Magnus Eze, Enugu
The International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law, (Intersociety), has petitioned Benue State Governor, Dr. Samuel Ortom and the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Garba Mukaddas, over alleged widespread and coordinated attacks and threats of annihilation against Igbo people resident in the State.
The letter, dated October 2, 2019 which has since been dispatched to them, was signed by Head of Civil Liberties and Rule of Law, Obianuju Igboeli, Head of Democracy and Good Governance, Chinwe Umeche; Head of Campaign and Publicity; Chidimma Udegbunam, and Board Chair of Intersociety, Emeka Umeagbalasi.
It was copied to the Secretary General of Amnesty International, UK; the group’s Country Director in Nigeria as well as Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, USA.
Several others who received copies of the letter for their necessary interventions include; Chairman, South East Governors’ Forum, Chief David Umahi, President General, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo, President, Ala-Igbo Development Foundation (ADF); Prof. Uzodinma Nwala, President, Association of South East Town Unions (ASETU), Chief Emeka Diwe, to mention but a few.
The rights group also drew attention to the plight of the ancestral Igbo communities in the state, noting that they were facing acute government neglect and threats of annihilation in the hands of jihadist Fulani herdsmen and their splinter “bandits”.
According to Intersociety, the Igbo people in Benue are majorly settled in Ado, Oju, Obi and Okpoku Local Government Areas of the State while the resident Igbo population under coordinated ‘indigenized’ attacks including abduction-for-ransom and other sundry extortions at gunpoint; armed robbery, torture and killing in captivity or threats of same are largely found in Gboko, Adikpo-Kwande, Ukum, Zaki-Biam and Katsina-Ala Local Government Areas of the State.
The leaders of the two Igbo populations had further disclosed that the kidnap-for-ransom and targeted armed robbery were majorly perpetrated by the indigenes of Benue State including notorious political thugs, local gangs and other criminal elements who double as kidnappers.
“As a matter of fact, the two sets of defenceless Igbo populations are presently facing serious of threats of annihilation and total ruination of their legitimate businesses, to the extent that scores have already fled and left the State or relocated to friendly business environments within and outside the country. Others have also gone missing till date,” the group alleged.
The concerned Igbo Union in Benue had on 2nd September, 2019 cried out through the trio of Mr. Okafor Nnolim, Mr. Ndukaku and Mr. Ikem Ani during which they alleged ‘abduction of not less than 50 persons in the State since February 2017”.
Again, on 30th September, 2019, they held a follow-up press briefing in Enugu, disclosing further that ‘three prominent Igbo citizens in the State and not less than N277m had been lost to kidnappers’. According to their Public Relations Officer, the N277m ($900,000) was spent in freeing 48 kidnapped Igbo business men and women.
While giving a breakdown of huge financial losses so far incurred by the Igbo community in Benue State, especially in Gboko, Adikpo-Kwande, Ukum, Zaki-Biam and Katsina-Ala LGAs of the State, Ezeadi disclosed that some of the victims were murdered even after the demanded ransom had been paid.
He gave a graphic picture of kidnapping activities against Igbo residents in the four local government areas as follows: “victims resident in Gboko LGA: Ugochukwu Ikechukwu, abducted Feb., 5th, 2017, paid N5 million before release; Ikeagwuonu Ifeanyi, abducted 28th Oct., 2017, paid N3 million before release; Chief Celestine Agbo, abducted 28th Sept., 2018, paid N5 million before release; Onyeka Okpara 11th Oct, abducted 2018, paid N4 million before released ;Ugochukwu Ikechukwu (kidnapped for the 2nd time) Dec, 1st, 2018, paid N5 million before release; and Aniegbu Chukwuka Kenneth, abducted 4th Feb, 2019, paid N10 million and yet murdered because of delay in payment of ransom.
“Others are: Romanus Muoma, abducted 13th March, 2019, paid N6 million before released; Lolo Esther J. Nwoke (target was the husband but the husband escaped and the wife was abducted) 18th March 2019, paid N11 million before release; Oluchukwu Onah (a.k.a Orlando) May, 2019, paid N10 million before release; Mrs. Dycon (target was the husband but the husband escaped and the wife was abducted), abducted 7th June, 2019, Paid N8 million before release; and Chief Donatus Okeke Dunu, abducted 13th June, 2019, paid N5 million before release.
“The rest are: Edwin Omeje, abducted 13th June, 2019, paid N3 million before release; Mrs. Chukwudi Arinze, abducted 1st July, 2019, paid N7 million before release; Leonard Nzere 8th Aug., 2019, paid N5 million release; and Cajetan Anya Ugochukwu, abducted 8th Oct., 2019, paid N10 million before release. Victims resident in Adikpo-Kwande LGA: Mr. Uzochukwu Okereke, adducted March, 2018, paid N5 million before release; Chief Fredrick Njida, abducted April, 2018, paid N5 million before release; Mrs. Okereke (Wife of Chief Okereke, who was earlier kidnapped in March 2018), abducted December, 5th 2018, paid N4 million before release.
“Included in the list of kidnapped Igbo business men and women in Benue are Mr. Imo Okoko, abducted 13th January 2019, paid N3 million before release; Mr. Imo Okoko (2nd time of abduction) on May 7th 2019, paid N6 million before release; Mr. Charles Chukwu, abducted 17th July 2019, paid N6 million before release; and Mrs. Imo Okoko, abducted August 2019, paid N8 million before release. Victims resident in Ukum Zaki-Biam LGA: Mrs. Rita Arinze, abducted 4th June 2019, paid ransom of N8 million but still murdered; Ngozichukwu Onyedika Aghaedo, abducted 30th May 2019, paid N5 million before release; Mrs. R. N. Okeke, abducted August 2018, paid N6 million before release; Mrs. Emerike Udenweze, abducted December 2018, paid N8 million before release; Mr. Ifeanyi Ekeh, abducted August 2018, paid N5 million before release; and Mr. Christian Iloani, abducted 12th March 2019, paid N8 million before release.
“Others from the same local government area are: Mrs. Ifeoma Eyiutche, abducted July 2019, paid N5 million before release; Mr. Chidi Okri, abducted September 2019, paid N4 million before release; Mrs. Chinelo Okafor, abducted August 2019, paid N7 million before release; and Mr. Fabian Ogochukwu Onah, abducted 7th September 2019, paid N4 million before released. Victims resident in Katsina-Ala LGA: there are 15 of them including; Mr. Leonard Enemuo, abducted June 2018, paid N7million, but eventually killed; Miss Chinonye Ejikeme, abducted August 31st, 2019, paid N4 million before release; and Mr. Chinedu Onodo, abducted 10th Sept, paid N5 million, before release.”