As Insecurity Tears across the South-east

Chiemelie Ezeobi in collaboration with Christopher Isiguzo and Gideon Arinze in Enugu State, David-Chyddy Eleke in Anambra State, Emmanuel Ugwu-Nwogo in Abia State, Benjamin Nworie in Ebonyi State and Amby Uneze in Imo State report that the rising insecurity in the South-east occasioned by attacks on security and public infrastructure and acts of extra-judicial killings have turned the region into a hotbed of violence

Undoubtedly, the growing security threats from Nigeria’s South-east region gives cause for concern. But it was not always so. Until recently, the South-east region was arguably the most peaceful part of the country, but now, it has evolved into a hotbed of violence targeting state security institutions by armed men popularly referred to as unknown gunmen.

In fact, between January and April 19, 2021, over 17 police stations, in addition to a correctional facility, have been targeted by the gunmen, leaving in their trail dead officers, charred police stations, freed prison inmates, and empty armoury.

Before 2021, the South-east region was mainly known for the hustle and bustle associated with markets. Although just like other regions, there also were cases of criminal violence manifesting as cult wars, ransom kidnaps and armed robbery. Added to these are sustained episodes of pro-Biafra secessionist agitations that turned fatal in some instances. Five months into 2021, 149 people have been killed in 36 attacks in south-east Nigeria according to Nextier Security, Peace and Development (SPD) violent conflict database.

Nextier SPD, an international development consulting firm based in Nigeria which utilises evidence-based research and policy in developing knowledge and skills for governing the society, also disclosed that multiple attacks, especially at police stations, courts, and other state infrastructure, have been recorded. ” The now-unstable region is increasingly witnessing gruesome murders and incessant attacks by violent actors widely regarded as “unknown gunmen”, they added.

They further posited that “while Nigeria’s security operatives have fingered the indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and its offshoot, the Eastern Security Network (ESN), the pro-Biafra group, have continually denied responsibility for the ongoing carnage in the South-east. The situation leaves many conflict experts perplexed towards a comprehensive understanding of the triggers and consequences of insecurity in South-east Nigeria.

“Also, if the violence persists, it spells doom for the region and the country in general. For instance, terrorism in the Lake Chad basin may be more demanding with the death of the resilient Chadian’s president, Idriss Deby and the new power ascendancy of Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP). Recently, ISWAP was reported to have killed Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram. The volatile South-east, and by extension, the South-south zone, adds to a long list of security challenges the Nigerian government has to manage”.

In its analysis of insecurity in the region, they disclosed that from its violent conflict database, about 724 people were killed and 802 kidnapped in 336 incidents in the first quarter of 2021, while in the last quarter of 2020, 384 people were killed, 510 persons kidnapped in 256 incidents. “The statistics portray an increasing wave of violence despite the Nigerian government’s efforts to contain these issues. The result is the emergence of non-state actors in some instances complement efforts the state security -Amotekun, Vigilantes- and some cases challenge- IPOB, ESN- the state.

“In the last five months, 55 attacks were recorded in the South-east, ranging from communal clashes to farmer herders. The attacks have led to the death of over 155 persons. The new wave of insecurity indicates that the Nigeria Police Force expected to maintain law and order during the polls are as vulnerable as citizens… The increased deployment of soldiers to the region rather than quell violence has led to human rights violations and growing violence,” they added.

For the attacks on police formations, they have continued unabated in the South-east since January.

Anambra: At the Mercy of Unknown Gunmen, Cultists

David-Chyddy Eleke in Anambra reports that insecurity in the state has hit an all-time-high, leaving the citizens at the mercy of cultists, armed robbers and unknown gunmen

In Anambra, despite the menace of unknown gunmen and armed herders, there is the combined threat from cultists in Awka, the state capital, and touts and armed robbers in Onitsha, its commercial capital.

Awka has been worse hit by cult clashes by various groups, which has led to several killings of young people, most of who are believed to be members of one cult group or the other, from January 2021 to date.

Meanwhile, no less than 16 police formations in Anambra State have been attacked by yet-to-be identified gunmen, and this has rendered the police incapable of discharging their duties, leaving the entire state to the mercy of hoodlums. For instance, when the B Division Police Station and the headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission in Anambra were attacked simultaneously by gunmen, on the same night, armed robbers took time to move from hostel to hostel in Ifite area, robbing residents while gunshots rent the air. A source said the entire operation lasted for three hours from 9pm to about 12am, yet there was no resistance from security forces.

In Onitsha, the near absence of police on the road has also emboldened both petty thieves and armed robbers, including youths who accost passersby, and ask them to part with valuables or regret any resistance. A resident of Onitsha, who deals in clothing materials in Onitsha main market told THISDAY that: “We pray for a time when normal trading will commence again in this market. As I speak to you, people are afraid of coming to Onitsha to buy goods, and traders are suffering. We have goods, but we cannot find people to sell to. Can you imagine that for buying small goods, just to get to the motor park, touts will be harassing you for no reason, yet, everyone will just look away.

