We are living in fear —Residents lament
By Chinonso Alozie, Owerri
The people of Umuowa-Ibu Community in Okigwe, Imo state are living in fear following incessant kidnappings going on in their community since 2015. Those who were directly affected have continued to cry for justice as they live in fear of the unknown. As at last count, no fewer than ten people including toddlers have been kidnapped without trace. Worse still, members of the community accused the police of being insensitive to their plight as they (police) not only made demands before taking action but released suspects without thorough investigation.
One of the victims who spoke to Crime Guard, Mr. Okorie, 50, said that after his daughter was kidnapped, his wife abandoned him as a result of the incident, adding that the village became horrible for the residents. Okorie, a farmer, said that two men came into his house after forcing the door open, pointed a gun at him and warned him not to shout before they took away his 1-year-3 months old daughter. “The most painful experience is that my wife abandoned me after our daughter was kidnapped. My wife left me since 2016 till date,” he said.
In the same vein, a young man, Mr. Ekele Odoemena, 50, reportedly disappeared in 2016. His uncle, Mr. Raphael Nwaokorogu, who spoke to Crime Guard, said that he disappeared after he had an altercation with one Okwudiri. Lamenting their predicament, Nwaokorogu, said that the residents now sleep with one eye open adding that the level of insecurity in the community had made them to feel unsafe.
Investigations also revealed that another case of child kidnapping took place on 14th December, 2017, where Master Chisom Nnadi, 3, was said to have been kidnapped
According to Chisom’s uncle, “We are crying to the government. Since they have discovered the truth, we want them not to disappoint us. We want those behind our sorrowful mood to get the deserved punishment.”
Also angered by the ugly development, a community leader, Mr Nelson Okoronkwo, did not only describe it as an annual event but also said that the community had been thrown into mourning Okoronkwo who had led the villagers in a protest to the Police Commissioner over what they described as ‘incessant kidnappings’ in the community said: “It is with hearts full of sorrow and pains that we, the entire people of Umuowa -Ibu community in Okigwe LGA, wish to bring to your knowledge, acts of kidnapping of our children, which has become an annual event in our community.”
Recalling his experience when his daughter was kidnapped, Okoronkwo from Okorodigbo village in Umuowa-Ibu in Okigwe LGA of Imo state stated; “They kidnapped my daughter in 2016. Some men came into my house while I was sleeping with my wife. They broke my door and entered my room forcefully. They kidnapped my little child, Chinenyenwa Okorie. These men came with a gun, picked my daughter and ran away. We raised alarm and people came out but by then, they had left with my daughter.
“We started searching for them but they had disappeared with my daughter. This was how I lost my daughter that gave me joy. We went to the police station in Okigwe and told them that my daughter was kidnapped. Do you know that my wife accused me of kidnapping my daughter and I was detained in the police station? I was later released on bail. As a result of this, my wife abandoned me. She said that my mother in-law insisted that she would not stay with me again because my village was a dangerous place and her daughter’s life should not be endangered.
“I came back from the police station and we started searching for my daughter but till today, we have not found her. I have not seen her whether dead of alive. I could not recognize the faces of those who kidnapped my daughter because they covered their faces. They even threatened to shoot me if I opened my mouth to shout. Since 2016, I have been searching for my daughter. The rumour I heard was that my daughter was killed but I want to see her corpse so that I will believe. I cried to my God that those who killed my daughter would be exposed and that God Almighty should come and fight for me.
“I have seen that my God is gradually exposing them. I pray that all of them will be exposed. They have caused us pains and they have been putting fears in us. They will not sleep since they don’t want the entire Umuowa-Ibu community to sleep and have peace.
Another victim, Mr. Raphael Nwaokorogu, 45, narrated also how his younger brother was kidnapped. “Ekene Odomena is the name of my younger brother. He disappeared in 2016. He was 50 and single. We just woke up one morning and could not find him. One thing I remembered very well was that before he disappeared, he had a quarrel with one Okwudiri. After that quarrel, Okwudiri told Ekene, that he was going to deal with him. We did not know that after that threat by Okwudiri, we would not see Ekene, again.
“We are tired of what is happening to us in this community. We want to ask; does it mean that we do not have government to stop this oppression of our people? For how long, do we wait to end this? We are sleeping with our eyes open because of insecurity. They will come to us and do whatever they feel like doing and go away. What type of society is this? We are begging the government to help us. The people of Umuowa -Ibu are crying for help, we can’t move out in the night because of fear. We need security in our community because tension is everywhere.”
A stakeholder in the community, Mr. Nelson Nwokoro also lamented the plight of his people. “Our community is in a sorrowful mood. We are crying. We are seriously in tears. Most times, these evil men would commit crime and after reporting the case to the police, they would be seen walking freely in our community. You see the same criminally- minded group of people return from the police station and they would continue their intimidation. This happened even after the criminals snatched a one year, three months baby from her mother in broad daylight and till date, nothing has been done by the police in the area. The matter was reported and it was treated with levity. Just like the one that happened last, we went to lodge our complaint to the police and we were asked to bring seven thousand naira before we can make an entry.
“When this thing became too much, our people entered into an agreement that anybody who is found culpable will be excommunicated from the community. We went to the Okigwe police station and presented to them what the entire community have agreed to do on the issue of kidnapping in the community. As we were still searching for our missing children, a well known member of the deadly gang went and arrested the woman whose child was kidnapped. He accused her of damaging his properties. The whole villagers came out and defended the woman before she was freed.
“The criminal (name withheld) did not know that somebody saw him when he was breaking part of his building just to implicate the woman. We are not happy in this community. We want the commissioner of police to make sure that these people are taken to court and we want justice to be done. Three people who were suspected to have been committing these criminal activities have been arrested by the police. They are now in police custody. We want the police to conduct a thorough investigation and they should be punished according to the law.”
An uncle to the missing 3-year old baby, Mr. Chukwuma Obinadi told Crime Guard that “Chisom is 3 years and 8 months old. He went out on 14th December 2017 and we thought it was his usual outing and he would come back to the house. We started searching for him as from 6pm that day but we could not find him. His disappearance has caused us sleepless nights. We are still crying and we want to see our son. We want the government to help us wipe our tears.
“Look at the level of pain that human beings like us have put us into. They are enjoying themselves while we are looking for our children. This is wickedness. We can’t forget it easily. We have nobody to fight for us. We believe in God Almighty. He will fight for us and fight all those people who are suppressing us in this community. We need divine intervention.”
The mother of the missing child also lamented stating that, “We started searching for Chisom, till today, we can’t see him. I am bleeding. I can’t imagine that my son is gone. My son did not commit any crime. He did not quarrel with anybody. I wonder why somebody would choose to take away my child just like that. When we went to Okigwe police station, they asked to bring N7,000. We pleaded with the police to take N2000 but they refused. I want to see my child. I want to carry my child in my arms. I can’t control my tears. Do you know what it means for a woman to lose her child, especially, when you have started spending on that child? It is painful.”