•Continued from yesterday 23/11/2021

State of the states

Imo

On Tuesday, November 2, the Imo State Government announced that it had uncovered fresh plot by politicians to sponsor further destabilization of the state. This is not the first time the state government had alleged that some individuals were bent on destroying the state.

According to the government, the masterminds of the alleged plot are politicians from the state who had allegedly vowed that the government of Governor Hope Uzodimma will never have peace.

The state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Chief Declan Emelumba, raised the alarm last Tuesday when he addressed newsmen at the Government House Owerri.

Emelumba said: “A former governor of the state and other disgruntled politicians have voted a hefty N5billion with which to trigger another round of security crisis in the state.”

The commissioner further alleged that “a serving member of the House of Representatives from Imo State is coordinating the destabilization plot.

“Part of the plot is to raise a petition to the Inspector General of Police that security has collapsed in the state and that the government has been overwhelmed by the challenges. They are going to use the recent unfortunate fate of our two royal fathers from Njaba to anchor their campaign.”

Emelumba said after the petition, the politicians planned to commence a destructive campaign for the declaration of a state of emergency in Imo.

He added that with the N5billion at their disposal, they also planned to sponsor sundry protests and violence in Imo State as a way of giving vent to their position as being real, followed by intensive national and international media propaganda.

Emelumba told journalists: “As I am addressing you now, a member of the National Assembly is leading the campaign. A serving senator and a perennial governorship aspirant in the state are planning a courtesy call on the Inspector General of Police to serve him the poisoned chalice that Imo State is ungovernable.”

The commissioner alleged that those conspiring to unleash the fresh violence on Imo consist of politicians who lost the 2019 election and have refused to let go.

He also named those indicted by the White Paper on recovery of land and looted assets of the state as being behind what he described as “the politically contrived security breaches in the state.”

Disclosing that “the actors had openly boasted to make the state ungovernable for Uzodinma, a threat he said “had been maliciously executed,” he regretted that the perpetrators of the security breaches were dancing on the graves of innocent citizens.

“It is truly alarming that greed and vaulting ambition could drive people to such villainous levels as to desperately seek to sacrifice the lives of their fellow citizens and the progress of the state just to get back at someone,” he said.

Emelumba, however, warned that “government was prepared to match them with legal force should they try to constitute themselves into security nuisance again.”

On Friday, November 5, three days after the Imo State government raised the alarm over fresh plot to further destabilise the state by politicians, gunmen stormed Umulogho community in Obowo Local Government Area of the state and killed three persons.

Witnesses said the gunmen who adorned black attire came in a convoy and when they got to Nwokeisiama Junction, they opened fire on the victims, a male and two females. A source informed that the incident lasted for about 30 minutes but security operatives at the nearby Umulogho Divisional Police station did not show up. The police spokesman in Imo State, Mike Abattam, confirmed the incident.

About one month earlier, two soldiers and one Obele, were killed when they clashed in Izombe community in Oguta LGA.

According to Emelumba, some miscreants “took two of the military officers to a particular place and collected their arms and ammunition, collected their uniforms and beat them to death. One of the military guys that were killed was an indigene of Imo State.”

When the military officers returned to Izombe, dozens of houses, cars, motorcycles and house hold items went up in flames. The community was desolate when Daily Sun visited. 

On October 19, gunmen killed two traditional rulers in Imo State. According to reports, the traditional rulers were having a stakeholders meeting at the headquarters of Njaba LGA in Nnenasa when the gunmen opened fire, killing the Obi 1 Okwudor autonomous community, Eze E. Anayochukwu Durueburuo and Eze Sampson Osunwa of Ihebineowerre autonomous community.    

A female officer of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCD) in Imo State, Mrs Glory Nkwocha, met her end when a bullet flew into her house in Orlu and hit her right in the presence of her young family. Worse still, she could not be immediately taken to the hospital because the environment was in panic mode.

Glory was later taken to the Federal Medical Centre, Owerri, where doctors battled in vain to save her.      

The spokesperson of the NSCDC in Imo State, Lowell Chimeziri, confirmed the killing of his colleague, saying: “She was hit by a stray bullet in Orlu on Thursday and regrettably she died in a hospital on Friday. Her remains had been deposited in a morgue.”

The stray bullet that killed Glory came from the gun battle between security men and gunmen. That night, Orlu looked like a Christmas tree as sparks of gunfire perforated the darkness. It was said to be a battle between security forces and hoodlums operating under the name of “unknown gunmen.” Eight of the gunmen met their waterloo. Also, eight vehicles and sophisticated weapons were said to have been recovered from the gunmen.   

