FOLLOWING the heightening state of insecurity in Anambra State, the state governor, Professor Chukwuma Soludo has said that his administration has drawn a battle line against the criminals, insisting that no place in the state would be safe for them to operate.
Soludo spoke as the Anambra State Police Command said yesterday that it had identified some of the criminals terrorizing the state, stressing that there was nothing unknown about the gunmen as people tag them.
Also taking stock of the development in the zone, Ebonyi State governor, Dave Umahi, has claimed that insecurity in Ebonyi State and the South-East is politically-motivated, noting that insecurity worsened after he dumped the Peoples Democratic Party for All Progressives Congress.
Soludo draws battle line against criminals
Addressing aspirants of the ruling All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, for the various elective positions for 2023 at the Governor’s Lodge, Awka, Soludo said the government is putting stringent measures in place with security agencies to tackle the situation headlong and restore peace and order to the state.
Lamenting the loss of the member representing Aguata Constituency II at the State House of Assembly, Okechukwu Okoye, who was gruesomely murdered alongside his aide, Cyril Chiegboka by gunmen, the governor assured that the perpetrators of the dastardly act would be arrested and made to face the full wrath of the law.
He said that the security challenges confronting the state were being “perpetrated by criminals who have now engaged in kidnapping, killing and another manner of criminalities as a lucrative enterprise, a far departure from any form of political agitations”.
The governor expressed gratitude to the APGA members for their support during his gubernatorial campaign and congratulated them for successfully participating in and passing through the screening exercise of the party.
While stating that APGA, as a political party remained one big family, Soludo also expressed optimism that the party would win convincingly in the forthcoming elections at the state House of Assembly, House of Representatives and the Senate elections.
He informed them that he would help build APGA as a strong political party founded on the strong philosophy of true federalism and devolution of power, pointing out that those who used APGA as a mercenary platform to get into office would have to be patient when they return to the party until it gets to their turn again.
“There is a need to build a political party of believers anchored on the concept of fidelity”, he added and thanked them for volunteering to serve the good people of Anambra State.
Soludo spoke after the beheading of the lawmaker in Anambra and as seven other persons in various parts of the state were killed by gunmen.
The latest killings came on the heels of the beheading of Okechukwu Okoye, the House of Assemblymember representing Governor Chukwuma Soludo’s constituency of Aguata 11 constituency and his aide, Mr Cyril Chiegboka.
Out of the seven people reportedly killed, five were a woman and her four children, who met their death at Isulo in Orumba North local government area.
The other two victims were killed at Abatete in Idemili North local government area and at Nanka in Orumba North local government area.
Circumstances that led to the killing of the woman and her children were not yet clear, although it was gathered that gunmen allegedly invaded the area, killed their victims and left.
The State Police Public Relations Officer, Mr Tochukwu Ikenga however said he was yet to get the reports and promised to respond when he got a clear picture of what happened.
We’ve identified those terrorising Anambra —CP
Addressing reporters in Awka, the state Commissioner of Police, Echeng Echeng said the command would go all out to deal with them, even as he frowned at the reluctance by indigenes of various communities in the state to volunteer information about the activities of criminals in their areas to help tackle the problem.
The CP said: “There is nothing unknown about the gunmen terrorizing Anambra State, to warrant calling them ‘unknown gunmen’.
“We have been saying that unknown gunmen are not the right name for these criminals. We are trying to mystify something that is not just there.
“It is time we go into demystifying them. These people are not spirits, they live with us, they are our nephews, our cousins, our brothers, and they live in communities. We know who they are.
“The problem of security is that of total silence as nobody sees something, nobody hears something and nobody says something.
“Security is collective and everyone has a part to play. Crimes are localized and they happen in our communities. We should be able to come up with information about what is happening in our communities, not glorifying them and tagging them as unknown gunmen, otherwise, we will end up not making headways. We know them, we have actually arrested some of them and they are human beings.
“I want us to also shift the narrative that these criminals are Fulani. We have arrested some and taken out some during gun duels.
“So, when the communities that should help to contribute to security decide to stay quiet, that is not a good sign.
“Last week, a person I didn’t know told me that a team of gunmen were operating at Umunze in a Hummer Jeep. I sent a team after them and we were told they have moved to Umuchu we pursued them and were able to take out four of them.
“I don’t know the man who gave me the information but we used the information to fight the criminals. That black Hummer Jeep you see there (pointing to it) was recovered from the criminals.
“You can see what information can do. That is how powerful information is and we expect people to give information,” Echeng said.