“There is no form of night life in Anambra anymore. In Onitsha, once it is evening, people are already in their houses because of fear of touts, robbers and others. I pity those whose businesses are done at night, like those women who bring food to sell at motor park at night, because automatically, they are out of job now. Things are very tough these days.”

THISDAY investigation shows that in Awka where night life recently gained momentum, even though it has not been totally phased out, people no longer stay out late, leading to poor patronage for people who do business at night.

Enugu State: Widespread Fear Reigns amidst Rising Insecurity

Christopher Isiguzo and Gideon Arinze in Enugu report that amidst rising insecurity in the state, there are widespread fears that the state and other states in the South-east could become like the North-east which has been torn apart by incessant attacks by insurgency

Enugu State, like other states in the South-east region, has had its fair share of security challenges in recent times. From attacks on electoral facilities to those on police stations, residents in the state hardly sleep a wink at night.

In the past two months, at least six police officers have been reported killed when gunmen, who till now have remained unknown, attacked and burnt police stations in Eziagu and Uzo Uwani Local Governments.

While the government has blamed members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and what police call its armed wing, the Eastern Security Network (ESN) for the attacks, the IPOB has denied involvement repeatedly.

Currently, major roads leading to the Enugu State government house have been cordoned off for fear of attacks by members of the IPOB who appear to have reawakened their demand for a sovereign state.

On Monday, May 31, the group’s order for a sit-at-home, completely crippled commercial and economic activities in the state as well as other states in the region. Banks, schools, government offices and motor parks were also closed. Residents were afraid of both members of the group who had threatened to deal with anyone who disobeyed the order and security operatives who they felt were on a mission to destroy the South-east.

At the entrance to the government house, security remains tightened with security officers constantly subjecting visitors to thorough examinations before they are allowed access into the building.

For the two months also, tricycle riders have been banned from operating beyond 9pm. This was against the backdrop of reports that some individuals were using it to carry out robbery attacks.

In a bid to in the state, to deal with the rising tide of insecurity in the state, the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, flagged off a new Operation to “restore peace”.

According to the Police Public Relations Officer, Enugu State Police Command, ASP Daniel Ndukwe, the launching of the operation is one major step that is helping the state to deal with the prevailing security challenge.

The launch of the operation came 24 hours after the headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC in Enugu State was attacked and property burnt.

The attackers, according to reports, reportedly tried to set buildings in the premises ablaze but were resisted by security operatives who were guarding the premises. They however succeeded in burning a number of Hilux vehicles inside the building.

After the attack, a combined team of the Nigerian army and the Nigerian Police force were drafted to the headquarters of the INEC to keep it safe from further attack and destruction. Roads leading to the building have since been blocked.

Speaking during the launch, the IG said it was part of the federal government’s effort to address growing insecurity, attacks on security infrastructure and secessionist agitation in the zone.

He said that in order to addresss the prevailing security threats in the state, everyone must bedetermined to build a consensus, partner in condemning any act of criminality and resolve to work with the police and other security agencies towards identifying, isolating and bringing the criminal elements within communities to deserved justice.

Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, who was present during the launch, expressed optimism that the operation will lead to the retooling of security architecture in the state and the entire South-east.

He said “today’s event could not have come at a better time than now given the point of insecurity in the country. In the past week, we have been saddened by the spate of killings of security operatives in their line of duty as well as destruction of security infrastructure as well as other public institutions.

The launching of Operation Restores Peace” has been interpreted to be part of plans by the federal government to extra-judicially kill members of the IPOB.

On a particular Sunday last June, a day to the sit-at-home order given by the IPOB, security operatives raided a church located at Owerri Road in Enugu where they marched members out, claiming that they were members of the group.

Without making reference to the incident in the church, ASP Ndukwe, in a statement, said, “54 persons were seen to be unlawfully gathered at Owerri Road, Ogui, Enugu, and brought to Headquarters for questioning.

“After nothing incriminating was found on them, the Commissioner of Police, CP Mohammed Ndatsu Aliyu, addressed and cautioned them to go home and maintain peace. They all left happily.”

Also in June, the Enugu Nigerian Correctional Centre, Enugu Custodial Centre, on its part, beefed up security to prevent attacks that could lead to a bridge of security. The development followed the attack on a correctional facility in Owerri, the Imo State capital, that led to the disappearance of over 1,800 inmates

The Public Relations Officer of the centre, ASPEmeka Monday told THISDAY that they had been working closely with other sister security agencies in the state to forestall any attack that could lead to jail break.

“We have tightened up our surveillance outside the custodial centre and we are doing something entirely different to ensure that the security of the facility is tight” he said.

When THISDAY visited the Enugu Custodial centre then, men of the Nigerian Army were seen manning several spots, in addition to officers of the centre. At intervals, they stopped and searched individuals who walked past the centre.

With the security situation looking like it is not going to end soon, there are widespread fears that the state and other states in the South-east could become like the North-east which has been torn apart by incessant attacks by Boko Haram insurgents. The insurgent group began their onslaught by attacking government facilities, after which they graduated to destroying lives and property. Now, they have taken over, launching attacks incessantly on the military.