Miss Divine Nwaneri, a 23-year-old 100-level student of the Imo State University (IMSU), was shot dead by soldiers in front of Imo State Government House on April 23. The soldiers had fired into the vehicle Divine was in and a bullet hit her on the neck and the driver on the leg. To make matters worse, the soldiers did not allow help to be rendered to her. So, the indigene of Obollo in Isiala Mbano Local Government Area of Imo State died.

A 39-year-old businessman and father of two, Mr Noel Chigbu, was killed by soldiers at the Amakohia Flyover checkpoint at about 10pm on April 30.

Noel’s elder brother, Tobechi, said: “His wife is four months pregnant as we speak. He has a son that turned two years a day after he was killed by the military. His daughter is only four years.”

A chieftain of the APC and Special Adviser to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Ahmed Gulak, was murdered in May in Owerri while on his way to Sam Mbakwe Airport to board a flight to Abuja. Addressing a press conference, Uzodimma said the killing of his friend and political ally shocked him to his marrows.

According to him, “someone must have trailed him from the hotel to the airport. That is exactly why his gruesome murder appears to be a clear case of political assassination.” 

Indeed, in Imo, death is two a penny. Death in the state is just a few metres away. Anybody can meet his or her death anywhere, anytime as shooting spree is common.

It does not matter if you are breastfeeding your child in your room. Death could knock on the door any time. Many are living in fear of the unknown.

Orsuihiteukwa community in Orsu Local Government Area of Imo State is one of the places where residents cannot afford the luxury of sleeping with their two eyes closed.

In fact, the community is living on the edge, lying prostrate. The people are overwhelmed by shock or grief from military bombardments.

For instance, on February 17, military jets devastated farms and destroyed other property in the community. It was gathered that what the security agents could not destroy, they stole.  They attacked residents and robbed them of cash and phones, among other valuables. They plundered and pillaged fishponds and carted away large quantity of fish. They also assaulted some young men, flogged them and forced them to frog-jump. The security agents also snatched some ladies from the community as spoils of war.

But why did the security agents attack Orsuihiteukwa and Lilu, in Anambra State, among other communities? According to government sources, security agents were drafted there to “flush out” members of the Eastern Security Network/IPOB suspected to be camping in the community.

However, Orsuihiteukwa leaders debunked the allegation.  The traditional ruler of the community, Eze David Ezejiaku, Ezeudo of Orsuihiteukwa, told Daily Sun: “To be honest, Orsuihiteukwa is living in fear because we saw what we had not seen before. Even during the Nigeria-Biafra civil war, we did not have this type of experience. In fact, during the war, we had refugees from other places and they lived in peace with us until the war ended and they left for their respective homelands.

“We had not experienced bombing or shooting of any type in this community. We have also been known as a peaceful community until February 17 when we saw military helicopters flying around and we began to wonder what was happening. The helicopters were flying so low, almost touching rooftops. In fact, it was touching some trees. We were still wondering what was happening when we started hearing the sound of bombs exploding. We also started hearing the booming sound of sophisticated guns. I was in the palace that day and there was confusion everywhere. People were running helter skelter – men, women and children were all scampering for safety. They said they saw soldiers, policemen and other security agents everywhere.

“So, we started investigating what was happening but we couldn’t place our fingers on anything because we have been peaceful. We have local vigilantes providing security for the community. So, we sent them to go and find out what was happening and they said a part of the community was under bombardment by agents of government. The place bombed is our farmland. There is a river there and some young people created fishponds there with which they take care of themselves and their families. We also do farming there. Farmers were preparing their farms for the coming farming season. The security people went there and destroyed everything.

“Some people, who were running away from the flying bullets, fainted on the way. At the end of the day, many ended in hospitals. Some people are still sick now because of the shock. One young man, Cletus Nnajiofor, died. He slumped and died instantly because of what he experienced.

“The following day, February 18, the security operatives returned there. Since that time, people no longer go to their farms there. That was how the fishponds were abandoned there. Our people have been living in fear. Even last week, the helicopters came again, flying about.

“Our women don’t go to the farms again. Some of the people hospitalized don’t have money to settle their bills. We have been expecting government to tell us what is happening. It could be because we don’t have people in government; that is why we are being treated with disdain, that we are worthless.

“We are mourning. We are begging the whole world to intervene because everybody saw what happened. It was posted on the internet. The federal and state governments should come to our rescue because we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. We don’t know if they will come again tomorrow to attack us. We are worried. Some of our people have become lean because they are not feeding properly. Some of our people who travelled have refused to come home because of fear.”

