•30 Imo communities sacked
•Ohanaeze, INC lament, demand regional security outfit
By Chinonso Alozie
Anxiety has enveloped traditional rulers in the South-East geopolitical zone, especially in Imo State where no fewer than four kings have been murdered while five were abducted in the last three months.
The situation, which is worsening daily, has seen the monarchs living in fear for fear of being killed in what appeared as if they have been earmarked for elimination.
What started with the abduction of Eze Charles Irogebu of Umuezie community in Nguru-Aboh Mbaise Local Government Area, LGA, and his cabinet chiefs, on April 7, 2021, has snowballed into serial attacks on traditional rulers.
Iroegbu, who was freed three days later, was returning to his palace after attending a traditional marriage ceremony at Ehime Mbano when his abductors, double-crossed his convoy, kidnapped him and his cabinet chiefs.
The incident was followed by the invasion of the Njaba LGA Headquarters at Nnenasa on October 19.
The invaders opened fire at traditional rulers who were having a meeting. At the end, two kings died while two others were unconscious. They were taken to an undisclosed hospital where they were revived.
Similarly, the traditional ruler of Etekwuru Autonomous Community in the Ohaji-Egbema LGA, Kenneth Okereke, escaped assassination the same day.
Gunmen burnt his palace and official vehicle after his escape.
On November 19, the king of Achi Mbieri in Mbaitoli LGA, Henry Madumere, was kidnapped at Iho in Ikeduru LGA.
The victim, who is the father of a former deputy governor of Imo State, Eze Madumere, was on his way to a public function.
He was released six days later.
In Mbutu kingdom in the Aboh Mbaise LGA, Damian Nwaigwe, and his counterpart from Atta in Njaba LGA, Edwin Azike, were kidnapped in different incidents.
The attacks, which happened On December 9, resulted in the death of Azike.
His corpse was dumped at the market square in his community while Nwaigwe was freed two days later.
On December 12, the traditional ruler of Ihube Autonomous Community, Eze Paul Ogbu, was kidnapped while his palace was burnt. This paper learned he has been killed by his abductors.
On December 14, gunmen abducted the traditional ruler of Umuezeala-Ama kingdom, Aloy Igwe, in the Ehime Mbano LGA.
The monarch was kidnapped at the Nkwo Umuezeala market while he was having a conversation with his kinsmen.
In September, the deposed king of Aguleri in Anambra East LGA, Alex Edozieuno was killed by unknown gunmen. The incident happened at Otuocha.
However, Igwe’s abduction is the latest in the series of attacks against traditional rulers in the South-East. Sunday Vanguard learned that security agents are combing all nooks and crannies of the state for those behind the wave of attacks.
While no group has owned up to the killings, it was learned that Owerri jailbreak also contributed to the rate of violent crimes in Imo.
Up until now, the majority of inmates who escaped during the prison break are still on the loose.
Also, Sunday Vanguard learned that no fewer than 30 communities have been taken over by hoodlums in Imo and Anambra.
A security source said the situation made it impossible for security agents who recently arrested more than 30 suspected kidnappers in Orsu and Uli in Ihiala LGA of Imo and Anambra states to gain access to the forests where leaders of the hoodlums were said to be hiding.
According to the source, “they started by beheading members of the communities and displaying them in the market square, especially those who opposed their ideology.
“It created fear in the minds of the villagers and some of them started abandoning the villages secretly because if they noticed that they wanted to leave the community, their informant would tell them and they would kill the person.
“They left the villages out of fear and they did not bother to tell the security agencies. It was when it was clear to them that what the boys promised them was not what they were seeing that some of them summoned the courage to leak the secret to security agencies and the security agencies stormed the village and arrested them.
“The hoodlums cut down big trees along the road to block the entrance of their territory and they created a different road only they can access.”
On how security agencies were able to locate the camp of the hoodlums, he said: “As I am talking to you, we are confused as to how a community was sacked and nobody saw reason to report to security agencies. This is horrible. They spent four months there and were not bothered. All I can tell you is that we were able to get them through intelligence.
“When this whole thing started, it was targeted at the police, military and other security agencies. From the security agencies, they turned against the members of the public and started killing them. From that one, it is the traditional rulers in Igboland that are now kidnapping and killing.
“Traditional rulers in Imo State must come out and speak now. Over 30 communities, especially between Imo and Anambra states have been sacked and occupied by these hoodlums and if nothing is done many will suffer it.”
Findings by Sunday Vanguard revealed that many of the community leaders are now scared of speaking about the development for fear of not being killed. Some were said to be contemplating relocating from their kingdoms until normalcy returns.
But a monarch who pleaded anonymity, from Okigwe LGA said: “I have called on the security agencies to intensify their surveillance along Arondizuogu in Okigwe Local Government Area.
“We have received reports from that road several times. These criminals freely carry out their operations and go away. We want the security agencies to always be around because these boys have taken over the roads.
“Another problem I think that is responsible for what is happening is that traditional rulers refused to speak out against these boys when they started as unknown gunmen.
“Now, this is coming to the doorstep of every monarch. The thing is that none of us was able to talk bravely to condemn the killings. When it was the police and Army people that were being killed, most of us felt less concerned.’’
Meanwhile, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide has called on the South-East governors to immediately launch Ebubeagu security outfit to tackle the killing of monarchs in the zone.
Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze, Alex Ogbonnia, disclosed this in a chat with Sunday Vanguard in Owerri.
He said Ohanaeze believed the launch of Ebubeagu as a grassroots security outfit would address the challenges mainly at the community level.
Ogbonnia said: “We have urged our governors to activate the Ebubeagu security outfit. It will go a long way to minimize this insecurity. They assured us that by the end of this year they would have launched the Ebubeagu security network to help secure the land.
“We condemn in strong terms the killing of monarchs in Igboland. Everybody must contribute to ensure that there is security of lives and property in Igboland. Just as we wait for our governors to launch Ebubeagu security network, we must play our roles.
“When they say security is a collective responsibility, it means that it is the responsibility of everyone to ensure the security of lives and property. Security has to be domesticated in the various communities in Igboland and the machinery through which it can be domesticated is Ebubeagu.”
Disturbed by the trend, Igbo National Council, INC, called on Imo State government to allow the people to elect the leaders of town unions rather than imposition.
President of INC, Chilos Godsent, stated this in a chat with Sunday Vanguard.
According to INC, “the Igbo National Council INC worldwide condemns the wanton killing of traditional rulers in Imo State by gun men within the last three months.
“INC, therefore, calls on the government of Imo State to return Town Union leaderships to the hands of the community people and stop the appointment of the leadership of the town unions.
“INC insists that the leadership of town unions must be elected through a democratic process. INC condemns the situation where the traditional rulers are meant to oversee the administration of town unions in Imo State.
“INC, therefore, advices the government of Imo State to stop using the traditional rulers as spies against the opposition youth groups in the communities.”