Abia: Ikepazu’s Battle to Make State Safer

Emmanuel Ugwu-Nwogo in Abia reports that after emerging from the clutches of kidnapping and armed robbery, the relative security that residents of the state had been enjoying is fast disappearing with the incursion of unknown gunmen creating havoc

After emerging from the scourge of kidnapping and armed robbery that brought the state to its knees over a decade ago, Abia State had been relatively peaceful. Things really returned to normalcy following the successful war against kidnappers and other criminal elements. It was common to hear the state governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu boast that Abia is one of the most peaceful state in Nigeria with emphasis that no bank robbery has been recorded in the state since 2015 when his administration came into being.

But amid the escalating insecurity in the entire South-east geopolitical zone, the relative security that residents of Abia have been enjoying is fast disappearing. Every day people sleep, wake up and begin their daily activities in fear and panic. In fact, the panic mode is easily triggered by any hint of rumoured attack by criminal herdsmen or the unknown gunmen, which has become the buzz word after every attack.

At the last count, about seven police stations across Abia have been attacked and razed by the unknown gunmen, with some of the attacks resulting in casualties on the side of the police and the attackers. The Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC) and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) have not been spared. The offices of both agencies were attacked at Ohafia in Ohafia Local Government Area. The attacks on police facilities have led to allegations of extra-judicial executions due to the reactionary response of the police after each attack on their facilities

In its efforts to resolve the security problem the two major cities – Umuahia, the capital city and Aba, the commercial hub – have been placed under curfew since April 5, 2021. The curfew regime of 10 pm to 6am was imposed apparently as a proactive response after the police headquarters and the correctional facility in neighbouring Imo State were attacked by hoodlums. In announcing the curfew the state Commissioner for Information, Chief John Okiyi Kalu had said it was “sequel to security reports received from multiple sources, and informed by the need to continue to protect innocent citizens and residents of the state”.

With the insecurity situation unabating, the state government has continued to expand the curfew areas. First, Ohafia and Arochukwu Local Governments were added and on May 11, 2021 while Umunneochi and Bende Local Governments were dragged into the curfew web. The Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mr. Chris Ezem, said Governor Ikpeazu had directed the inclusion of the two additional local governments in the curfew areas after reviewing the security situation.

The SSG also announced that all local government chairmen had been “directed to urgently mobilise local vigilante groups to support conventional security agencies to enforce the curfew and effectively safeguard lives and property”. The curfew period was reviewed to run from 8.00pm to 6.00am in Umuahia and Aba while it comes into effect between 6.00pm and 6.00am in Ohafia, Umunneochi, Arochukwu and Bende.

Not done yet in its quest to find answers to the security challenges, the Abia government convened a security summit which held in Umuahia from May 26 to 28, 2021. Governor Ikpeazu invited to the summit all retired security personnel of Abia origin that served in the Army, Navy, Airforce, Police and DSS, from the rank of Assistant Police Commissioner(ACP) or its equivalent. Heads of security agencies in the state were also included. The security experts were joined by other stakeholders, including the governor and his deputy, Speaker of State House of Assembly, members of state security council, council chairmen and their deputies as well as traditional rulers. For the three days, the stakeholders on security brainstormed on the way out of the security problems facing the state.

Speaking at the security summit, Ikpeazu said his administration was fine-tuning the existing Abia State Vigilante Law to complement efforts of the Abia State Homeland Security outfit in readiness of being deployed “for strategic security operations” based on the recommendations of the summit. He hinted on the role of the new regional security outfit, Ebubeagu, approved by the South-east Governors Forum. “My thoughts for Ebubeagu is that it should be the intelligence gathering arm of the security architecture of the South-east supported by the Hunters Association and every other group who depend on the bushes and forests for their living on a daily basis”.

The Abia chief executive further outlined other measures his administration had adopted to stem the tide of insecurity pervading the state. He said: “The ongoing exercise of flushing out criminals from our forests will be steady until the state gets rid of criminal elements from across our bushes and forests in Abia”.

He stated that the deployment of ICT in crime fighting in Abia had recorded “remarkable success” through the Abia CPAMS Initiative conceptualised to take records of criminals using apps on internet-enabled phones.

“This government has tried to deploy science and technology in the fight against crime,” Ikpeazu said, adding, “it is my intention to ultimately rest it on the shoulders of the various LGA chairmen”. According to him, the council bosses “will have the responsibility of making sure that the geographical entities they superintend over are well supervised and adequate security intelligence and report made available timeously”.

At the end of the two days of deliberations, the Abia State Security Summit 2021, chaired by the former Chief of Army Staff(COAS), Gen Azubuike Ihejirika, recommended “a new security architecture” for Abia State. The stakeholders said that the new outfit “will incorporate a community based vigilante services, Homeland Security (CPAMS) and ABSAS(Abia State Vigilante Services)”. They emphasized that all the local security outfits would be required ‘to work in conjunction with the statutory security agencies to enhance the security and safety of the State”.