When reminded that there were allegations that ESN/IPOB members were hiding in his community, the traditional ruler, said: “There was nothing like that. I just cannot understand why they came.”

Another community leader, Ichie Felix Obodoechi (Enyioha), also spoke in the same vein.  He complained bitterly about the violation of the rights of the people.

It was further gathered that one lady was taken away by the soldiers. She was, however, released some days later after she was allegedly thoroughly violated by the soldiers.

However, Obodoechi was murdered few weeks after. His manhood was chopped off and displayed in a plate.

Cry, my beloved Owerri

In the beginning, Owerri was a place of fun. It was a place to love, a place to be. It provided top level hospitality. There are good hotels everywhere and hospitality girls are in large numbers.

However, things began to assume a different dimension in the state since December last year following the formation of the ESN by IPOB to flush out marauding herdsmen and criminal elements from Igboland.

In response, security agents were unleashed on the area thereby triggering skirmishes between them and suspected members of the ESN/IPOB in the Orlu/Orsu axis of the state.

While the crisis persisted, scores of people, including policemen and soldiers were killed and property destroyed, leading to the imposition of a dusk to dawn curfew and subsequent invitation of the military to “flush out” the suspected members of the IPOB/ESN in Orlu and the state in general by Imo governor, Hope Uzodimma.

The operations, which started in February with the deployment of helicopter gunships and other military gadgets in collaboration with the Inspector General of Police Intelligence Response Team left bitter tales in the Orlu zone as security operatives raided private houses and even churches in search of suspected IPOB/ESN members. The joint-security team also arrested the presiding priest of Our Lord’s Sabbath in Umunam Atta Community, Njaba LGA, Rev. Chigozie Nwaka, as well as some other clerics and church elders in Ubokoro Atta, Okporo, Okwudor, all in Orlu council of Imo State.

They also invaded the House of Prayer International Covenant Church, Okporo Orlu, and arrested over 20 members of the church as suspected members of IPOB/ESN.

But rather than the situation abating, it further deteriorated as gunmen continued their onslaught against police formations in the state.

In the last couple of months, many police formations had been attacked and razed down by gunmen in the state at Obowo, Aboh Mbaise, Isiala Mbano, Etiti, Ehime Mbano, Orlu, Orsu, Nwaorieubi, Ahiazu Mbaise, Ezinihitte Mbaise and Mbieri. Magistrate’s courts in Ngor Okpala and Ihitte Uboma councils of the state were also attacked.

The attacks got to a peak last Easter Monday when gunmen simultaneously attacked the Imo Correctional Services facility and the State Police headquarters close to the Douglas House, the seat of Imo State Government. The onslaught on the correctional centre and Douglas House heightened fear and panic amongst residents as it appears that nobody is safe in the state.

During the attacks, the gunmen said to have arrived in a convoy of over 12 Hilux and Sienna vehicles that early hours of April 5, operated unchallenged between 1am and 3am during which time they bombed the Owerri Correctional Centre and freed about 1,884 inmates. They also burnt documents and vehicles in the facility.

The same scenario also played out at the state police headquarters as the hoodlums burnt down the entire offices of the State Criminal Investigation Department (SCID), freed 68 suspects from the various cells and carted away arms and ammunition. They also burnt 36 operational vehicles and 16 private vehicles parked within the premises of the state police headquarters as the officers fled.

Hours after the attacks, the then Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, pointedly accused members of the Eastern Security Network (ESN) of being behind the attack. But the pro-Biafra group denied any involvement in the attacks.

In a statement on April 5, police spokesperson, Frank Mba, said: “Preliminary investigations have revealed that the attackers, who came in their numbers with sophisticated weapons such as General Purpose Guns (GPMGs), Sub-Machine Guns (SMGs), AK49 rifles, Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs), Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), are members of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB)/Eastern Security Network (ESN).” 

No one knows how Adamu came about the conclusion even without investigation. According a public affairs analyst, the former IGP spoke like a magician. 

Adamu was removed as IGP while visiting Owerri to assess the extent of destruction.

Meanwhile, Governor Uzodimma’s allegation that “desperate” politicians in the state were responsible for the dastardly attacks on police facilities and correctional centre in the state gave a new twist to the whole issue. He also alluded that an ex-governor of the state, who he alleged had failed to stop the implementation of the government White Paper on the recovery of looted property of the state was the mastermind and sponsor of the hoodlums that wreaked havoc on security facilities in the state.

