By Anayo Okoli, Regional Editor, South-East, Henry Umoru, Egufe Yafugborhi, Davies Iheamnachor, Dirisu Yakubu, & Chinedu Adonu
South-East Governors and leaders of thought, including Ohanaeze, traditional rulers, and clergymen, yesterday, practically aligned with the South-West zone on the issues of state police, regional security outfit, and ban on open grazing.
This was the kernel of their meeting in Enugu, after deliberations on worsening security situation in the region.
This came as no fewer than eight security operatives were on Saturday night killed by unidentified gunmen in Rivers State.
The meeting endorsed the establishment of Ebube Agu security outfit to work with the Police and other security agencies in their operations to protect lives and properties in South-East zone.
The meeting disclosed that the structure and operational modalities of Ebube Agu have been set up, though they were not made public.
The meeting also said that an Advisory Board for the security outfit has been set up and that Attorneys-General and Commissioners for Justice of the South-East states have been directed to work with the Joint Security Committee to come up with the amendment of existing state laws to reflect the new Ebube Agu outfit.
The meeting directed Ohanaeze Ndigbo President-General “to immediately form two committees of South-East Peace and Reconciliation Committee to “engage our people for the purpose of security of our people and her visitors,” and “security and welfare committee to engage and protect our people, especially those who have been unfairly treated.”
The meeting directed that “these Committees must become functional within the next 10 days from the day of establishment.”
The meeting also restated its support for restructuring and State Police.
Attack on Uzodimma’s home condemned
It condemned the attacks on the country home of the Governor of Imo State, Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State and other state infrastructure, saying “we sympathize with him and call on the Federal Government to fish out the perpetrators and ensure their prosecution.”
The meeting restated the commitment of South-East leaders to ban open grazing in the zone, and urged security agencies and the local vigilantes to enforce the ban in all states of the South-East.
The gathering noted that South-East Governors have agreed on implementation of various ENDSARS Youth Empowerment Programmes in South-East states as soon as possible. However, details of the programme were not made public.
Present at the meeting were Chairman, South-East Governors Forum and Ebonyi State governor, David Umahi; Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State; host Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State; and Deputy Governor of Imo State, Placid Njoku.
Others included Ohanaeze Ndigbo President, Professor George Obiozor; Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe; Archbishop of Enugu Ecclesiastical Province, Anglican Communion, Archbishop Emmanuel Chukwuma; Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu; and South-East CAN President, Bishop Goddy Okafor.
Gunmen kill 8 security men in Rivers
Meanwhile, eight security operatives were on Saturday night killed by unidentified gunmen in Rivers State.
The killings came as the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, NGF, described weekend attack on the country home of Imo State governor, Hope Uzodinma, as a threat to Nigeria’s existence, while Ohanaeze Ndigbo condemned the attack in very strong terms.
Meanwhile, Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, tasked security agents on fishing out killers of the operatives, as opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, asked the Federal Government to urgently seek foreign assistance, especially from the United States and Europe, to tackle the escalating wave of insecurity in the country.
A source told Vanguard that the invaders attacked four security check-points on Owerri-Port Harcourt expressway, noting that four policemen, three Nigeria Customs operatives and two soldiers, believed to be Air Force personnel in the JTF were victims of the attack.
The source disclosed that the killers also beheaded two of the persons killed at a Joint Task Force, JTF, check-point close to Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa in Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State.
Another source who did not want his name in print, said the bandits also attacked a Nigeria Customs check-point at Isiokpo Umuanwa interchange, killed four persons and burnt down Customs operational van.
‘Attacks started at Elele’
The source disclosed that the killers started the coordinated attack at Elele and operated uninterrupted till they got to Omagwa community Jn Ikwerre LGA, where they carted away guns and two operational vehicles at a security post.
Vanguard gathered that the gunmen also made attempt to burn down Ikwerre LGA headquarters in Isiokpo community but were resisted by a local vigilante in the area, known as Isiokpo Security Planning and Advisory Committee, ISPAC.
The source said: “There was serious attack on security check-points on the Port Harcourt-Owerri Road. About eight security men were killed.
“The boys that are still unknown came at night and attacked a JTF check-point and killed three soldiers and two policemen. They also attacked a Nigeria Customs’ check-point and killed three operatives.
“They were trying to attack the Police Area Command in Isiokpo and the local government council headquarters before ISPAC, a local vigilante, engaged them.”
