By Anayo Okoli, Vincent Ujumadu, Chidi Nkwopara, Dennis Agbo, Chimaobi Nwaiwu, Chinedu Adonu, Chinonso Alozie, Steve Oko & Emmanuel Iheaka
THE killings, kidnappings, maiming and destructions in the South-East are getting worse by the day. The situation is frightening. Ndigbo are worried and asking if Biafra agitation equates to annihilation of Ala Igbo. More worrisome is that nobody seems to know who is behind these atrocities that are on the verge of ruining Igbo land. Despite denials and attempts by IPOB to extricate themselves from the evil acts, the perpetrators continue to claim to be IPOB members.
The atrocities seem to increase when serious attempts are being made to release the IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu who they claim to be fighting for. After Anambra State Governor, Chukwuma Soludo visited Kanu, the attacks and kidnappings became more severe culminating in the beheading of the lawmaker representing Soludo’s constituency in the State House of Assembly, a barbaric act, very strange to Igbo cultural values. They have also threatened through a letter to attack nine Council areas in the state.
What actually is their agenda? Are they against the release of Kanu? What really is happening in Igbo land? Where are the security operatives? Anambra State, presently, is the epicenter of the attacks by the unknown gunmen. The situation is worrisome with each passing day as residents wonder who the next victim might be. When Professor Chukwuma Soludo assumed office as the governor of the state, he made a passionate appeal to all agitators to sheath their swords and join hands with his administration to build a livable state, but that appeal appeared to have fallen on deaf ears.
As it stands, many communities in the state, particularly in Anambra South Senatorial Zone, are under siege, with unknown gunmen creating abodes in the forests in many communities, from where they launch attacks on parts of the state. This development has forced many people to relocate to other states for fear of falling into the hands of gunmen. In the state, people no longer attend burials, weddings and chieftaincy ceremonies for fear of being kidnapped or killed. To consolidate their hold on communities, the gunmen invaded many communities and forced the presidents-general to surrender all the guns purchased for use by their vigilante operatives. They now operate without resistance, making the situation more dangerous. Questions remain, where are the security operatives?
Attacks an affront to Gov Soludo
The attacks in Anambra seem to be a direct affront to Governor Chukwuma Soludo as they have targeted places and people close to him. His home town, Isuofia, had been attacked; his local government headquarters had been razed and, lately, the beheading of the member representing him in the state House of Assembly, Okechukwu Okoye, and his aide.
Okoye’s head was dumped along Nnobi road with a note signed by the gunmen that they would kill more people.
A group, Anambra Civil Society Network, ACSONET, reacting through their leader, Prince Chris Azor said the citizens can no longer sit back and watch the level of degeneracy in security of lives and property.
“We call on all leaders and men/women of conscience in the South- East, Nigeria and indeed, globally, to condemn these acts of wickedness and callousness.
The group also called on President Muhammadu Buhari to rise up to his avowed responsibilities to defend hapless Nigerians especially, in Anambra State and the South-East. “We see no reason why our President should be busy attending funerals outside the country while the citizens are here mourning without consolation.
“Why should Anambra State be experiencing worsening violent attacks by yet-to-be identified assailants shortly after the visit of Governor Soludo to the leader of IPOB, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu in DSS custody, a move targeted at strategic non-kinetic approach to finding lasting solution to the prevailing insecurity in the South-East geopolitical zone?.
Women leader absolves IPOB
Leader of Igbo Women Assembly, Mrs. Maria Okwor, has absolved the IPOB of the violence going on in the South-East. She blamed the government for inability to contain the killings and abductions. She said if the government is serious on halting the mayhem, it would have since ended and peace will return to the region. Okwor attacked the South-East governors, accusing them of pursuing vain glory rather than protecting the lives and property of Ndigbo.
“If the government wants to stop the killings, they will stop it, but they don’t want, believe me. They want us to continue suffering. The thing is that there is no government. The insecurity is being created by government; the violence can be stopped if the government is serious.