Interestingly, Dennis Amachree, a former assistant director of the Department of State Services (DSS), revealed that the state government and police command were warned about the impending attack but the information was not utilized.

The former security chief said: “There was enough intelligence, enough actionable intelligence. Actionable in the sense that it allows for space for people to execute it, one week ahead of the event and, of course, 72 hours before the event and then 48 hours before the event.

“So, three times, the Nigerian Police Force was informed by the DSS that this is going to happen because some suspects that are geolocated around the area were found surveying the prisons and the police headquarters but you know in our lackadaisical way, when the intelligence came, they threw it by the side and when something happens, everybody runs around.

“All security reports are shared with the governor in a state, first. Then, it’s shared with other sister agencies like the police and the military, all of them got this particular report. So, the governor is very much aware.

“Apparently, nothing was done (to stop the attacks). You can see that the governor was referring to that particular report that that it’s not IPOB.”       

It was gathered that the attackers were singing and dancing for about one hour before they struck.

Gunmen took their exploit to another level when they attacked the country home of Uzodimma in Omuma in Oru East council.

Emelumba said: “At about 9am today, a group of hoodlums numbering about 15 and driving in a motorcade of three vehicles, accompanied by a tipper loaded with used tyres, stormed the country home of the governor and attempted to burn down the house.

“However, vigilant security operatives attached to the governor’s house successfully repelled the attack and consequently minimized damage.

“None of the buildings was set ablaze. However, one unarmed personnel of the NSCDC was killed in the process.

“The hoodlums, while escaping, also killed a police sergeant and another NSCDC personnel, both in their private vehicles at Mgbidi Junction.”

Then security operatives responded by killing the second in command of the ESN, Kayinayo Andy Nwokike, popularly known as Don Ikonso (Holy Cup) on April 23, 2021.

Reacting, IPOB said: “For murdering Ikonso, the ESN unit commander in cold blood, Uzodimma has stirred the hornet nest. He should get ready for a sting.”

The group alleged that Ikonso was killed because “he refused to head Ebubeagu ghost security outfit formed by South East governors.”

Since the killing of Ikonso, Imo has not been the same. It has been one day one trouble.

In August, armed gunmen unleashed violence in Okporo and neighbouring communities in Orlu LGA. During the attack, a community leader was beheaded and his head placed on a table in the market.  He was the fifth person to be beheaded in Orlu.

Armed gunmen dressed in military fatigue also set ablaze a hotel belonging Chinonso Uba in the area. His house was also burnt by the gunmen. They also burnt cars and shops, among other property in the area.

One of the most pathetic cases was the killing of an Anglican priest, Rev. Emeka Merenu, of St. Andrew Personage in Ihitteukwa, Orsu LGA on September 14. He was said to be protecting students who were writing the West African Senior School Certificate Examination.

Twenty-four hours after the killing of Merenu, Darlington Odume, a lawyer Umudara, Amaifeke in Orlu LGA, was assassinated. He was reportedly shot several times while buying some edible things.           

The situation now is such that residents and visitors retire like fowls. Nightlife is gradually dying in Owerri because no one knows when security agents and non-state actors will strike.

Daily Sun reporters visited a top entertainment centre in Owerri at 10pm in October and got the shock of their lives. The once bubbly centre was like a ghost town on a weekend. Thick layers of dust covered chairs and tables.

One of the few staff members told us that many of her colleagues had been laid off to due poor patronage.

She said: “Business has really gone down because people are afraid of coming out, particularly at night. The management sacked some people because sales are poor. Some of the staff even left on their own because of fear.”

Investigation revealed that most fun seekers do their thing in their hotel rooms.

Apart from entertainment centres and beer joints, another set hard hit are commercial sex workers, who now prefer to be called hospitality girls. The bars and streets where they hang out and wait for customers are dry, so business is very dull.

Janet, a student and runs girl, resident at Nekede, said: “My brother, everything has changed in Owerri. The fear of unknown gunmen is the beginning of wisdom. People no longer come out in the night because of the fear of the unknown. In fact, many of the girls are relocating to Lagos.” It was gathered that some of the girls who are still in school go to “hustle” in Lagos and other places and return after a few days or weeks.

First vice president of Nnewi Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NCCIMA), Chief Moses Ezukwo, said the zone had lost billions of naira to the development.       

Ebonyi

Married in April, murdered in October

Onyinyechi Aja, nee Nwachukwu, a first class graduate of Environmental Biology from the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) from Okposi in Ohaozara LGA, tied the nuptial knot with her heartthrob, Aja Ogbonnaya Aja, in April this year.