Governor Ikpeazu, who has consistently faulted the centralised security architecture of Nigeria, describing it as counterproductive, would be well disposed to a local alternative to complement the federal security agencies. He has already expressed his “firm commitment towards implementing workable and responsive recommendations” of the security summit for improved security in God’s own state.

Imo: Dire Acts of Extrajudicial Killings Occasioned by Reprisals

Amby Uneze captures several cases of extrajudicial killings and harassments of innocent citizens perpetrated by security personnel in Imo State, which has exacerbated into reprisals by unknown gunmen

A female food vendor operating at Timber market located in Naze Industrial and Building Materials layout, Owerri North Local Government Area popularly called “Ogbosisi” had her son recently arrested and brutally tortured when police personnel dressed in unknown gunmen outfit stormed market to inflict injuries on the people there, intimidate and arrest them.

Mrs. Nwadike later came to a popular radio station, Ozisa FM to cry to the governor, Commissioner of Police and indeed all concerned Imolites to appeal to those that arrested her 25-year son, who assists her on daily basis in her restaurant business.

Mrs. Nwadike was lucky a week later to have her son released to her by the police in the state after passing through excruciating and psychological trauma. But for more than a score others who could not make it alive in the midst of shooting, clamping down on innocent citizens, the experiences of their loved ones were only but wailing, heartbreak and loss of hope.

For instance, Mrs. Ijeoma Unachukwu, whose beloved husband had just returned from Germany where he was based for over 20 years, was not lucky as her husband, Mr. Oguchi Unachukwu was gunned down by an airforce security personnel at the checkpoint near the Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport on his way back to his base in Germany enroute Muritala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.

In a petition to the Imo State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Abutu Yaro, to investigate the murder and bring the culprit to book, through her, lawyer, Ihediohanma Akponye, the bereaved widow had explained how her husband was gruesomely murdered on that Monday morning of May 31, 2021.

According to the widow, her husband met his untimely death while driving with her and their two infant children to catch a flight to Lagos at about 8.40am on that very day, enroute to his base in Germany through Muritala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos. The late Unachukwu had been living in Germany for over 20 years and only visited home to be with his family and was scheduled to fly back to Germany in line with his flight schedule to Hamburg, Germany through Muritala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos on May 31, 2021 when he was murdered on his way to the airport.

She narrated that, before getting to the airport checkpoint, they met and passed over three other military and police checkpoints where they calmly identified themselves and explained their mission on their way to the airport to catch a flight to Lagos.

“That when they got to the airport checkpoint of the Airforce, my husband stopped for a check and cleared his car only for the airforce personnel to open fire on him in my front and the children and he fell to the bullets that hit his forehead.

“The security men ferried him to the Naval Hospital at Aba road, Owerri before he was referred to the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Owerri, where he was unfortunately confirmed dead on the same day”, she stated.

The same unfortunate incident also occurred in Afo Enyiogugu market square where an innocent youth was killed while running for his dear life when the Inspector General of Police crack team said they were chasing the killers of the former political aide to President Goodluck Jonathan, Alhaji Ahmed Gulak on that fateful Sunday morning of May 30, 2021.

Gulak was also murdered on his way to Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport to catch a flight to Abuja by yet-to-be-identified assassins. The young innocent boy was probably a victim of stray bullet that hit his forehead while running for his dear life and he fell on top of his motorbike.

However, the police said that the killers of Gulak were also killed on that same day (six of them) as they stopped a truck carrying onions and were busy distributing to the villagers. The police tagged them “IPOB/ESN” members.

As if the harm on the citizens was not enough, a week earlier, in an attempt to attack the Orji Police station in Orji near Owerri Municipality, unknown gunmen (UGM), about three innocent people fell to the bullets of the security personnel. The two women who were selling their petty things in their respective shops were hit by stray bullets while the man, a bus driver who was hit on the chest late gave up the ghost.

Reports have it that in the last one month, soldiers have killed not less than two scores of innocent people, mainly youths who were going about their normal activities to fend for themselves. Recently, security personnel, particularly the army have gunned down two innocent passersby in front of Imo State Government House, Owerri.

The deceased persons met their untimely death while attempting to cross the road in front of the government house when the soldiers opened fire on them without flagging them down to identify themselves.

It was learnt that one of the deceased, identified as 24 years old Miss Divine Nwaneri and a first year student of Imo State University was in company of three other friends in a custom-colour Lexus 250-IS car was shot as they drove pass the Government House roundabout at about 10pm on Sunday.

Another victim, a farmer, delivering his pigs in a bus was also shot dead in front of government house roundabout. The lifeless body of the farmer was left in the driver’s seat for a long time until the body was removed.

As if that was not enough, the same security personnel (soldiers) usually shoot sporadically across the major streets of Owerri Municipality, specifically around Hausa Quarters (Ama Hausa), Douglas road, Mbaise road, Wetheral road, most time at night, leaving inhabitants to scamper for their safety. In one of those incidents, one young man also identified as a final year student of Imo State University was also killed by a stray bullet along Ama Hausa area.

