Traditional rulers and key stakeholders of Ohafia, Abia State, on Tuesday cried out over the siege laid to the community by the Nigerian Army and other security agencies, which they said, has paralysed economic and social activities and turned the residents in the community into internally displaced persons (IDPs).
The monarchs in an eight-point communiqué after a security meeting involving the Council of Ohafia Monarchs, leading members of Ohafia Improvement Union (OIU) and Ohafia leaders of thought at the Udumeze palace, said life has become unsafe in the locality on account of the activities of the security agencies.
The communiqué was signed by the paramount ruler, the Udumeze of Ohafia, Prof. EUL Imaga, and four other royal fathers, including HRM Ezieogo Emmanuel Kalu Kalu Onugu (Ezieogo Asaga), HRM Ezieogo Mba Odo Okereke (Ezieogo Akanu), HRM Ezieogo Awa Nwankwo (Ezieogo Amaekpu), and HRM Ezieogo Mmecha Ugbu Mmecha (Ezieogo Amangwu).
The royal fathers expressed their “utmost concern over the insecurity situation in Ohafia, resulting in series of harassment and intimidation of law abiding residents of Ohafia by security agencies”.
“We wish to state unequivocally that Ndi Ohafia and residents of Ohafia are law abiding citizens of Nigeria who deserve protections from Nigerian law enforcement agencies instead of intimidations and harassments,” the monarchs said.
Ohafia, which hosts the 14 Brigade of Nigerian Army, has been on edge since last Friday following security operations in the area by the personnel of the Nigerian Army, police and other security agents.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Army headquarters has, in a statement issued by the Director of Army Public Relations, Brig Gen Mohammed Yerima, explained that troops and police were engaged in “routine clearance operations” in Ohafia.
The Army spokesman also dismissed allegations of human rights abuses, saying that the operation “is in line with the rules of engagement and respect for fundamental human rights”.
But the royal fathers insisted that the tactics employed by the security agents involved in the operation are fraught with ingredients of rights abuses, citing “harassment, intimidation and stigmatising of all youths and residents of Ohafia.”
“We condemn the continuous harassment and intimidation of well meaning and law abiding sons and daughters/residents of Ohafia,” the royal fathers said.
They lamented that the “continuous lockdown of commercial and social activities in Ohafia community has completely paralyzed economic activities and well-being of Ndi Ohafia”.
“The siege at Amangwu Ohafia has turned the people of Amangwu to internally displaced persons (IDPs) in their land. This situation has created fears and trepidation to other neighbouring Ohafia communities,” the royal fathers said.
While calling for a return of economic and social activities in Ohafia, the monarchs urged the Brigade Commander “to reconsider their strategies and tactics of maintaining peace and harmony in Ohafia communities without dehumanizing and intimidating of peace loving persons in Ohafia land”.
The Council of Ohafia Monarchs said that they had used various traditional instruments of authority (Imomo, Ogele, Akpan, etc) to advise and counsel Ohafia youths and persons to be law-abiding and responsible citizens.