By Anayo Okoli, Vincent Ujumadu, Nwabueze Okonkwo, Ugochukwu Alaribe, Chinonso Alozie, Ikechukwu Odu & Steve Oko
ENUGU — There is yet no peace in the South-East. Killings, maiming, burning and destruction of property have continued unabated and the people are lamenting. In search of a lasting peace, Anambra State Government recently constituted a 15-member Truth, Justice & Peace Committee comprising eminent Southerners, true Igbo lovers going by their antecedents. The government has invited Biafran agitators to come for a roundtable dialogue to chart a way forward.
The government also promised to grant amnesty, train and rehabilitate criminal elements operating in the state and urged them to drop their arms and come out. Hopefully, the committee will be able to separate true pro-Biafra agitators and criminals using the agitation to operate, causing mayhem, engaging in killings, maiming, kidnapping, armed robbery, extortions, among others, in Igbo land.
A group of youths who snatch people’s cars and keep them in their hideouts waiting for buyers, demand illegal levies from the locals to be able to hold ceremonies like title-taking, marriage , burial and other events; collect daily, weekly and monthly tolls from poor traders in villages, can definitely not be agitating for Biafra.
The Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, has consistently denied any involvement in all the criminal and illegal activities being perpetrated in its name.
“We will expose those behind the killings in the whole land of Biafra in no distant time. Those behind this barbarity are not IPOB members or ESN operatives. Everybody should be wise and vigilant. IPOB do not spill blood. Anybody staging an attack anywhere has nothing to do with IPOB. The insecurity and killing of our innocent citizens are unacceptable to IPOB worldwide and we must bring down those behind these devilish activities. We are urging the governors and other politicians to join hands with IPOB under Mazi Nnamdi Kanu to stop the unnecessary waste of lives in our region,” IPOB spokesman, Emma Powerful said.
There is no doubt the genuine agitation has since been infiltrated and hijacked out of the control of IPOB by criminal elements. So the committee should work hard to separate the two so that Ndigbo will know who is who.
However, some people think that IPOB as a body, cannot completely exonerate itself from the criminalities that have taken over their project, hence the need for them to work and collaborate with the committee to clear their name in the process of restoring sanity to the South-East which is what Igbo people want as reflected in their in various views.
I am still in shock since unknown gunmen killed security men close to my home — Mbazulike Amechi
For foremost Igbo leader and First Republic Aviation Minister, Chief Mbazulike Amechi, the current spate of killings, arson and kidnappings in the South-East region is quite worrisome.
According to Amechi: “I am still in shock after the recent killing of two securitymen close to my Ukpor country home by unknown gunmen who set Nnewi South Local Government headquarters ablaze.”
Speaking in support of Governor Soludo’s peace effort, Amechi said: “I don’t need to advise the committee set up by Governor Soludo because he knows those he selected for the assignment.”
On Nnamdi Kanu’s case, the elder statesman declared that they are making serious effort to see that he is released. He disclosed that they met on Sunday “to articulate modalities in furtherance of our efforts to secure Kanu’s release unconditionally.”
Soludo’s committee okay, but Kanu’s release more effective —Anambra CAN
In their contribution, the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Anambra State chapter, expressed support for Governor Soludo’s peace committee and noted, however, that the most effective way of ending the ugly trend is by releasing Kanu, the IPOB leader forthwith.
According to Anambra CAN Chairman, Venerable Joseph Nweke: “The sooner they release Kanu, the better for us but the longer the delay, the worse for our security system.
“The reason CAN attended the recent security summit convened by Governor Chukwuma Soludo is because the governor is talking about Kanu’s release. CAN in Anambra State has studied the situation and found out that the only language these unknown gunmen hear is release Kanu or heads will continue to roll and we don’t know exactly where they operate from,” Nweke said.
Soludo should take it easy —Ezeife
However, former Governor Chukwuemeka Ezeife, in his brief reaction to the development, advised Governor Soludo to take it easy with the manner he is handling the IPOB sit-at-home, insisting that he must handle it with utmost care.
Ezeife also insisted that the insecurity problem bedeviling Anambra State today has its root on Kanu’s detention which was why himself and other concerned Igbo elders took it upon themselves to consult with the Federal Government and demanded for his unconditional release.
