By Ori Martins, Owerri
Drama has been added to the controversy surrounding the depth of about 14 youths of Otulu in Awomamma community of Oru East Local Government Area of Imo State allegedly killed by the Ebubeagu Security Network.
The Department of State Services (DSS) in Imo State has claimed that the 14 killed youths allegedly killed were members of the Eastern Security Network (ESN), the security arm of IPOB.
Releasing an unsigned statement to newsmen at its headquarters in Owerri, the DSS said, “It was a sting operation with the help of an ESN gang member, Chinonso Mmerem, earlier arrested by the operatives”
The release noted that the gang was gathered to plan for the enforcement of the illegal sit-at-home the following day, Monday 18 July, and subsequently opened fire on the sting operatives of the DSS and was consequently repelled with a superior firepower of the operatives, leading to the death of about seven of them” .
The DSS, director, Imo State Command conducted journalists to the alleged ESN member in DSS custody, Mmerem Chinonso who allegedly led the DSS to the alleged hideout of his members where the said gang members were shot to death.
Answering questions from journalists, Mmerem who revealed he comes from Amiri Ubahu Azu in Imo State confessed he is a member of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and its militia wing, the Eastern Security Network (ESN) for about a year. He also noted that he was arrested by the DSS in his hometown about a week before the incident where he led DSS operatives to the hideout of his gang members.
Speaking about his involvement in the Sunday’s incident where about 14 youths of Otulu were murdered in cold blood by alleged operatives of Ebubeagu, he claimed that he led DSS officers to their new camp at Awomamma where they killed some ESN members just as others escaped with bullet wounds.
“Yes I was there. We were in convoy. It was along the road at the place they are camping. We saw them; TUYC, Njaba and those guys. They were gathered there. Their motorcycles were parked by the side. They were gathered there drinking. We met them there and we started shooting. Many of them died there, some of them ran away”, he enthused.
He equally reveled how he got the information that the ESN was having a meeting at the place.
“I know that if you want to catch them, it will be on a Sunday when they gather to plan on how to go and do work on Monday lockdown,” he noted.
Mmerem revealed the identities of some of their alleged members, including the one at Orsu Ihitteukwa which he described as their federal camp.
He said he has repented and called on all other youths who are still operating as members of IPOB/ ESN to repent from it, as according to him, “there is no life there.”
Uzodinma dismisses outrage over killing as ‘propaganda’
Meanwhile, amid the angry reactions to the gruesome killing of the youths, Governor Hope Uzodimma said his administration “will not be deterred by propaganda and blackmail in his quest to protect the lives and property of Imo citizens.”
The governor who reacted to the development in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary and Media Adviser, Mr. Oguwike Nwachukwu, after the Imo State Security Council meeting, called with regard to the reported killing, said: “Government has been briefed on the incident by the Director of State Services, DSS, in an interim report made available to members of the Security Council.
“The DSS Director confirmed that his men carried out an operation in a camp at Awo-Omamma with the assistance of their informant and not at a wedding place, as claimed by the youths and it was in the process that some bandits were neutralized.”
Uzodimma also said that “while the Security Council awaits detailed report on the incident, it is important that the public are wary of those using the incident as propaganda tool to blackmail the security agencies and the government.”
Governor Uzodimma also used the opportunity to describe as “fallacy”, the claim on the social media and sections of the traditional media, about a 15-year old girl allegedly impregnated in the DSS detention.
His words: “Security report indicated that two ladies were caught with bandits about six months ago and they have been helping the DSS in identifying and arresting other dangerous bandits in the state.
“Incidentally, the so-called 15-year old lady happens to be the girl friend to a key gang leader of the bandits terrorizing the state but on the trail by DSS operatives.
“Security report has shown that the fleeing gang leader had reached out to his sponsors, who have resorted to using the 15-year old lady in question, to blackmail the DSS and divert attention.
“While thing boils down to propaganda and blackmail targeted at the security agencies, know I will never allow anything ungodly to happen in Imo State. Their target is to puncture the relative peace the security agencies have helped us to achieve in Imo State and we are determined to sustain the peace.
“We won’t be deterred and no amount of propaganda and blackmail will deter the Security agencies from doing their work.”
The Governor however, urged newsmen to carry out their own investigation into the cases.
Meanwhile, the ever busy Owerri-Onitsha dual carriage was on Tuesday blocked by angry villagers of Otulu, Awo-Omamma and Mgbidi, to protest the gruesome killing of some youths of the communities, by suspected members of Ebubeagu security outfit.
Vehicle owners were forced to look for alternative routes to their respective destinations, while economic activities in the area came to a halt, as a result of the protest.