•Continued yesterday 24/11/2021
Indeed, Ebonyi State has been experiencing worrisome security concerns in almost all the corners of the state. The security challenges ranged from attacks on police stations and formations by gunmen to attacks on communities by suspected Fulani herdsmen as well as pockets of communal clashes, robbery incidents and some cult-related killings. In fact, Ebonyi State has the unenviable record of having one of the highest numbers of attacks on police facilities and killing of their personnel since the #EndSARS protests by youths across the country.
For example, there had been attacks on police stations at Ezza South, Onicha and Ebonyi LGAs. There were also attacks by suspected Fulani herdsmen at Egedegede community in Ishielu Local Government Area of the state in addition to the latest killings in Umuoguduakpu Ngbo in Ohaukwu LGA. The Ezza-Effium intra-communal war has also raged since January.
One other gory incident was when a graduate farmer, Joseph Oko, and his wife, were gruesomely murdered in their farm at Amata Ozizza community in Afikpo North Local Government Area. This particular case and many others, prompted the people of Afikpo to ban the sale and consumption of cow meat in the area effective from October 26, 2020.
On January 8, 2021, gunmen attacked a police station and killed three police officers in Ezza South, Ebonyi.
The state government said that it was doing its best to maintain security and order in the state. Apart from the conventional security agencies, the Ebonyi State government has other security outfits complementing them in securing the lives and property of the people. There is a state-owned security outfit known as Ebonyi State Neighbourhood Security Watch under the supervision of the Ministry of Internal Security. There are vigilante groups across communities as approved by the state government, which recently beefed up its manpower in each of the local government areas.
In fact, the LGAs had been mandated to immediately inaugurate the vigilante groups while communities were to reinvigorate the local vigilance groups after the bloody attack in Ishielu community where at least 16 persons lost their lives.
But the state government has assured that the coming of Ebubeagu will help in the fight against crimes and all forms of criminality in the state. Commissioner for Internal Security and Border Peace, Stanley Okoro-Emegha, said the recruitment process has commenced to bring able-bodied and patriotic Ebonyi youths into the security outfit.
He explained that Ebubeagu would work in partnership with the Neighbourhood Security Watch, the vigilante and conventional security agencies already on ground to combat crimes in the state.
He noted that governors from the zone have taken steps to make laws backing the outfit, stressing that while the governors were making efforts to get the Federal Government to fund the outfit, he said funding of Ebubeagu will not affect its effective operations in Ebonyi because the state government was prepared for that.
Also, the Chairman of Human Rights Defenders of Nigeria, Ebonyi State chapter, Sampson Nweke, said that the launching of Ebubeagu was a welcome development, but regretted that it came at a wrong time as he wondered why it took the governors of the zone so long to come up with a security initiative.
On Monday, November 1, soldiers of the Nigeria army allegedly invaded Isingwu, a hamlet in Imama village, Mgbowo in Awgu Local Government Area of Enugu State, killed an undisclosed number of persons and burnt several houses.
On Monday, October 18, Cordelia Utazi was hacked to death on her farm, when herdsmen attacked Ugwujoro Nimbo, in the Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State.
On Monday, October 11, a lifeless body of a young man identified as Stephen Ajah, alleged to have been murdered by unknown gunmen was discovered in Enugu. The body was discovered along Ozalla/Agbani Road in Nkanu West Local Government Area of Enugu State.
On Tuesday, September 21, two policemen were killed when gunmen attacked them at a checkpoint in Nachi, Oji River Local Government Area of Enugu State. Their rifles were also carted away by the gunmen.
On Sunday, August 1, suspected Fulani herdsmen attacked Mgbuji community in Isi-Uzo Local Government Area of the state, killing over nine persons, including a pregnant woman whose foetus was brutally removed by the assailants.
On Monday, July 16, suspected Fulani herdsmen attacked Obie-Aku, Opanda village, Nimbo community, in the Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area of the state, killed four people and injured many others.
On Wednesday, July 21, about six policemen were allegedly killed by gunmen at a police checkpoint along Obeagu Uno-Amodu – Umueze Amechi Road, in Enugu South Local Government Area.
On Sunday, May 29, a former judge of Enugu High Court, Justice Stanley Nnaji was shot dead by unknown gunmen. The incident happened beside the Enugu Diagnostic Centre, by Ebeano Tunnel, Enugu, after he was intercepted and dragged out of his Mercedes Benz Jeep.
On Wednesday, April 21, two police officers on duty were killed and several others injured, when gunmen attacked the Divisional Police Headquarters, Adani, in Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area.
