•Kill security man, burn down buildings
•Soludo visits the scene of the attack, laments the level of destruction
By Anayo Okoli, Vincent Ujumadu & Chimaobi Nwaiwu, Awka
Barely 12 hours after a combined team of Nigerian Police, Army, and other security agencies in over 25 trucks and vehicles paraded around the Nnewi-South Local Government Headquarters and Ukpor town, in what they called ‘Operation Show of Force’, unknown gunmen struck the headquarters, attacking and killing a security operative and setting ablaze several buildings.
Following the incident, many people residing in the area have fled their homes as tension heightened in the area.
The Divisional Police Station located almost opposite the local government headquarters has also been deserted.
Vanguard gathered that key buildings within the local government: The Education Office and Works Department, including the Traditional rulers’ Building within the premises, were torched.
According to an indigene of Ukpor who pleaded anonymity, the incident happened at about 2.30 am Thursday.
Ukpor which is the home of elder statesman and First Republic Aviation Minister, Chief Mbazulike Amechi, has always been a peaceful community in Anambra State which has never witnessed any town union crisis or any kind of restiveness.
Vanguard gathered from the indigenes that what may have triggered the action of the unknown gunmen, was Wednesday’s parading of the headquarters and the entire town by a combined team of security agents in over 24 vehicles in an alleged show of force.
According to some members of the community who spoke on the incident, but don’t want their names mentioned, “The issue of unknown gunmen and Monday weekly sit-at-home should be handled without force. It is not a matter the Police, Army, and state government should handle with the use of force.
“You will bear with me that in the past three weeks, before the inception of the new government in the state, Monday weekly sit-at-home was relaxing and people had started moving and driving to their different destinations unmolested, but just last week, following the government’s directive that no more Monday weekly sit-at-home, that civil servants should start work, the situation degenerated as roads and streets were shut down while shops that hitherto opened for business went under lock and key.”
Another indigene of the Local Government said: “The state government should beware of comments coming from its officials and the directives they issue to avoid pushing the people on arms way. Diplomacy is what is needed right now to calm the situation. It is not what Police and Army will use force to achieve because they were nowhere to be found all these months people have been observing Monday’s weekly sit-at-home.
“Whoever that is advising the current people in government, particularly the governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo should be cautious to avoid misleading him into making avoidable mistakes that will affect his rating. This is a new government. They should be careful in making utterances.”
It was gathered that the area of attack lies along the dangerous Ukpor – Orsumoghu – Azia – Mbosi- Isekke axis which has become a haven for unknown gunmen who operate randomly in the area.
Anambra State Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, Mr Tochukwu Ikenga while confirming the incident said it was a suspected case of arson. He, however, added that information about the attack was still sketchy.
The state governor, Prof Chukwuma Soludo, who visited the scene of the incident immediately after information reached him, has ordered security agencies to go after the hoodlums.
The governor, who was accompanied by the State Commissioner of Police, Echeng Echeng, and other heads of security agencies, condemned the attack, describing it as mindless and very unfortunate.
The governor said: ” My heart bleeds with the mindless destruction of key buildings within the local government. The Education Office and Works Department, including the Traditional rulers’ Building within the premises, were torched.
“I assure you that these acts of criminalities and lawlessness will not continue. I urge the security agencies to go after the criminals and fish them out to face the law”.
According to him, the resources to be deployed in reconstructing the burnt buildings would have been better utilized to provide essential needs and infrastructure that would benefit the people
He, however, appealed to the people of the state not to despair, assuring that the state would rise again and that no amount of repression would thwart the efforts of the government to build a strong and safe Anambra State.
The Governor vowed that such acts of criminalities and lawlessness would not continue in the state and urged the people not to despair, assuring that the state would rise again.
He said no amount of repression would stop the determined efforts of his government to build a strong and safe Anambra State.
He also wrote on his Facebook Page: “I was at Ukpor, the Nnewi South LGA Headquarters, and the scene of last night’s attack by some arsonists. This mindless bloodletting and destruction of infrastructure do not define who we are! Nothing can justify these acts of criminality.
“As I looked at what is left of the rubbles, I asked myself, “in all this, who loses?”. Structures built from the taxes paid by the genuinely hard-working men and women on the streets are ruined for reasons that are incomprehensible to sane minds. The resources that should have been deployed to provide more for struggling taxpayers, would now be channelled into reconstructing these destroyed buildings and rebuilding missing records. It is very impossible to make any meaningful progress this way.
“Quite frankly, Ndi Anambra cannot be repressed by a few criminal elements. Our resolve to entrench law and order is total. No amount of wanton destruction will cower us.
“I remember with a deep sense of grief, the three gallant police officers – Inspector Murtala Saudi, Sgt. Mudassir Ahmed, and Sgt. Samuel Ishaya, who lost their lives to the Unknown Gunmen who attacked us at a meeting with the youths in my village on this day last year. We pledge to continue to take care of their families and for their sake and many others who lost their lives to the sheer wickedness of a few misguided people, we shall not relent in our effort to make Anambra Liveable and Prosperous,” Soludo said.
Reacting to the development, the Transition Chairman of Nnewi South Local Government Area, Chieloka Okoye, disclosed the name of the security man killed as Henry Udeagbala, whom he said was on night duty.
Okoye who declined to quantify the loss of the locals since adequate records have not been taken, however, said that four apartments were affected by the destruction, including the security post and four sections of different offices in the council headquarters.
Also speaking on the incident, the President General of Osumenyi Youths and a medical practitioner, Dr. Charles Ebulue, called for caution and prayer for the new government.
Dr. Ebulue who is also a youth activist in Anambra South called for support for the new government and appealed to youths to shun violence.