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, investigations by Sunday PUNCH revealed.
Our correspondents gathered that the killings took place in 72 attacks by hoodlums across the five states in the region, namely Anambra, Enugu, Imo, Ebonyi and Abia.
Violence, killings and arson attacks had escalated in the region in recent times, with many accusing members of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra and the Eastern Security Network of being behind the violence. The groups have however denied any involvement.
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, for example, one of our correspondents reported that 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.
In Imo State, among the several attacks, a law student at the Imo State University, Kingsley Chiwueze, was killed at Douglas Road on April 27 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 Independence Day being October 1, 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 on Owerri-Onitsha Expressway.
Three persons were also beheaded in Orlu on August 2; four oil workers killed on August 16; an Anglican priest killed on September 14; a Germany-based Nigerian, Oguchi Unachukwu, 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.
In Anambra State, top police sources confirmed to one of our correspondents that about 24 security agents, including police, navy, army, DSS and NSCDC, and about 52 civillians were killed within the period.
Prominent among the 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.
The attacks in the state had worsened in recent times, which according to analysts and observers, could be tied to the forthcoming November 6 governorship election in the state.
Traditional rulers in the state, led by the Obi of Onitsha, Nnaemeka Achebe, after a meeting in Awka called on the Federal Government to improve the security situation in the state.
In Enugu State, Sunday PUNCH gathered that there had been no fewer than 19 attacks, leading to the death of 23 security personnel and civilians.
Among the attacks were the assassination of the Executive Director, Scientific Equipment Development Institute, Prof Samuel Ndubuisi, and his orderly on July 7; including the killing of the Chief Executive Officer of AutoEase, Ifeanyi Okeke, on July 4.
Also, a retired state High Court judge, Justice Stanley Nnaji, was killed on May 31, 2021, while two officials of Igbo-Eze North Neighbourhood Watch Group were killed and their office burnt on October 3.
In Ebonyi State, some of the attacks include the killing of two soldiers at a checkpoint in Afikpo North local government on April 26, 2021, and the killing of a policeman by gunmen at Onueke in Ezza local government on April 27.
On May 2, another policeman was killed by gunmen at Abaomege Police Station. Also, five farmers were killed by gunmen at Ali Ugwelu village in Ekoli on July 12; while three persons were killed during the enforcement of IPOB’s sit-at-home order on August 9 at a boundary between Onicha and Ohaozara local government areas.
A six-month-old baby, her seven-year-old brother and their mother were brutally murdered by hoodlums in Ohaukwu local government on August 13, while on September 8, security agents killed a fruit seller in Onicha-Igboeze, Onicha local government.
Also, two suspected IPOB members were shot dead at Ugwulangwu in Ohaozara local government on September 16 and on October 7, gunmen killed two policemen and eight civilians at Isu and Onicha-Igboeze communities in Onicha local government.
48 police stations, INEC offices burnt, 700 arrested in Ebonyi
About 48 police stations, INEC offices and other property were attacked in the region within the period under review.
In Imo State, the state police command headquarters, the Owerri Correctional Centre and an army checkpoint on Owerri-Onitsha Road were attacked on April 5. Several inmates were freed during the attack on the correctional centre.
Also, the home of Governor Hope Uzodinma in his hometown, Omuma, was set ablaze on April 24. Izombe and Isu Divisional Police headquarters were also torched in different attacks. Some policemen were injured in the Isu station attack.
On May 25, the Orji police station was burnt and three persons killed; on May 28, Atta police station was attacked while the Atta Magistrate’s Court and health centre were attacked on May 28.
On July 26, Omuma Divisional Police headquarters was attacked, which led to the killing of four policemen and the Divisional Police Officer. Also, the INEC office at Njaba was burnt on May 29, while the Njaba Divisional Police headquarters was attacked on July 30.
On August 4 and 5, there were attacks on Orsu division police headquarters, leading to the killing of an Inspector.
