By Chinenyeh Ozor
AJI, a community in Igbo Eze North Local Government Area, Enugu State, has been riddled with bizarre stories of ritual killings since December 2011. The upsurge of crime in the erstwhile peace-loving community irked the women numbering over 1000 to take to the streets in protest against the incessant killings.
The ritual killers always remove private parts of their victims. So far, the community has witnessed the gruesome death of three of their relations between December 2011 and now and this has sent shock waves all over the area.
The women chanting sorrowful Christian songs, marched the streets of Aji community, demanding immediate dissolution of police assisted vigilante group led by one Joseph Azegba. The women not only demanded the dissolution of vigilante but pointed accusing fingers at one of the councillors representing the area as the alleged brain behind the mayhem in recent past in the area. The peaceful protest was witnessed by the police, army and officers of State Security Service, SSS.
Worst among the killings was that of one of the victims, Uche Nwaossai, who was killed and thrown into the family water tank. Festus Idoko was hacked to death while a brother to chairman, Igbo Eze North Local Government Council was killed and his lifeless body found on the road.
The protesting women who spoke to Crime Alert complained of mismanagement and abuse by the vigilante group alleging that criminals have infiltrated the group. They also pointed accusing fingers on ‘disgruntled politicians who want to use it to achieve their political ends.’
The chair lady of the protesting women, Mrs. Amaka Urama, a secondary school teacher and chairperson Catholic Women Organization, CWO, Aji parish told Crime Alert that the women were demanding immediate stop to the heinous killings in the area.
She said: “We gathered ourselves to cry out to the government, the chairman of Igbo-Eze North LGA, the traditional ruler of Aji and all the community stakeholders that we are no longer comfortable with the escalating crime rate in Aji. Our sons are being killed under mysterious circumstances.
The killings started after the previous vigilante was dissolved. Since then, we have lost three of our children. Before the dissolution, our town was peaceful and our Igwe, His Royal Highness Simeon Osisi Itodo, even received an award as the most security conscious traditional ruler in the South East.
We don’t know what happened. Those who were killed had their vital parts removed. As mothers who carried these children for nine months in our wombs, we are tired of passing through these avoidable, gory and horrible experiences.
“We want it to stop. The way it can be stopped is easy and that is the dissolution of the vigilante which has been hijacked by a highly placed civil servant (name withheld) who is running the vigilante through his cronies as a personal enterprise to achieve his political ambition using the blood of our children.
We are surprised that some of these elements loyal to the civil servant are against our demand for tighter security in Aji. Why are they saying we should not protest the killings? Do they have skeletons in their cupboards? Our sons are being killed and their private parts removed and people are saying we should not protest.”
Aji monarch, Igwe Osisi Itodo: “Our problems started after the former vigilante was dissolved in December 2012. Before now, the community was very peaceful. We had an election, but I was surprised to see that the names the community sent to the commissioner for poverty alleviation were substituted.
Only half was approved by the commissioner, while another half presented by the top civil servant unilaterally, was also approved. Between December 2012 and now, crime has been on the rise here and three of our children were killed with their vital organs removed. We are worried about this and want urgent stop to this ugly trend. I demand immediate dissolution of the present vigilante so that those we can trust the security of Aji into their hands can be appointed.”
Chairman of the LG Mr. Bonaventure Onuh: “The crime rate in Aji is worrisome. The local government is concerned about the deteriorating crime situation in Aji. My own brother, a staff of the local government, was a victim. He was hacked to death while coming to work.”
Commissioner of Police reacts: When Crime Alert spoke with Enugu State Police Commissioner, Musa Daura over the phone, he reacted thus:
Reporter: May I know if you are aware of the protest in Aji by the women over the rise in crime wave since you installed a new vigilante?
Commissioner: I don’t know what you are talking about. I am at a meeting, call me one hour later.
Reporter: Hon. commissioner, it’s one hour now.
Commissioner: Yes, what is your problem?
Reporter: Sir, I have no problem. I am seeking your comment on the protest by Aji women over the killings in the area since the inauguration of a new vigilante?
Commissioner: I don’t know what you are talking about. Whatever you want, put it down in writing and bring it to the Government House and we study it.
Reporter: It is not the practice. We just needed your comment because by your portfolio, you install vigilantes.
Commissioner: I am not the commissioner of police (and he switched off his phone)