Recently, a video clip went viral online showing a distraught lawyer, who was held by soldiers on patrol in Owerri, for allegedly mounting a Biafran flag inside his car. The lawyer, whose car was eventually damaged by the officers before they let him off the hook, had claimed that his offence was “putting Biafra flag in my car. “One of them told me, he would have killed me, but for the fact that I am a lawyer”.

If the lawyer was lucky to have escaped with his life intact, a businessman, Noel Chigbu was not. Noel, the operator of Sharwarma Zone in Akwakuma area of Owerri, was killed by military men at the Amakohia flyover in Owerri at about 10pm for allegedly “violating check point rules”.

It was gathered that the soldiers, who snuffed life out of him at the checkpoint had dumped his remains at the Federal Medical Centre, morgue, Owerri, took his badly shattered car to the police station and made an entry that his relatives should visit the health facility and claim his body.

Noel was said to have acquired a new Camry car and had gone to drop off his friend that fateful night. But, he never returned. He left a four-month pregnant wife, a two-year-old son and four year old daughter.

Already, Imolites are worried over the maltreatment, harassment and unnecessary punishment soldiers are subjecting the innocent people in the state capital. Several commuters and pedestrians are also feeling the heat as they are being asked to raise hands up, do frog jump and other inhumane treatments.

Also, the number of abducted or arrested innocent citizens and falsely labeled “ESN hoodlums/Gunmen” in Imo by security personnel are legion.

John Chinonso, a 24-year-old from Nchoko Dikenafai Community in Ideato South, Imo State and living at Apiti Street by Hardel Junction, Orji-Uratta in Owerri North, Imo State, was one of such. An orphan living with his elder brother Emmanuel, Citizen Chinoso owns and manages ‘Daddyfresh Barbing Saloon’ at Ogboru Umuchoke by Hardel Bus Stop, Orji.

He responded to his elder brother’s call for him to close his shop and return home before dawn owing to precarious security situation in Owerri and environs and as he was going home in the evening of Tuesday, May 25, 2021 at about 4pm, the police patrol personnel blocked and arrested him at gunpoint. Citizen John Chinonso was in the same evening paraded alongside four others as “ESN hoodlums who attempted to burn down Orji Police Station”.

Chukwudi Okoro, another 29-year old and a shuttle bus transporter/owner, plying Owerri-Orji route with his apprentice. He is from Akabo-Amata in Orji, near Owerri, Imo State and his wife, Chioma, who is heavily pregnant. Okoro and his driver were heading home in the early evening of 25th May 2021, having closed early as a result of insecurity situation in Owerri and environs and rising wave of army and police abductions and extrajudicial killings.

They sighted riotous police patrol personnel shooting indiscriminately around Orji and environs, forcing Citizen Chukwudi Okoro to jump out of his shuttle bus in fear and ask his driver to take the bus to the driver’s house so that he can find a safer route to his house. He barely trekked meters when police patrol personnel blocked his way and arrested him at gunpoint. He was paraded in the same evening alongside four others as “ESN hoodlums that attempted to burn down Orji Police Station”.

Casmir Ibegbulem, 40 years old and a father of one, expectant father of another and a “Permit Holder” staff of LNG Company at Bonny Island in Bayelsa State and a native of Ogwa Community in Mbaitoli, Imo State was also arrested. He had just returned to Imo for the burial of his in-law, which eventually took place on Friday, May 28, 2021.

He was in Owerri on Tuesday, May 25, 2021 to pick up personal items needed when police patrol personnel bounced on him at gunpoint and arrested him. He was paraded in the same evening alongside four others as “ESN hoodlums that attempted to burn down Orji Police Station”. He was later released from the force headquarters, Abuja after he allegedly paid N1.5 million.

Chigaemezu Sebastian, 26-year old and single, residing at Naze, Owerri, Imo State, is a trader/plumber at Ogbosisi (Timber) Market, Owerri and hails from Asaa, Ngugo in Ikeduru, Imo State. He was also unjustly arrested enroute to his village at Ikeduru when the attack took place and while, he alongside others were scampering for safety following indiscriminate shootings and raining of live bullets by police and army personnel, he was arrested by police on May 25, 2021 and was in the same evening paraded alongside four others and falsely labeled “ESN hoodlums that attempted to burn down Orji Police Station”.

The lawyer hired by the family for the matter was denied access and audience with him at Imo State CID and on Saturday evening, May 29, he called his elder brother from Abuja (Force Headquarters where he has been transferred alongside four wrongly accused and falsely labeled others) with his personal phone number and further gave his side of the story. In tears he pleaded for his family’s intervention as he is presently under severe torture alongside four others.

