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South-East and burden of endless killings – Punch Newspapers

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Umahi, Obiano and Uzodinma
The spate of destruction of lives and properties in the South-East geo-political zone has become a source of worry to governments and other stakeholders in the region, writes CHIDIEBUBE OKEOMA
Before now, the South-East region had remained peaceful and accommodating to all. Things, however, began to fall apart since February this year, barely four months after the nationwide #EndSARS protest which turned violent.
From the attack on Federal Government formations, like police commands and divisions, offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission and courts to the killing of clerics, traditional rulers, the level of insecurity in the region is, to say the least, has become unimaginable.
More horrifying is the fact that travellers were ambushed on many occasions. While some lost their lives, others were injured. Residents of the zone known for their economic independence groaned as anguish became a daily occurrence in their lives.

In Imo State, the onslaught began in February with the attack on Obowo Local Government Area Divisional Police Headquarters where some policemen were killed while suspects in custody were freed before the facility was set ablaze by ‘unknown’ gunmen.
Subsequently on April 5, the Owerri Correctional Centre and the Imo State Police Command in Owerri were attacked. No fewer that 1,884 inmates were freed, the prison facility burnt while one of the inmates died during the stampede. At the command headquarters same day, over 50 vehicles were burnt with all the suspects freed. The attackers didn’t stop there; they also attacked a military checkpoint along Owerri-Onitsha Road and set ablaze two military men on duty.
Again, the hoodlums struck on April 24, 2021, attacking the country home of the state Governor, Hope Uzodinma. Some security operatives and the bandits lost their lives during a shootout. Since then, over 20 security formations had been attacked with many cops killed. The unending onslaught remains the biggest security threat since the creation of the state.

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Again, the Izombe, Isu, Omuma and Attah police divisional headquarters were also attacked with many people losing their lives. There was a failed attempt on Imo Police Command headquarters on June 6 which led to killing of Dragon, a suspected commander of the Eastern Security Network and others. That was a major breakthrough in the fight by the security operatives against the repeated attacks in the state. On May 24, two persons were killed at Ohaji/Egbema during a gun duel between security operatives and suspected bandits.
Statistic has that over 180 people, including soldiers, policemen, Department of State Services operatives lost their lives in the last six to seven months in the South-East.
INEC offices in some parts of the region were not left out as the attacks continued unabated. On May 29, INEC office in Njaba Local Goverment Area was razed. Njaba and Orsu police divisional police headquarters were also invaded on July 30 and August 5, respectively with one policeman losing his life. The one that caused serious panic in the state was the killing of an Anglican priest on September 14 in Orsu LGA.  The cleric was said to be protective of students who were sitting for the West African Senior School Certificate Examination, to ensure they were not attacked.
On September 15, an Imo-based lawyer, Darlington, was killed in front of a supermarket in Orlu, one of the places known for violence since the insecurity started in the zone. On August 16, four oil workers at Ohaji in Imo State were killed. On June 1, a German-based Nigerian, Oguchi Unachukwu was killed at the toll gate of Imo airport by suspected security operatives.
On May 30, an Imo-based businessman, Noel Chigbu was killed by suspected military men in Owerri. Before then, precisely on April 24, an undergraduate of Imo State University, Divine Nwaneri, was killed in front of Imo Government House.  The following day, a motorist was also shot dead at almost the same point. Three persons were beheaded in Orlu community on August 2. On August 1, there was an attack at hotel in Orlu. On July 29 a motorist was beheaded at Okwudor in Njaba LGA.
In all these, the police spokesperson in Imo State, Micheal Abattam, observed that the state had witnessed a new but progressive approach of policing and security since the current Commissioner of Police, Rabiu Hussaini, took over in the state.
Abattam said the Imo Police Command was getting maximum support from the state government, and urged residents to avail security operatives with vital information to arrest security infractions in the state.

Similarly, Anambra State, which is set for a governorship election on November 6, has recorded the killing of security operatives and civilians, including Dr Chike Akunyili, widower of a former Minister of Information, Dora Akunyili, while many houses and vehicles had been set ablaze in the state by the marauding gunmen. Four naval officers were said to have lost their lives to ‘unknown’ gunmen’s attack in the state.
However, spokesman for the Anambra State Police Command, Ikenga Tochukwu, insisted that the security outfit was winning the war against brazing and bizarre attacks on innocent residents of the state. He added, “We have been bold in confronting all security challenges and threats and indeed have recorded several successes in curbing these security challenges.
“The Commissioner of Police, Echeng Echeng, on assumption of office on October 8, 2021, undertook a critical threat analysis and embark on painstaking intelligence gathering through strategic deployment of our intelligence assets, robust synergy with sister security agencies, organised vigilante groups and other stakeholders and we are daily evolving in our strategies to tackle security challenges as they emerge.”
In Enugu State, 24 persons were killed by gunmen, while four INEC offices and two police stations were set ablaze in the last six months. Ebonyi State is not left out as it has at a point experienced its share of insecurity in the South-East. Three cases of arson were recorded in five attacks in the last six months.
Abia State, where the leader of the proscribed IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu, hails from has so far witnessed seven attacks on security formations.
Miffed by the level of destruction of lives and properties, the South-East governors have through the Chairman of the South-East Governors’ Forum, David Umahi of Ebonyi State, condemned the rate of insecurity in the zone.
Umahi had maintained that those behind the killings and destruction of properties were people from the region, even as he pleaded that such dastardly acts should end.

