Is Ugwuanyi Overwhelmed by Insecurity in Enugu?
With the upsurge in cases of kidnapping and attacks on communities in Enugu State by terrorists and herdsmen, which have forced some lawyers and judges to boycott the courts, Ejiofor Alike reports that the Coal City state is gradually losing its revered status as the most peaceful in South-east
After the April 2016 massacre of indigenes of Ukpabi, Nimbo, in Uzo Uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi had put in place effective security measures to secure the state and ensure that it sustained its position as the most peaceful in the South-east. While other states were all over the news for setting up Ebubeagu security outfit, which turned out to be personal militias used by some governors to hound their opponents, Ugwuanyi had silently set up and fully equipped the Neighbourhood Watch, Forest Guards, and other local security outfits to complement the efforts of security agencies in the state.
Determined to secure lives and property, his government also purchased 360 security patrol vehicles made up of 260 Siena vehicles and 100 Hilux vans, which were distributed to security agencies, vigilance groups and forest guards in the state.
Another batch of 260 vehicles, as well as motorcycles and bicycles were also distributed to the Forest Guards and Vigilante/Neighborhood Watch groups for community policing.
Ugwuanyi won numerous accolades for his efforts to tackle insecurity in the state. He also received commendations from prominent indigenes of the South-east, successive Inspectors General of Police (IGs) and heads of other security agencies. With his efforts, the state had initially enjoyed peace and provided comfort to the indigenes of neighbouring states, who fled their states due to insecurity.
However, the situation has since deteriorated as the security agencies appear to have abandoned the governor to his fate despite all he had done to improve security.
Terrorists now have free reign in the once peaceful state, kidnapping travellers and residents and pocketing millions of naira in ransom. Herdsmen have also launched renewed armed assaults that are deadlier than the Nimbo massacre.
The activities of terrorists, who kidnap for huge ransom, have forced some judges and lawyers to boycott courts in majority of the local government areas in the state.
Some judges now sit virtually over some cases because they can’t travel out of the state capital.
THISDAY also gathered that abductions within the small forest surrounding the old Enugu – Udi road have forced the closure of that major highway at the 4-Corners area in Enugu town from 6pm to 7am daily.
While the road going to Nkanu axis is a den of kidnappers, the one from 9th Mile to Ukehe in Igbo Etiti LGA is a no-go area.
The failure of the security agencies to arrest high-profile terrorists that make Enugu highways unsafe has fuelled speculations that some security agents are complicit in these heinous crimes.
Some of the most recent victims of abductions in the state include some students of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), who were returning to school after the ASUU strike; a former Secretary to Enugu State Government, (SSG), Dr. Dan Shere; a female Senior Magistrate, Mrs. Dorathy Uchechi Odo of Magistrate Court 2, Nsukka; a former commissioner in the state, Mr. Matthew Idu, among many others.
Some Catholic priests who have suffered in the hands of kidnappers in the state include the parish priest of Ihuonyia Amansiodo in Ndiagu Oghe, Ezeagu LGA, Rev Fr Ndulue; Deputy Rector of Queen of the Apostle Spiritual Year Seminary, Imezi Owa in Ezeagu LGA, Rev Fr Arinze Madu; a priest from Diocese of Nsukka, Rev Fr Malachy Asadu, who was kidnapped along Imilike-Nsukka Road; Parish Priest of St. Patrick Ihuonyia, Amansi-Odo, Ezeagu LGA, Rev Fr Theophilus Ndulue; parish priest of St. Paul Catholic Church, Ogbosu Umulokpa in Uzo-Uwani LGA , Rev Fr Cyprian Ugwuanyi, who was abducted by suspected herdsmen; Rev Father Titus Ogbu, who was abducted in Isi-Uzo LGA and the Parish Priest of St. Jude’s Catholic Church, Eburummiri, Ibagwa-Aka, Igbo-Eze South LGA, Rev Fr Victor Ishiwu, who was kidnapped 12 days ago right inside his church.
Others are the parish priest of the church of San Marco, Rev Fr Don Clement Rapuluchukwu Ugwu, whose dead body was found in Obinofia Ndiuno, in Ezeagu LGA; and the parish priest of the church of St. James the Great in Ugbawka in Nkanu East LGA, Fr. Paul Offu, who was killed by herdsmen while driving along the Ihe-Agbudu Road in Awgu LGA.
The heads of security agencies in the state and the state governor recently visited the dreaded Nsukka-Ugwogo-Nike-Opi road, following the daily cases of abductions on the road.
During the visit, the General Commanding Officer (GOC), 82 Division of the Nigerian Army, Major General Umar Musa, who spoke on behalf of other heads of security agencies, promised that “these criminals will be fished out and they will be dealt with.”
But no kidnapper was arrested and the state government only used bulldozer to clear a portion of the forests. However, the abductors and their collaborators may have realised that with the ongoing naira redesign by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), it will be impossible for the relatives of their potential victims to raise the huge amount of cash they demand as ransom.
As terrorists are kidnapping people, suspected herdsmen have launched deadly attacks on communities in the state.
No fewer than 25 persons were killed within the last two weeks, by suspected herdsmen who invaded Agu-Amede, Mgbuji and Eboh communities, in Eha-Amufu, in Isi-Uzo LGA of the state.
Though the spokesman for Mgbuji community claimed in a media report that he personally alerted the governor and the heads of the security agencies before the attacks, no security operatives were mobilised to the communities to avert the carnage.
After the attacks, a helpless Ugwuanyi sent N10 million to the survivors in IDP camps. Enugu, the once peaceful state, has already set up IDP camps to cater for the welfare of victims of armed herdsmen. Few days later, the governor; the state Commissioner of Police, Ahmed Ammani, and the Garrison Commander of the 82 Division of the Nigerian Army, Brig Gen MK Ibrahim, were said to have “stormed” the Eha-Amufu forests on a fact-finding visit.
But barely two days later, the bandits returned to the communities and killed three more persons. One week after the security chiefs stormed the forests, no suspect has been arrested by the security agencies for the massacre.
Many have suggested the transfer of all security agents who have served in the state for two years and the transfer of all those posted from the bandits-ravaged parts of the country, who are allegedly aiding kidnapping.
The question on many people’s lips is: Has Ugwuanyi surrendered to bandits, having been allegedly abandoned to his fate? Many believe that the governor still has enough time to restore the state’s glory. Observers believe that the security situation worsened since he started following Governor Nyesom Wike about like an errand boy. They advised that he should stop following Wike who is pursing a personal agenda about and address the critical issues facing the state.
It is expected that the governor should use the next few months to mobilise local security outfits to comb the forests in all the communities just as Amotekun operatives are doing in the South-west.
Also, since every land, including the thick forests are owned by families and communities, the governor should direct traditional rulers and local government chairmen to ensure that land owners monitor every inch of their lands and all ungoverned spaces.