Daberechi Alozie is 25 years old from Obokofia-Egbema in Ohaji/Egbema LGA, Imo State and was living with his relative, a retired permanent secretary in the Imo State Civil Service who was his guardian for over 20 years at Jerusalem Lodge, Umukoto Nekede,Owerri. He recently became an apprentice as Aluminum Fabricator worker with Chief Chindu C Chindu popularly known as Oceanic Aluminum in Owerri located at No 45 Onomuonu Street, Owerri. He was on his way to Ogwa for a job for one Mrs. Onyenaka when he ran into decurity agents at Orji on May 25, 2021 and was arrested. He was also among those transferred to Force Headquarters, Abuja

Ugbo Casmir Nnaemeka & Ojukwu Ukonu, who reside at World Bank Housing Estate, New Owerri and Igwe Allen Okoro Street, off MCC Road, Owerri, were arrested differently on trumped up allegations on May 13 ( Ukonu) and May 14, (Ugbo) by the operatives of the anti kidnapping squad of the Imo State Police Command. The two had served in various capacities in the administration of former Governor Rochas Okorocha and are still aides working for the former Governor.

Surprisingly, on Friday, May 28, 2021, the Imo State Police Command released a statement that they arrested five additional ESN hoodlums. The police command not only named the duo alongside two (three) others as “ESN hoodlums” but also claimed to have arrested them on Thursday, May 27, 2021 “during a coded raid operation to fish out “ESN hoodlums”. Available evidence has not only countered the claim by police, but also incontrovertibly shown that they were arrested and detained since 13th and 14th May 2021, a period of two weeks before

Another victim was 50-year-old Ikechukwu Okomah, a graduate of Engineering from Enugu State University, class of 1996 and Masters Degree holder in Chemical Engineering and a member of the Nigerian Society of Engineers as well as a licensed petroleum dealer and an executive member of IPMAN (Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria). Married with kids and living with his wife, he is from Ubahaezike, Awo Idemmili in Orsu Local Government Area, Imo State and resides at MCC Road, Uratta, Owerri and religiously, he is a member of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal Movement of Nigeria of St Mathews Catholic Church, MCC Road, Uratta, Imo State and also owns and runs a big pig farm in his community.

He was accused and arrested on May 19, 2021 by the anti kidnapping squad of the Imo State Police Command and shockingly on Friday, May 28, 2021, was co-labeled by the Imo State Police Command as “ESN hoodlums that attacked Imo State Prison Headquarters”, which also falsely claimed to have arrested him alongside three (four) others on Thursday, May 27, 2021.

What of Emeka Mbonu, 39 years old and Ibe Chisom Amadi? Emeka Mbonu is a father of three kids and happily married, residing at MCC Road/Amawire, Owerri. He is presently into real estate and was a staff of Owerri Capital Development Authority under former Governor Rochas Okorocha. He hails from Osina in Ideato North, Imo State and was arrested and detained by the operatives of the Imo State Police Command since May 13, 2021 and was co-labeled “ESN hoodlums that attacked Imo State Prison Headquarters”.

The poice also claimed to have arrested him alongside four others on Thursday, May 27, 2021. It is noteworthy that Citizens Ikechukwu Okomah and Emeka Mbonu were arrested and originally framed and accused of “possessing firearms” (Dane guns and pump action guns used by their street vigilantes) from where the police changed and accused them of “being ESN hoodlums that attacked Imo State Prison Headquarters”.

Citizen Ibe Chisom, on his part, is a Port Harcourt based father of three and a surveyor who was arrested by police/SSS since March 18, 2021 and whisked away with his white Toyota Camry car. He had returned from Port Harcourt to his Umuodiya, Umuegwum in Mbaise, Imo State for a funeral ceremony when he was arrested around 12noon and since then he has not been seen or located.

The list is endless as the Archbishop of Owerri Archdiocese, His Grace, Most Rev. Anthony Obinna seeing that if nothing urgent is done, the state would become another Iraq, and called for truce. He urged the governor, Hope Uzodimma to “Stop the Killing – Convoke a ceasefire meeting, Save Imo. He almost wept on seeing over 35 lifeless bodies dumped by security personnel at the Federal Medical Centre on the bare floor stake naked.

National Assembly members from Imo state have also expressed serious concern and called on the governor to arrest the situation by sending back to the barracks the military personnel that are deeply involved in the shooting and killing of innocent citizens in the state.

Also the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has called on the resignation of the governor for failing to protect the lives and property of the state which he swore to defend and protect.

A number of civil society organisations, such as the Coalition of South East Youth Leaders (COSEY), the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law, a leading research and investigative rights group based in Onitsha, Eastern Nigeria, and the religious leaders in Imo State otherwise known as leaders of faith-based organisations under the auspices of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) had also recently sued for peace and called on political leaders in the state to sheathe their sword and work as a team to secure the people and property of the state.

The leaders comprised about 50 Bishops from the Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Pentecostal and Evangelical Churches under the umbrella body of All Churches in Imo State (Christian Association of Nigeria). The church leaders noted that the recent insecurity in the state was as a result of political contestation and insisted that all political gladiators regardless of their political leaning must come together to restore peacef as it used to be.

