…Fear grips community leaders
…As tension rises over control of state funds
By Chidi Nkwopara & Chinonso Alozie
OWERRI—NO fewer than three persons were reportedly killed by armed hoodlums at Nekede, Owerri West Local Government Area of Imo State, at the weekend.
Confirming the story exclusively to Vanguard yesterday, Mr. Kelechi Obilonu, the elder brother of one of the deceased, Mr. Chidi Obilonu, recalled with grief that “the gory incident happened about 7.30pm, Thursday evening, at Umuoma Nekede autonomous community”.
Obilonu recounted: “The second victim of the attack, Mr. Cyracus Ekejiuba is a native of Isiekenesi, Ideato South Local Government Area of the state and a tenant in our place. The suspected assassins stormed the beer parlour where my late brother and some others were having their drinks.
“The hoodlums opened fire on the people and snatched phones. The shot silenced Ekejiuba who came to buy his need in the shop. As people struggled to leave the beer parlour, the hoodlums shot my brother in his hand but he tried to run away from the scene. The armed men gave him a hot chase.
“Three or four other members of the gang blocked my brother. He was shot a second time in his back but he kept running. He later fell at a spot and when the hoodlums saw where he was lying, they shot him a third time near his ear, as if to ensure that he did not live to tell the story. The hoodlums ran away thereafter.
“When I got to the scene, I quickly called some of the policemen from Nekede Division. I was privileged to have their numbers and they responded in good time. When they noticed that my brother was dead, they detailed one of them to follow me to the morgue where we deposited him.
“I was still at the mortuary when some of my relations called to tell me that the police had apprehended some of the hoodlums that carried out the condemnable act. At the police station, I was told that six of them had been arrested.
Obilonu said the suspects have mentioned the name of an alleged high profile figure they claimed to be working for.
“The person’s Personal Assistant, PA, has been picked up by the police. People know who the figure is and the police say they have gone to his house twice, as at the time of the interview, without getting him. I will resist the temptation of mentioning the man’s name now”, Obilonu said.
Reacting to the incident, the traditional ruler of Umuoma Nekede autonomous community, Eze Morrison Eke, has described weekend’s killing of some of his subjects by suspected political assassins as “despicable, senseless and gross disrespect for the sanctity of the human life”.
Eze Eke made his feelings known yesterday, in a telephone interview with Vanguard.
“Naturally, I feel very sad about the loss of precious human lives in my community. After the incident, I had to summon an emergency meeting of my people and I sounded a serious note of warning to each and every one of them to desist from anything that would bring them in direct confrontation with the laws of the land”, Eke said.
Fear grips community leaders
In another development, fear has gripped community leaders of an Imo community over the whereabouts of three persons suspected to be bombers arrested during the just concluded governorship/House of Assembly elections in Ikeduru Local Government Area of Imo State.
Vanguard gathered in Owerri that the military arrested the suspects at the collation centre, Central School in Iho, Ikeduru Local Government.
Imo State Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, Orlando Ikeokwu however told Vanguard that the suspects have not been released and that they were still with the military.
He said: “The suspects are presently with the military. We are going to take them from the military on Monday. So, it is not true that they have been released.”
Tension over control of state funds
Meanwhile, the battle between the outgoing governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha and the governor-elect, Emeka Ihedioha over the control of the state’s funds has begun to breed tension in Imo State.
The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the state led by Charles Ezekwem had raised an allegation that Okorocha had engaged in continued withdrawal of state funds to the tune of over N17 billion from about four different banks.
The state government has insisted that Ihedioha does not have the powers to stop banks where Imo State funds are domiciled from dealing with Okorocha.
It should be recalled that in 2011, when Okorocha was declared governor-elect, he (Okorocha) issued a statement warning banks from having any dealings with his then predecessor Ikedi Ohakim.
Trouble started when the governor-elect, Ihedioha at his maiden press briefing in Owerri, warned that banks dealing with Okorocha would be doing so at their own risk. He also asked members of the public to be wary of doing any government-related business with Okorocha.
The PDP under Ezekwem also alleged that Okorocha was tampering with major government properties in order to create difficulties for the incoming government.
Some of the withdrawals according to Ezekwem occurred between Tuesday, March 12 and Thursday, March 14, 2019.
He said: “Governor Okorocha had made major withdrawals from Access Bank, Zenith Bank, Unity Bank and Skye Bank amounting to over N17 billion.
“We are aware of the rampant issuance of Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) to family members and friends of Okorocha’s family. The party warns those involved that they are doing so at their own peril.”
Responding, Okorocha through his Chief Press Secretary, Onwuemeodo, said: “Chief Emeka Ihedioha who was declared winner of the governorship election in the State by Prof. Francis Ezeonu-led INEC in Owerri does not have the right or locus yet, to harass or give directives to the financial institutions in the state over their dealings with the state government.”