The Public Relations Officer of the state police command, SP. Nnamdi Omoni, who confirmed the attacks, noted that details of the attack were still sketchy.
Omoni noted, however, that the Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr. Friday Eboka, has ordered full scale investigation into the development, assuring that the culprits would be arrested and prosecuted.
He said: “I can confirm the attack on security personnel along the Omagwa/Isiokpo/Elele Owerri Road. Details sketchy.
“The CP has launched a full scale Investigation into the dastardly attack, with a view to arresting the perpetrators and bringing them to justice.
“Meanwhile, the area is calm now with reinforced and increased joint patrols of that stretch and other areas in the state by security agencies. So far, the state is calm and secure and no cause for alarm.”
Dastardly, barbaric killings — Wike
Reacting to the killings yesterday, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, condoled with the security agencies and families of the slain operatives over their loss.
Wike, who condemned the killings in a statement by his Special Assistant on Media, Kelvin Ebiri, described it as barbaric and dastardly.
He said there was no justification for such a heinous and condemnable attack targeted against innocent security personnel on legitimate duty of protecting life and property in the state.
“The Government of Rivers State is saddened by the unwarranted, callous attack on security personnel. We offer our sympathies to the relatives of those who lost their lives in the attack.
“We condemn this heinous act, share the grief of the security agencies and convey our sincere condolences,’’ the statement vread.
The governor, who charged the security agencies to be vigilant, affirmed that the government and people of Rivers State stood in solidarity with security agencies at this difficult times of this unwarranted and mindless violence.
“The perpetrators of the attack must be fished out and brought to justice,” Wike said.
Rivers APC condemns killings, tasks Wike
Also reacting to the killings, the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the state condemned in strong terms.
The party in a statement by its spokesman in Rivers State, Chief Ogbonna Nwuke, called on Governor Wike’s administration to redouble efforts at ensuring a safe state.
Nwuke said: “Those who carried out these attacks are evil; they are cowards; and we must make sure these evil-minded cowards are not allowed to threaten our peace.
“Our hearts go out to the families of these gallant soldiers and policemen who paid the supreme price that we may live.
“We sympathise with those they left behind and urge the authorities in Port Harcourt to ensure that the lives of these officers who died on the line of duty do not go in vain.
“No struggle, no matter how valuable, is worth the blood of others. We, therefore, urge all Nigerians to unite against the actions of all known separatists across the country who are determined to tear us apart, not by the force of reason, but by acts of terrorism.”
It will be recalled that gunmen suspected to be members of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, set fire on the country home of Imo State governor, Hope Uzodinma, at Omuma in Oru East Local Government Area, and also killed at least two security agents and a fire officer.
The development led to invasion of Imo State headquarters of IPOB and killing of seven of its members, including the Commander of Eastern Security Network, ESN, of the group and Vice President-designate of IPOB, popularly known as Ikonso.
Attackers of Uzodimma’s country home threaten Nigeria’s existence —NGF
Reacting to the attack on Uzodimma’s home, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, NGF, said the attackers constitute a small league of persons trying to harm Nigeria’s corporate existence, insisting that the assailants must be brought to book.
In a statement issued yesterday and signed by NGF Chairman and Ekiti State governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, the governors said the perpetrators took criminality too far.
The statement, titled, ‘Razing of Governor Hope Uzodinma’s Country Home – Message from Colleagues’, read: “The Nigeria Governors’ Forum deeply sympathises with Governor Hope Uzodinma and commiserates with all those that have been injured, maimed or killed.
READ ALSO: UPDATED: Gunmen kill nine security operatives in Rivers
“The Forum calls on all good citizens to cooperate with the nation’s security forces and the government in trying to build a civil, safe and secure environment for our citizens.
“For those behind these crimes, they must understand that they do not have the monopoly of violence. This is taking criminality to reckless and irresponsible heights.
“All hands must be on deck to fish out the perpetrators of this dastardly act as in our view, they constitute a small league of persons trying to harm the corporate existence of our beloved country, Nigeria.
“The mantra for every Nigerian at such a challenging time in our history must be how to forge peace and unity across the nation’s divides and to shun violence and wanton destruction.
“Only then can we have a country to call our own.”
Ohanaeze condemns attack
Also reacting, Ohanaeze Ndigbo condemned the attack on the Omuma country home home of Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State, describing it as s sacrilege against everything moral and ethical.