In Anambra State, police sources told one of our correspondents that about 15 public and private buildings were attacked within the period.
For example, INEC headquarters in Awka was set ablaze, though six of the hoodlums who attacked the facility were killed by security agents Also, a police station at Ajali was burnt in early October. Six policemen were reportedly killed during the attack.
In Enugu State, no fewer than four INEC offices were razed during the period. They are the commission’s headquarters in the state and its offices in Udenu local government, Igbo-Eze South local government and most recently the Awgu council office attacked on Sept 19, 2021.
Although nobody was killed in the attacks, property belonging to the electoral body, including vehicles, generators and office equipment were destroyed.
Two police stations were razed while 15 policemen were killed in different attacks. Three civilians and two soldiers were reportedly killed as well.
The police stations attacked include Iwollo Oghe police station on May 25 with four policemen reportedly killed; Adani police post on April 21 with two policemen reportedly killed. Also, on July 21, a police checkpoint at Obeagu Uno-Amechi Road was attacked and four policemen were reported killed, while a police checkpoint at Nachi in Oji-River was attacked with two policemen reportedly killed on September 20, 2021.
In Ebonyi State, it was also learnt that within the period under review, hoodlums burnt police stations, a Federal High Court Complex and an INEC office.
Police stations in Ugbodo in Ebonyi local government and Abaomege were attacked while farmers and others in Ali Ugwelu and Onicha-Igboeze communities were attacked by hoodlums.
Sunday PUNCH also learnt that arsonists burnt the Federal High Court in Abakaliki, on April 26; they set a car ablaze at Onueke on April 27 and they set ablaze the INEC office at Ebiaji in Ezza North local government on June 18.
Meanwhile, the Ebonyi State Police Command said it had arrested over 700 suspects in the state in nine months.
The state Commissioner of Police, Aliyu Garba, said they recovered many arms and ammunition from the criminals, adding that strategic synergy with stakeholders made it possible.
Garba said in a statement that the command also rescued about 33 underage girls trafficked from Nigeria to Ghana within the period.
The statement read in part, “It is pertinent to note that over 700 suspects have been arrested in connection with different heinous crimes perpetrated in the state and conviction of sizable number out of them have been secured.”
In Abia State, one attack was recorded at the Uzuakoli police station where the building was set ablaze in April.
In May, five attacks were recorded. They include Ubani Umuahia police station, Bende police station, Ubakala police station with two police killed, the SCID in Umuahia with two police reportedly killed. On May 30, the Immigration office in Umuahia was attacked but no life was lost.
On June 7, angry traders burnt the Umuahia modern timber office of the Abia Vigilance Service office. However, no life was lost.
Ex gov Ezeife, others seek peace
Meanwhile, an elder statesman and former Governor of Anambra State, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife; a former Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Nigeria, Nsukka and former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Trafficking, Prof Joy Ezeilo, and other leaders in the region have called for peace in the region.
Ezeife advised that everyone should go into prayer and fasting for God’s intervention, adding that a meeting of all serious Igbo elite should be called to holistically look at the issues and proffer solutions.
He added, “We are praying also that God will intervene. The noise about state of emergency is nothing. Is Anambra State more violent compared to what is going on in Kaduna State and all the states in the north? We have to keep on praying. Let God help us. Some people want to rig the election and they want to create a favourable condition for it but it will not work.”
Also, Ezeilo said the South-East was crying for justice and fairness. She called on the government to engage the youth, noting that if they failed to do so, others “will fill the void because nature abhors vacuum.”
She added, “Our youths feel hopeless when they think of their future in this country. Good governance and leadership responsiveness are vital to finding a durable solution. I see a lot of opportunities in dialogue and negotiation for a political solution.”
Also, a former Commissioner for Information in Ebonyi State, Chief Abia Onyike, in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents recently, said pressure should be mounted on the authorities and the international community to allow self-determination for the Igbo and Nnamdi Kanu’s release from detention.