By Chidi Nkwopara
Angry reactions have continued to trail the unresolved alleged extra-judicial killing of innocent Imo citizens in Owerri, by soldiers posted to secure the municipality against the rampaging unknown gunmen.
The citizens’ anger was made manifest when the state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Chief Cyprian O. C. Akaolisa, was a guest at a live phone-in programme on Hot 99.5 FM radio station, Owerri, to answer questions on the reported killings in Owerri.
Although the Commissioner confirmed that the perpetrators have been arrested and detained, the callers were, however, irked that three innocent persons were brutally murdered by soldiers, who they said, “were supposed to provide security to the citizenry”, within the last five days of April.
They recalled with grief that on Sunday, April 25, 2021, a 100 level student of Imo State University, IMSU, Owerri, Miss Divine Nwaneri, was shot by soldiers, close to Government House, without warning.
Two days after the ugly incident, a presumed pig farmer or trader, who was conveying pigs in his vehicle, whose identity could not be ascertained at press time, was also shot by soldiers, near the Government House.
Like the late IMSU student whose vehicle crashed into the Government House Christmas Garden, the pig trader also crashed into the old state library checkpoint, slouched over his steering wheel, dead.
On April 30, 2021, an Ngor Okpala-born businessman, Mr. Noel Chigbu, was also shot by soldiers around the Amakohia flyover bridge.
Story had it that Chigbu, who was on his way home, after dropping off his friend, had earlier in the day, taken delivery of his new Toyota Camry car.
The soldiers, who reportedly conveyed Chigbu’s remains to the Federal Medical Centre, Owerri, morgue, and drove his car to the State Police Headquarters, were quoted as saying that “the man violated their checkpoint rules”.
The callers then sought to know if the punishment for violating checkpoint rules was instant death and how cheap human life has become in Owerri, among other issues.
Responding, Chief Akaolisa confirmed that all the soldiers linked with the extrajudicial killings have been arrested, detained and are currently facing orderly room trial at the 34 Artillery Brigade, Obinze.
His words: “I want to assure Imo people that anybody who kills, will be arrested and prosecuted. No innocent life should be wasted carelessly. The Senator Hope Uzodimma administration will not condone it.
“The soldiers who perpetrated the acts have been arrested, detained and are currently facing orderly room trial. The principal responsibility of my office is to ensure justice to all manner of persons.
“When the Army gets done with their investigation, it is expected that they will move their findings to the police. Thereafter, the police will do their bit before transmitting their findings to the Ministry of Justice, for proper prosecution.”
While describing the Commander of 34 Artillery Brigade “is a fine soldier”, Akaolisa also recalled that he was present on one occasion, when the Brigade Commander was cautioning some soldiers at a roadblock, for flagrantly flouting the rules of engagement.
Making particular reference to the death of the IMSU student, Akaolisa recalled grief that: “There was a robbery at Orji, Owerri North local government area and the security personnel on duty were alerted and roads were blocked. Nobody was sure of their exact escape route. Honestly, government is not happy about the death of these innocent people.
“I appeal to our people to please, understand that we are passing through a very difficult time. We should please, retire to our homes before 7pm, especially as the reported killings took place in the night.”
On the growing calls for soldiers to return to their barracks, Akaolisa said: “Asking the soldiers to return to their barracks will be counterproductive because the situation will simply overwhelm the police.”