To visit their daughter, who is schooling at the University of Calabar, Mr and Mrs Uwakwe travelled from their Onitsha residence to Asaba, capital of Delta State, where they took a flight to Lagos. They took another flight from Lagos to Calabar, where they met their daughter and spent the night. The following day, they flew from Calabar to Abuja where they connected another flight to Asaba. Then they returned to Onitsha.
Why did the Ukwus embark on such a stressful and expensive journey? There is no direct flight from Asaba to Calabar and traveling by road is out of the question due the insecurity in the zone.
Like other South East states, blood has been flowing like the Niger in Anambra. For this reason, the Uwakwes chose to travel like Ajala.
After the #EndSARS protests, no fewer than 20 policemen and soldiers were killed by gunmen since March, 2021, in Anambra State.
Different parts of the state have had various security issues. For instance, on Friday, March 19, 2021, gunmen attacked a vehicle of the Nigerian Correctional Service conveying inmates to court in Ekwulobia, Aguata LGA, leaving two officials dead.
Earlier on Thursday, March 18, gunmen reportedly killed four naval officers at Awkuzu Junction, Oyi LGA of the state. Reports said the security agents were ambushed and murdered at their checkpoint.
On the same day, another set of gunmen killed three policemen at Okacha Junction, Neni, Anaocha LGA of the state, while their patrol vehicle was burnt. The state police public relations officer, Ikenga Tochukwu, who confirmed the attack, added that “the hoodlums, numbering over 20 in three Sienna vehicles and motorcycles, engaged the policemen in a gun duel, which lasted for over 30 minutes, before reinforcements from the state headquarters forced the hoodlums to escape.”
Again, on Sunday, March 28, a cult war claimed three lives in Awka, the state capital, while three young men were gunned down across different locations of the city, a day earlier.
Witnesses said that one of the deceased was killed at Umubelle in Awka, while the other two were killed opposite the headquarters of a popular Pentecostal church at Unizik Temporary Site, Okpuno, both in Awka South.
Also, another cult war claimed two lives in Okija, Ihiala LGA on March 20. The victims were beheaded and their heads taken away. On March 24, four policemen were also killed at Nkpologwu, Aguata LGA by gunmen. The attackers also carted away their rifles. The assailants were said to have met their victims at a checkpoint in the community. They also set the patrol vehicle ablaze after killing the policemen.
And on March 31, gunmen also attacked the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Alliance (APGA) and former Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Chukwuma Soludo, killing three of his orderlies. This happened when the former CBN boss was holding a meeting with youths of his community. the state Commissioner for Public Utilities, Emeka Ezenwanne, who was abducted by the gunmen, was released days later. The incident occurred at the Civic Centre in his hometown, Isuofia, Aguata LGA during a political meeting.
On September 10, the former traditional ruler of Mkpu-Nando community, Igwe Alex Edozieuno, and his driver were assassinated by gunmen.
The victim was one of the monarchs dethroned last year by Governor Willie Obiano for allegedly accompanying a prominent son of the state to see President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja without government permission. He was killed along Aguleri –Ayamelum road, Otuocha, in the council area.
Reacting, Obiano said: “Offices of some political parties, branded campaign vehicles and individuals occupying them have been attacked with killings and burning of vehicles observed.
“Other innocent road users have become victims of this menace with many losing their lives and others, their properties.
“Between Sunday 26th and September 28th, 2021 attacks on citizens at Oko, Agulu, Obosi, Nkpor, Nnobi, Nnewi and other places have left about 10 people dead, including an illustrious son of this state, Dr Chike Akunyili, husband of late Prof Dora Akunyili, who was reportedly gunned down yesterday around Nkpor.
“These are our own people dying every day and for what reason? Ndi Anambra, these attacks and accompanying deaths cannot be justified and must stop now. I have therefore conducted an extensive security meeting and have directed all security agencies to step up and confront this monster ravaging our land. I charge everyone involved in the security architecture of Anambra State to take this threat to our livelihood and boldly rise to confront the same. Everything that needs to be done will be done and no stone will be left unturned in this effort. My directive to this effect is clear and I urge every security personnel on duty in Anambra State to do his utmost best to secure our people.”
The PDP governorship candidate, Mr Valentine Ozigbo, also lamented: “A prominent Nigerian public servant, medical doctor, and a stalwart of PDP, Lawrence Ezenwa, was killed in Nnewi South Local Government Area of the state. Ezenwa, who is from Abia, was visiting his wife’s village, Ukpo in Nnewi South, when he met his demise. His driver was also shot and killed. On the same day, a vehicle belonging to a federal lawmaker, Rep. Chris Azubogu, was attacked and his driver killed in cold blood.