Ebonyi: Umahi’s Balance of Terror

Benjamin Nworie in Ebonyi reports on the incessant cases of attacks and killings by armed herdsmen, amidst communal clashes despite concerted efforts by government to restore peace

Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi has warned that any herdsman or hoodlum who wields AK-47 to unleash mayhem must receive balance of terror in the state. The reason is not far-fetched- since the second quarter of the year, the land of Ebonyi State has witnessed unfortunate deadly attacks, most of which were reportedly masterminded by killer herdsmen. Ebonyi State has lost several lives of indigenes to herdsmen, bandits and communal dispute for the past one year. This ugly development is not only worrisome but strange.

Ebonyi State has been relatively peaceful and adjudged as the most peaceful state in the country. Except some pockets of communal land dispute and cult clashes, the state barely has another insecurity situation.

Despite the fact that Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi has since assumption of office braced up to fight any form of insecurity, the new trend of attacks are either perpetrated by herdsmen or hoodlums. Umahi also believes that apart from herdsmen killings, indigenes are responsible for some killings in the state. And his balance of terror for any killer or weapon wielders is not limited to herdsmen.

While herdsmen kill innocent citizens of the state, unknown gunmen and hoodlums have recently unleashed mayhem on government facilities and maimed security operatives. Some security operatives, mostly the army and policemen have been gruesomely murdered in the state by hoodlums. The attacks were also extended to police stations and government facilities like offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission.

Since the #EndSARS protest, it seems Ebonyi State has not known peace again. People no longer sleep with their two eyes open. On daily basis, there are rumours and speculation that killers are around. Agents of fake news are deeply committed to ensure that citizens live in fear. Since the herdsmen’s attack in Ekile community in Benue state, where Izzi people of Ebonyi State were massacred, rumours and speculation have been high that herdsmen are all roaming the streets of Abakaliki for another attack.

The irony is that everyone complies to whatever rumour and would not want to be a scapegoat. Even the security situation in other places also contribute to the fear raging in Ebonyi. However, amidst of the attacks, Ebonyi people have not lost confidence on Governor Umahi’s bold steps and courage to protect his citizens at all measures and costs. The governor has warned that there will be a balance of terror for any herdsman or hoodlums not minding his ethnic affiliation who wields Ak-47 in the Ebonyi State. The governor’s action is based on some attacks which have taken place in the state.

Tuesday March 30, 2021 seems to be one of the saddest moments in this administration as the pains and agony of the attack on three communities in Ishielu Local Government Areas of the state cannot be healed. It was the first bloodletting terror unleashed to Ebonyi people by the maurauding herdsmen. Officially, over 25 persons were sliced to death. The victims included young children, women, men and a pastor. The people of Egedegede, Obegu and Amuzu became prey to herdsmen, reported to have struck on revenge mission.

The attack on Egedegede, Obegu and Amuzu communities became the most unexpected, most shocking. It was shocking because the governor admitted that all the local herders vacated the local government before the incident. This, he suspected conspiracy on the part of the local herders, whom the governor may have seen as untroublesome and have lived peacefully in the state.

The attack was also shocking to Umahi because some of the local herders are lolitical office holders in the state. They attend security meetings and were actively involved in the administration of the state. So, to contemplate and execute such carnage was an eye-opener for Umahi. The attack so much stung Umahi to the bone marrow that he declared that he can’t control the consequences if another attack happens in the state.

Ebonyi people are known warriors. If retaliation was an option, if allowed, the effect may have been catastrophic. But, the governor was proactive and the people saw his sincerity and love and the people have seemingly calmed down. He also appealed to the federal government for N5billion intervention fund for the families of the victims to help them shelter, feed and cloth themselves.

The Vice President, Yemi Osibanjo who visited the communities assured that justice must be served. He was accompanied by Minister for Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed and Minister for state for Mines and Steel, Uche Ogah.

According to the vice president, the massacre was very sad and very unfortunate. Osibanjo said ” this massacre is very sad indeed and very unfortunate. I am not here just by myself, I am here also at the direction of Mr. President. At times when things like this happen, when people are killed, when incident like this happen and you feel particularly outraged.

“The reason is that those who have been mercilessly massacred are people like you and I who have hopes and aspiration; young ones, females and children who are people who woke up in the morning and are expected to go about their normal business, they are expected to go out and fend for themselves but they ended up dead not because of anything they have done wrong but because of cowardly wicked act by some other people who live in the same community with them”.

The attack came at a time the state was battling to resolve yet another dreaded communal clash between Effium and Ezza-Effium community in Ohaukwu Local Government Area. The clash claimed several lives. The community has almost been razed down and has become a desert of sort.

Regrettably, since after the presidential visit, nothing substantial has happened as the attacks occurred in sequence and the people of Ngbo community became the next victims as they lost about 23 lives in April, shortly after the Egedegede incident. The attack on Ngbo community generated controversy over the actual perpetrators. However, Ebonyi State government insisted that the people of Agila in Benue state were responsible for the attack over the boundary dispute between the people of Ngbo in Ebonyi State and Benue State. But, other sources accused herdsmen of masterminding the attack.

