Tension as gunmen return to South-East, unleash terror

Widespread attacks by gunmen engulfed the South East last week, fueling fear of return of the dreaded unknown gunmen that held the region hostage some months back.

In the last weeks, no fewer than 15 people, including policemen, were shot dead in different parts of the region.

The situation has once again created an atmosphere of insecurity, fear, anxiety, suspicion and uncertainty among the people in the five states of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo.

Sadly, no trace of the killers has been made.

Enugu has been worst hit with latest resurgence. Just last week, three attacks were recorded in the city with five persons, including two policemen shot dead.

Those gunned down in cold blood included three policemen killed at a checkpoint in the Lomalinda Area of Indepedence Layout, Enugu.

The gunmen, who were said to have abducted some persons, attacked the policemen who were on stop-and-search duty, opened fire on them and killed the three policemen on the spot.

“The gunmen kidnapped a man around that culvert where they sell tyres, perhaps their gunshots attracted the police on duty nearby and they tried to block them and engaged them in a shoot-out which claimed the lives of three policemen”, one account of the incident said.

Later in the night of the same day, a popular and strong civilian security man in the city, Ogbonna Ani, aka Jango, was also killed around Menuiru area of the city, while some people sustained gunshot injuries.

Residents’ accounts of the incident said the gunmen operated with sophisticated weapons.

Less than 48 hours after the Lomalinda  attack, gunmen struck again, at a checkpoint, Saturday afternoon, at Obeagu, outskirts of Enugu, allegedly killing 4 policemen.

The gunmen said to have operated in a Sienna bus and Lexus Jeep, attacked the checkpoint and killed the policemen on duty.

Also last week, in Umuahia, Abia State capital, the chairman of Ebem Ohafia Development Union, Umuahia branch, Mr. Ebere Okoro was shot by gunmen.

Okoro was said to have been attacked on his way to bush market along Osaa Road where he normally buys palm oil for retail.

However, it was suspected that his attackers could be robbers in police camouflage as he and his co-trader, Chinenye Eze were robbed of the sum of N1.5 million.

The traders were said to have earlier made withdrawal at an old generation bank located along Bank Road Umuahia for the transaction.

In Anambra State, some gunmen attacked the Uli Police Station in Ihiala council area, last Friday.

However, the policemen on duty who engaged them in gun battle were said to have repelled the attack forcing the criminals to abandon one of their operational vehicle, a Lexus 330 Jeep, while they fled.

Last Tuesday, gunmen operated in Aguata Local Government of Anambra State, killing four persons.

One of their victims was an official of the Anambra State Traffic Management Agency, ASTMA, directing traffic at the ever-busy Ekwulobia Roundabout in Aguata Local Government Area of the state.

They were said to have also killed two other persons at Oko and Igboukwu and yet another person close to Ekwulobia Girls Secondary school.

Eye witness accounts claimed that the gunmen operated in a Mercedes Benz 4Matic and black Hilux van and came from the direction of Aguata Council headquarters which links the State to Orlu areas of Imo State.

In Ebonyi, the story is the same as a group of gunmen on February 2, attacked a military checkpoint at the boundary intersection of Uburu, Governor Dave Umahi’s town, in Ebonyi and Mpu/Oduma in Aninri, Senator Ike Ekweremadu’s area of Enugu State; and killed a soldier on duty.

They were also said to have burnt a military van at the spot.

Gunmen also killed one Sunday Nwafor, an Ebubeagu security operative in Ekpelu, Ikwo Local Government Area of the state.

In Imo State, in addition to the series of attacks and killing going on in Orlu area, a retired Chief Superintendent of Police, Chris Kpatuma was brutally murdered by gunmen on February 2, at his country home in Mgbala Agwa Autonomous Community of Oguta council area in Imo State.

Worried by the development, Igbo youth group, Coalition of South East Youth Leaders, COSEYL, the umbrella body of all the youth groups in the South East region, has called on the governors of the region and heads of security agencies to rise up to the occasion to defend the people.