“As a leader, I find the latest violence disturbing and condemnable and I call for a stop to all acts of violence, particularly against the innocent. Due to this development, and in line with my belief that no life is worth anybody’s ambition, I suspended all my campaign rallies and public appearances scheduled for this week. Every life is precious and ought to be protected and preserved.
“Every lawful step must be taken to address the growing incidence of insecurity in Anambra and the South-East.”
For governor-elect, Soludo, the insecurity in Anambra State was politically motivated. He said: “Most of the recent upsurge of insecurity in Anambra is politically motivated. There are some people who think they gain political advantage by creating a sense of fear and insecurity so that they can suppress voters.”
On May 29, unknown gunmen attacked and set ablaze Abia SCID, Umuahia, and left unchallenged. People were, however, startled when the command’s spokesman, Geoffrey Ogbonna, the following Sunday, paraded eight bodies he claimed were members of the proscribed IPOB/ESN killed by his men in a gun duel during the attack.
Ogbonna, in an effort to prove his case, narrated how the unknown gunmen stormed the police formation at about 6pm on Saturday, May 29, shooting arbitrarily, leading to the death of two inspectors of police.
He said: “Reinforcement from the command headquarters added to the fierce engagement with men on the ground saw eight of the hoodlums neutralised and killed.”
In the first place, was there actually a shootout between the attackers and the police that led to the killing of any of the unknown gunmen? Investigations revealed the contrary.
Multiple sources revealed that on sighting the attackers, the police officers on duty took off, abandoning their duty posts and weapons and fled the station to different directions.
In fact, the unknown gunmen were said to have operated freely for about 15 minutes unchallenged and even encouraged people to snap and video them.
A witness, who identified himself as Mr John Eke, said: “On the day of the attack on SCID, the boys, numbering about 50, wearing all sorts of charms and half naked, invaded the police formation and chased the officers away.”
It was, therefore, firmly established that the bodies paraded as being those of the unknown gunmen gunned down during cross fire with the police were actually boys the military forcefully abducted from their homes and on the streets few hours after the attack on SCID Umuagu, Umuahia, and handed over to the police for proper investigation.
The families of those whose lives were cut short by some blood thirsty security operatives speak:
Edith Amadi, 46, is a widow. She narrates how her son, Onyebuchi Anthony Amadi, 27; and nephew, Obinna Onyebuchi Egekwu, 30, were killed by security personnel.
The woman, who hails from Oforola in Owerri West Local Government Area of Imo State, accused security operatives of killing her son and others in cold blood.
She explained how her son, nephew and another boy identified simply as Onye Photo (photographer) were picked up in their family house at Ugwunchara, Umuahia, hours after the attack, and killed.
She said that her son and other victims whisked away from their family house on the fateful day were actually not members of the gang of the unknown gunmen that attacked the police station. It still beats her imagination how her son and others were killed without any justification.
She said: “On that Saturday when my cooking gas finished, I called my son and he came in a chartered keke (tricycle), collected the gas cylinder, went to a gas station, refilled it and returned it to my restaurant at Awolowo Street.
“After refilling the gas, he cut the okra for me and asked me to call him when the soup is done. He then returned to the house.”
However, after some time, she said somebody called to ask her if she was aware of what was happening in town. To this, she said no. Afterwards, she said she started noticing some strange movements and people began to run helter skelter.
“Then I called my son and asked him to check out for Anointing, my eight-year- old granddaughter, who I gave soup to take to the house. He went to look for her.
“But after a while, I saw Anointing running back to the shop and I went and grabbed her. I then called back my son and asked him to return to the house because I have found Anointing.
“My son then returned to our family house where he was staying with my elder sister. My sister said he retired to his room where he was joined later by our elder brother’s son, Obinna, who was returning from work and decided to come to the house due to the crisis in town.
“Both of them were inside the room while my sister and some of her children were also in the house. But unknown to them, soldiers had surrounded the vicinity, breaking into homes and arresting people.
“So, the soldiers broke into the compound and asked everybody to lie down. They were breaking into rooms and bringing people out, including my sister and her children.
“They were all still lying down there when another boy popularly known as Onye Photo living in the neighborhood was returning home and they forced him to also come over and lie down.”
Before anyone knew what was happening, the soldiers marched three of the boys – Mrs. Amadi’s son, his cousin and Onye Photo to unknown destination and left others to go back to their houses.
Thereafter, a search for the three boys began. The widow put their experience during the search thus: “Later that evening, we went to the Central Police Station, Umuahia in search of them but one police officer with a long machete chased us away and threatened to kill us if we came closer.