Former Secretary to Abia State Government, Dr. Eme Okoro commended the Truth, Justice and Peace Committee inaugurated by Soludo but said that the challenge posed by the rising agitation among Igbo youths could not be tackled with only one single state approach.
Okoro said for the desired results to be achieved, there was need for strategic thinking, and the engagement of honest Igbo leaders.
According to him, governors have to do something fast to regain the confidence of Igbo youths which has been so destroyed through betrayals by many of those in power.
“We cannot solve the problem of agitators by a single state approach as Anambra wishes to do. It is much more strategic for honest Igbo leaders to do strategic thinking and planning to enable us reach a workable, realistic and cohesive agenda going forward.
“Many parading as Igbo leaders lack sincerity, focus, integrity and cannot, repeat, cannot command the respect of all and sundry. It is that kind of collective responsibility, agenda and strategic thinking that can propel South-East towards peace, growth and sustainable development,” Okoro said.
All sides must be listened to —Bishop Onuoha
In his view, Bishop Sunday Onuoha, harped on the need for the committee to give attention to every detail and be slow to arrive at a conclusion until it listened to all the sides.
The Co-chair, Interfaith Peace and Dialogue Forum, also emphasized the need to treat all persons appearing before the committee with utmost respect.
“There is always room for roundtable discussion. Everything should be at the table and there shouldn’t be no-go areas. No one should be treated with disrespect at the table of conversation.
“No one should rush to conclusions. Rooms must be given to ensure that there is no quick answer. Patience is the key. Humility is the watch word.”
Soludo’s move laudable—Ogbu Kalu
In his opinion, prominent monarch and traditional ruler of Abiriba Ancient Kingdom, Eze Kalu Kalu Ogbu, Enachoken, said the move by Governor Soludo was laudable but expressed worry over trust deficit between the people and the government.
“This is a beautiful idea from a sound mind. But, the pitfall there is that assurances must be given for the safety of those who may want to dialogue with the government. Soludo may be genuine, but can we trust the government at the center? I am worried about this though it sounds very good.”
The Deputy Vice-President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Dr. Kingsley Dozie, commended the inauguration of the committee by Soludo and urged that the release of the IPOB leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu be also pursued vigorously, saying his release would facilitate the return of peace to Igbo land.
“The release of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu will go a long way in bringing peace to the South-East,” Dozie said.
However, Prince Richard Ozobu has said that Soludo cannot grant amnesty to bandits who kill, kidnap people and burn houses because banditry is a federal offence, stressing that the powers to grant such amnesty rests with the Federal Government.
“As a governor, does Prof. Chukwuma Soludo really have power to grant amnesty on such criminal acts? That’s the main question. Kidnapping and banditry are federal offences. What powers does he have to give amnesty? The Attorney-General of Anambra State ought to know what the laws say about granting amnesty, whether it is against the law.
“It is good to set up the committee to look into what happened and why it is happening, but such an amnesty ought to have covered the entire area affected by the carnage and with the partnership of the Federal Government. The problem cuts across borders, he isn’t even talking about the entire South-East states. This is the main issue there. To frontally tackle the problem, he should seek the partnership of the Federal Government. There is no way he can be talking about amnesty to criminals without bringing in the Federal Government. If Soludo is limiting the amnesty to Anambra, what about the offences committed by the same people outside the borders of Anambra?
In matters of law, a good Attorney-General should have referred this policy to the Constitution and find out whether he has the power to do that.
“Now, you want to surrender and you grant them amnesty within Anambra, what about the offences they committed across the border, whether he has powers to also grant them amnesty in offences committed in neighbouring states?
“The main issue is that the crime for which Soludo has proclaimed amnesty is a federal offence, the powers to grant amnesty doesn’t rest with him. What if he grants amnesty and the Federal Government chooses to prosecute those he has granted amnesty? We know that some of the criminals perpetrating these crimes may have taken to crime because of certain acts of politicians in power. I am not against granting amnesty but let it follow due process.
Ozobu urged the governor to look into the area of massive creation of jobs, skills acquisition and provision of soft loans to assist the youths of the state to be self-dependent.
“I would have preferred Soludo to reduce unemployment by looking into the area of mass provision of jobs and skills acquisition for Anambra people. He should also access funds to grant soft loans to young people. Soludo knows Anambra people are good in business.”