From Magnus Eze
A strange atmosphere of peace and tranquility pervaded Nanka Community in Orumba North Local Government Area of Anambra State during the Christmas and New Year celebrations. This was because of the recent clampdown on a notorious cult group that terrorised the area and its environs.
The natives of the community living in the various towns and cities; and even abroad that returned home for the Yuletide were initially apprehensive of their security and safety.
They were shocked to see that individuals and groups held countless ceremonies without molestations from any quarters, signalling the return of peace and security to the town previously under siege.
A self-styled cult group of some jobless young men, christened Uto Nanka, which paraded as Nanka Youth Association, had become lord unto itself with its membership simply outlaws.
Their methods and tactics infused the roles of the three arms of government; law making, execution and interpretation of the laws, into one in the community.
In fact, they held the town to ransom through indiscriminate harassment of innocent persons by way of detention, torture and extortion of large sums of money; until AIG Hassan Karma; then Commissioner of Police in-charge of Anambra State in July last year bust the gang.
It was gathered that a special security squad from Awka, the state capital, had stormed Nanka and arrested about 70 persons, but after their screening, it was discovered that only about six of them were actually the kingpins that had held the entire community to ransom.
The police said that the gang allegedly confessed to committing several atrocious crimes, including armed robbery; kidnapping and the chopping off of one ear of the Divisional Police Officer of Ajali in Orumba North Local Government Area and stripping him naked.
Though some members of the gang are still on the run, those arrested have since been charged to court.
Oriental News learnt that the town was so peaceful during the Yuletide that even those who had come home with police security merely used them as status symbol.
The last straw
While the community was under siege, rape, kidnapping, armed robbery, extortion and banditry became the order of the day.
The notorious gang somewhat recreated the Okija Shrine in Nanka with the resuscitation of a long-abandoned deity called ‘Udo Azu Shrine’ at the Afor Udo Market square.
It was at the precinct of the shrine that they held court and levied fines on their victims.
Sharing his experience in Anambra in an interview, AIG Karma said that he was prompted to the situation in the community when a team from the Force CID Abuja, following petitions to the then Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase, stormed the state.
Before this period, he said the only thing he knew about Nanka was its contentious traditional stool.
According to him, it was after the visit of the FCID team that intelligence report indicated that the community was a safe haven for fleeing criminals from Obosi, adding that the police earlier pitied the group leader, a cripple because of his disability; without knowing how ruthless he was.
Karma further disclosed that Governor Willie Obiano was so concerned about the security situation in Nanka at the point that he opted for military operation, “but I said no, that it wasn’t above civil administration.”
The police boss captured the situation in the community thus: “It got to a point that prominent sons and daughters of Nanka could not return to the town amymore, like one Commodore from the town, who had just retired; he wanted to go and construct his house and they said he must pay N400,000 to those hooligans. Everybody, market women, artisans; Okada operators, they extorted money; they became law unto themselves. It was very terrible that a General couldn’t enter his town. You dare not say you want to build a house; you will first pay big money to the hoodlums. There were not goats and animals in the town; they arrested any animal they saw. Everything, they will take to their shrine and people will come and pay fines.
“So, when the group had assaulted and humiliated the DPO, they circulated the video and pictures of the poor officer with his blood-soaked uniform having torn one of his ears, on the Internet; the whole thing went viral. Even at that, I still approached the Onowu, the prince and others, to talk to the boys, but all of them said the boys were above them.”
Road to peace
It was indeed a tortuous road to peace; with few of the natives of the community making sacrifices; putting their lives on the line, including investing their money and time.
Sources said that the Nanka Patriotic Union (NPU) was not initially clear on the issue, apparently because some well-to-do natives interested in the traditional stool were allegedly funding the notorious gang.
However, the town union was on hand to drive the last nail on the gang’s coffin with the demolition of the Udo Azu Shrine shortly after the police had reined in some members of the gang while others fled the town.
Eye-witnesses said there was jubilation across the length and breadth of Nanka, the day the shrine was destroyed.
Market women, shop owners, Okada operators, everybody; young and old celebrated openly.
A commercial cyclist from the neigbouring Ekwulobia, simply called Ejike, who at times brings passengers to Nanka told Oriental News that they dare not venture into the area when the gang held sway.
Oriental News could not confirm the role played by some prominent sons of Nanka fondly referred to as ‘The Tigers’, though they were alleged to have joined forces with the town union to rid the town of the hoodlums.
But the Chairman of Amakor village; Mr. Emmanuel Obiekunie, whose petition to the IGP after surviving life-threatening attack by the gang, brought to the fore the criminalities going on in the town, appears to be the unsung hero.
A petition addressed to the Inspector General of Police by the law firm of G.E. Ezeuko (SAN), solicitors to Amakor Njikoka Development Union, made available to Oriental News alleged that a group had on May 9, 2016, blazingly invaded the venue of Amakor village meeting, beaten up the villagers and kidnapped the village chairman.
President General of NPU, Chief Bernard Onyekere and some other prominent natives of the town declined to comment on the issue but were impressed with the new lease of life in the area.
They were also optimistic that the town’s vacant traditional stool would be peacefully filled.