Our correspondentsNWANOSIKE ONU (Awka), SUNNY NWANKWO (Umuahia), OGOCHUKWU ANIOKE (Abakaliki) and DAMIAN DURIIHEOMA (Owerri)give a graphic picture of the insecurity in the Southeast and how the emergence of the Eastern Security Network (ESN) and Ebube Agu might complicate the situation
It has not been the best of times for the police in the past weeks in the Southeast. The attacks on their formations and killing of their men by unidentified gunmen have are unprecedented. Though the identities of the attackers have not been revealed, but the body language of the leader of the proscribed pro-Biafra agitator, Nnamdi Kanu suggests that the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) may be responsible.
Kanu has never hidden his dislike for the security agencies. In the last two months, no fewer than 30 police stations have been burnt in the Southeast. Not only that; over 30 policemen have lost their lives during such attacks, while their operational vehicles have beeen burnt and weapons carted away.
From Abia to Anambra, to Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo, the story has been the same. But Anambra, Imo and Abia are the worst hit. Indications are that the IPOB has declared war against the police and other security agencies in the region. The situation has heightened tension in all the region, with fear enveloping every household.
In the month of March, the gunmen struck at Awkuzu, Oyi Local Government Area (LGA) and Neni, Anaocha LGA simultaneously, killing seven naval officers and policemen in the process, while dozens of vehicles were burnt and weapons carted away.
Again, on March 19, they struck again at Ekwulobia, Aguata LGA, where the gunmen killed another policeman ansd two prison officials on their way to court.
But, the one that shook the entire country was the attack by the group on former Central Bank governor, Prof Charles Soludo in Isuofia, his community, in Aguata LGA.
The hoodlums in the process killed two of his security aides and abducted Emeka Ezenwanne, the Commissioner for Public Utilities in the Governor Willie Obiano administration.
The incident happened during a town hall meeting with the youth of the area, in Prof Soludo’s ongoing consultations, preparatory to the November 6 governorship election in Anambra State.
The battle in Imo State between security agencies and IPOB operatives has not been an easy one. Last Saturday, the people of Omuma, Oru LGA woke up to see the building of Governor Hope Uzodinma go up in flames. All the vehicles within the vicinity were burnt, including his white-coloured Rolls Royce. Two of his security details were also killed. Accusing fingers are pointing to members of the Eastern Security Network (ESN), a militant arm of the IPOB, as the perpetrators.
Before the attack on the governor’s home, Imo State had been the theatre of war between security agencies and the ESN, based on Kanu’s social media video instructions. About five police stations were burnt in Mbaise, Mgbidi, Ihite Uboma and Mbano areas. Security operatives were also killed. But, IPOB spokesman, Emma Powerful had continued to deny the involvement of the pro-Biafra group in all the attacks.
Nevertheless, the group was forced to own up when its second in command, popularly called ‘Ikonso’, was killed during last Saturday’s gun duel between them and security allied forces.
Since then, things have fallen apart in the camp of ESN, as its members have continued to threaten fire and brimstone against the government of Governor Uzodimma.
The group accused Uzodinma of masterminding the killing of Ikonso.
In a statement by Powerful, the IPOB alleged that Uzodimma’s decision to kill its second in command was because of his refusal to head Ebube Agu, the new regional security outfit. It also alleged that the governor decided to eliminate its patriotic heroes who vowed never to betray Biafra after several failed attempts to lure its ESN operatives into working with Ebube Agu.
The same unknown gunmen reportedly burnt the Divisional Police Headquarters, Adani in Uzo-Uwani LGA in Enugu State last Wednesday.
The attack was said to have happened about 2.30am and sources said it lasted over an hour. Two of the policemen on duty were killed, while many others sustained injuries. The police headquarters was also burnt.
A statement by Public Public Relations Officer, Daniel Ndukwe said the Command would soon identify and apprehend the gunmen.
Abia State, which shares boundaries with Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Cross River, was also caught in the recent clashes between the unidentified gunmen and regular security forces. Some residents and indigenes have expressed fears that a power tussle between members of the ESN and yet-to-be constituted officials of Ebube Agu is in the offing.
But, some have thrown their weight behind both the ESN and Ebube Agu. For instance, Okechukwu Isiguzo of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth group said that Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide supports any security attempts or arrangements that will help Ndigbo to curb the nefarious activities and violent killings in the Southeast.
“Security is local, every Igbo should understand the perilous situation Igbo are in for. Igbo will stop any rivalry between ESN and Ebube Agu, but unite them as sister organisations aimed towards solving insecurity challenges in Southeast. The Igbo should support both groups and there should be synergies with all security formations in the Southeast to end banditry.”
Victor Chibueze, a security expert, said Abia State has an existing security outfit (Homeland security) whose officials are scattered across the 17 LGAs. He said it will amount to duplication of functions and additional financial burden on Abia State to add another security outfit to it.
He added: “Enugu State has the forest guards already. What will become of Abia Homeland and Enugu State Forest Guard is what we don’t know.”
Chibueze called for the strengthening of the existing Homeland Security in Abia State. He said: “The truth is that ESN is not recognised by any law because its parent body,
IPOB is a proscribed group and therefore do not have the power to operate in any part of the country. Under what law are they operating? Until Biafra comes, their activities remain illegal because there is no legislation backing their activities.
The truth is that the governors wasted time before the setting up of a regional security and this gave relevance to the activities of the ESN.
I listened to the interview with the governor of Abia State on Channels TV. He didn’t tell us how the group is going to be funded. He didn’t tell us if Ebube Agu is going to carry guns and the type of guns. While we are still questioning the source of the weapons being brandished by the ESN personnel, we are worried about the impending clash between the two groups.
“The way Nigeria is going at the moment I can tell you for free that we are heading into state police. If we are having the Ebube Agu, every effort should be put in place to ensure that all lapses were taken care of to avert any possible clash between it and the ESN.”
A governorship aspirant in Anambra State, Valentine Ozigbo, decried the level of insecurity in the country.
He said: “The increase in the loss of the internal security mechanism of Anambra State has contributed immensely to the sad occurrence of killings in the state nowadays.
I could remember vividly how communal security men prevented crime in the various communities between 2010 and 2015. Between 2016 and now, the state of insecurity in Anambra has been on the increase.”
A human rights activist, Ifeanyi Nwankwo, believes Ndigbo are creating the monster that will consume them. He said: “We cannot be laughing when what we are doing is cutting our nose to spite our face.
Every day, one police station is razed and we clap. Recently, it was the Zone 13 headquarters in Ukpo, Dunukofia LGA of Anambra State and another station in Uzuakoli in Abia State.
“There are almost no police checkpoints on the roads in the entire zone. Over 30 police stations have been razed and sacked.
We have only stood by and watched while clapping under the table.
We must be clear, the land that hosts the war eventually loses. There is no historical record of the land that hosts the war ever winning that war. Nobody brings war to his home.”