For some weeks now there has been great apprehension, uncertainty, fear and foreboding in the land over incessant kidnappings and killing by bandits.
In these gory orgies of killing and widespread terror, the common people appear to be the hardest hit for the past four years from Northeast to Southwest, from Northwest to Southeast, as the nefarious activities of bandits, gun men and Boko Haram intensify.
But lately, the upper class are now at the receiving end of kidnapping and killing across the land.
From Ebonyi to Imo, Anambra and Abia, there appears to be some anarchy of sort given incessant attacks on institutions and individuals by IPOB and other unknown gun men.
With the recent killing of Dr.ChikeAkunyili by yet to be identified gunmen, the Southeast has cemented its reputation as the next killing field, where terror is spread chillingly at will by unknown gun men, though many have fingered by IPOB, a charge consistently denied by the group.
The tragic icing in the cake was the gruesome murder by suspected hoodlums of Dr.ChikeAkunyili, the widower of the late former minister of Information and director general of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, Prof. Dora Akunyili.
Dr.Akunyili was shot dead two Tuesdays ago alongside seven others at Nkpor in the Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra State.
According to reports, the killers attacked Akunyili when they spotted a policeman in his car. A man who witnessed the killing said as they were shooting Akunyili and others, they were shouting, “No “election” in Anambra in November.
Many Nigerians were shocked over the death of Akunyili.
Peter Obi, former governor of Anambra State who spoke to journalists at Akunyili’s Agulu home town in a joint press conference with the monarch of the town, Igwe Innocent Obodoakor, said, “I was lucky to get the first flight, and I landed in Owerri and moved straight to Iyienu Hospital in Onitsha, where his (Akunyili’s) son and I identified him in the mortuary.
“He was not the only victim; there was his driver and police security aide. About nine people in all were involved in the shooting on Tuesday, and some of them were headless, and it is now a problem identifying them.”
Obi said the killing of Akunyili was rude shock to him and members of Agulu community.
Also shocked was the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, OhanaezeNdigbo Worldwide, which condemned the gruesome murder of Dr.Akunyili.
Ohanaeze spokesman, Alex Ogbonnia, said it was sacrilegious to shed blood in Igboland, especially one who had committed no offence.
Also, the lawmaker representing Nnewi North-South/Ekwusigo Federal Constituency in Anambra State in the House of Representatives, Chris Azubogu, said the murder of Dr. Akunyili, called for urgent action by all stakeholders.
Azubogu said the security crisis especially in the South-East now calls for collective response by all leaders across party lines.
Imo and Anambra appear to be the states mostly affected by insecurity.
The IPOB leadership, however, through the official Spokesman, Emma Powerful, had issued a statement denying any IPOB involvement and declaring that some criminals or sponsored rogue elements were committing dastardly acts and blaming them on IPOB.
Mr. Powerful alleged that those that ‘poisoned’ the courageous adorable Dora must have been behind the recent cruel elimination of her husband.
Professor Hassan Saliu, a political scientist said “that the south-east region was not this violent or bloody prior to the advent of President Buhari.
“Injustice, inequity and marginalization of the Igbos led us where we find ourselves today. And the gory trend may not end soon unless concerted efforts are made to right the wrongs.”
While many believe that Dr.Akunyili must have been murdered by accident, the raft of sit -at-home order by IPOB and the brutal punishment meted out to infraction of the order has created fear in the Southeast.Many people have been killed and properties destroyed.
“By having a police man in front of his vehicle he exposed himself to mortal danger. With the gubernatorial poll coming up on the 6th of November in Anambra state the great industrial state is experiencing a whole lot of tension”, said Dr. David Onimole, a sociologist.
There have been serial killings of police and soldiers in the Southeast. Only recently, scored of police men were killed in Onitsha, and in Imo the courts recently shut down as lawyers protested the killing of their spokesman.
In all 26 security officials, and 11 others were killed by non-state actors in two weeks alone.Already many important Igbo in and outside the Southeast now live in fear.