However, the security situation in the state is highly troubling. Tensions have wrecked havoc in the minds of the people. Peddlers of fake news have increased. Every time, rumours of herders attack in other communities have increased. Gunshots and similar sounds always filter into the town as another invasion. But, Umahi seems prepared in all fronts. He is deeply prepared to save the life of outsiders and indigenes.

Given the worsening insecurity, the South-east Security Network, codenamed, Ebubeagu, the Ebonyi State Command, has become the hope of the people. The security outfit has made remarkable progress in confronting the insecurity challenge.

In the last enlarged security council meeting, the state government announcement the immediate recruitment of 700 vigilantes to safeguard the 13 local government areas. Security agencies were seriously ordered to secure themselves, their facilities and the people.

Briefing newsmen after the meeting, the Secretary to Ebonyi State Government and Coordinating Commissioner, Dr Kenneth Ugbala noted that the state government would no longer rebuild any police station attacked by hoodlums. Solar light and closed circuit television will now be installed at police stations and strategic places. The commissioner for Internal Security, Mr Stanley Okoro also announced that 80 Sienna Vehicles and over 30 Hilux Vans have been procured for security agencies including Ebubeagu.

As the state was still battling to consolidate on the stability of peace, herdsmen struck again in Ekile community in Benue State. Though it happened in Benue State, the victims were Izzi people of Ebonyi state. The incident claimed about 45 lives who are predominantly from Ebonyi State. Ekile is a community in Ado Local Government Area of Benue which has boundary with Izzi people in Ebonyi Local Government Area of Ebonyi State. The community is predominantly occupied by Izzi people. Izzi people migrated to Ekile about 100 years ago for agricultural enterprise and had continued to live there even though they speak Izzi dialect and still regard themselves as Izzi people.

When the incident happened, the Chairman of Ebonyi Council area, Mrs Chinyere Nwogbaga and the Speaker of Ebonyi state House of Assembly, Hon. Francis Nwifuru mobilised to the area for rescue mission. Obviously, noticing laxity from the government of Benue State, as Nwifuru claimed that he called the telephone number of the deputy governor of Benue state for over 39 times but he didn’t pick, the victims were evacuated to the Alex Ekwueme Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki. The state Governor was furious and unhappy on the incident. He described the Benue killing as act of wickedness and satanism.

As the respective government continues to seek for and implement solutions that would bring lasting peace, all the citizens and residents of the states want is peace and security to thrive.

Recent Effort by Police
In a recent parley with THISDAY and other select media houses, the Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba, addressed the incessant attack on police formations, especially in the South-east part of the country. He said concerted and intelligence-driven efforts of his team had drastically reduced such criminal activities.

“When last did you hear of such attacks on our formations? It is part of what we did and I can assure you that we are working hard to defeat insecurity in the country. But on the question concerning our strategy, you know quite well that I wouldn’t divulge such here,” he queried.

Emphasising on the collaboration with other security agencies and the traditional institutions including the monarchs and community-based groups, he opined that it was all targeted at a better secure nation.

Way Forward

It was to address these concerns that the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) with support from European Union recently sought to convene a team of experts and stakeholders to review the growing violence.

The Multi-Stakeholders’ Consultative Forum on Peace and Security in Nigeria was themed “Examining the Current Security Crisis: Attacks on State Security Institutions in the Southeast Region”.

In his presentation as earlier reported by THISDAY, on ” What does it take for a State in Crises to Provide Security and Restore Hope for its People in the Face of Despair”, Senior Lecturer and Researcher, Centre for Peace and Security Studies, Modibbo Adama University of Technology, Yola, Adamawa State, Dr. Chris Kwaja, posited that the way out was for the Nigerian state to reclaim its monopoly of the instruments of coercion and ensure its usage in a legitimate and accountable manner, adding that “national dialogue as a key pathway for healing and rebuilding trust and national cohesion.

“De-militarise the public space as a condition for rebuilding trust with the military and empower the police to effectively law and order. Bridge the gap with the communities by providing for their security and welfare as a basis for making it difficult for them to be mobilised or recruited by violent extremist groups.

“Design and implement a robust programme on community policing or state police in ways that empowers the state and local government to effectively respond to early warning signs in a proactive manner”.

Summarily, Nextier SPD posited that the Nigerian government has a duty to protect lives and livelihoods in the country, “however, in doing so, it must appear to be objective and not a government-sanctioned operation against the people. For instance, there are reports of unlawful arrests and detention of people in cities across South-east Nigeria as part of the current securitisation efforts of security operatives. The ongoing insecurity in the region and echoes of self-determination presents a highly delicate environment for security agencies to securitise.

“There is a need to initiate non-combative strategies that will counteract the growing distrust people may have towards the government. This distrust is evident in the reported raiding of communities in southeast Nigeria and large scale arrest of youths.

“Rather than resort to unlawful raiding and arrest of people, the Nigerian security operatives must demonstrate openness to work with the people in managing the escalating crisis in the southeast zone. The tensions in the area suggest that relying solely on combat actions will not achieve sustainable peace but widen the growing gap between government and the people”, they added.

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