Almost all the communities in the South East are experiencing various degrees of horrendous and horrific cases of insecurity. The combined evil of gunmen attack, kidnappers’ onslaught and armed robbers menace is dangerously threatening the hitherto peaceful and serene nature of South Eastern states.
Investigation by News Echo indicated that all the five states that make up the South East geo –political zone have been brought to their knees by these men of the underworld. They maim, kill, rob, rape and destroy. Their devilish activities are classless – they respect neither the aged, the young nor even the security men.
In view of the nefarious activities of the dare-devil gunmen in the Igbo states, the people of the region are now asking the governors to urgently take another closer look at the Eastern Security Network (ESN) as a possible alternative of combating the now notorious activities of kidnappers, armed robbers and assassins.
Recall that Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of IPOB, announced the formation of the ESN on December 12, 2020. According to a report; “The aim was to act as a regional security force to protect the people against Fulani raiders. However, the Nigerian government saw the ESN as a threat to its authority, and deployed the army to locate and destroy ESN bases. This escalated with the outbreak of the Orlu crisis a month later. The military confrontation lasted for seven days, until ESN declared a unilateral ceasefire and both sides withdrew from the city”.
Available report has it that Imo State is the worst hit among the states in the South East. Hardly any week passes without one high profile assassination, murder, kidnap or armed robbery in the state. The security situation in the Eastern Heartland is so appalling that residents both in the rural and urban areas now “sleep with two eyes open”.
Only last Saturday, February 6, 2021, a former Owerri NBA chairman, N.H Nwankwo Esq, was gruesomely slaughtered in his Owerri office by assailants at 43 School Road Owerri.
An account has it that Ishmael Nkwocha, who shares same office space with Nwankwo had, in response to frantic calls from his family members over the uncertainty of his whereabouts, gone to his office to meet same locked. On opening the entrance door, he met Nwankwo’s main office locked and with traces of blood on the door to his (Nwankwo’s) office. Not very sure of the situation he went to the Homicide Section of the State CID, going with him Forensic Experts from the Police Headquarters to the office to have it properly opened by themselves in order not to contaminate evidential materials.
When the forensic experts arrived at 9:56hrs with their gadgets, they opened the door only to find his bulky frame lying lifeless inside his office in a pool of his congealed blood.
On a closer inspection, Nwankwo appeared to have been savagely suffered several machete cuts by his assailants, as a very gaping cut was seen on his neck, a monstrous cut of not less than of about 30cm with only about less than 50percent of the flesh in his neck region holding the head.
The account added that Nwankwo’s driver, who reportedly was the only person with him in the office that fateful Saturday, was at the time of this report at large, with Nwankwo’s phones, and car nowhere to be found.
Before the above incident, these men of the underworld had almost ravaged Imo State. For instance, two policemen allegedly lost their lives even as several others sustained various degrees of injuries when suspected bandits attacked Umulowo Police Division in Obowo Local Government Area of Imo State. A report had it that the policemen who died did their best resisting the armed robbers who forced themselves into the police station to cart away the ammunition. Apart from that, about four other police officers got injured in the process.
Meanwhile, the community’s account had it that “The armed robbers picked up some guns belonging to the officers and hurriedly left out of fear that there could be reinforcements both from the police and community vigilantes.”
The Imo State Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, Orlando Ikeokwu, who confirmed the incident said the police had commenced investigation to get full details of what happened.
It was tears and sorrows in the Odunna family in Ochii village, Ogwa in the Mbaitoli Local Government Area of Imo State, as a 36-year-old man, Ekene Odunna, was allegedly killed by his younger brother, Matthew. An eyewitness account noted that the victim was beaten with an iron bar by his brother and died before he could be rushed to hospital.
Ekene owned a home movie and music shop at the popular Alaba International Market, Lagos State, and returned to his home town with his wife and two children for the last Christmas and New Year celebrations. Insiders account revealed that the victim had sent his younger brother to Malaysia some years back, but Matthew allegedly misused the opportunity.
Again, gunmen had on December 6, 2020 eliminated Chidiebere and Tochukwu Anyanwu (both were biological brothers) at the back gate of the Imo State University in Owerri and made away with their Ford vehicle and also shot two persons who were in company with the siblings. According to a report; “on December 16, 2020, gunmen kidnapped Fr. Ezeagu at Umulolo in the Ideato North Local Government Area of the state.
