David-Chyddy Eleke reports that insecurity in Anambra has hit an all-time-high, with members of secret cults, armed robbers and petty thieves taking the lead
Though security in the South-east of Nigeria has worsened as a result of constant attacks by hoodlum codenamed ‘Unknown Gunmen’ on security officials and their facilities, there is a new twist in the insecurity plaguing Anambra state.
The attacks on security facilities and security agents have practically caused a breakdown in conventional policing, with policemen now realising their vulnerability to attacks, thereby retreating from carrying out their duties the normal way they used to.
For example, policemen no longer conduct ‘stop and search’ operations on major highways, just as THISDAY learnt that some police stations no longer open for duty, nor do they accept reports from members of the public, or even effect arrest any longer. This may be because of the damage caused their facilities by attacks.
On 10th June, it was gathered that gunmen in their numbers attacked Ojoto Police station in Idemili South local government area of Anambra State. During the attack which happened in the afternoon, one Police Inspector was killed but the attackers were unable to burn down the police station as policemen on duty stood their ground
An eyewitness said the hoodlums came in three Sienna vehicles, but were repelled by the policemen on duty. “We are in trouble in this state now. Nobody knows which way to follow again. The problems and tension being created in Anambra are too much for us to bear ” the eyewitness lamented. “These attacks have contributed to crippling conventional policing in Anambra and the South east state”.
But in Anambra, besides the reign of unknown gunmen, cultists and armed robbers have seized the opportunity to add to the fear in the state by having free reign.
For example, no day passes by without incidences of armed robbery and cult killings. In many neighborhoods in towns across the state, including the state capital, armed robbers consisting of youths sack a whole street, moving from one end of the street to the other, robbing shops and residential buildings, most times at day, without any form of challenge.
THISDAY cannot exactly confirm which cult groups have been operating in the state, but in Awka, there are rampant cases of killings, most of which happen at day, with gun wielding youths accosting and shooting their targets in broad daylight. It is believed that most of those killed are cultists, who are being targeted by rival groups.
A source told THISDAY that majority of commercial tricycle operators in the capital city either belong to one cult or the other, just as their membership of such groups aid their commercial operations in the town.
This much was given credence recently when a leader of commercial tricycle riders in Unizik junction, Awka, popularly known as Prince was killed by suspected cultists.
Prince was shot on Thursday afternoon at Unizik Junction, Awka, and his body also severally matcheted by his assailants. It was gathered that his assailants arrived the area in a Toyota Sienna vehicle shortly after Prince himself arrived and parked his car inside the park, before strolling on foot to the gate of the tricycle park, where he was attacked.
“The men shot at him immediately, killing him on the spot, while using matchets to mutilate his body before leaving in their vehicle,” a source said. The source told our reporter that the killing of Prince, though cult-related, was not also unconnected to a fresh tussle by a certain group to take over the collection of toll from tricycle riders in Awka.
The source said, “Even the state government knows who they are, and they also know the trouble between the rival factions. There is a big man who is in charge of collecting toll at bus stations in Awka, but the ones in charge of collecting tricycle toll want to upstage the ones collecting bus toll to add it to their revenue window. This tussle has been on for a while now, and you know that these Keke (tricycle) riders are mostly members of one cult or the other, so the tussle has taken the shape of cult rivalry.”
The slain Prince who is said to be newly married, and has a little daughter, hails from Ifitedunu in Dunukofia Local Government of Anambra State.
His death sparked tension in the Anambra State capital, as it is believed that his associates may move to avenge his death. The activities of cultists in the city has totally crippled night life as residents now retire to their homes as early as 7pm.
There is also a high spate of robbery in various parts of Anambra State. This has drawn concern from stakeholders in various communities, leading to the establishment of local security outfits. Like in Emma Nnaemeka Street, a neighbourhood in Awka, leaders of the area have employed private security to ensure security in the area.
Also in Onitsha and Nnewi, the traditional rulers of the areas have established security agencies, funding them with operational vehicles, arms and ammunition. In Nkpor, Obosi and other areas, residents have resorted to self-help by meting jungle justice on criminals apprehended. Recently, a pickpocket in Onitsha who had picked a handkerchief from a victims pocket, mistaking it to be money was burnt to death. Also, in Obinagu area of Awka, three armed robbers who are said to have persistently terrorised the area in motorcycle were on Friday night apprehended and burnt alive.
A resident of the area, Mr Lawrence Ndu, a trader said, “these boys have made life very unbearable for us. Once it is 7pm, they moved from shop to shop, to rob people. If you come out as early as 6am, they are also there to collect your belonging. It is not the first time we are apprehending and killing thieves, but they keep coming.”
The Public Relations Officer of Anambra State Police Command, DSP Toochukwu Ikenga reacting to the spate of insecurity said the command has been working, contrary to speculations. He said investigations have been opened about most of the killings in the state.
Reacting to the killing of Prince, Ikenga said, “Preliminary investigations revealed that it is a cult-related clash. These are part of incidents the command is worried about. Just recently, the command took campaign against such in a security summit with the youth at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka and we can assure you that we are extending the campaign to other parts of the community and stakeholders. Meanwhile investigation is on going and patrol team have been deployed. Normalcy has been restored in the area.”