By Ori Martins
Obviously worried by worsening insecurity in the region, the South East Governors’ Forum has decried the deplorable development and called on the Federal Government for assistance.
Rising from a meeting held in Enugu, the South East governors, led by their chairman, Engineer Dave Umahi, frowned at the skyrocketing cases of insecurity in the zone.
“The South East Governors’ Forum has decried the state of insecurity in the region, while kidnappings and killings have become the order of the day”, Umahi stated.
The governors, therefore, agreed to set up a 24 hour joint patrol in all the major highways, especially this Christmas season.
However, what was on the lips of many was, where is the Ebubeagu Security Network put in place by the the Igbo governors for this same purpose more than a year ago.
“I am confused, in fact, surprised, that our dear South East governors would still be talking about insecurity and setting up a joint patrol team when in actual fact that was what promoted them to set up the controversial Ebubeagu Security Network about one and a half years ago. This is rather spurious and we demand explanation from them”, Chukwu Uka Chukwu, an Umuahia based public affairs analyst submitted.
The insecurity in the South East has been on the front burner for almost three years now. It got worse in the last 18 months. All round South East, what was termed “unknown gunmen” took over the entire space – killing, maiming, kidnapping and in most cases, burning down police posts and other federal government owned facilities.
In Imo State, for instance, the situation went out of hand, that the major roads of Whetheral, Douglas, Mbaise, Okigwe and Orlu were almost deserted.
Again, Owerri, known mostly for its night life and overall entertainment, was reduced to a ghost city as fun seekers and showbiz exponents abandoned glamour centres and rendezvous for dear lives.
Insecurity was high in Imo but its flashpoint was the Orlu zone where security agents allegedly clashed with the Eastern Security Network, ESN, said to be the militia arm of IPOB.
Gradually but steadily, the fireworks between the police and ESN never abetted and the Imo State governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma, invited the army. Instead of calming down the ugly situation on ground, the presence of the army in Orlu aggravated the bad condition.
What followed in Orlu was a total state of anarchy. It got to a situation where the villagers in Orlu, Orsu and Oru East LGAs fled their homes, and a popular roundabout called Banana Junction became a no go area as it was the hideout of the gunmen.
In magical sequences, the army killed a man who was identified as the ESN commander, Ikonso. That didn’t go down well with IPOB as it came out smoking. In retaliation, it got Governor Uzodimma’s home attacked, his aides houses – the information commissioner and that of attorney general – were set ablaze.
“It was a most devastating moment for Imolites. Things were very difficult and no person agreed we could come out of it. Businesses were down and hunger was in the land. Though killings have gone down to a considerable proportion, kidnappings and armed robberies are still in the increase”, Onyekachi Abanulo, a resident in Owerri noted.
About six weeks ago, the Imo State Government through the commissioner of information revealed it had uncovered the men behind insecurity in the state. It named them as former governor, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha and erstwhile secretary to the state government, Uche Onyeagucha. In particular, it circulated a purported leaked phone conversation where Ihedioha allegedly threatened to make “Imo State ungovernable” for Uzodimma unless he (Ihedioha) was called back to office.
Meanwhile, Ihedioha denied the allegation and insisted his voice was cloned.
Anambra State’s insecurity situation seems to be the worst in the South East, currently. Almost forthrightly, there are reported cases of high profile killings in the area.
At various times, even till now, gunmen have shot at the convoy of notable personalities of the state, including the governor himself, Prof. Charles Soludo as well as Senator Ifeanyi Ubah, the business mogul.
Of course, Soludo took the gauntlet against those he tagged “criminals” in the state and declared war on them. He personally supervised the demolition of kidnap dens and set up a state security service to frontally fight the gunmen – kidnappers or armed robbers.
Really, Soludo’s efforts have been very effective but there are still pockets of criminal activities in the state.
As it is in Imo and Anambra states, so it is in Abia and Enonyi states. A critical reference point here, was the kidnapping of the the Methodist Church prelate at a place called Lokpanta in Abia State.
After his release, the prelate, while interacting with journalists noted that it was evidently clear those who took him hostage were Fulani herders with the connivance of their brother soldiers.
“The true situation is that in Abia, what we suffer here mostly is the harassment by Fulani herders who upon being given security backup by their brother soldiers, kidnap and demand for ransom.
“Number two, the cases of armed robbery attack are too high. You go to bank, come out with cash and these criminals will go and waylay you and make away with the money. This is the true picture of the ugly situation we face here”, Buchi Odilamma, an Aba resident contributed.
It remains to be seen how the alarm raised by the Igbo governors and the measures they have agreed to follow will ameliorate the lamentable situation.