By Steve Oko
Communities in Umunneochi Local Government Area of Abia State have lamented that kidnapping in the area by suspected herdsmen has become a daily routine despite efforts by the State Government to curb the menace.
Youth Leader of Umunneochi LGA, Prince Divine Uche said this Wednesday at Umunneochi Council headquarters when Senator Mao Ohuabunwa who represented Abia North in the eight senates visited the people to identify with them over their predicaments, vowed that the youths would no longer watch helplessly if Government failed to take action.
According to him, after the kidnap of the Methodist Prelate, Dr Samuel Uche, herdsmen kidnapped people like fowls around Umunneochi despite the presence of military checkpoint at Lomara junction.
” Three days ago, a boy of less than 15 years was Kidnapped. The other day, they also Kidnapped another boy riding motorcycle and took him to the bush demanding N3 million ransom. But the boy is a prayer warrior, he prayed and they slept then he escaped but he was severely tortured.”
The youth leader further lamented that before now, only women who went to the farm were abducted and raped by the rampaging herders but nowadays, they invade homes to grab women for rape.
According to him, the herders stormed Umuerem village to grab a woman in her house but unfortunately for them the villagers raised alarm and they fled back to the forest.
He lamented that despite the continued presence of soldiers at Lomara military checkpoint, kidnapping for ransom and criminal activities of herdsmen had gone on unchallenged.
The youth leader expressed rage that the soldiers had refused to unblock the road linking Ihube community in Imo State with Isuochi despite the order by the State Government.
He queried the desirability of the continued presence of the military at the checkpoint, alleging that most of the crimes in the area occur around the vicinity.
” One of our problems is the military checkpoint at Lomara junction. When the Army Commander came here after our protest and said that we indicted the Army, we reminded him that the Army Captain linked with the Taraba kidnap kingpin, Wadume was the man that headed that checkpoint last before he was posted to Taraba State.
” Why is it that the road leading to Ihube from that junction is still blocked despite the order by the Governor that it should be opened? Why is it that kidnappings and ransoms paid are still around that vicinity?”
But when contacted, an anonymous source at 14 Brigade Nigeria Army Ohafia, said the Army “does not shield criminals”, adding that the Nigeria Army is determined to stamp out perpetrators of insecurity in various parts of the country.
Prince Uche who said that Umunneochi youths were ready and prepared to secure their communities, vowed that the youths despite frustrations by the security operatives would not allow Fulani herdsmen to take over their forests.
He thanked Senator Ohuabunwa for coming to identify with the people even though he was no longer in power, while pleading with him to explore his network and contacts to help end the people’s misery.
He said that the activities of kidnappers had crippled the economy of Umunneochi as traders have deserted their markets while their people living abroad also avoid coming home.
Responding, Sen. Ohuabunwa decried the menacing activities of kidnappers in the area and the failure of the federal government to arrest the situation.
The former Leader ECOWAS Parliament said he was disturbed as he read about the activities of kidnappers in the area, and decided to solidarize with the people because of his affection for them.
He said that only proper legislation would arrest the festering insecurity in the country as the Executive Arm of Government has failed to take necessary action to curb and menace.
The former Senate Committee Chairman on Primary Health and Communicable Diseases, recalled that while he was still in the Senate, he was the first Senator to raise the alarm on the floor of the Senate over the dangers posed by herdsmen in Umunneochi following a complaint by a traditional ruler that a primary school and a police post at Lokpa were sacked by herders with their cows.
Ohuabunwa who said that “Nigeria is sitting on a key of gun powder” as a result of worsening insecurity, challenged security agencies to rise to the occasion.
He noted that self defense would be the natural response to invasion of ones domain by strangers.
” If you are in your house and someone comes to kill you what will you do? Government should not allow this situation to escalate”.
He assured the youths of his total support towards efforts to contain insecurity in the area but pleaded with them not to take laws into their hands.
Senator Ohuabunwa regretted that ” those who boasted of bringing RUGA and cattle market to the area have all gone mute as the people are being consumed by the dividends of their RUGA”.
” I’m ashamed of the condition of Abia North. Somebody who proudly said he brought RUGA to Umunneochi is there and the people are getting consumed by what he brought. Instead of bringing solution, he is busy proposing Muslim/ Muslim ticket, and talking of how he will be sweeping Aso Rock if his friend becomes the President; meanwhile, his home is on fire”.
Urging the people to remain security conscious, Ohuabunwa enjoined them to get their voter’s card ready ahead of 2023 , and use it to end bad governance and “government of insecurity”.
In a remark, member representing Umunneochi state constituency at the Abia State House of Assembly, Hon. Okey Igwe, noted that what is happening in the area was a microcosm of the breakdown in the security architecture of the country.
He regretted that the security agencies had not been able to arrest the situation but hinted that local solution was being worked out.
Hon. Igwe who is the running mate to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, governorship candidate, Professor Uche Ikonne, also pleaded with the youths not to take laws into their hands, assuring that very soon the menace will be contained.
” Yes they have taken us as weak preys and cash cows but very soon the pain will be over. I’m interested in sustainable solution. So, please don’t take laws into your hands because solution is in sight”.
Speaking earlier, the Council boss, Hon. Ifeanyi Madu, said the people of Umunneochi irrespective of their party affiliations, were united in the fight against insecurity.
He noted that the Kidnappers “do not discriminate against the political party of their victims”, hence, the need for unity and synergy among the people against the monsters.
In a remark, an illustrious son of the area and Chief Executive of Mainland Oil and Gas Limited, Chief Chris Igwe, decried the rising wave of insecurity in Umunneochi but also enjoined the people to remain law-abiding.
He expressed optimism that with the on-going consultations with the necessary Government agencies and stakeholders, the people would soon heave a sigh of relief.
Youths from various communities in Umunneochi thronged out to the Council headquarters, venue of the meeting, in their numbers, vowing to take action to protect their families if Government fails to act urgently.
Abia State Government had three weeks ago set up a Special Security Committee for Umunneochi, with a marching order to get into the forests and flush out illegal occupants and foreign elements in the bushes.
Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu, vowed not to allow criminals use any part of the state as a breeding ground.