“Why are the Fulani people disturbing us in this country? Fulani that were known for carrying sticks now carry AK47 rifles and they keep boasting that nothing can happen to them. Why we say it is the government is because they don’t want to stop it. They want the South-East to be completely destroyed. They don’t want Igbo in Nigeria.
“We don’t have governors in the region that can stop it. They are all clueless. In fact, the governors are there for themselves. They are not there to serve the people; they don’t understand that political power is to serve the people.
“The release of Nnamdi Kanu will help reduce these acts of violence and make them abate. He would be able to know who are his people and control them. The government should release Nnamdi Kanu because I can’t find error in him. He is crying that his people are being maltreated,” she stated.
Association blames FG
National President, Igboezue International Association Nigeria and the Diaspora, Pius Okoye, blames the crisis in Igboland on Buhari’s administration, which he accused of abducting and detaining the leader of IPOB, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu.
He said that the present security crisis actually crept into the region when killer herdsmen started invading communities, sacking them from their ancestral homes, raping their women and killing the men.
“People complained but government did not even condemn them. Activities of some politicians from within and outside the region also aggravated the situation. Nobody should accuse IPOB of being behind it; enemies of Ndigbo should be blamed for insecurity in the South-East.
“Enemies of Ndigbo are the government and security agencies who failed to act when insecurity was creeping into the region. IPOB is not involved in the killings, maiming, kidnappings and destructions going on in the South-East.
“Anybody asking if Biafran agitation equates to annihilation of Ala Igbo, is missing the point because apart from their denials that they are not involved, a sitting Governor in the South-East who supposedly, is not even their friend, has said that insecurity in his state is caused by aggrieved politicians. Who else will say it if the Governor has exonerated them?” Okoye asked.
Reveal identities of culprits, CAN tasks Uzodinma
Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Abia State chapter, has tasked Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State, to reveal those behind the security crises in the South-East as he claimed to know them. Abia CAN Chairman, Apostle Emmanuel Agomuo said time has come for the governor to come out clean so that the menace can end.
Agomuo expressed frustration that efforts so far by well-meaning leaders and stakeholders in the zone to find solution to the disturbing security challenge had not yielded any good results.
“Governor Hope Uzodinma said he knows the sponsors of insecurity in the zone. He had promised to name them, and we have been waiting for him to do so. I don’t know what is holding him from revealing the sponsors. If he cannot do that openly, let him disclose their names secretly to the security agencies.
“IPOB has said they are not responsible for the insecurity in the South-East. They also said they had no hand in Monday sit-at-home, so who is now behind all these?”
Youths blame enemies of Igboland
Igbo youths, under the aegis of Coalition of South-East Youth Leaders, COSEYL, blames the crises on ‘enemies of Igboland’. According to the President- General, Goodluck Ibem, no true Igboman would commit the kind of atrocities the hoodlums are into.
“Without mincing words, enemies of Ndigbo are at work in order to annihilate our youths, scare investors from coming to invest in Igbo land; drive away businessmen and women coming to buy goods and do other businesses and to turn Igbo land to a deserted zone.
“These groups of cannibals and criminals are hiding under the guise of freedom fighters and agitators to perpetuate these evil acts in our land and all accusing fingers are being pointed at IPOB, who are not connected to the crimes. The case of Anambra State where Hon. Okechukwu Okoye, the Anambra State House of Assembly member was abducted with his aide, Cyril Chiegboka, and beheaded, is callous.
“If you look at the entire scenario, you will see the handwriting on the wall. Governor Soludo is working day and night to secure the release of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and people are very appreciative of his efforts. After his visit to Nnamdi Kanu, some hoodlums attacked his state. The entire scenario confirms to all that truly, enemies of Ndigbo are at work. Of a truth, those attacking Igbo land most especially, Anambra State, are not comfortable with the move by Charles Soludo to secure the release of Nnamdi Kanu.