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“We condemn in totality the insecurity in South-East orchestrated by our own people who are tagged unknown gunmen and I appeal on behalf of the governors that this should come to a stop. We are very mobile people; restricting our people is to destroy us and I am sure that every man and woman in the South-East knows that.”

Speaking on the security situation in the zone, the National President of the Coalition of South-East Youth Leaders, Goodluck Ibem, said the Federal Government’s approach to leadership was fuelling insecurity in the zone.
“The insecurity ravaging the South-East geopolitical zone today is as a result of lopsided appointments made by President Muhammadu Buhari which favour only the northern part of the country that has predominantly his tribesmen; Fulani.
“So, before you can solve a particular problem completely without scratching it on the surface, you first of all look at the root cause of the problem. President Buhari’s nepotistic approach to governance brought about the present insecurity ravaging the South-East zone today and by extension the entire country.
“Instead of the President to address issues bordering on the killings by Fulani herdsmen and lopsided appointments raised by IPOB, he ordered security agencies to start killing Igbo youths for daring to protest against his style of leadership.
“One should ask why we had peace and tranquillity when Goodluck Jonathan was President. The answer is simple. He understands the diversity of Nigeria and carried every components of the federation along. No segment was left out.
“Moving forward, the Federal Government should provide employment for our youths that are roaming the streets without jobs. The Federal government should make Ndigbo feel the impact of governance by appointing South-East indigenes into federal positions.

“A South-East son or daughter should be appointed a security chief. You cannot hold any security meeting about South-East without anyone from that zone; it cannot work. Only someone who understands a particular terrain can know how to police such a place. It will amount to beating around the bush if no one from the South-East is a member of the National Security Council.
“The Federal Character principle should be adopted in appointments into federal parastatals so that all geopolitical zones in the country will be fully represented in the country. Appointing only northerners mostly of the Fulani tribe and believing nothing will happen is totally wrong. The local government council that was created to bring government closer to the people have been totally defeated.
“Governors have hijacked the money meant to cater for local dwellers. These have really caused restiveness among our youths at local level. The constitution should be amended so that INEC will conduct all elections from the local government council elections to the presidential elections.
“The Federal Government should release Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of IPOB and send him back to London where he is a citizen. The way he was taken away from Kenya is wrong. It is an international offence. The people are very angry that Kanu was given such treatment because he is an Igboman.”
The President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council, Igboayaka O. igboayaka, described the insecurity in the zone as an offshoot of the marginalisation of the zone by the Federal Government. He added, “The insecurity in South-East is an effect of the way separatist groups were treated. First, the Federal Government should negotiate and engage in a dialogue with all pro-Biafra groups.
“There should be institutionalisation of community security network in all communities in the South-East. Again, the effect of drug abuse among the youths is evidence of the violence we see today. Therefore, rehabilitation centres should be established to re-orient our youths. The South-East governors should collaborate with the Federal Government to fight unemployment. Lack of job and idleness contribute to youth restiveness and crime.”
Adding his voice, the National President of Igbo National Council, Chilos Godsent, proposed a stakeholders’ advocacy meeting with major stakeholders in the conflict as one of the steps to ending the insecurity. “I call for Igbo Nation Youth Security summit, training and inauguration of 250 peace monitors in the South-East region of Nigeria,” Godsent added.

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Speaking on the insecurity that has pervaded the region, the Zonal Police Public Relations Officer, Zone 9 (covering Abia, Imo and Ebonyi states), Kingsley Iredibia, maintained that the police were doing their best to stem the tide of killings, arson and other criminalities within its area of coverage.
“Recently, the spate of violence or killings has reduced in Imo and Abia states because there is this synergy among the security agencies to curb the ugly trend. These security agencies have carried the war to the doorsteps of the unknown gunmen in Zone 9 and the intelligence being provided and gathered is helping to fight the attackers.
“Also, good spirited Nigerians are now on the same page with the police in fighting violent upsurge in the zone. They have also condemned the wrong approaches in seeking for self-determination by the attackers.
“Even Ohanaeze Ndigbo has come up and a communiqué and they said they were not happy with the approach the perpetrators of these crimes adopted to seek self-determination. Also, youths in the zone have started being realistic and saying that it’s their land that is in crisis. They visited the AIG the other day and said they would partner with the police to fight these attackers.
“Therefore, the police in the South-East are doing their best to control this situation, but when there is an incident in a particular place, a federal force will always be drafted to go there and assist. Outside this country, whenever there is trouble, our men used to go for foreign mission. So, as a way of helping to assist the security forces on the ground here, the Inspector General of Police, from time to time, sends federal forces here to compliment the efforts of those on the ground.”
However, several calls put across to the spokesperson of the 34 Artillery Brigade, Obinze, Owerri, Captain Joseph Akuga, were not answered. Also a text message sent to him to explain the unending security breaches in Imo State and its environs was not replied.

  • Additional report by Edward Nnachi and Tony Okafor

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