A replay of the EndSARS protest experienced in Oyibo River State when the residents of the area were held under curfew and military attack was experienced in Orlu last week. The town was held captive by the military who claimed to be on a mission to recover dead bodies of its colleagues allegedly killed by operatives a security network
The bloodbath, according to reports from people including residents of Orlu, lingered for several ugly days despite appeals by the people and their sympathizers who asked the military to leave Orlu communities and environs.
Unfortunately, there seems to be a total breakdown of law and order at the agrarian peaceful/business communities with the military unlawfully blocking major entrances as markets, schools, churches were closed- leaving the frightened residents to suffer hunger and anguish.
People who were interviewed including media reporters recounted that the cause of the bloodbath was unknown. Some feelers however, stated that the carnage started when a soldier was allegedly killed in a fight which ensued between members of Eastern Security Network (ESN) and the military over the military’s support for the killer Fulani herders who kill landowners, destroy their farmlands, displace them including Orlu neighboring communities.
The investigation further revealed that the military in revenge of the death of their member launched arsenals as they shot aggressively and violently at armless and defenseless persons in sight which warranted residents to desert their homes as many of them including nursing mothers, pregnant women, children, men, boys and girls, young and old scampered for safety.
People have lamented the inhuman action, as well as lampooned the Imo State government for openly condoning the carnage as it kept dead mute at the initial stages of the military- induced attack on peaceful and law-abiding civilians.
The military carnage, the curfew and the unrest heightened inflation in the communities, transport fares, with few people patronizing them, many languishing in huger and despair.
Individuals and groups such as Orluzurumee, Igbo Peace Ambassadors, Igbo National Council and Young Progressives Party (YPP) among others have strongly asked government to force the military out of Orlu in order to ensure peace and security.
The people regretted that hunger is ravaging the residents of Orlu due largely to dusk- to- dawn curfew imposed by government coupled with the barricade of major areas by the army.
The Igbo National Council (INC), Imo State chapter, through its President General, Chilos Godsent criticized government for not taken any strong position to quell the military carnage and withdrawing military from the area for actual peace and tranquility. An excerpt of his statement reads:
“Stop the military carnage at Orlu, government should force the military to immediately leave the area before the bloodbath degenerates. INC keenly observed the tempo of the joint military campaign being unleashed at innocent people of Orlu which has lingered and has claimed many lives”.
“We note that the Nigeria Police have the capacity to tackle criminality in any part of Nigeria if they are well mobilized and given free hand to operate. We urge the Federal Government to immediately redeploy the military ravaging Imo communities and send them to the various highways where the Fulani Herdsmen are presently terrorizing, raping and killing innocent people”.
Criticizing the military attack, the Young Progressives Party, through its woman leader, Amb Chika Uju, in an interview with News Echo in Owerri, condemned the military bloodbath at Orlu. According to her, “we boldly condemn the killing of innocent people at Orlu, Imo State. The destruction of lives and property by the military in the area on the alleged revenge of the death of their colleague, who was allegedly murdered by Eastern Security Network, was uncalled for.
“The unprovoked killing is crime against humanity, gruesomely, unlawfully perpetrated. No amount of provocation could have triggered the military to wage war against unarmed civilians, it was bitter that Orlu is hostile”.
Commenting, a broadcast journalist from Orlu, Lady Mma Nkeiru Ike, was bitter that Orlu has been under siege for several days with no strong effort by government and power brokers to mitigate the suffering and hunger devastating residents.
“Orlu is under siege. I thought it was a curfew that was introduced, but it was a siege. The whole town is totally on lockdown. People cannot move about. Businesses are under lock and key. Everywhere you look you see fierce soldiers. Roads are blocked. If you are caught strolling you are severely punished if not shot at”.
“All forms of movement are restricted. Of course, trust the bike people, a distance previously costing #100 is now #500.
But will you blame them when they have to follow apian ways just to get you where you are going to, while avoiding the roads. When a pin drops on the main road you can hear the sound, just to tell you how deserted Orlu was”.
Mma Nkeiru Ike regretted that the town was in prison.
‘My axis is even worst because it is close to the heart of the town. So, many of my neighbours have followed the apian ways to evacuate their families.
‘Because this fight is beyond lockdown it was more than meets the eye. Someone just called me few minutes ago, to tell me what they have sent within these few days, (hunger). And there was no warning before this siege. Nobody saved for it.
“And of course, no means of income because it is a sin now to move about town freely without checking your back. Just when we thought everything was over with 2020, now we have this needless attack. And you tell me that the governor was not aware of the whole mess.
He knew that his citizens were dying of hunger because their means of livelihood is sourced from their lands.
“Those who started the fight are long gone, now it is the innocent citizens who were being punished for what they know nothing about. The leaders lack sense of direction, sense of love, sense of respect for human rights and dignity”, she stressed.
Another resident of Orlu, Emeka okoli, who added that the cause of the military carnage at Orlu was unsubstantiated
Okoli, said “the cause of the killings at Orlu was yet to be known by the public. Yes. I give report based on eye witness. I do not have facts about what caused the killings in Orlu. But we are not animals. Orlu, my home town, is a peace- loving place to live”, he maintained.
The government should sit up; take bold and fearless position to ascertain what led to the military carnage at Orlu, committee of fearless honest persons should be set up.
The people especially victims should also be compensated adequately by government. The military who unlawfully perpetrated the carnage should be investigated and made to face the law and subsequently be punished by law.
Residents of the area have appealed to the government to rein in the cattle herders, who originated the crisis through their acts of rape, kidnap, stealing and destruction of farm lands. They appealed to the governments to assist pull them out of the area.