“The state police command has decided to go all out on these criminals. Their dens have been identified and soon, news of their exploit will be made known.
“We will not spare any of them. Forget the narrative they push that they live in the forest, they create that impression and then return to the communities where they live.
“What they have in the forest are just shrines, and we have visited and destroyed most of them. These criminals live among the people”.
Echeng debunked the insinuation that the murdered Anambra lawmaker, Okechukwu Okoye was killed because of a refusal to pay the ransom, saying “I am not aware that any ransom was demanded or that any ransom was paid”.
Insecurity in S-East not imported —Umahi
While appearing as a guest on Channels TV, Umahi ruled out foreigners as the masterminds of insecurity in the South-East.
He also argued that despite the poor security situation in the country, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), has performed well.
According to him, the security situation could have been worst without Buhari becoming the president.
Umahi, a frontline aspirant of the All Progressives Congress, said: “In terms of naming all the indices that are needed now to improve on what Mr President has done, whether you like it or not, this President has done very well. If it is in infrastructure, security, economy, and uniting Nigerians, I think God has helped him to do very well in each and every one of them.
“Nigerians are very tired of political promises. They want to see evidence of what you have done. I have evidence of what I have done and I believe that what I have done could be replicated at the national level.
“I have always told people that if we didn’t have the kind of President we have that is very humane and not vindictive, nobody knows where Nigeria would have been by now.
“So, he has helped us tremendously in the security of the South-East. This thing started as a joke and today it is quite a big issue.
“In my state, there was a time that the insecurity was highly politically-motivated and the targets were Imo State APC and Ebonyi State the moment I defected. We did not have this large scale of insecurity until I defected.”
He continued: “Well, you see, the security situation in the country as I have always told people is that if we did not have the kind of President that is very humane and not vindictive, nobody knows where Nigeria would have been by now.”
“So, he [Buhari] has helped us tremendously in the security of the South East.
“What I call bandits are people that are engaged in violence and our people, South East people; the youths, some of them are also in this category,” Umahi added.
“When people tend to say the insecurity in the southeast is imported, I don’t buy that because I am a governor and get security reports. We have arrested a number of these people and it should be about five or ten per cent of the people outside the South East.
“So, you cannot say when you have up to 90 per cent of our youths that are engaged in this thing and you say we are being infiltrated by others.”
Herdsmen butcher palm plantation keeper in Ebonyi community
While Umahi spoke with Arise TV, gunmen suspected to be herdsmen attacked a farmer, Okeke Nkemjika in Ebonyi State.
Vanguard investigation revealed that the incident happened on a farm in Amaeze community, Ivo Local Government Area of the state.
The victim, Mr Nkemjika, is from the neighbouring Lok pa community in Abia State but was based in the community.
He was attacked at a palm plantation in the community, where he was working as the plantation keeper.
A source in the community, Egwu Chibueze told Vanguard that the herdsmen had been terrorising the community for some time now.
He said that on that faithful day, the herdsmen numbering about five had been spotted in the night around a quarry site located in the community.
“In the early hours of today (Sunday), I got a call from the security officer at Yitter Quarry located at the former Setraco site at Umbro Ajanyim.
“He was complaining that he noticed the movement of five herdsmen with riffles and matchets along the farm area as he came out in the night to go round the company”, he said
Egwu said he mobilized the youths and Police to go in search of the herdsmen.
According to him, “as they were heading towards the factory, they saw two boys coming back from farm with palm nuts on their heads who told them they just spotted the herdsmen entering the community.
The source said when they moved towards the location where they were last seen, the herdsmen on sighting them started running while firing in the air intermittently to scare the villagers away.
He said the herdsmen ran into Mr Nkemjika at a palm plantation and attacked him with their matchets.
“When we got there, we saw that the herdsmen had attacked two men who came to carry palm nuts from the farm and they butchered one Mr Okeke Nkemjika, the farm settlement keeper from Lokpa.
“Seeing what they have done to that man, we divided ourselves into two. I joined some policemen in one of their vans in moving to a hospital at Awgu (a neighbouring town in Enugu State)so that we can save the life of the man”.
Egwu noted that the victim, who received deep matchet cut wounds on his back and arm is receiving treatment in the hospital.
Contacted, the Chairman of the Council, Onyebuchi Ogbadu confirmed the attack.
He however said there was nothing before him to prove that the attackers were herdsmen as none of them was arrested.
“Yes, the incident happened. The man is in hospital receiving treatment and we pray he survives. However, there is no concrete proof that the attackers are herdsmen until the investigation is concluded”, he said