From Magnus Eze, Geoffrey Anyanwu (Enugu), Chijioke Agwu (Abakaliki), George Onyejiuwa (Owerri), Okey Sampson (Umuahia) and Obinna Odogwu (Awka)
Many families are in grief in Ohaozara and Onicha Local Government Areas of Ebonyi State, following the bloody invasion of Isu and Onicha Igboeze communities by murderous gunmen on Thursday, October 7, 2021.
No fewer than 10 persons lost their lives in the bloody attack, including two policemen killed by the daredevils when they attacked Isu police station.
A young lawyer, Aja Ogbonnaya Aja, his client; Ogbonnaya Abani and another person, from the neighbouring Okposi community in Ohaozara LGA, who were heading for the High Court at Obiozara were marched out of their vehicle and shot dead. Not even the pleas of the lawyer who just wedded in April this year with his wife said to be carrying about seven months pregnancy could save them, as the heartless criminals pumped hot bullets into their victims.
The gunmen were said to have burnt the Lexus sports utility vehicle they came with and left the area with the lawyer’s vehicle.
There have been killings in Onicha Igboeze in the last three months by gunmen and security agents.
Last month, a 27-year-old woman and daughter of the traditional ruler of the community, Elizabeth Agwu, was hit by a bullet when policemen invaded the community to arrest a suspect. She died as a result of the bullet which got her on the abdomen.
Before this period, yet-to-be identified gunmen had on Monday, August 9, 2021, the first day of the sit-at-home order called by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) to press for the release of its leader, Nnamdi Kanu, killed at least eight persons at Anike Onicha in Onicha Igboeze.
The killings took place at about 6:00a.m on that black Monday: the victims were going about their normal businesses when they were accosted, attacked, killed and their vehicles, motorcycles and other valuable property burnt.
Two of the victims were natives of Anike Onicha, while one hailed from Ezza North Area of the state, but resident in Onicha where he traded in household items. The rest were people from different parts of the country passing through Onicha. The incident had caused serious panic and fear within the community and its environs especially as the identity of the perpetrators were not ascertained.
However, police in the state accused the pro-Biafra group, IPOB, of masterminding the killing while enforcing its sit-at-home order in the area.
A family member of Eze Nwangwu, who was among the people killed in the attack told our correspondent on phone that investigation conducted by the community indicated that the attack was properly planned.
The family source who pleaded anonymity said: “That day at about 6:00a.m our brother was attacked and killed alongside seven other persons. The incident happened within 30 minutes. The criminals camped inside the bush along the road. One of the survivors who narrated the story told us that they had blocked the road and were taking people into the bush where they killed them. They wore masks and dressed in black overall. At the end, two youths were killed in Anike.”
Asked if the victims had been buried, he said no, adding that the delay was occasioned by the inability of the police to release their bodies.
“They have not been buried because the police refused to release the bodies to us. But I can confirm to you now that all that have been resolved and they will be buried on 26 and 27 of October,” he said.
While the bereaved families mourn their beloved ones whose lives were cut short be some bloodthirsty goons, the Police in Ebonyi State said they were on the trail of the assailants.
Consultant to Ebonyi State Government on Internal Security who is also in charge of the South East Security Network, Ebubeagu, in the state, Chief Stanley Okroemegha, told Sunday Sun that the outfit has been working in harmony with other security agencies to arrest the situation.
He said that “the efforts of the police and Ebubeagu have paid off as some of the perpetrators of that killing have been arrested. Our men are always patrolling all parts of the state to ensure that people are not harassed or attacked by unknown persons. And I can assure you that we will continue to do our best to ensure the security of lives and property in the state.”
The foregoing scenario clearly showed that the security situation in the Southeast has almost deteriorated. Policemen and other security agents are randomly attacked and killed at checkpoints and in their stations. Civilians are equally attacked and killed by rampaging gunmen.
In fact, no state can be said to be free from the growing bloodbath in the region and security agencies are apparently not on top of the situation. As gunmen continue to spread sorrow in the Southeast, the people of the region are living in fear and uncertainty.
Anambra: A new killing field
Since this year, more than 20 people including policemen, naval officers, a staff of the Nigeria Correctional Service (NCS) and civilians have been killed by gunmen in parts of Anambra State.
Also, property worth several millions including police stations, patrol vehicles, and others have been destroyed by the attackers even as guns and other security gadgets belonging to the security operatives were taken away.
The first attack by gunmen in Anambra this year was on February 24, when four policemen said to be on duty in Mkpologwu and Omogho communities in Aguata and Orumba North Local Government Areas respectively were dastardly killed and their patrol vehicles set ablaze. The attackers also reportedly made away with their victims’ guns.
But while the matter was still raging, gunmen struck again on March 18, killing three policemen on duty at a location in Neni community, Anaocha LGA of the state and carted away their rifles. They also set their patrol vehicles ablaze.
