The spate of insecurity in the South-east had always been a subject of discourse. AMARACHUKWU EGWUAGHA examines the scourge.
It’s no longer news that the South-east zone has been witnessing pockets of insecurity, just like other parts of the country. For instance, there have been several attacks in states like Anambra, Abia, Ebonyi and other parts of the zone, but the federal government and security agencies alleged that the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) were behind the attacks and even went ahead to proscribe IPOB, brandishing it as a terrorist organisation.
According to several media reports, about 175 persons including security personnel and civillians have lost their lives in South-east in the last seven months.
State-by-state account of insecurity report
According to a major newspaper report, “No fewer than 175 persons, including soldiers, police and civilians, have lost their lives in the South-east within the last six months due to the insecurity that has engulfed the troubled region.
“The killings took place in 72 attacks by hoodlums across the five states in the region, namely Anambra, Enugu, Imo, Ebonyi and Abia.
“Apart from the killings, government facilities such as police stations and offices belonging to the Independent National Electoral Commission were also attacked and some set ablaze.
“In Imo state 49 policemen and civilians were killed and not less than 11 vehicles burnt in 37 attacks.
“In Anambra state, 76 security agents and civilians were killed within the period, while 15 buildings and 28 vehicles were set ablaze.
“In Enugu state, 23 persons were killed, four INEC offices and two police stations burnt.
“Ebonyi state however recorded 32 killings and three arson cases in five attacks while Abia state witnessed seven attacks.”
Investigation reveals that in Imo state, among the several attacks, a law student, Kingsley Chiwueze at the Imo State University was killed at Douglas Road on April 27 2021 while a policeman was killed at the university’s back gate on May 19.
On May 8, a female officer of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Chinenye Nwokeocha, was killed.
On October 1 being the Independence day, a man was beheaded at Oru West and in separate attacks the following day, the palace of the traditional ruler of Obor and property belonging to a former leader of Orlu legislative council were set ablaze in Orlu local government area.
On October 4, a Department of State Services official, identified as Nwachinamere Ozuzu, was also killed along Owerri-Onitsha Expressway.
Three persons were also beheaded in Orlu on August 2, four oil workers were killed on August 16, an Anglican priest was killed on September 14, a Germany-based Nigerian, Oguchi Unachukwu was reportedly killed by security operatives at the toll gate of Imo Airport while a businessman, Noel Chigbu, was allegedly killed by soldiers in Owerri on May 30.
It could be recalled too that in Anambra, top police sources confirmed that about 24 security agents, including police, navy, army, DSS, NSCDC and about 52 civillians were killed within the period.
Prominent among some recent attacks in the state were the murder of Dr Chike Akunyili, the widower of a former minister of information, Prof Dora Akunyili and eight other persons at Nkpor on September 29, 2021.
About 19 persons were killed in Awkuzu in Oyi local government in May after four naval officers were killed in the same Awkuzu.
IPOB’s alleged involvement
Before the arrest of Nnamdi Kanu, Radio Biafra had x-rayed the origin of Ndigbo and the politics of power rotation in Nigeria especially as it affects the region. The programme anchored by IPOB leader further noted that Igbo nation has no footing in Nigeria, a development that propelled the people to seek for freedom. His message began to sink into the minds of youths, men and women such that many began to call freedom for Biafra land by embarking on a peaceful protest, seeking to depart from Nigeria. They equally protested against the unlawful killing of Igbo people by Fulani herders in Igbo land.
But as the day goes on, a new security outfit known as Eastern Security Network (ESN) emerged to help combat the incessant killings especially by herders.
Involvement of other actors
While ESN began what can be termed as sensitisation of Igbo land, bad eggs emerged just like what happened in #EndSars protest.
Incessant attacks on police facilities and stealing of guns of affected offices began. In every attack and apprehension IPOB would be mention.
IPOB severally denied involvement in all the attacks and maintained that it’s a peaceful organisation. As the just-concluded Anambra election drew nearer, more killings were witnessed in the state of which the husband of late NAFDAC DG, Dr Akunyil and some other prominent members of the society were affected.
The sit-at-home order by the Indigenous people of Biafra (IPOB) is no longer a new thing to Nigeria and the zone in particular. Before the appearance of Kanu in the court, IPOB had called for one month-sit-at-home. After that, it issued another order that was supposed to start on November 5 to 10 2021, demanding for the release of Kanu, an action that would have affected the gubernatorial election of Anambra before it was later cancelled. The question therefore on the lips of many is who or what is responsible for the insecurity in South-east.
“If IPOB could cancel their order for the election to hold, how on earth can they be held responsible for the insecurity in the region and kill notable personalities in the state?” asks Emeka Nsofor, an IPOB advocate.
An unconfirmed report however pointed accusing fingers on herders as responsible for killings.
South-east governors’ forum exonerates IPOB
On their part, the South-East Governors among other groups exonerated IPOB from insecurity issues.
A statement signed by the chairman of the forum, Engr David Umahi before the governorship election of Anambra said, “We are aware of the various illegal orders of sit-at-home by different groups of state agitators for our people of South-east to sit at home every Monday and from 5th to 10th November 2021.
“Whereas we have identified some of the spokespersons of some of these groups and we have been engaging them to stop all forms of violence and illegalities in South-east and allow leaders to address all issues raised by them, we are however working with security agencies, our local security and our leaders to protect the lives of our people and to address all issues raised.
“We thank Ohaneze Ndigbo for a good job they did through their various committees in raising various solutions towards addressing all issues raised by our young children. South East Governors are studying their reports with the elders and leaders of the various South-east states and very soon, we would be meeting with federal government on these issues including deploying political solutions in the case of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu which we have already initiated.
“We thank our religious leaders, Conference of Bishops and Archbishops of South-east, the traditional institutions of South-east and Christian Association of Nigeria of South-east for their interventions and mediations on this matter. We would work with them to achieve the desired result for our people and Nigeria.
“We plead with all security agencies deployed for Anambra election to please secure the lives of our people in Anambra state while playing within the rules of their engagements.
“We are aware that the insecurity in South-east has gone beyond IPOB. Cultists, armed robbers and kidnappers have recruited themselves and are using the name of IPOB to be killing innocent citizens. We would not allow this to continue.
“We thank federal government and Independent National Electoral Commission for their determination to hold Anambra election on 6th November, 2021. We would give them every support and shall help them to ensure a free, fair and violence free election. We therefore ask our people to go out and vote for candidates of their choice as we have been assured of adequate security measures to secure their lives and properties.
“We are confident that through our mediation, that of religious leaders, Ohaneze Ndigbo and traditional rulers, IPOB would see reasons to call off all sit-at-home orders including the recent one of 5th to 10th November, 2021. We as South-East Governors are committed to political solutions over the present situation in South-east and this would be achieved faster if all the illegal sit-at-home orders and violence by the various state agitators are stopped in South-east.