By Chinonso Alozie, Owerri
Palpable anxiety has engulfed Umuowa-Ibu community in Okigwe Local Government Area of Imo State, over the release of a suspected kidnapper from the community.
South-East Voice had reported that since 2015 till date, stories coming out from the community portrays the community as unsafe for the villagers.
It all started with a protest by women and youths of the community over the kidnapping of toddlers in their villages.
But as the community was still grumbling over the traumatic disappearance of their children, another ugly story broke on the release of a suspected kidnapper by the Imo Police Command; a man said to be terrorising their community.
It was a flashback of painful experiences by members of the community as they blocked the Police headquarters in the state in protest. They said they were imagining going through more years of terror if their complaints were neglected again.
As a result of this development, the entire elders, women and youths of Umuowa-Ibu, marched to the headquarters of Imo Police Command to register their grievances.
Not only that, they accused the leadership of Imo Police Command under Mr. Chris Ezike of collecting N5 miliion to release the suspected kidnapper from its custody.
They also alleged that one of their brothers, Edwin Obijiaku has been arrested and detained by the police, just as they said the suspected kidnapper moves freely in the community.
They said the entire community is now living under intense fear.
This is the second time in less than two months that the Umuowa-Ibu community would protest against insecurity in their area. They said that their cry would never stop until they are guaranteed of the safety of their lives and property especially that of their children.
The agony of Umuowa-Ibu people was on the continued kidnapping of their children.
As captured by South-East Voice during their previous protest to the Imo Police headquarters, they had said that “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.
“This is sin against God and humanity, it started in the year 2015, with a year and three months old baby of the family of Mr. Edwin Okorie of Umuorsu village.
“In 2016, this community again, witnessed and experienced another disappearance of a young man by name, Mr. Ekene Odoemena. He was aged 50 years.
“In 2017, precisely, on the 14th day of December, another one happened. This time, it was the turn of one Master Chisom Nnadi, about three years and eight months old.
“The boy was in the midst of other children playing when he was taken away in the afternoon of that fateful day.”
However, their mental and emotional torture may not have ended as they have begun a protest against the release of a suspected kidnapper by the Imo Police.
They also raised the alarm over a bribe of N5m allegedly collected by the police under Chris Ezike, before the suspected kidnapper who is from their community, was released.
Their lamentations were contained in a protest letter passed to South-East Voice and signed by the President-General, Mr. Benjamin Emere; Vice-President, Mr. Jonas Egbu; Secretary, Mr. Cosmos Arogu; Woman Leader, Mrs. Helen Akazie and Youth Leader, Mr. Uchechukwu Okorie.
The letter read: “With a devastated mind, we write to draw the attention of the CP to a serious case of kidnapping in our community. Our children, Chisom Nnadi, Ekene and one other little girl were kidnapped in our community.
“All fingers and investigation pointed towards the suspect. We have witnesses to back up our claim.
“The matter was handled by the anti-kidnap unit. Painfully, the suspect was released and he has returned to the community, bragging that he got off the hook after giving the police N5 million.
“He threatens every now and then that he will deal with us. We live in fear of the unknown.
“We demand that the Commissioner of Police, who is known to have no tolerance for injustice, should intervene and ensure that justice is served.
“We are ready to testify at any lawful place about the heinous activities of one Okwudiri in our community.
“For the sake of justice, we request that this, being a crime against humanity, that he be charged to court without further delay.
“The parents of the missing children are living in agony and perpetual discomfort. One of our brothers, Edwin Obijiaku is unlawfuly being held in Police custody as we write and the suspect is allegedly working to have him remanded in prison custody.”
In his response, the Imo State Commissioner of Police, Ezike, said: “Criminality is not by suspicion, it is by evidence. Justice is for everybody.
It is their right to protest but I have asked the Security Intelligence Bureau of the Command to investigate the bribery allegation. We have arraigned those who destroyed the houses of the accused while he was in our custody for malicious damage.
“The court remanded one today. More arrests are on the way. It took us to the extent of going to the accused person’s house to do excavation. Yet, there was no trace that the missing persons were in his compound.”