The group lamented the resurgence of insecurity in the zone, particularly Enugu, and called for an urgent action to tackle it.

“We are alarmed over the renewed spate of killings and insecurity in the region, especially in Enugu State in recent times especially the broad daylight killings of security men and residents by men of the underworld without any challenge.

“We call on the state governor Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi who is the Chief Security Officer of the state and the security agencies to rise up and protect Enugu residents and citizens.

“ Enugu State is the pride of Ndigbo given the fact that it has been the capital of old Eastern region.

It will be very wrong on our side to keep quiet when the state is engulfed in insecurity and fast drifting towards anarchy and destruction without making a move to redeem it”, the group said in a statement signed by the leader, Hon. Goodluck Ibem.

Reacting to the resurgence of insecurity, former governor of Enugu State, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo blamed on the security agencies, saying they have dropped their guards in the South East.

Chief Nwodo attributed the rise in the activities of unknown gunmen in South East region to lack of commitment by security agencies to fight the criminal elements.

He challenged the security agencies to be on top of the situation and restore the confidence of the people of the zone in coming out every Monday and other days to do their normal businesses.

He equally bemoaned lack of personnel and materials by the armed forces but urged them to use what they  have to restore peace and tranquility in the region.

“I think the security agencies have dropped their guards and that is why these criminal elements are becoming bolder that they can do anything they like and get away with it.

“The Indigenous People of Biafra, IPoB, has repeatedly said that it has suspended the sit-at-home order it formerly declared on Mondays across South East states.

Yet, the security agencies have not been able to give people the confidence that they can come out on Mondays and go about their normal businesses.

The criminals have taken over.

“If you take members of IPoB by their words, they are not the ones terrorizing people on Mondays across South East states but armed robbers and criminals.

The security agencies who are supposed to protect us from those people have dropped their guards.

If they are doing what they are supposed to be doing, these things should not be happening.

They have given the criminals in South East the leverage to operate but the security agencies are also getting the wrong end of the stick from the security situation in the zone.

“Those who are killing policemen doing their normal duties are people who want to rob and steal.

The security agencies really need to be on top of the game to arrest the situation.

It may be said that they are short of men and materials, but let them do the best they can with what they have now and help us fight criminals in South East.

“Why I say so is that it has been more than three months now that IPOB said that it has lifted the ban on sit-at home and it has said it consistently, but you know, criminals, armed robbers have taken over Mondays in the whole of South East and they attack anybody they want to kidnap or they want to harass and anybody they have issue with and they go to people’s shop to force them to close their shops.

“Now, we have got to a point where these people have taken up the space.

“Criminals  have taken over to a large extent and even when you call the police, they will give one reason or the other on why they are not coming, especially at night.

“So, until the policemen and the other national security agencies take over the space and reassure people that they can be protected, banks will go on, markets will go on and people will go about their businesses on Mondays.

“But gunmen go about intimidating the police and when you intimidate the police what happens to the rest of us? We are just at their mercy.

“So, I believe that our security agencies need to do more to create a deterrent to these kinds of  things going on”, Nwodo said.

A retired military officer decried the development, saying: “This is an ominous situation, it is the beginning of the end, it shows nobody is safe in South East.

“The governors are not doing enough to protect the people because they are interested in politics; they want to become President or other positions.

“The people of the zone are paying the price of laxity of the leaders. As a matter of fact, if you talk to them, they will use the commonwealth under their control to harass you.

“That is why all those people who are supposed to talk are quiet. In a situation where security personnel are being killed, who will protect the ordinary man?

If anybody tells you he has an answer to that, the person is deceiving you”.

An academia, Prof Obasi Igwe, on his own, said that unknown gunmen attack in South East and elsewhere in Nigeria will not stop until  the federal government reverses takes tougher measures against the unknown gunmen.

The Don said that as long as the real identity of unknown gunmen is not known, common criminals will continue to take advantage of the situation.

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Christian Voice