- Security operatives scared of them, elders lament
By GILBERT EKEZIE
Hitherto, it enjoyed the pride of being the hatchery of many eminent and credible Nigerians including intellectuals and professionals contributing to national development.
But recently, Mbaitoli Local Government area of Imo State has gained an infamy as a den of thieves, robbers and kidnappers, who terrorise and dispossess residents of their valuables.
The targets of the robbery rings are commercial motorcycles and tricycles (Keke NAPEP), which are stolen and sold away to other parts of the state.
Then, there are burglars, who break into homes, shops and public establishments and cart away property.
Although inhabitants have woken up to curb the incessant raids, it is yet to abate.
The affected locality is bounded by Ikeduru, Owerri, Njaba, Oguta and Oru local government areas in Owerri Senatorial Zone.
Three robbery suspects alleged to have stolen tricycles were arrested recently at Eke Ututu Market, Ifakala, and set ablaze by incensed mob, but escaped with burns and flames still all over their bodies. They were, however, later arrested. They confessed to have come from a neighbouring community in the council area during interrogation by the police.
Another set of three apprehended at Umuagwu Ifakala were not given a similar chance, but burnt alive.
Saturday Sun investigation learnt that the robbers attack their victims during the day and night sending panic to the indigenes.
The various communities have, however, resolved to check the wave of crime by engaging in vigilante activity for which monthly financial contributions are made. Whoever fails to take part in the watch, whenever it is his turn, is liable to a N1,000.00 fine.
Transition Committee Chairman of Mbaitoli Local Government, Chief Chris Nwaike, is unhappy about the trend. He alleged that most of the criminal activities in Mbaitoli were being perpetrated byhoodlums from neigbouring localities like Njaba, Isu and Oguta. “They have seen that our local government has developed beyond expectation, so they come here, rob and go back to their areas. Many of them have been arrested and charged. But we are not sleeping. The Nigeria Police, ISL and ICW are facing the problem squarely.”
One of the crime infested communities in the local government area is Umutaku /Umungwo Nkalu Ifakala, which has been under siege for over three years. Efforts to put the crime wave there down have yielded little or no results, as the armed criminals in a guerilla style take other routes such as Ogbaku, either by road or bush to invade.
Chairman of the area, Mr. Jonas Igbo, told Saturday Sun that several arrests made pointed to the fact the hoodlums hailed from a particular community in the council area (name withheld).
However, he swore: “We have resolved to form a vigilante group. We have also constructed barricades on the roads leading to our area and also patrolling and doing security checks on our people. Anyone we suspect to be a criminal or an accomplice, will be shown the way out. As it is now, our gates close at 10.30pm and open at 5.30am. And I think that would go a long way to check crime.”
Secretary of Umutaku/ Umungwo Village, Mr Godwin Ekezie, urged the strengthening of the security apparatus in and around Mbaitoli. “Our area needs more support in the fight against criminals, because we are no longer safe. People from outside are making lives unbearable for us.”
Meanwhile, the Divisional Police Officer in charge of Nwaorieubi Mbaitoli, Mr Williams Osuji, had ordered security beef up in and around the area.
He advised residents to be vigilant and to report anyone suspected to be indulging in criminal acts or failed to join in the vigilante efforts.
He gave an assurance that the police would do their best to bring the criminals to book.