Aja, a young lawyer and Second Class Upper Division graduate of the UNN like his sweetheart, hailed from the same Okposi Okwu community.

Onyinyechi, who is expecting a baby any moment from now, had in a tribute to her spouse on her Facebook wall on April 14, 2021, following their successful wedding, said: “I am satisfied with the man you have groomed yourself to be. And I know the best of you is yet to come. I love your firm resolution to your belief. You believe the future holds nothing but the best for you, yet you always say it’s not by struggle but by God’s grace only. Your heart is large and your mind is ready to let go.”

She further thanked Aja for holding her hands through the waters and for giving her the shoulder to lean on, praying that God will make him “a great son, husband and father.”

Those were indeed mere wishes as the bright future Onyinyechi had dreamed about was cut short by mindless gunmen who murdered Aja somewhere around Onicha in Onicha Local Government Area of Ebonyi State on Thursday, October 7, 2021.

The young lawyer and his unnamed colleague in the law firm of Amos Ogbonnaya in Abakaliki, from Ohaukwu, alongside his client, Pastor Ogbonnaya Abani, also from Okposi, were heading to the High Court at Obiozara, headquarters of Ohaozara LGA when they ran into the hoodlums.  The trio were marched out of their Highlander SUV and shot dead in broad daylight. Not even the pleas of the 30-year-old lawyer whose wife was carrying about seven months pregnancy could save them, as the heartless criminals pumped hot bullets into their victims.

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 at the council headquarters.

The gunmen were said to have burnt the vehicle they came with and left the area with the lawyer’s Highlander SUV.

Since then, darkness has besieged the families of the Ajas and Abani Chukwus of Okposi.  Aja was buried on Thursday, November 4, 2021 at his Agunabani, Okposi Okwu family compound. The implication of this development is that Onyinyechi’s unborn child would not know her father while all those lofty dreams of the young widow have gone with the winds.

Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi, has since placed N2million bounty on those perpetrating killings in the state.

But Amos Ogbonnaya, principal partner of the law firm, which lost the two legal practitioners blamed a governor for the attack, saying that it was the governor’s threat in the media that the South East governors were setting up a counter force to the IPOB that led to the attack.

According to him, the governor stirred the hornet nest: “What is the story? The governor was reported to have gone to Abuja to solicit for funds to raise a rival militia group that would wipe out IPOB from the South East under three months.  The proverbial sleeping dog was roused awake and they attacked a local government secretariat in Isu community on the ground that they hoisted a Nigerian flag. The two mobile policemen who tried to stop them were gunned down. Trying to escape from Isu through Onicha Road, they met a Sienna car, killed the driver and took over the Sienna after setting their operational vehicle on fire. With the Sienna, they raced to escape through Onicha community.

“The youth, having been alerted, set up barricades on the road. When they got to the barricades they shot two young men and drove through the barricades. They now took a left turn towards Oshiri community when they met my lawyers in a Toyota Highlander jeep on their way to court. They blocked the jeep, drove the three of them down from the vehicle, shot them and threw the wig and gown at them. “They then set the Sienna on fire and escaped in our Toyota Highlander. They got to the next community in their hasty flight and shot a young man who darted across the road. And on and on the bloodletting continued. In the end, eight dead bodies littered the road between Isu and Onicha communities. The fact remains, however, that the South East has been infiltrated by strangers, FG mercenaries, herdsmen and sometimes criminals masquerading as unknown gunmen.”

Daily Sun gathered that Amos had instructed his remaining lawyers to close down the Abakaliki office indefinitely to honour their two colleagues whom he said died in active service.

On their part, Okposi indigenes under the auspices of Okposi Development Forum (ODF) have condemned the dastard killing of their sons and placed generational curses on the perpetrators.

A public statement by ODF shortly after the incident said: “We summon the full weight of our heritage to heap generational curses upon the heads of the murderers. If you have any information that will lead to unmasking of the murderers, we urge you to please come forward and present this to the government security authorities.”

While the bereaved families mourned their beloved ones whose lives were cut short by some bloodthirsty goons, the police in Ebonyi State said they were on the trail of the assailants.

Daily Sun learnt that there have been killings in Onicha Igboeze in the last three months by gunmen and security agents.

Recently, a 27-year old woman and daughter of 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 penetrated her 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 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 6am 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 beyond repair.

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 IPOB of masterminding the killings 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 6am, 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.”

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