From Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
Some communities in Orlu, Imo State, were in the grip of fear Thursday as fierce-looking military men at checkpoints shot sporadically for several hours at Umuna and the Timber market junction along Orlu/Owerri road.
According to a source from the community, the shootings caused panic among the people who, he said, have since retired to their various homes for fear of being harmed or killed.
‘They have been shooting like this since morning, if they stop, they will continue again later. We don’t know why they are shooting, but we are afraid, we don’t want to be a victim to their sporadic shootings.
‘We don’t even know who to trust again, that was how the shooting began the last time and some people were killed, please they should take it easy, this place is not a war zone,’ the source pleaded.
Meanwhile, Eze Emmanuel Okeke, who is the State Chairman of the Traditional Rulers Institution, confirmed the shootings but described them as a normal military routine to scare bandits and kidnappers who, he said, have become an issue in the state.
He urged the people to go about their normal business, saying the situation does not call for panic.
‘Yes, I heard of the shooting, but it’s nothing to get scared about, this is just a way of announcing their presence to kidnappers and bandits because we are no longer talking about ESN; would they prefer the presence of the kidnappers to the presence of the military? They are only here to help us, so it does not call for panic, they should go about their usual businesses,’ Okeke said.
Following the killing of a businessman in Owerri, Mr Noel Chigbu, and a student of the Imo State University, Divine Nnwanaeri, as well as others since the insecurity situation in Imo State assumed a new dimension, the Coalition of South East Youth Leaders, (COSEYL) has alleged that the killings were deliberate to exterminate Igbo youths.
A statement by the President General of the Igbo youths, Goodluck Ibem, alleged that the soft treatments of bandits and Boko Haram, coupled with the harassment of agitators in the South East, is an indication of their claim.
According to Ibem, ‘these killings and more that has happened in recent times is a tangible proof that the military is on a secret mission to exterminate Igbo Youth in the South East.
‘The killing of armless agitators and pampering of Boko Haram terrorists is a clear testament that Ndigbo have been marked for extinction by the Nigerian military.’
‘The impunity with which soldiers and other security agencies deals with Igbo youths call for serious concern. This is total harassment of Ndigbo and we reject it in its entirety.
‘Igbo youths are being arrested by the army who brand them unknown gunmen and kill them. How do they know that they are unknown gunmen?’ he asked.
Ibem urged Igbo leaders, South East governors, senators, federal representatives, and other political office holders from the zone to speak up in defense of their people.