Eminent traditional and religious leaders in the South East recently condemned the rising insecurity in Imo State and other parts of the region. The leaders, who spoke under the aegis of the South East Council of Traditional and Religious Leaders, also urged political actors in the state to urgently deescalate the rising tension in the area.
The Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe and the Methodist Archbishop of Umuahia Diocese, Chibuzo Opoko, who signed a statement by the Council, lamented the spiraling state of insecurity in the state, occasioned by the activities of security agents and non-state actors. They noted that on account of the killings and destruction of property in Imo, the state has become a war zone.
According to the leaders, “the tensions, violence and failing law and order situation have resulted in a significant number of deaths, including those of traditional rulers, a considerable number of missing persons, and the abduction of scores of youths presumably by law enforcement agents and non-state actors. Many attribute this to the prevailing political differences in the state.”
The leaders observed that the unwholesome state of affairs in Imo State constitutes an assault on the dignity and well-being of the indigenes and the Igbo nation, adding that it is unacceptable and must be speedily resolved.
The intervention of traditional and religious leaders from the South East on the security situation in Imo State is quite appropriate. The situation in some parts of Imo State, especially in Orlu senatorial zone is very scary. The time has indeed come for all the leaders of the South East to meet with political actors and the youths in the zone to resolve the lingering problem through dialogue. The reported bloodbath in some local governments in Orlu senatorial zone, which has hampered the socio-economic development of the affected areas, must be halted forthwith.
We commend the concerned leaders for their intervention and urge the Imo State government and others in the zone to listen to them and do the needful to restore peace in the region. Unfortunately, the South East is fast deteriorating into another theater of violence on account of proliferation of arms-bearing gangs by non-state actors.
Some political actors in the state have not really helped matters. Sadly, the violence in Imo has been overtly and unduly politicised. The seeming massive proliferation of arms in the zone as we approach the 2023 election season is very precarious. The recurring attacks on security institutions, traditional rulers and other people in the region and the killing of innocent people, especially the youths in the region must stop. The alarm raised by the monarchs and religious leaders in the region should serve as a wake-up call on the government to rise to the occasion and stop the Imo debacle from degenerating into anarchy. The security situation in the zone has reached a level where residents cannot sleep any longer. Many policemen and other security agents have been attacked and killed at check-points and in their stations.
The scary situation might have informed the recent call for cessation of the crisis in the region by the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo. We equally agree with the President-General of Ohanaeze, Prof. George Obiozor, that the violence in the area is a systematic destruction of the geo-political zone. The sordid situation should not be allowed to fester any longer. Some years ago, the South East region was rated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as the most human secure geopolitical zone in the country. It is pathetic that the same cannot be said of the region today considering the rising bloodbath in the area.
In view of the rising tension in the region, Igbo leaders should rise up and check the deteriorating security situation before it degenerates. The time has come for leaders of the South East to put aside all personal differences and come together and resolve the socio-economic challenges facing the region.
Let the leaders provide the enabling environment for job creation in the South East. Apart from politics, the violence in the region is triggered by poverty, unemployment and poor governance system. We believe that addressing these drivers of violence will go a long way in restoring peace in the area. We also urge the Federal Government to use dialogue to resolve the restiveness in the zone.