The priest was on his way to Anambra State for his father’s funeral from Umuahia, Abia State, when he was abducted. The priest was, however, released the next day as he reported himself at a police station in Okigwe. His vehicle was recovered from a forest in Arondizuogu”.
This newspaper also has on a good authority that on Christmas eve, killers murdered two policemen and a chief of the Peoples Democratic Party, Soludo Akwaeke, in the Orsu Local Government Area of the state. Still on the high rate of insecurity in Imo State, on December 27, 2020, gunmen kidnapped the Auxiliary Bishop of the Owerri Catholic Archdiocese, Most Rev Moses Chikwe, and his driver, Ndubuisi Robert, at the World Bank area of the state. As fate would have it, the bishop was rescued and released. Not yet satisfied, the rampaging kidnappers, on December 29, 2020 abducted a motorist at the Wetheral Road in Owerri.
In all the recorded criminal activities, the PPRO, Imo State Police Command, Ikeokwu, confirmed those incidents.
Since last year till now, armed robbers and kidnappers have been ravaging virtually all the nooks and crannies of the state, leaving in their wake blood, tears and pains. For instance, a report had it “two Chinese expatriates working at a mining site in Ebonyi State have been abducted by gunmen. The abducted Chinese nationals are employees at Greenfield Metals Nigeria Limited, which specializes in lead and zinc mining. The incident, it was gathered, happened at Ihietutu, Ishiagu in Ivo Local Government Area of Ebonyi State at a mining pit close to the company’s offices. The chairman of the company, Henry Ahanaotu, said the gunmen first shot sporadically into the air to scare away workers before proceeding to whisk away the expatriates”. The police spokesperson of the state, then, Loveth Odah, confirmed the incident.
Also in Ebonyi, armed robbers attacked and killed security men escorting a bullion van of one of the first-generation banks along Ogoja Road in Abakaliki, the state capital. According to the police public relations officer in Ebonyi, the driver of the van and other officers sustained various degrees of gunshot injuries during the encounter.
Probably, the allegation and counter allegation between Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi, and the South-east Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over who is responsible for security breach in the state more than any other thing else reveals the extent of insecurity in the state. The governor had alleged that some Ebonyi people were engaging the cultists and some IPOB members to kill and cause crisis in the state. Umahi allegedly named former Senate President, Anyim Pius; Senator Sam Egwu, Senator Obina Ogba, and Chief Ali Odefa as leaders of the group.
Meanwhile, at a press conference, the South-East PDP National Vice Chairman, Chief Ali Odefa, urged security agencies to begin thorough investigations on the high spate of killings in the state to unravel those behind them.
Odefa said: “In Ebonyi State, the residents know exactly those who are promoting cultism; it is important to bring to the notice of the public that in the last few months, some key functionaries of Umahi’s government have been involved in murder cases in the state and are currently in detention. While one is still being investigated by the police, the second one is already being tried in the court.
To buttress the grand plan to unleash terror on PDP supporters in the state, a member of the PDP, Chinedu Nwode, and his fiancée were pointedly shot and killed in execution style by a top government official for refusing to say ‘APC’ at an event in his Oriuzor community.
We in the PDP particularly note with serious concern the specific listing of our party leaders, including men of integrity like Chief Anyim Pius Anyim, former president of the Senate and former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF); Senator Sam Ominyi Egwu, the first civilian governor of Ebonyi State; lawmaker representing Ebonyi North senatorial district in the Senate; Obinna Ogba; the lawmaker representing Ebonyi Central senatorial district in the Senate, as well as Hon. Odefa, the national vice chairman, South-east PDP and many other leaders of our party whom by Umahi’s utterances may have already marked for assassination in the state”.
Even Enugu State equally has its fair share of the insecurity which has beclouded the South East region. The abduction of the traditional ruler of Obom-Agbogugu, Awgu Local Government Area, Igwe Sunday Orji and his wife by gunmen last year caused panic in high and low places. To confirm that the abductors were kidnappers, they made a N50 million ransom demand from the family.