“Ohanaeze Ndigbo President- General, Professor George Obiozor, Igbo leaders and South- East Governors need to work together to secure the release of Nnamdi Kanu from DSS custody. Kanu’s detention has destroyed so many things in the South-East, only his release will restore calm in the region.”
Insecurity escalated since 2015 —Prof Igwe
Prof. Obasi Igwe believes that the persistent killings in the region are allegedly being sponsored by the Federal Government as a plan to Islamise Nigeria. He noted that insecurity and criminality escalated in 2015 when Muhammadu Buhari took over power.
According to him, Nigerian government and politicians created unknown gunmen to commit crimes and blame it on IPOB and ESN which was formed to fight Fulani herdsmen terrorizing farmers and raping women.
“The Nnamdi Kanu-led IPOB/ESN, we are repeatedly made to know, are not the cause of insecurity anywhere. ESN was formed against the Fulani terrorists fixated on the forests, pretending to be herders but killing farmers and seizing farms, and apparently protected by federal authorities because the intimidated governors who being unequipped, are unable to protect their citizens despite being the chief security officers,” Igwe said.
He alleged that the Federal Government prepared the ground for what is happening in the region when they disarmed the populace of lawfully acquired weapons for self-defense but allowed AK-47 –wielding Fulani herders to keep their illegal arms with which they are killing citizens and wiping out ancestral lands.
“Another source of insecurity in the region is the multiplication of IPOBs/ESNs, outside the Kanu-led faction. Logical and empirical evidence points to the federal and state authorities and politicians as the sources of these factions and fifth columnists. Many so-called unknown gunmen, most of them non-Igbo, and more than 400, were arrested in Imo State, a bomber held at Afikpo, scores of fighters arrested on their way to the East, etc, and we are yet to be told what happened to them,” Igwe alleged.
He urged the Federal Government to stop appearing to be specially helping the Fulani, or setting up the Igbo and/or others for vengeance in pursuit of ethno-religious goals.”
International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law, said security forces, ESN and criminal elements should be blamed for the rising level of killings in the region. In its special report released recently, the group gave a statistic of how the killings happened.
“In Eastern Nigeria, security operatives abducted/arrested over 4,800 persons, 1,000 people disappeared, 100 Igbo communities were attacked and burnt down or destroyed. There is mass killing of members of defenseless Igbo civilian population. This is to the extent that no fewer than 400 defenseless civilians have been sent to their early graves. While security forces especially soldiers and police crack squads took responsibility for 200 deaths, Fulani jihadists killed not less than 60 defenseless Igbo civilians and street criminal entities and suspected state actors/ armed counterfeiters took responsibility for the remaining 150 deaths,” the group alleged.
Engage Bakassi Boys —Godsent
The National President of Igbo National Council, INC, Chilos Godsent, advocates the engagement of local security in the mould of the defunct ‘Bakassi Boys’ to confront criminals in the region.
“IPOB has lost control of the situation. They already have factions. There is the Nnamdi Kanu-led faction and the Simon Ekpa-led faction. It appears some of them are now pushing the interest of some political blocs to sustain their funding. And it is obvious some criminal elements have hijacked the whole thing.
“This is the reason even Mazi Nnamdi Kanu has not been able to control them. The IPO led by Kanu has said several times that they are not behind the enforcement of sit-at-home but they can’t do anything about it because they have lost control of the situation.
“What the governors of the South-East should do is to set up vigilante groups in communities and empower them to root out those behind the violence because these people have communities. Members of the vigilante groups should be trained so that they do not become problem instead of solution. “
“You remember the time criminal elements took over Aba, Abia State, they formed what they called ‘Bakassi Boys’ who fought the criminals. Though the ‘Bakassi Boys’ later turned to something else, meddling into civil matters and attacking perceived enemies, but that was because government didn’t follow them up to engage and keep a tab on them.
“This is the strategy that should be employed to tackle the problem in the South-East,” INC said.