By Ike A. Offor
There was pandemonium today in several towns and Onitsha, Enugu cities today as people fled from Nigerian army free medical-outreach exercise due to rumours of diseases and deaths.
The medical outreach was conceived to turn the hearts of the people towards the army after such terrible public relations with the Operation Python Dance in the region, which turned deadly and claimed many lives.
Industrial Nnewi Town Pandemonium
In a case in the industrial town of Nnewi, the schools were closed just like in the rest of the State and rumour of death spread. This prompted a press release from the state government.
Press Statement: Army Medical Outreach
The attention of the State Government has been drawn to an ongoing medical outreach being undertaken by the Army in Ozubulu, Ekwusigo Local Government Area.
The State has been made to understand that the exercise is part of Army social responsibility to members of the public.
However, strong apprehension among the populace has followed the exercise leading to the withdrawal of students from schools by parents, misconception of the actual motive behind the exercise by stakeholders, community leaders and a general reservation by the public for whom the outreach is intended.
To this end and to ensure no further escalation of the situation, His Excellency the Governor, Chief Willie Obiano has contacted the Army Authorities and advised for immediate stoppage of the medical outreach until wide sensitization is conducted to reassure people of its intentions and benefits. The exercise has therefore been put on hold.
Parents and guardians are strongly advised to stop withdrawing their wards from schools as the situation has been handled. All schools within the State will remain open as there is no cause for alarm! Community leaders, Presidents General and all Stakeholders are hereby reassured of the commitment of the Governor and the State Government to the wellbeing of Ndi Anambra.
The State Government also strongly condemns observed rhetorics on social media completely misrepresenting the situation with insinuations of the spread of diseases and death of students in schools arising from the exercise. The State categorically refutes these rhetorics and confirms that there is no death of any student anywhere in the State. Mischief makers are warned to desist from spreading falsehood. Anambra remains calm and peaceful!
Prof Solo Chukwulobelu
Secretary to the State Government.
In another press release from the Nigerian Medical Association, Anambra branch, the body expressed how the panic was created and spread which caused the withdrawal of pupils and students from schools. The body also asked the Army to discontinue the exercise until frayed nerves are calmed.
Press Release From Nigerian Medical Association, Anambra Branch
I have authentically confirmed from the intelligence services that:
1. There was actually a scheduled medical outreach Programme by the Nigerian Army;
2. Such Programmes are routinely done after every military exercise in communities e.g. Operation Python Dance;
3. That the Council Chairmen and Traditional Rulers of concerned communities were duly informed;
4. But, it appears that to information was not adequately disseminated to the citizenry;
5. Those soldiers were only setting up the sheds and stands for the exercise when some individuals concocted the rumours of an ulterior motive and began disseminating the false alarm;
6. That the false alarm led to considerable panic and confusion in the whole State now -Awka, Nnewi, Ozubulu, Onitsha, etc;
7. The Military has therefore been advised to suspend the Outreach Programme immediately in order to calm frayed nerves;
8. The State Government will soon make a public broadcast to dispel the rumour and properly explain what happened.
On my side, I am still collating information from the footmen that have been sent to the field by NMA ANAMBRA State. If what we collate vary from the official version from what I got from the intelligence agencies, I shall give out the update.
Chair, NMA ANAMBRA State Branch
Palpable reasons behind the panic
This is simply an expression of how untrustworthy the Nigerian army is in the region, which has accused the Nigerian security forces of ulterior motives in the Operation Python Dance, which caused terrible human casualties in Aba, Abia state. So, the people are very wary of the Nigerian Army and will not accept any free medical attention from them.
The leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu’s family home was attacked during this very operation and his whereabouts is still very unclear. The IPOB was proscribed and labelled terrorist group, which has led to many criticisms both within the shores of Nigeria and the international community.
The same incidents were reported in Imo State and in Enugu state where parents rushed from markets and their businesses to withdraw their wards from their various.
The Pandemonium was like in a civil war where people run in all directions to avoid military attacks. In a video recorded by a witness in Onitsha, it felt like something serious was happening and children fled with fright on their faces.