Emmanuel Ugwu in Umuahia
As controversy continues to swirl around the alleged killing of five Fulani herdsmen, the Governors of Abia and Imo States monday confirmed that the criminal act was committed by kidnappers who operate on the border between the two states.
Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State and his Imo State counterpart, Chief Rochas Okorocha, made the disclosure while addressing journalists at the end of a joint security council meeting held at Government House in Umuahia, Abia State
The meeting, which was attended by heads of security agencies from both states, including the Commander of 14 Brigade Ohafia, Brigadier-General Lawrence Fejokwu, new Zone 9 AIG, Yerima Fyarah and the Chairman, South-east Council of Traditional Rulers, Eze Eberechi Dick, deliberated on the security situation in the two states.
The Department of State Services (DSS) had earlier accused the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) of being responsible for the death of the herdsmen, a claim which the separatist organisation had vehemently denied and now lent credence to by the two governors.
Ikpeazu, who was the first to speak after the security council meeting that lasted two hours behind closed door, said the spate of kidnappings going on across the border of the sister states was worrisome, adding that it was during such criminal activities that the herdsmen met their unfortunate end.
“We condemn the spate of kidnappings here, especially in relation to the five Fulani herdsmen kidnapped and murdered by criminals,” he said.
The Abia State governor said the joint security meeting was necessitated by the need to fashion out effective strategy to curb criminal activities in the two states, adding that “the time had come when criminals would not be allowed to launch attacks in Imo and run to Abia or vice versa.
He said security agencies in both states had been directed to destroy the forest at the border where the kidnappers use as their base.
Corroborating his Abia counterpart views, Okorocha said he came to Abia with his team to see how both state governments could flush out the men of the underworld that have been terrorizing the people.
He stated that the killing of the herdsmen had no ethnic colouration because “it was not a direct attack on any ethnic group” but rather the consequences of the “criminal activity we’ve been battling”. The Imo governor said that aside from the corpses of the five herdsmen discovered in the shallow grave two bodies of Igbo people were also in the grave.
“Our borders are weak,” he declared, adding the two states have declared a joint security operation, which “we intend to extend to Enugu and Rivers States” by involving the governors of those states that also share borders with Imo and Abia.
Okorocha said he had agreed with Ikpeazu that the houses of confirmed kidnappers would be demolished and their properties recovered as part of measures to put kidnappers out of business.
He said the “evil forest” where the kidnappers use as their operational base must be dismantled urgently, warning that “this is how evil forest story starts; that’s how Sambisa started.”
In all this the full story surrounding the alleged killing has remained hazy as those who should know have not disclosed the date when the herdsmen went missing and when the shallow grave containing their bodies was found out.
Even the exact location of the forest harbouring the grave was not clear but the Security Adviser to Abia State governor, Captain Awa Udensi (rtd), said it was located on the border between Imo and Abia around Uturu axis of Abia.