From Mokwugwo Solomon, Nnewi
The indigenous people of Onitsha, the commercial hub of Anambra State, have said they would no longer wait and watch their land destroyed by criminals. They have taken their fate in their hands by launching a security outfit, code-named Onicha Ado Vigilante Network, to provide security.
Daily Sun gathered that the group founded under the law of Anambra State Vigilance Services has the backing of government, police and Ndi-Ichie Onitsha.
Personnel of the outfit were said to have been trained by the state vigilance group under the leadership of Ikechukwu Aduba, a retired commissioner of police, to carry out different tasks, including fighting terrorism, kidnapping and carrying out investigations.
Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe (Agbogidi), inaugurated the outfit at the Ime-Obi on March 20, 2021, and presented security vehicles and customised motorcycles to the unit. It was witnessed by Ndi-Ichie Onitsha, including Chief Mike Areh (Edegbobogaga) Nwaeze Tony Nwora, Andy Ekweogwu, president-general, Onitsha Improvement Union, Nwachi Obianwu, Eloka Egbunike, Martin Obika (Obataobie), chairman, All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Onitsha North, and Mike Okaka. Chairman, Onitsha North Local Government Area, Agha Mba, was also in attendance.
Igwe Achebe expressed worry over the return of criminals to Onitsha, making life unbearable for residents and visitors alike. The branded Sienna vehicles and motorcycles were donated by some individuals.
The commercial city has lately fallen to criminals and hoodlums, who dispossess visitors and residents of their belongings, even in broad daylight. He noted that security was everyone’s business and called for all hands to be on deck in tackling the menace, especially in the areas of intelligence gathering and information.
The Onitsha intervention came 24 hours before Governor Willie Obiano raised the alarm that criminals had taken over the state. He admitted that the state was under siege: “I have, therefore, directed all security agencies, the vigilante services, all task forces and every structure in the state security infrastructure to rise in defence of our dear state.
“I call all youths, communities, market task forces and indeed every outfit in this state to duty; all traditional rulers, PGs, community leaders as well as every stakeholder to rise to protect our state.
“As your governor, I hereby raise the security alert in the state and I commit to restoring order and security immediately.
“I call on everybody, irrespective of affiliations, to come together and support government and security agencies to fight our common enemy. Those who seek to destroy what we have laboured to build must not be tolerated in any manner. I ask the public to help with information and intelligence to the state to nip this situation in the bud.”
The security situation in Onitsha had degenerated barely six months after drastic clampdown on “one-chance robbers” by the police. In recent times, residents hardly sleep with their two eyes closed just as people were robbed in various locations, some lost their lives in the process.
Christopher Oyimadu, a newspaper distributor, narrated his ordeal in the hands of “one-chance robbers” in Onitsha: “Last Sunday, I went to Upper Iweka area of Onitsha to dispatch newspaper to Asaba, Delta State capital, at about 8.30pm. After dispatching the paper, I crossed over to the other side of the expressway to come to my residence at Nkpor. I had to stop a bus.
“I told the bus conductor I was going to Nkpor Old Road. As I boarded a three-seater bus, I saw five men inside the bus, looking very innocent. One was in the front seat with the driver, two sat at the second row with me. “At the third seat was another person. Immediately after Upper Iweka, they picked two girls who joined the person at the back seat, and on getting to Zik’s roundabout, the bus diverted to the expressway, towards Enugu Road, instead of the old road they said they would take.
“Before I realized what was happening, I heard a shout, ‘Surrender whatever thing you have on you now before you die.’ They collected my wallet, phone and ATM card. They collected my N5,000, and asked me about my ATM PIN number, and I gave them fake number.
“They warned me that they would confirm it immediately at the bank and that if I lied, they would stab me to death. I immediately gave them the correct PIN number. One of them made straight to the bank while we were held hostage beside the flyover bridge at Nkpor expressway. Few minutes later, we were ordered to jump down from the bus and they zoomed off.
“In the morning of the next day, I went to my bank to block my account. But before then, they had already withdrawn the N53,000.00 in the account, with my ATM card.”
Another victim, a shoe seller, Mark Merem, said his experience happened at about 7.30pm last Tuesday as he boarded a bus at People’s Club bus stop, Nkpor, in Idemili North: “After a short drive, there was a shout of ‘lie down!’
“Everybody complied immediately, because, it was obvious we had fallen victim of one-chance robbery. We were all beaten up, and all our belongings taken. After taking all our belongings, they ordered us to jump out of the vehicle, and they sped off.”
He added that his younger brother, Jude, had a similar experience, recently, when he boarded a tricycle at Oba, Idemili North. He was robbed at the ever-busy Onitsha/Owerri Road.
Police public relations officer (PPRO), Ikechukwu Ikenga, said the command had deployed personnel to manage robbery and violent crimes all over the state.