In a statement signed by the Publicity Secretary, Alex Ogbonnia, Ohanaeze said the action is against Igbo culture and tradition.
The statement read: “This is not acceptable and must be condemned by Ndigbo, anywhere, everywhere.
“We must, as Igbos, no matter the cause, not attack our sanctuaries. This is an abomination and a new development that is totally out of character of the Igbo.
“The President-General therefore warns the Igbo youths not to be used or make themselves available to be used by those elements within and outside Igboland that want to turn the South-East of Nigeria into a theatre of crises, conflicts and violence.
“We must, as Ndigbo, be careful with what confronts us in the form of challenges against the prospects and possibilities of achieving our objective of a President of Nigeria from the South East of Nigeria by our detractors and competitors.
“The present attempt to turn the South-East, the most peaceful zone in Nigeria in recent years, into a crises and violent region, definitely has ulterior motives which must be thoroughly investigated.
“Also, the idea of targeting the leaders of the zone is equally a serious issue that must be considered by the leaders of the zone and the federal government.
“The Ohanaeze Ndigbo expresses sadness over the unfortunate incident at Omuma and grateful to God that His Excellency, Governor Hope Uzodimma and members of his immediate family were not hurt.”
Seek help from Europe, US, PDP counsels Buhari
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, yesterday advised the Federal Government to seek foreign assistance, particularly from European countries and the United States of America, to tackle the escalating wave of insecurity in the country.
This is even as the party slammed the All Progressives Congress, APC-led Federal Government for “failing” to deal decisively “with sympathizers of terrorism” who in their words a few years ago, declared “their happiness when unbelievers are being killed.”
The party added that given the manner bandits, kidnappers and Boko Haram are operating with ease, there is no doubt the President has failed even himself, considering his oft-repeated pledge to run insurgents out of town on assumption of office.
Speaking exclusively to Vanguard, Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Diran Odeyemi, said the Commander-in- Chief should own up that his strategies to restore peace in the land are not working and should, therefore, be bold enough to seek help outside the shores of the country.
The party stated: “There is nothing to be ashamed of. Killings are now daily occurrences. From public to private institutions, highways, military facilities, private homes — just name it, Nigeria is on the edge.
“Bandits are simply taunting us with their expertise in their chosen craft. They mock their victims and make videos of their daring exploits for us to see. All we hear from a clueless government is empty assurances that they are on top of the situation.
“Recently, the President even told the criminal elements not to take their luck too far that the administration has the capacity to crush them. What do you make of that? We leave judgment for the Nigerian people.
“Propaganda should now take the back seat. We call on President Buhari to seek the assistance of the international community, particularly Europe and America in the fight against insecurity. This should not necessarily be in form of loans but in intelligence gathering and equipment.
“In the past, the challenge was largely domiciled in the North-East but today, only the South-South is relatively peaceful. Other five geo-political zones are battling one form of security challenge or the other,” Odeyemi told Vanguard exclusively.
The publicity scribe also frowned at Buhari’s penchant for borrowing, stressing that in years to come, the burden of repayment will tell on the country in a manner that would impact her negatively.
“What did they do with the amounts they have been borrowing since 2015? Nigerians must ask questions because it appears the government is bent on selling this country. The more they borrow, the more they increase the price of fuel, the more they increase electricity tariffs and the more people languish in poverty.
Customs buries 3 casualties
The Nigeria Customs Service has buried three of its personnel killed among security operatives attacked Saturday by gunmen in Rivers state, less than twenty hours after the tragedy.
Customs Public Relations Officer, Federal Operations Unit, Owerri, Imo State, Jerry Atta disclosed this to Vanguard, yesterday, even as the police and military which also reportedly lost some men in the ordeal remain mum on the number of personnel affected.
Atta told Vanguard: “Three of our operatives were killed and they have been buried according to Islamic tradition today (yesterday) at Tipper Garage Cemetery in Eleme, near Port Harcourt, Rivers state.”
Meanwhile, Rivers Police Command’s confirmation of the incident, through Police Public Relations Officer, Nnamdi Omoni, evaded mention of the number of its personnel affected in the killings.
Omoni said: “I can confirm the attack on security Personnel along the Omagwa/Isiokpo/Elele Owerri Road. Details sketchy.”
“The CP has launched a full scale investigation into the dastardly attack with a view to arresting the perpetrators and bringing them to justice.”
Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of Vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.