Police flee S/East roads, go to work in Mufti as tensions rise

Police flee S/East roads, go to work in Mufti as tensions rise

Charles Nwoke, Awka, Nigeria

April 3, 2021 

Image courtesy of local sources, fair use.

The entire five South Eastern Nigeria states of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, and Imo seem to be superheated and there is serious anxiety in most communities, due to the renewed insecurity bedeviling the zone.

Since January this year, there had been a bloodbath and incessant killings in most of the states, and it appears to be uncontrollable at the moment.

The most recent incident involving the former Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN governor, Professor Chukwuma Soludo in which unknown gunmen stormed the venue of a town hall meeting of the Professor of Economics and governorship aspirant of All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, for the November 6 election in Anambra State and killed three police officers and carting away their arms and ammunition, was the climax of the scaring situation in the zone.

Due to the continuous attacks on the cop checkpoints, policemen now go to work putting on mufti and only wear their official uniforms when they get to their offices because of fear of the known gunmen. Unarguably, residents of the zone are living in fear.

While most of the attacks had been traced to the activities of Fulani herdsmen who invade many southeast villages with AK -47 rifles in their quest to occupy the forests, the rest were by criminals including armed robbers. There are also members of Indigenous People of Biafra controlled Eastern Security Network, ESN, who have been defending the various communities from the menace of the herdsmen.

In January 2021, there was a bloody clash between the ESN, and a combined team of security operatives, in Orlu, Imo State, which led to the loss of several lives, while many buildings and vehicles were burnt down.

During the Orlu attack, people living around the Banana junction close to Orlu local government area headquarters had a raw deal and their houses and businesses were heavily torched. The shooting was heard as far as neighboring communities of Okporo, Akata, and Umutanze.

The soldiers who carried out the operation against ESN came from Obinze and the aftermath of the attack was the heavy presence of the military at the various checkpoints erected on roads, with its attendant hardship on travelers. The military claimed it was revenging the death of their colleagues who were allegedly killed by members of the ESN set-up by the Mazi Nnamdi Kanu – led IPOB.

The Orlu incident made Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State impose a dust-to-dawn curfew in the entire Orlu Senatorial zone to halt the spread of the crisis.

Last week, gunmen killed eight people at Adani, Uzo -Uwani local government area of Enugu State, and the following day, suspected herdsmen also killed 18 persons, including a Methodist priest at Egedegede, Obegu, and Amuzu communities in Ishielu local government area of Ebonyi State, The car belonging to the Methodist priest was also burnt by the herdsmen.

Chairman of Ishielu local government area, Mr. Sunday Eze, and Ebonyi State Commissioner for Business Development, Dr. Stephen Odo led a team of security agents to the communities and condoled the families of those killed in the invasion, and assured that government would take proactive measures to investigate the attack.

Following the incident, the Ebonyi State Commissioner of Police delegated the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Operations, and others to go for an on-the-spot assessment to enable security agencies to get the root of the matter.

Reacting to the killings, Governor Dave Umahi, who was visibly angry, visited the affected communities, regretting that the attack took place despite an understanding the herdsmen had with the state government.

Umahi said, “We feel so sad that this kind of thing should happen in our state. I am going to report this to the highest authorities in the country to ensure these people don’t get away with this.”.

The governor also said that following the unabated killings and destruction of properties in Effium and Ezza-Effium communities in the Ohaukwu local government area, the stakeholders arrested in connection with the crisis would remain in detention until peace returned to the area. He said: “The killings should stop; if they continue, I will hunt for the leaders and charge them for murder. Enough is enough. You have a lot to lose if the crisis continues. You can’t call for genocide against the people.

“When you see evil, you have to speak out. I commend those of you who have done that. I’m pleading with you, I am begging you. There’s a way you will continue to kill, the state will rise against you. I feel so sad. Let us stop these killings.

There was also an attack at Aba, Abia State during which a police station was razed. Some people suspected to members of ESN were arrested.

