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HomepanoramaKillers reign supreme in Coal City state, security agencies fall into slumber

Killers reign supreme in Coal City state, security agencies fall into slumber



Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi

RAPHAEL EDE writes on the resurgence of insecurity in Enugu State, despite the presence of Forest Guard and Neighbourhood Watch (vigilantes) in its over 400 communities

On November 19, 2022, three policemen on a stop-and-search operation were killed at Agbani Roundabout in the Agbani community, Nkanu West Council Area, by hoodlums who go by the name of “unknown gunmen.”

Their killing came barely 12 hours after former Commissioner for Rural Development, Gabriel Onuzulike and his elder brother were killed at Nkpokolo-Achi in Oji-River local government area, their home town. Although two of their assailants were neutralised by combined security agents from the police and military while attempting to flee into Anambra State, the police officers’ assailants are still roaming free.

Although the Enugu State Police Commissioner, Ahmed Ammani, blamed the attack on armed hoodlums suspected of being IPOB/ESN renegades, who he said numbered about 15 and operated in Lexus and Toyota Tundra vehicles, the security situation in Enugu State, the South East’s capital, has deteriorated in the last two months.

Before the attack and murder of Enugu’s former Commissioner of Rural Development, an in-law of the immediate past chairman of Enugu East local government, one Hon. Alex was kidnapped at Ibagwa-Nike. At the Alulu-Nike axis of the state, the hoodlums also kidnapped a tricycle operator and a woman and shot a filling station manager in the thigh.

Armed herdsmen, kidnappers and unknown gunmen are making Nigeria’s once most-peaceful state almost unlivable, with hardly a day passing without an incident of killing, kidnapping, invasion and sacking of communities.

It was this herdsmen menace that gave birth to one of the pro-Biafra agitators, the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, forming their separate vigilante outfit to flush out the armed herdsmen who have made farms no-go areas as the herdsmen not only kill people but kidnap and rape women in addition to other heinous crime such as armed robbery.

Piqued by the dastardly happenings, IPOB established a security outfit called the Eastern Security Network, akin to the security outfit formed by the South West states Amotekun.

It is believed that the birth of ESN brought about a reduction in the rate of killings by the armed herdsmen, but also brought the Federal Government’s searchlight on the South East, and instead of joining ESN, the vigilante groups, the Forest Guards formed a joint security outfit made up of the Army, Police and Department of State Service to fight the organisation.

As a result, troops have often attacked villages and communities in Enugu, Imo and Anambra states in search of ESN operatives. In those villages, soldiers sometimes set houses ablaze in the name of hunting ESN, which is believed to be synonymous with unknown gunmen. These operations have rendered many communities desolate in Imo and Anambra, and most especially Enugu State. Such communities in Enugu State include Amagunze, Awgu, and Akpawfu. To this day, many youths in those communities have fled their homes.

But while the troops were after the unknown gunmen and suspected ESN operatives, a group of criminals began to terrorise Enugu communities.  For instance, the once peaceful Ugwogo-Nike-Opi-Nsukka Road was recently taken over by kidnappers believed to be Fulani herdsmen because those who escaped the kidnappers’ den and those released after paying ransom testified that their abductors spoke Fufulde, the official Fulani language.

As a result of the recent upsurge in kidnapping, especially in Enugu State, students of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, who were going back to school after the long ASUU strike and many others were abducted, including the former Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Dr Dan Shere, forcing South East governors to convene an emergency meeting to address the rampaging insecurity in the zone.

During the meeting that took place at the Government House, Enugu, the chairman of the South East Governors Forum, Chief David Umahi, decried the state of insecurity in the region. He condemned the wanton killings and kidnappings that seemed to be the order of the day in the zone.

Umahi appealed to the Federal Government to intervene and mitigate the spate of insecurity in the zone while saying that they would set up a joint patrol of the roads in the zone to check crimes and criminality.

Umahi distanced the Forum from forming the ESN but said they formed Ebubeagu instead. ‘’South East governors, not ESN, established Ebubeagu and the Forest Guards. It is not correct for any person to say that South East governors created ESN,” the governor clarified.

Kindness Jonah, a civil rights activist and member of the Civil Liberties Organisation, charged the governors with addressing the security concerns of their subjects as the zone’s Chief Security Officers.

“The governors seem not to be ready to tackle insecurity in the zone. I do not fathom why they will gather for a meeting only to come up with such an empty communiqué. They are the same people who set up Ebubeagu but one year after, we could not see any tangible thing except the use of the outfit to suppress the opposition.

“Now they are talking about joint patrol, so what is the difference? You can see that they are just playing to the gallery. Those governors should sit up to their responsibility, which is the protection of life and property. We cannot continue like this. It is shameful,” Jonah said.

But before the emergency meeting of the South East Governors, the new General Officer Commanding, GOC, 82 Division of the Nigerian Army, Maj. Gen. Umar Musa had said that the insecurity in Enugu State and the South East was not as pronounced as the media made it look, noting that he had been in the East for two months but had not witnessed the daunting news of insecurity in the South East he’d been hearing before his arrival.

Enugu State is under serious security threat on all fronts. Kidnapping is going on almost daily at Ugwuogo-Nike-Opi-Nsukka Road as well as at the Four Corners of Udi-Ozalla Road. As a result, wayfaring along the aforementioned roads is now a nightmare, as motorists are often accosted and diverted into the forests, where a ransom is demanded and some are killed. And to check the kidnappings, Governor Ugwuanyi has commenced the clearing of bushes along the Four Corners and the Ugwogo-Nike-Opi-Nsukka Road so that motorists can have a clearer view of the roads and probably do a detour should they sense danger.

In recent times, many police personnel have been killed at roadblocks by criminals going in the name of unknown gunmen. Not only do the gunmen kill police officers, they sometimes set police stations ablaze. And this is happening in various parts of Enugu State.

Just recently, unknown gunmen, targeted INEC offices both at the state and local levels, attacking and setting their offices on fire, thereby creating fears as to whether elections would hold in such areas and other areas.

In recent times, bandits and herdsmen have been having a field day at various communities in Enugu State. The worst hit is Eha Amufu, which is often attacked by herdsmen, who kill and maim many. Last Saturday, one person was killed at Agu-Amede in Eha-Amufu, and on Monday, the assailants returned and killed seven more. On Tuesday, another person was killed at Umujiovu in the Eboh Community. Several others were wounded and are receiving treatment at various hospitals but it is not certain if they will survive their injuries.

Mr Odo, an Eha Amufu native, who spoke to our correspondent about the gruesome incident, said, “We feel that the government has abandoned us because these things happen from time to time, and the government doesn’t seem to be doing anything, and security agents too are not helping matters. There was no intervention by the police while the invasion by killer herdsmen believed to have come from Benue State was taking place,” Odo laments.

Speaking in an interview, the governorship candidate of the Labour Party in the state, Hon. Chijioke Edeoga lamented that the security situation in Enugu has become alarming. He added that 14 villages in his Mgbuji-Eha-Amufu community have been sacked and occupied by Fulani herdsmen.

Edeoga, the former chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Information, said his community is just one of the areas in the state sacked and occupied by herdsmen and other miscreants, insisting that having state and local police would effectively tackle insecurity in the country.

“We are concerned about the rising incidents of violence in Enugu State, especially kidnapping. So many prominent people have been kidnapped. It seems kidnapping has become a daily occurrence in Enugu State. People don’t go to their farms again; there is rising hunger and disenchantment, and the farms have been occupied.”

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