According to a published report, Igwe Orji was reportedly kidnapped with his wife around Ogbaku before Agbogwugwu junction along Enugu-Port-Harcourt expressway while they were returning from a Thanksgiving Mass organised by the Bishop of Awgu Catholic Diocese, Most Rev. Ifeanyi Okoye for his aged mother, Ezinne Ekedimma Okoye, held at St. John’s Pro-Cathedral Church, Owelli Awgu.
In what appeared like a cheerful news, it was reported that “Barely days after the police arrested some serving and dismissed soldiers among suspects over the attack on a bullion van that led to the death of four cops in Ebonyi State in 2020, the Enugu State police command paraded another dismissed soldier and nine others for various criminal activities in the state. The suspects were arrested for murder, conspiracy, armed robbery, cultism and other offences within July.
He said the dismissed soldier, whose name was given as Ifesinachi Nwankwo, aged 24, joined the Nigerian Army in 2017 and served in Damboa, Maiduguri, Borno State. He added that the soldier went on AWOL after his base came under constant Boko Haram attacks in 2018. The commissioner further revealed that the soldier-turned-armed-robber was arrested alongside one of his gang members, Raphael Nworie, aged 27.
He revealed that the duo and others at large were responsible for the murder of Ominyi Chukwu, an Assistant Superintendent of Police, after they attacked Ozalla Division of the command at Agro-Allied Product Filling Station on the Obe/Agbani Road, Nkanu West Local Government Area of Enugu State. They had allegedly carted away two assault rifles and injured an Inspector of Police, Princewill Ebiriem, after the attack. They also attacked and killed the Chief Security Officer of Amodu-Awkunanaw community, Onyebuchi Aninwagu, on July 19, 2020, and were alleged to have also made away with his pump-action rifle”.
The commercial nerve centre of the South East, Aba, is usually riddled with criminals of all kinds. From here, armed robbers and kidnappers spread to all the parts of the state. Last year, two women were among 41 crime suspects paraded by the Abia State Police Command. The women were held for armed robbery. Another woman was arrested for child trafficking, it was said.
The command also arrested 20 criminal suspects, including five boys, who allegedly robbed and shot a man and his wife to death in Umuahia, last year. The suspects, who were identified as Precious Okoro, Justice Ogbonna, Enyinna Asiegbu, Promise Obilor (a.k.a “Esere”) and Kingsley Emezuo (a.k.a Pakins), reportedly attacked the couple when they were returning home with their children after the day’s business.
The Commissioner of Police who paraded the suspects before newsmen at the command’s headquarters on Bende Road, Umuahia, said they were arrested by a team of operatives from Umuahia Central Police Station and members of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Operation Puff Ader. The couple, Mr. Darlington Uzoma and his wife, Chinyere, who were egg sellers, were killed on Secretariat Road, Umuahia at about 7:00p.m.
The two suspects, Okoro and Ogbonna, were arrested in a tricycle after the operation. “Interrogation of the duo resulted in the arrest of the remaining members of the gang. The suspects have confessed to a series of armed robbery and car snatching operations perpetrated by the gang,” the commissioner of police said. Report has it that the suspects were members of a notorious gang, led by one Sampson Nwokocha, popularly called “Grave”, who was killed in Umuahia on December 10, 2020 by SARS operatives. He said after killing the couple, the bandits robbed one Uwaeme Chinedu, before driving toward Bende Road in a Sienna snatched from its owner.
The situation in Anambra is virtually the same like in all other South East states. Take a look at this: two suspected armed robbers were on December 10, 2020 shot dead by men of the Anambra State Police Command in Onitsha. As it was reported; “Spokesperson for the command, SP Haruna Mohammed, who disclosed this in a statement on Friday, December 11, said the robbers were members of a notorious robbery gang led by one Ikanda, who is currently in prison for murder.
“On the 11/12/2020 at about 10:10am, there was a distress call that four armed robbery suspects who belonged to a gang led by Ikanda (a notorious armed robber presently remanded in prison custody in connection with a murder case) were operating along Zik’s Avenue by Miss Ellems Onitsha,” the statement says. Following the distress call, Police operatives attached to Fegge Division Onitsha quickly responded and rushed to the scene. As soon as the suspected armed robbers sighted the police they engaged them into a gun duel. In the process two suspects were fatally wounded and overpowered while two others escaped .The injured Suspects one alias Dorgba and Fela whose real names are yet unknown were rushed to the hospital for treatment but certified dead on arrival by a medical doctor and their corpses deposited at the mortuary,”
Elsewhere, an account has it that the Anambra State Police Command has nabbed a young kidnapping gang that raped a teenage victim over N10m ransom. The teenager was reported to have been held in hostage for twenty-seven days and allegedly defiled severally by the suspects.