After weeks of lull, there appears to be a resurgence of violence in the Southeast two weeks ago as killings of security forces and innocent citizens intensified, as well as the attacks on government and security facilities.
Not too long ago, the country home of Lagos politician of Igbo extraction, Joe Igbokwe was razed down by suspected IPOB members.In the Northern part of the country, bandits rule the roost and have imposed reign of terror.
Investigations revealed that politicians and other highly visible personalities have now permanently taken abode in Abuja for fear of being attacked or kidnapped.
As dusk fell on the second day of August this year, apprehension gripped Kaya as over 50 motorcycles, each carrying three men wielding AK-47 rifles, stormed the community. Then there were loud bangs from guns before buildings and vehicles went up in flames.
The attack left 11 persons dead and nine others with bullet wounds. The pictures that emerged from the attack are extremely gory and cannot be published for ethical reasons.
The incessant attacks, which officials and the media loosely call banditry, have crumbled the world of Nigeria’s northwest, stalling progress against the region’s longstanding education sector crisis with repeated mass abductions of students at schools, and in the process fear now rules the mind of ordinary and important people of the region.
The August fate of Kaya is what several other communities across the Northwest, which has now become Nigeria’s kidnapping hotbed, have endured and it mirrors a pattern: invading communities to kidnap some “valued” residents and forcing families to raise money for ransom. If they are resisted, the bandits would re-arm and return to sack a community.
In the year 2020, 937 people were kidnapped in Kaduna State alone, according to a government report that documented only reported cases. And in the first quarter of 2021, 949 persons were kidnapped, again as reported by the government.
The report did not say if the 39 students abducted on March 11 at the Federal College of Forestry Mechanization, Afaka, were included in the statistics.
In other cases of mass abduction at schools in the Northwest, 279 girls, said to be aged between 10 and 17 years, were abducted at Government Girls Science Secondary School, Jangebe, Zamfara State on February 26. That event mirrored a similar attack on December 11, involving over 300 students from a boys’ boarding secondary school in Kankara, Katsina State.
Apart from invading communities and schools to kidnap for ransom, bandits also lay siege to highways and undertake targeted operations, entering private residences to abduct individuals.
John Bala Gora, who is a community leader in Atyap Chiefdom of Kaduna State, was kidnapped from his Kaduna home after gunmen invaded his residence one late night in 2017, broke his arm and took him away.Dr. Ahmed Muhammad, a security expert told BusinessHallmark that kidnapping has become an industry.
“It is a sort of an industry with different linked roles, there are individuals in the cities and towns who identify targets and obtain valuable information on their movements to help the kidnappers.
“They get paid for the information they supply. The kidnappers or bandits are usually resident in the forests. They don’t know the urban residents and have to depend on individuals, like neighbours and security guards of targets, for information.”
This medium learnt that in the forests, bandits have to keep procuring arms to sustain their operations and protect themselves against rival gangs, vigilantes, and military strikes, thereby becoming hostage to gunrunners.
Apart from having to pay informants, proceeds from abductions mostly go to arms suppliers, our findings revealed, based on interviews with officials and persons with some understanding of the operations of the bandits.
But patrons also sponsor bandits with guns. Mr. Gora recently told news men that his abductors advised him to leave his work and “invest in us.”
He said, “I asked them what sort of investment and they said kidnapping business. They said I would only have to give them guns and ammunition and I would be getting a percentage from their operations.”
As the kidnapping frenzy continues in the Northwest, emboldened bandits spread their activities to the neighbouring north-central state of Niger and communities on the fringes of Abuja, the country’s capital.
Findings showed that an estimated 793 people were kidnapped in the North-central between January and May 2021. In 2018 the media only reported 24 kidnap cases in the region. The next year, only 30 cases were reported in the North-central. But the number rose to 135 in 2020 and 793 in the first five months of 2021.
According to the data, an overwhelming majority of the cases within the period (674) were in Niger State.