Umahi, Ebonyi State Governor and Chairman, South-East Governors' Forum

…they are trying to intimidate Ndigbo for rejecting Ruga, herdsmen invasion – Uwazurike

The invasion, last Monday, of the Abuja home of Ebonyi State governor, Engr. Dave Umahi by armed men said to be men of the Nigerian Police Force, has continued to generate angry reactions from Igbo leaders who insist that the governor is being targeted by the President Muhammadu Buhari government for his stance against killings in the zone by suspected Fulani herdsmen.

Umahi’s Abuja home was raided on Monday, days after he issued a statement on behalf of the South East Governors Forum (SEGF), banning movement of armed herdsmen from community to community in the South East in the wake of killings and kidnappings carried out by the herders. The announcement, as well as the rejection of the Federal Government proposed Ruga settlements for Fulani herdsmen by the SEGF which he chairs, many have said, is the reason he is being targeted by the police.

Although the police had reportedly distanced itself from the invasion, the Ebonyi governor who spoke to BusinessHallmark through his Chief Press Secretary, Emma Uzor, on Thursday, confirmed the invasion, noting that they were still waiting for an answer from the police.

“We are still waiting for the police, or the security agencies to conclude their investigation on the reason why they invaded the house,” he said.

“We are waiting for their report, maybe today (Thursday) or tomorrow (Friday) they will send it, but we are waiting at the moment.”

Reacting to the invasion in a chat with BusinessHallmark, senior lawyer and president emeritus of Igbo think tank group, Aka Ikenga, Chief Goddy Uwazurike, noted that the attack was to be expected since those in power at the federal level were out to intimidate anyone not dancing to their tune.

“When Buhari first came in, they launched a similar invasion of government house in Uyo. They said they were told there was a stockpile of weapons. They embarrassed the governor. And you know how some people behave. They do anything to intimidate a governor who does not agree with them,” Uwazurike said.

“So, ever since Ndigbo said ‘No to Ruga, No to Open Grazing and No to movement of cattle on foot’, all the Igbo governors have become targets. And since Umahi is their chairman, anything they can do to humiliate him, they will do it without looking back.

“It didn’t come to me as a surprise because I know how this government works, if you are not singing the praises of “Baba” , then you are an enemy, so I’m not surprised at all that they raided the place and more should be expected, all because Ndigbo decided to stand up.

“How can anybody be happy with a man who comes to my home to destroy my farm? Why should I accommodate him to destroy my farm and burn my home?” he wondered.

Similarly Nzuko Umunna, a group of Igbo intellectuals, last week, alleged that the invasion was an attempt by the Federal Government to intimidate the “South East Governors Forum and prevent them from discharging their mandate of speaking boldly on behalf of the South East people.”

Nzuko Umunna which made the assertion in a statement by its coordinator, Joe Odumuko and its secretary, Obinna Mbanefo, said the security operatives were on a mission to plant incriminating evidence in the governor’s residence in order to frame him for crime.

“We note that the invaders were clearly identified as security operatives who subjected occupants of the premises and police officers on duty to intolerable harassment and intimidation before thoroughly ransacking the premises,” the statement said.

“It is noteworthy that this reckless and illegal act was carried out without a search warrant, again portraying Nigeria as a country that has little or no respect for the rule of law.

“The inescapable conclusion to be drawn from the modus operandi of the operatives is that they had a singular mission to plant incriminating evidence in the property towards framing trumped-up charges against Governor Umahi.

“The sole purpose of this dastardly and hideous plot is to intimidate, overawe and silence Governor Umahi and his colleagues at the South East Governors Forum and prevent them from discharging their mandate of speaking boldly on behalf of the South East people.”

“We are informed that there are plans to escalate these attacks in the coming days and weeks to other South East Governors and key leaders from the South East zone, ” the group said.

“We urge the perpetrators of these heinous plots to desist forthwith to avoid throwing the country into a needless and overwhelming crisis.

“We ask President Muhammadu Buhari to order a full scale enquiry into this curious invasion by security operatives with a view to ensuring that the perpetrators are speedily brought to justice.

“We note that no amount of arm-twisting, trumped up charges or intimidation will make the South East zone shirk its resolve to ensure safety of lives and property in the zone, and urge the South East Governors Forum to remain resolute and unfazed.”