On the same day, three naval personnel on duty at Awkuzu, Oyi LGA were attacked and killed. Their guns and other military equipment were equally taken away by their killers.
On March 19, gunmen attacked a vehicle belonging to the Nigeria Correctional Service on court duty, killing one staffer and a policewoman who joined the vehicle from the court in Ekwulobia.
These killings and burning of police stations continued until about three months ago when there was what looked like a break. Within the short period of the break, the residents of Anambra with the exception of Awka which witnessed a few more cult related killings, had some reprieve.
However, there was a resurgence last month, in what could be termed the return of gunmen in Anambra. This time around, security operatives were not just targeted, eminent persons and politicians were not spared.
Dr. Chike Akunyili, the husband of the erstwhile Director-General of the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), the late Prof. Dora Akunyili and his colleague, Dr. Lawrence Ezenwa, were among high profile murders in two separate attacks by gunmen lately. Also, the convoy of House of Representatives member, Chris Azubuogu, was attacked and his driver killed, within the same period. A police station was attacked in Ajali, also in the state, among others.
One of the latest victims whose death deeply pained Anambra people and Nigerians generally was Dr Akunyili.
The medical doctor was said to be returning from an event in Onitsha axis where he had received a posthumous award on behalf of his late wife before the gunmen killed him around Nkpor.
Before the killing of Akunyili and Ezenwa, the traditional ruler of Mkpunando community in Aguleri, Anambra East LGA, Igwe Alex Edozieuno, was assassinated alongside his driver whose name was simply given as Chukwuemeka.
They were killed on September 10, 2021 after Ezu River Bridge along Onitsha-Otuocha-Adani Road while returning from a visit.
Even, his son, Prince Chinedu Edozieuno, has, since, raised the alarm over threat to his own life. Chinedu told newsmen that those who killed his father were trailing him. He said that he had received a number of threat messages from the suspect who had asked him to stop searching for who killed his father.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state has since tagged the former monarch’s death a politically motivated one.
Director General of Andy Uba Campaign Council, Paul Chukwuma, and the state chairman of the party, Chief Basil Ejidike, at a press conference in Awka, said that the deposed monarch was killed not long after he publicly joined the APC.
The attacks by gunmen in the state last Sunday also consumed the Nnewi residential home of Chief Joe Igbokwe, a chieftain of the APC and aide to the Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
On the same day, the attackers equally set the Nnewi office of the Directorate of State Service (DSS) ablaze. Igbokwe said no life was lost, but that his property was burnt down.
Although some groups have been suspected to be behind the evil act, the perpetrators of these dastardly acts have not been established. The state police command said that it was working round the clock to unearth the suspects.
Reacting to the ugly developments, former National President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo (Youth Wing), Tony-Uche Ezekwelu, condemned the killings, saying that it was politically motivated.
“I must tell you that the rate and direction of the attack is going, you’ll see that it is purely politically motivated. A lot people are trying to heap it on the IPOB/ESN, but if you look at the directions of the killings, some of the persons that were killed have no business with the IPOB”, he said.
Governorship candidates of the various political parties in Anambra State have also condemned in strong terms, the killings and destruction of property by gunmen in the state.
Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Valentine Ozigbo, Andy Uba (APC), Obiora Okonkwo of Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, described the attacks and killings as barbaric and unacceptable.
Like the former Ohanaeze youth leader, Senator Uba believed that the killings were politically motivated.
The Anambra situation may end up raising a can of worms as accusations and counter accusations fly about. While the APC in the state blame the APGA-led government for the killings; Governor Willie Obiano dropped the bombshell last Wednesday, when he accused some of his colleagues of sponsoring violence in his state.
Political Adviser to the governor, Chief Ifeatu Obi-Okoye, who made the allegation gave that as the reason Obiano had again shunned the security meeting of Southeast governors and some leaders from the zone in Enugu on Tuesday.
However, the Ebubeagu security outfit which should ordinarily have assisted the security operatives in combating insecurity has not been floated in the state.
But, vigilante groups have been in operation for a long time in the state. Part of their job is to secure the communities and also assist the police and other security operatives.
Meanwhile, as part of efforts to address the insecurity in the state, Obiano recently announced a N20 million bounty on the killers of Dr Akunyili.
The state police command has also said that serious efforts were being made to apprehend the gunmen terrorizing the state.
Police spokesperson in the state, DSP Toochukwu Ikenga, told our reporter that police were working real hard to track down the attackers.
Enugu: Residents feel the pangs too
Enugu State has had its share of the killings by ‘unknown’ gunmen with recent ones being the dastard murder of the Managing Director of Scientific Equipment Development Institute (SEDI), Prof Simon Ndubuisi and his Police escort in Enugu along Enugu-Port Harcourt expressway; retired Justice Stanley Nnaji along Garden Avenue Enugu, soldiers at Adani, policemen at checkpoints at Amodu Nkanu and Nachi in Oji River to mention but a few. Owner of Auto Ease Services, a popular car painting company, Ifeanyi Okeke, was also recently shot dead in Enugu.