“Then on Sunday, we went to the Army camp at ADP Ossah, Umuahia but one man told us not to come close. We later went to Ntigha and Owerrinta but were told Army has no base at Owerrinta.”
The search party was preparing for another round of combing the city and its environs when bad news filtered into town. The boys had been located, but in the must unusual place – the morgue.
Mrs. Amadi continued: “We were planning to go to Ohafia Army barracks on Monday despite the sit-at-home order. But on that Monday, the news was on the internet that police said some unknown gunmen were killed and their bodies deposited at the FMC Umuahia.
“Then when we got to FMC, we saw the bodies of our children brutally murdered by security men. The hospital told us to bring papers from the police and our traditional ruler before releasing their bodies to us.”
Amadi said she could stake her life to prove that her son was not among the unknown gunmen. She said he was a tailor, who had completed his apprenticeship. “My nephew was running a printing press and never belonged to any violent group. Nigerian security operatives have brought misery to my life by killing the most quiet of my children,” the widow lamented.
The widow’s account was corroborated by her elder sister, Mrs. Ngozi Nwachukwu, who incidentally was with the victims when they were taken away.
She said soldiers stormed their house hours after the unknown gunmen had left the scene of attack and started indiscriminate arrest of innocent youths in the area and that three of those they took away from their house never returned. She demanded justice.
Obinna Ejekwe, 30, is one of those gunned down by security operatives in their prime and labeled unknown gunmen. Obinna was Onyebuchi Amadi’s cousin and both of them were brutally murdered by those paid to secure their lives.
The father of Obinna, Nicholas Ejekwu, 69, recalling what happened that led to the killing of his son and his younger sister’s son, Onyebuchi Amadi, at their Plot 5 Rivers Lane Ugwunchara, Umuahia, said: “I was in front of my compound when we started hearing gunshots. People ran towards our house and stayed here for safety. The police never engaged the unknown gunmen in any shootout.
“After the shooting, some soldiers came in the direction of our house. When those taking refuge at the front of the house saw the soldiers, they started running away to the backyard.
“The soldiers asked what I was doing outside and I told them that this is my house. They shouted at me to get up from here. So, I stood up and entered my room. The soldiers later entered my house through the backyard, broke the doors and took my sons and other family members outside and ordered them to lie on the floor.”
Thereafter, according to the distraught father, the soldiers took his son and his cousin to a filling station located within the area. He equally stated that around midnight, the soldiers called the police and handed them over for proper investigation.
The man said his son, Obinna, was not a member of any violent group, but a father of three little children and he operated a printing shop at Warri Street by Niger Road in Umuahia. He equally revealed that his younger cousin, Onyebuchi, was a tailor and both led peaceful lives.
The irony of it all, according to the man, was when his sister and Obinna’s wife went to CPS the following morning, the police couldn’t allow them access. Instead, they were even flogged for attempting to enquire about the whereabouts of his son.
“Later that Sunday, with the aid of reports in social media, we were able to trace their lifeless bodies to the front of the FMC morgue. By then, they had changed Onyebuchi’s white attire to black and robbed his body with charcoal, perhaps to make them look like or to convince the public they are members of the so-called unknown gunmen.”
The grief stricken man said when they eventually found his son, keys to his shop were still inside his jeans trousers, which was an indication he was coming back from work when he was killed.
Investigations revealed there were other victims of the extra-judicial killing. There was the case of a tricycle operator shot dead inside his tricycle by security operatives around ShopRite Junction Uwalaka Street that same Saturday.
Prior to the present democratic dispensation, Abia State had a security outfit known as Bakassi Boys. When the civilians took over in 1999, the activities of the security outfit were streamlined for effectiveness and its operations backed by law.
Within that period, the outfit was very effective as they reduced criminal activities to the barest minimum in the state.
Despite not disbanding the Bakassi Boys, the state government sometime last year, came up with another security outfit it called Homeland Security.
The Homeland Security was formed to counter increasing rate of kidnapping in the state, particularly along the Uturu-Isuikwuato axis. Many have been attacked and abducted along the lonely road by suspected Fulani herdsmen. Also many police stations in Aba and Umuoba in Isiala Ngwa South have been attacked in recent times while some Point of Sales, POS, operators in the commercial city have equally been attacked or killed.
The state Homeland Security outfit had hardly begun work when the governors of the South East states birthed Ebubeagu.
Although the two security outfits in Abia are backed by laws made by the state House of Assembly and have been in operation, their effectiveness of late has remained in doubt, hence the people embracing with two hands the Ebubeagu outfit.
With additional report by our correspondents