By Chinyere Nwaneri
A group of Imo lawyers under the aegis of Imo Progressive Lawyers Association (IPLA) has condemned the role of Gov Hope Uzodimma for the brutish military operations in Orlu area of Imo State.
Imo governor it would be recalled had admitted inviting the military to flush out what he called ”hoodlums and mercenaries in Orlu and environs in the name of protecting the natives from invading herdsmen”.
They made the condemnation in a Press statement jointly signed by its President, Christopher Okeke and Publicity Secretary, Mathias Emeribe and availed the News Echo.
While lambasting the Orlu governor, they noted that Imo has been historically marginalized with almost non-existent federal presence, huge infrastructural deficits, over-policing, high-handed military operations resulting in excessive brutality, arrests and extortion of indigenes and residents alike.
Excerpts of the statement reads: “Why invite the Nigerian Army—known for their extremely violent and coercive approach to law enforcement—into purely localized tensions? If the hoodlums and mercenaries were indeed acting to protect the people from herdsmen, does that suggest that Imo Governor is fully in support of the activities of herdsmen unleashing terror, mayhem and irreparable destruction of lives and crops in Orlu?
“Again, does that also suggest that the Governor finds herdsmen deserving of security and military protection, while Imo indigenes are left at the mercy of bandits? We demand urgent answers to these questions.
“The way Imo State Governor, Senator Hope Uzodinma handled this matter—and his body language—have continued to fuel wild speculations, forcing many to begin to interrogate his relationship with Fulani herdsmen and their activities in Orlu in particular and Imo State in general. Many Imo indigenes are still in shock and wonder why the security of herdsmen should occupy a higher place in the governor’s scale of preferences over and above Ndi Imo and Ndi Igbo.
“Because of his poor handling of the Orlu crisis, many children have been rendered orphans, fatherless, and motherless. If unchecked, the general atmosphere of anger and suspicion will provide a fertile ground for anti-Hope Uzodinma sentiments to flourish.
Considering the above, IPLA urges Imo State governor to take steps to do as follows:
“To take a firm stance against the violations of Imo citizens’ rights to life, dignity, privacy, property and movement, to take urgent steps towards protecting unarmed rural communities in Orlu environs from violent attacks, particularly the brutal invasion of communities by herdsmen and security forces.
“They also asked him to provide psychosocial support and financial assistance to all those disproportionately affected by this Orlu crisis, especially school children, market women, local farmers, whose education and livelihoods have been disrupted or destroyed as a result of the incessant violent attacks and curfews in their communities.