Unfortunately, things have become so confused in the Southeast zone that it is difficult to actually narrow the killings to a particular group, though fingers are being pointed at the Eastern Security Network (ESN), security agents and Fulani terrorists.
Worse still, the Ebubeagu security outfit hurriedly announced by the Southeast governors to fight the Fulani killer herdsmen terrorizing the region has not taken off in Enugu. The state’s preferred outfit, Forest Guards, seems not to have been designated to address security issues in the towns and urban centres of Enugu State.
Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has also shown interest in the Neighbourhood Watch, which he uses to guard against invasion of the rural farming communities.
Imo, Abia not yet free from gunmen
Imo State has been in the firm grip of violence allegedly perpetrated by unidentified gunmen since after the EndSARS protests in 2020.
But the situation worsened with the simultaneous attacks on both the police and the prisons headquarters in Owerri on the Easter Monday.
Ever since, the killings have continued unabated especially in Okporo, Umutanze, Omuma, Amaifeke, Eziachi, Orsu communities in the Orlu Senatorial District of the state.
On the evening of Thursday, September 16, 2021, Darlington Odume, a prominent lawyer in Orlu town was gunned down in a supermarket in Umudara Amaifeke community where he had gone to shop for his family by the ubiquitous gunmen who shot him at pointblank. Odume died on his way to the Imo State Teaching Hospital.
According Duruoma Ike, one of the witnesses, the assailants of Odume who were in an SUV and dressed in black like the police special forces had apparently trailed him from his office in Orlu without his knowledge to the supermarket which was incidentally in his community.
They had waited outside for him to come and that immediately he came out, he was shot on his chest four times and they drove off from the scene at high speed before the people who were already perplexed could react.
He added: “I am very sure that those who shot Odume are certainly from this state, but what I can’t say for sure is if they are members of the IPOB/ESN. The ESN could not have been responsible because he was handling cases of some of those arrested by the police on the allegation that they were members of the IPOB in Orlu. Initially, when those armed men came down from their SUV, most people who were around the vicinity including myself had thought that they were police officers because they were all attired in black with black jeans because that is how the police dress these days. But it was not until they opened fire on him which sent those around scampering for safety that I knew that they were assassins.”
Duruoma Odimara, a security consultant, said that though he had not personally encountered the so-called ‘unknown’ gunmen, that some of the video of their activities posted on the social media showed that the people are certainly from the Southeast or other states like Rivers or Delta, but are Igbo.
However, he noted that the situation has degenerated because of the incompetence of the security agents especially the police whom he accused of mental laziness.
“My worry is that the police as a result of their mental laziness and beer parlour policing are not able to tackle the situation. In this state before the advent of the ESN, we have been under siege of armed robbers and kidnappers in the entire Orlu zone, and I am sure it is these criminals who are now masquerading as ‘unknown gunmen.’ All those who have been arrested by the police or the army; I have not seen any Hausa man or Fulani man because they are easily recognizable. I am also sure that the IPOB/ESN are no longer operating in this state, so the police if their intelligence is still functioning should be able to know those who are responsible for what is happening,” he opined.
In addressing the issue, the state government at the height of the gunmen attacks on police infrastructure had provided them with more operational vehicles, communication equipment and even more amoured tanks.
However, in spite of Governor Hope Uzodimma signing into law the establishment of the Ebubeagu, with about 3,000 personnel reportedly trained at the Police College Oji River, Sunday Sun gathered that the security outfit was yet to be established in Imo.
In Abia State, apart from killings recorded when gunmen attacked some police stations, the killing of a businessman early this year at the Isuikwuato axis of the state and that of a student of Marist Comprehensive Academy, Uturu, Master Donald Edeh around Ihube Road, there had been no other reported killings in the state in recent times.
The late businessman was killed while travelling with his family, while the deceased student, Edeh, was shot dead as he was returning with his colleagues after visiting a Final Religious Profession of some Marist Brothers in Orlu, Imo State.
People residing within Isuikwuato and Uturu, Abia State and Okigwe, Imo State axis, which have become black spots of violent crime of late told Sunday Sun, that they suspected Fulani herdsmen for the atrocities perpetrated in their areas.
They blamed the herders for the killing of the businessman and Edeh.
However, in the case of the Isuikwuato incident, the natives said a local vigilante group working in consonance with security agents, were able to identify and neutralize the gang members.
Sunday Sun learnt that a butcher who hails from a neighbouring community, but doing business in Isuikwuato, served as informant to Fulani herdsmen in the area.