At Npkor near Onitsha, Anambra State, unknown gunmen drove to a police checkpoint and disarmed the security operatives. An eyewitness said: “In my area, gunmen with white hummer bus, stopped at Nkpor Junction and disarmed five security men attached to TECNO plaza. There was no noise, no gunshot. The gunmen ordered the security men to just respect themselves and submit their guns. They did and they left smoothly”

From Npkor, the gunmen descended on police checkpoints at Omogho in Orumba South, killed three policemen, and set ablaze the police patrol van.

Two days later, gunmen also attacked another checkpoint at Neni in Anaocha local government area and killed three policemen on the spot. Elsewhere at Awkuzu, gunmen also attacked a naval checkpoint and killed some of the ratings on duty. Later, there was another attack at Ekwulobia during which some gunmen attacked a bus conveying some prison inmates to court and killed two warders, a man, and a woman. They also attempted to set ablaze the Ekwulobia police station recently reconstructed after it was burnt down during the #endsars protests of last year.

Those incidents made Governor Willie Obiano read the riot act, warning that ‘enough is enough’. While the state government was still unfolding plans to contain the situation in parts of the state, there was the attack on the foremost APGA aspirant for the November election, Professor Soludo.

So far, four people have been arrested in connection with the attack and, according to the police, the first suspect was traced through his telephone which was left at the scene of the incident in Soludo’s community.

Reacting to the incident, Soludo said in an interview on Channels Television, that he did not want to link the attack to his political aspiration. Narrating the incident, the former CBN governor said: “We were having an interactive town hall meeting. We had finished the diocesan chrism mass at about 2 pm and by 4 pm, we began the interactive session with Isuofia youths.

“Isuofia is my hometown. I am a village boy and this is where I feel safest anywhere in the world. I walk the streets and I mean everywhere as a village boy. With the interactive session, which had over 1000 youths seated, I was just making preliminary remarks to open up the interactive session with other dignitaries from the community, commissioners, and members of the House of Assembly, former commissioners, former members of the House of Assembly and other dignitaries.

“And just as I was about to wrap up and for them to now open up comments, questions and answers, I heard gunshots. At first, I thought, maybe the policemen were shooting in the air and concurring with the kind of exuberance in the hall itself.

“And until I began to hear people screaming and all of that and everybody scampering to safety, it was all over. It took several minutes, about 10 to 15 minutes of continuous battle, going back and forth, stopping, and starting again.

“By the time we all came back, we saw three dead bodies lying in the pool of their blood – they were the three policemen – and like I said earlier, may God grant their soul eternal rest. We will continue to pray and support their families.

“And then, the Commissioner for Environment was abducted. I understand that when they ran and jumped the fence, some people grabbed and took him away.”

According to him, the security operatives, including the DSS, police, army, and civil defense are already in his house, assuring that he is unhurt.

Soludo refused to link the attack with his political ambition adding, “I think there are all kinds of theories. I do not want to prejudge or preempt the investigation that is ongoing because I understand some persons have been apprehended and also providing useful information.”

In the meantime, reactions have continued to trail the attack on Soludo. The United Anambra Youth Assembly, U-AYA, and United Anambra Women Assembly, U-AWA, described the attack as disgusting, anti-democratic, and a threat to the nation’s democratic consolidation in all its ramifications.

Founder and national president of the association, who is the member representing Anambra East and West Federal Constituency in the National Assembly, Hon Benjamin C Obidigwe frowned at the incident, adding that the attack was an abuse of the relative peace being enjoyed in the state.

An ex-presidential aide to former President Goodluck Jonathan and APGA governorship aspirant, Nze Akachukwu Nwankpo strongly condemned the attack. In a telephone conversation, Nwankpo commiserated with Soludo over the death of his police escorts. He encouraged the former CBN boss not to be deterred by the antics of the enemies of the state and thanked God that he was not hurt and for saving him from the dastardly act.