawn to the official website and social media handles of the Army as information regarding the Orlu operation was missing on the official channels, but he emphasised his stance: “That’s why I told you it is false.”