It was also gathered that the butcher who stayed in a strategic location in Isuikwuato, was the one passing information about the movement of people to the herders who stationed in a bush outside the community.
With the information provided by the butcher, his Fulani herdsmen accomplices, were able to track down their victims who they abduct for ransom or kill outrightly like in the case of the businessman.
After the killing of the businessman, the vigilante in the area swung into action and with the backing of security agents, the gang members were apprehended and since then, there has been relative peace in the area.
But the area has remained a nightmare as the Uturu-Okigwe axis where the activities of the hoodlums has remained unabated.
With the killing of the student, Abia governor, Okezie Ikpeazu directed the state Commissioner of Police, Mrs. Janet Agbede to work in concert with her Imo State counterpart to fish out the perpetrators of the heinous crime.
However, more than one month after the incident and the corresponding directive, it was yet to be known if any headway has been made in that direction.
A native of Uturu who gave his name as Egbe Ude alleged that the “government and security operatives cannot claim they do not know from where these abductions and killings going on in the area are coming from, but I don’t know why they have not acted swiftly to arrest the situation”.
He said that it will be practically impossible for the local vigilante to apprehend the perpetrators of the heinous crime in the area because of the sophistication of the arms they carry about and their modus operandi.
Search for solution
President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Prof. George Obiozor, recently described the violence in the area as a systematic destruction of the geo-political zone.
The socio-cultural group also drew the attention of the IPOB to the danger violence has posed in Igbo land and asked the group to facilitate an end to the carnage.
“Today, what we are seeing in Igbo land is not liberation, but Igbo destruction and devastation. It is a national tragedy for Igbo. The liberty and freedom of Ndigbo are threatened internally and externally. I call on IPOB leaders to reassert its authority and control of the organisation,” Obiozor stated.
First Republic Aviation Minister, Chief Mbazulke Amechi, has also appealed to those behind the alleged insecurity in the region and Anambra State in particular, to sheath their sword and allow peace to reign.
In his statement at his house in Ukpor, Nnewi South Local Government Area, Anambra State, Chief Amechi, appealed to whoever might be responsible for the killings and destruction of property to please drop their weapons “because peace is never won with the guns.”
The elder statesman lashed out at the Southeast governors, for what he called their inability to hold their mandates well, saying “they are not acting as true Igbo leaders, they are leaders, but they don’t seem to know that, look at the Ebubeagu they formed, they cannot even finance it, they are not serious.”
He urged the governors to buckle down and save their people from further annihilation by gunmen.
Although the leadership of IPOB has maintained their innocence in the orgy of killings and violence in the zone, Chairman of South East Governors’ Forum and Governor of Ebonyi State, David Umahi, last Wednesday, alleged that criminals have hijacked the activities of IPOB.
Umahi who spoke on a live television programme alleged that some persons living abroad had taken control of the Biafra agitation and continued to play on the emotions of the people.
He said: “You see, at the beginning where we have IPOB saying they are agitating for the creation of Biafra for the reason of the marginalization of the zone. And then a lot of people keyed in, and it became that anybody that has a problem with the centre, the person becomes a supporter of IPOB, those in Diaspora that went for greener pastures that failed to get such become very bitter with the Nigeria government and so, the followers kept growing, and then the issue of herdsmen came up and there were a couple of killings in Southeast and the people were killed helplessly and they felt the governors were not protecting them.
“But we did quite a lot to ensure that there is peace between our farmers and the herdsmen, but that was not the way some people that were aggrieved wanted us to go, but that was the way we should go. Then came up the IPOB/ESN, which is the militant aspect of the IPOB, and then they started to issue orders of threats like if you do this, if you do that and all sort of that. Along the line the whole exercise was hijacked, we no longer have kidnappers and armed robbers, every criminal now claims to be an IPOB member, and some politicians from what we learnt also capitalized on that and started importing killers from outside Southeast to advance their political interest by what we are seeing in Anambra State.”
Umahi said that his colleagues working with other Southeast leaders were bent on finding lasting solution to the grievances of the people of the zone especially the youth.
He lamented that restiveness had endured in the region because a lot of people had been brainwashed and misinformed into believing that some persons were fighting for them.
A communique by the governors and leaders of the zone after their meeting in Enugu condemned the killings in the region and resolved to join forces with the country’s security agencies to end the menace.
They also directed all the states to launch Ebubeagu by December 31, and give it the necessary legal backing. The meeting further condemned the frequent sit-at-home calls by non-state actors, particularly the IPOB, and vowed to do everything within the law to end such orders.
In the eight-point communique presented to newsmen, Umahi also said that “the meeting received the Committee report from Ohanaeze on various matters affecting the Southeast, especially on the issue of security and marginalization of the Southeast people, and resolved to study the reports from Ohanaeze Worldwide for immediate implementation, and engagement with the Federal Government for amicable settlement of all issues agitating the minds of our people, especially the youths.”