Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani, former governor of Enugu State
Until recently, Enugu State was one of the safest and most peaceful states in the South-east zone, but men of the underworld seem to have decided to truncate this cherished virtue, writes Christopher Isiguzo
“From what is happening now in the state, it does appear we are back to that dark era when residents of the state went to bed with one eye seemingly closed. The level of insecurity in the state was better imagined than experienced. Hoodlums inflicted pain on the people with so much bravado, not minding whose ox was gored. People were killed; several lost their property. Car snatching was the order of the day. Armed robbery became a state law. Indeed, for us who were here then, it was a period when most of us merely submitted to fate”.
With the above remarks, an elderly resident of Enugu, Pa Emma Ojinere, summed up the level of insecurity that pervaded the state during the immediate past administration of Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani.
After witnessing the manner in which a serving councillor in one of the local government areas in the state was shot and killed recently by gunmen suspected to be cultists along One Day road, Awkunanaw, in Enugu South local council, Ojinere could not hold back his tears. He remembered the experience of the not too distant past.
According to Ojinere, night life was completely wiped out in the state, as people usually hurried home before it is 7pm to avoid being molested by hoodlums who were variously branded. He noted, however, that since the inception of the administration of Governor Sullivan Chime, the state had witnessed improved security and an enabling environment for business. But things seem to be deteriorating again.
Indeed, Enugu State, which before now had prided itself on being one of the most peaceful states in the country, is gradually becoming the hotbed of crime and criminality. There is hardly any day that passes now without one crime or the other being committed. From cult-related killings, to kidnap or suicide, killing of innocent people has become more or less the order of the day.
Only recently, four persons were murdered in cold blood in Enugu, the state capital, in what has been described as cult-related killings. The victims were killed at different points. Two were killed in the morning of the fateful day at Adelabu and Peter Okoye streets, Uwani area of Enugu, while one was killed at Onuasata in the afternoon the same day. The fourth, a councillor in one of the local councils of the state, was killed in the evening at One Day Road, Awkunanaw. Sources said the assailants used cars in place of the banned motor cycles in their operation.
In the past two months, over 10 persons have been killed in what police sources said had to do with the activities of suspected cultists.
In like manner, activities of kidnappers have remained on the increase in the state as many prominent people have fallen victim to the suspected abductors. A fortnight ago, the Vice chancellor of the Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT), Professor Cyprian Onyeji, was kidnapped and held for nine days before he was able to breathe the air of freedom.
The abduction took place on August 15 about 11.30am. Three policemen on the convoy of the vice chancellor were shot and wounded. It was later gathered that Onyeji’s abductors had laid ambush for him at the school’s gate and on sighting his convoy, they opened fire.
Apparently to display the sophistication of their arms, the suspected kidnappers shot at the people around. Of course, they over-powered the policemen, leaving three of them in the pool of their own blood. In a commando style, the gang escaped with the vice chancellor in his car.
A day after the incident, Onyeji’s car was reportedly recovered in Awka, Anambra State. The abductors were said to have demanded N200 million as ransom from the family.
The ESUT vice chancellor is not the first chief executive of a higher institution to be so kidnapped in the state, at least in the past one year. The Provost of the Federal College of Education, Eha-Amafu, Professor Benjamin Mbah, was sometime last year equally kidnapped on his way home from school. In these two instances, it was widely believed that ransoms of huge amounts were paid before the release of the victims.
Just like Onyeji’s abductors demanded N200 million, which they later reduced to an undisclosed amount before he was released at Igbariam, Oyi local government of Anambra State, without a single bullet expended by the police, Mbah’s abductors made demand for ransom at the time.
Barely two days after Onyeji was seized, a retired medical doctor with Niger Foundation Mission Hospital, Independence Layout, Mazi Jonah Ndubuisi Abah, was kidnapped and taken to an unknown destination. Abah, was abducted about 5am on his way to a morning Mass at Mary’s Catholic Church, Trans-Ekulu Enugu, by gunmen who left his wife and daughter in the car.
It was gathered that Abah, his wife and children were inside the car when he was accosted by four gunmen and ordered out of the car. Though, operatives of the Police Anti-Kidnap Squad in Enugu were said to have swung into action to ensure the release of the doctor, up till the time of writing this report, nothing was heard of the renowned medical practitioner.
Though, security operatives have continued to pledge their readiness to check the increasing incidence of criminality, such promise has yet to be fulfilled.
A senior police officer in the state, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said both the police and the State Security Services were working round the clock to ensure that lives and property of residents of the Coal City State were secured. He expressed dismay that rather than appreciate the efforts of the police, the people only choose to condemn the police each time a crime is committed.
“One thing about Nigerians is that they always complain each time one thing or the other happens. They are forgetting that these hoodlums don’t sleep. Maybe in one month, one major crime is committed, the next thing you will hear is that the police are not working and they forget that we have 30 days in one month and out of the 30, something happened in one. Have they asked why nothing happened in the remaining 29 days? It simply means we are not folding our arms, we are working hard and, thank God, we have a supportive government in place in the state,” he stated.
A top security officer at Government House, Enugu, who refused to have his name mentioned, also said the government was on top of the security situation in the state. But he was dismayed that the situation seemed to be getting out of hand.
He said, “I want to assure you that this government is seriously committed to the protection and security of lives and property in the state and let me remind you that some of these stories you hear now have never been there for the past years. Do you know the strategy we used in the past to checkmate the activities of these hoodlums?
“Let’s not forget what used to happen here before Chime came on board. If it were then, who will open his/her mouth to complain that somebody was killed by cults or that somebody was kidnapped? People are saying all these now because this government has provided an enabling environment for them to do so.”
Ban on Okada
The Governor Sullivan Chime administration had on July 3 enacted a law effectively banning commercial motor-cycle operation in the state, in a bid to control the rising spate of insecurity. Most of the Okada riders were said to have been seriously involved in the crimes. The law prescribes one year imprisonment, without an option of fine, for violators.
While signing the bill into law, the governor had noted that the law aimed to check the activities of men of the underworld and ultimately protect lives and property of the people.
“The House of Assembly has passed the bill and we’ve enacted the law whose primary goal is the protection of lives and property of our people. This exercise, effectively, bans the use of motorcycles, otherwise known as Okada, within the Enugu metropolis.
“As a government, we made efforts to streamline the operations of the genuine operators but these efforts, unfortunately, had not been fruitful because crime rate rose and most of the crimes were facilitated by the use of motorcycles by evil-minded persons.
“It got so bad that the law enforcement agents officially requested the ban of motorcycles because of the menace of the men of the underworld who have been using them to perpetrate their crimes. As a responsive and responsible government, we have enacted this law in the best interest of all of us,” Chime said.
Chime also enjoined the people to embrace other means of transportation available in the city.
“In the past few years, government injected over 700 taxis in the metropolis in addition to tens of hundreds by the private sector as well as the Coal City Shuttle and other buses.
“We regret any inconveniences this ban may cause the commuters but it had to be taken in the best interest of all of us. So, we plead with our people to obey the law as we also urge the law enforcement agents to, please, ensure strict enforcement of the law in our overall interest,” the governor said.
The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, DSP Ebere Amarizu, has assured of the readiness of the command to confront the criminal tendencies head on, vowing that in no distant time the cult killings and kidnappings would be stopped. For now, however, Enugu residents will continue to lose sleep over the rate of crime and criminality around them.