In a similar reaction, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council alleged that the invasion was evidence that there were people in high places supporting the “terrorism of herdsmen in the South East, ” and their plan is to intimidate governors into submission.

The youth group in a statement in Abakaliki alleged that the invaders came”with the evil intent to plant weapons and ammunition to indict the governor and blackmail the governors into reversing their decision on the recent ban of pastoralists.

“It is persecution and blackmail hatched by some corrupt politicians and businessmen, who are behind the recent humiliation targeted at South-East governors over their resolution to flush out the menace and nefarious activities of herdsmen and the recent ban of pastoralists from conveying cattle on foot,” the group said.

“These decisions prompted the illegal invasion by unknown policemen of the Abuja residence of Governor Dave Umahi, with evil intent to plant weapons and ammunition to indict the governor and blackmail South-East governors to reverse their decisions on pastoralists.

“This is a clear evidence that those sponsoring terrorism in the South-East through the nefarious activities of herdsmen have developed cold feet and met their waterloo as Ohanaeze youths ensured that the enforcement of the ban started immediately.

“We are aware that many intimidation and blackmail plots are lined up for South-East governors ahead, especially using anti-graft agencies to scuttle the rising profile of South-East governors ahead of the realisation of Presidency project of 2023.” the group noted.

This is even as another youth group, the National Youth Council of Nigeria, alleged that the raid was a further confirmation that there was an agenda behind the violent activities of herdsmen in the zone, which according to it, has the backing of people in authority.

The group which spoke through its National Vice Chairman, South-East zone Sam Igwe, in Abakailiki on Wednesday, asked the police to tell Nigerians the reason for the invasion, while calling on President Buhari to do more to check insecurity.

“It is very unfortunate that the Abuja home of our dear governor was raided. Nigeria is in state of coma and Nigeria is collapsing under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari. It is unfortunate that Nigeria has lost its image to negativism.

“The invasion came few days after he led other South-East governors to a meeting where they took a stand on herdsmen; banning herdsmen with cutlasses and AK-47.”

Reaction had also come from Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Ndudi Elumelu and Chairman House Committee on Reformatory Institution, Hon. Lazarus Ogbee. Elumelu in a statement last week, said the invasion was a shocking and inexcusable development that must be investigated.

“We received with angst and rude shock the report of illegal raid on Abuja residence of the governor of Ebonyi and Chairman of South East Governors Forum, Chief Dave Umahi,” Elumelu said.

“The fact that the police high commands, including the office of the Inspector-General of Police, have distanced themselves from the operation makes it a suspicious operation.”

On his part, Ogbee, who in a statement in Abakailiki, said the invasion was an attempt to frame up the governor. The lawmaker stressed that National Assembly members from Ebonyi State cannot fold their hands and allow their leader and governor to face such public embarrassment and intimidation from any quarters under any guise.

“It is with great shock and disappointment that I received the report on the attack and invasion of the Abuja residence of Ebonyi state Governor, Engr. David Umahi by suspected policemen. The invasion and planned attack on the governor is act of cowardice, unpatriotic, uncivil and should be totally condemned. A situation where our leaders will be treated like common criminals has no hope for the civility and stability of our country,” he said.

“Therefore, I call on the Inspector- General of Police to immediately probe the incident and bring all the perpetrators to face the full wrath of the law because the National assembly members from Ebonyi state cannot fold our hands and watch our great leader face such public embarrassment and intimidation”.

“Governor David Umahi has contributed substantially for the advancement of Nigeria’s democracy and national cohesion by touring all the troubled parts of the country on a national assignment to finding lasting solution to the Fulani herdsmen and farmers clashes and deserves to be accorded national respect and dignity. It should be noted that some people want to frame up allegations against the governor”.

“We are aware of the recent resolutions of the South East Governors under his Chairmanship on the security issues affecting the region as it concerns flush out banditry and killer herdsmen, and therefore make bold to say that we will resist any attempt to silence or ridicule Governor Umahi on his quest for national unity and peaceful coexistence”, Ogbee said.

Attempt to get the police to speak on the invasion did not materialise as neither the Police spokesperson, DCP Frank Mba, nor the spokesperson for FCT police, Anjurijessse Manzah responded to calls and text messages.