Relating the details of the operation that led to their arrest, the PPRO Anambra State Police Command, SP Haruna Mohammed said; “On the 8/2/2020 at about 5:30 pm, the Command Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) trailed and arrested at their hideout in Ogidi”.
“Suspects had on the 12/1/2020 allegedly kidnapped a 14-year-old girl in Onitsha and took her to an undisclosed location. “Consequently, On the 30/1/2020 the syndicate contacted the victim’s mother through SMS and demanded a ransom of ten million Naira (N10,000,000) which was later reduced downward after much pleading by the mother. “Suspects equally sent a First Bank account number 3120904371 bearing one John Blessing to the victim’s parent to deposit the ransom.” The arrested suspects are: Onyemechi Aniobi ‘m’ aged 23years; Elochukwu Okudo ‘m’ aged 25 years; and Pauline Elechi ‘f’ aged 24 years. Mohammed said the victim who was held hostage for twenty-seven (27) days and allegedly raped severally by the suspects was rescued by the Police and taken to the hospital for medical examination. The case according to the PPRO is under investigation after which suspects would be charged to court for prosecution.
On Eastern Security Network
Following the poor security network in the Igbo nation, calls have gone to the five governors of South East to now have a rethink about the Eastern Security Network established by the IPOB leader. “I think the best thing our governors can do is to join hands with IPOB and Kanu to see how ESN can be brought in. I am saying this because our national security system is not working at all”, Umunna Onyekamma of Amawon, Owerri, Imo State noted. In his own response, Chika Njoku of Fulks Road, Aba, Abia State insisted that “The South West now has Amotekun.
There is nothing practically wrong with our governors coming together to fashion out ways to use ESN to make our security better in Igbo nation”. And for Nneji Ubim of Ogoja Road, Abakaliki, “I have lost confidence in the national security system because it is not well funded and managed. Let us embrace Eastern Security Network now”.
In his submission, Binzak Azeez, of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, said: “The formation of Eastern Security Network (ESN) by Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), continues to stir legal and moral reactions. Indisputably, ESN outfit contravenes the constitution and other extant laws. On the other hand, the Nigerian government is also guilty of this gross infraction. Both Nnamdi Kanu and the government often operate outside the 1999 constitution.
“The unending assault on the country’s ground norm by the institution which has the onus to promote and protect it has rendered Nigeria as a lawless state. This adoption of unguarded and discretionary norm in Nigeria’s political system therefore serves as a premise and justification for ESN. Moreover, the proverb that two wrongs don’t make a right won’t be adequate to nail the formation of ESN in the country where terrorism, kidnapping, indiscriminate killings have become the new normal. Any national government that fails to protect its people through national security apparatus has created a lacuna for the latter to seek self-defense as an alternative on government security outfit.
“Besides self-preservation, any interest groups or individuals could exploit the absence of law and order in a country to promote their goals. Whether Nnamdi Kanu purposely launched ESN to further actualize his long-term agitation for Biafra Republic by waging war against Nigerian government, though contrary to his claim is another discourse. What is undeniable is the state of anarchy in Nigeria. And Nnamdi Kanu has promised a safe haven to Easterners through ESN. Sooner than later, private security outfits and emergency freedom fighters would spring up in dimensions except the present lawlessness is arrested with alacrity.
“Nigeria’s government could tackle the general insecurity menace through the establishment of state police. Likewise is the need for enactment and enforcement of the forestry laws in every state in tandem with the peculiarity of their geography to curb forestry offenses and regulate farmers and herders face-off. Terrorism/insecurity is a global menace. It takes an ethnic colouration in Nigeria due to the existing fragile state of the federation and the government’s failure to keep the country as one entity beyond the mechanism of coercion. The government must create a feeling of belonging among the various people of the federation through its policies. With this, every challenge would take a national outlook with a common way forward”.