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Disturbing security trends in Anambra and Southeast zone

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There is a disturbing trend in Anambra State. It is such that it portrays a possible collapse in the marriage between the state and herdsmen. When the union was active, it ensured that uprisings between herdsmen and host communities were contained to the barest minimum. It was part of the indices that authenticated the claim of the state is one of the safest in the country.

But the last couple of months appear not to be looking promising in the relationship. Sound beats from both camps are a clear indication that all may not be well after all. The disturbing signals bear the potential of a state that may erupt into full clashes between the herdsmen and their hosts if something urgent is not done to address it.

Residents woke up on February 1, this year, to the news that four herdsmen and several cows had been killed in Ifite-Ogwari, Anyamelum Local Government council of the state.

Southeast chairman of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Gidado Siddiki, who made the disclosure, stated that this occurred between December 20, 2019, and January 27, 2020, insisting there was a need for justice, as a way of compensating his members and their families.

Siddiki had given the name of the herder allegedly killed in December 2019 as Hasan Mobali (35), and those killed this year as Hassan Rabiu (35) Abdullahi Rahman (31) and Bahabu Ilu (38).

He stated that the association had recovered Rabiu’s body, while youths in the area allegedly prevented the recovery of Abdullahi and Ilu’s corpses, which were purportedly thrown into Omambala River.

He said his association had written Governor Willie Obiano and Commissioner of Police, John Abang, among others for intervention and called on the authorities to bring the perpetrators to book to serve as a deterrent.

He was said to have observed that his association was not pressing for compensation, which could amount to about N37.5m, as agreed with a committee set up with the state government if the attack was a mistake, but that the alleged killing of four herdsmen could not be described as a
mistake.

An investigation by The Guardian revealed that the alleged killing might have been caused by the destruction of cultivated farmlands in the area by suspected Fulani herdsmen. Sources stated that several cultivated farmlands had been destroyed by herders in the past and the attempt to get the government to address the situation had been futile

A source stated that he was convinced that if there be any killing or attack in the first place, it must have come from those whose farmlands were destroyed and not from the entire community, apparently in the bid to protect their farms from herders.

In an attempt to unravel circumstances behind the alleged killings, the Police in Anambra State had on February 17, arrested and detained Deputy President General of Ifite-Ogwari Community, Chief Nwaora Ikeoala and the town’s chief security officer, Chief Michael Akamala.

The police said they were being held following the death of three herdsmen, adding that, while the body of one of those killed was recovered, the others were not found. It stated that the community leaders would remain in detention, while the investigation continued into the matter.

It was gathered that the community leaders were arrested shortly after they held a meeting with Governor Willie Obiano, who was said to be worried about the increasing level of insecurity in the area.

Narrating their ordeal, Ikeoala said: “We were in a meeting to assess the damage done on our farms by the herders, when the Divisional Police Officer for our area called me and demanded to see us. When we went, he took us to many places and ended up at a mortuary at Adani, but we did not see any dead body. Since then, we have been in detention without knowing what our offense was.”

He said his community was living peacefully with herdsmen, until the recent incident following the alleged invasion of the area by another set of herdsmen.

It was gathered that elders and youths of Ifite-Ogwari had made repeated efforts to draw the state government’s attention to the tension in the area before now, but were repeatedly told to find ways of living peacefully with their visitors.

A community member insisted it was wrong to claim that they mobilised against the Fulani herdsmen, stressing that the continued detention of the community leaders in the guise of investigating the alleged killing of cows and three persons was unfair.

“If anybody ever died, as claimed by Miyetti Allah, it could be as a result of a private clash between an infuriated farmer and herdsmen, and the community was not involved in it,” he said

It was further learned that while the representatives of Miyetti Allah were demanding N38m compensation for the killed cows, some community members are demanding N18m for the destroyed farmlands and another N18m for rehabilitation of families, whose daughters and mothers had been senselessly raped by the Fulani herders, since the state allegedly failed to protect the community after repeated alarms.

These demands are being made on the government. Community members are also demanding the release of their leaders from police custody.

While the state was battling to contain the development, another report emanated few weeks ago that four Fulani boys were sighted hanging AK 47 rifles on their shoulders at Umuawulu community in Awka South Local Government Area of the state. The villagers were said to have trailed the four boys, who were riding two motorcycles, to Isiagu community also in Awka South council, where they reside.

The news of the development were said to have spread, leading to the stakeholders in the community convening a crucial meeting with the police and Fulani leaders in the state, where the matter was raised for deliberation.

“But rather than explain the circumstances warranting the possession of AK47 rifles or apologise on behalf of their boys, the Fulani leaders allegedly told the stakeholders to do their worst. They said their boys must always bear arms to protect themselves against religious, ethnic and tribal attacks from any quarter,” the report was quoted as saying.

It was reported that the incident occurred in the presence of officials of the state Investigation and Intelligence Bureau (SIIB), Awka, and to the chagrin of the stakeholders who called the meeting. The tension was said to have begun to build up when many demanded to know what emboldened the alleged action of the leaders. It was alleged that efforts were made to suppress the issue and ensure that it was not discussed anywhere in view of its implications.

Enter Ohanaeze Ndigbo
THE alleged silence on the part of the state government over the said incident had elicited worries from residents. Questions were asked as to why actions were not taken by security officials in the state to arrest the alleged suspects, in view of the prevailing laws against bearing illegal arms in the country. Posers were also raised on why the state government did not order the arrest of the so-called Fulani boys wielding assault weapons openly.

Was it true that the Fulani leaders actually “walked out” of the peace meeting and dared the stakeholders to do their “worst”?

Apparently to douse the increasing tension, the police in the state had reacted, saying the incident never occurred. The state Police Public Relations Officer, SP Haruna Mohammed pointed out that the said report, “which states neither the date, names of the so-called stakeholders nor where it took place was absolutely false and unfounded.

“It is probably orchestrated by mischief makers who are bent on causing tension and panic in the state. However, the Command will appreciate if any individual or group will come forward and provide the police with sufficient evidence that indeed villagers were said to have trailed the four boys on two motorcycles carrying six AK47 rifles and heading to Isiagu
The community in Awka South, where the Fulani allegedly reside as claimed to enable the Command to investigate the allegation discreetly.”

But the explanation of the police may not have seemed convincing enough to apex Igbo Socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, as on Tuesday it scaled up the development in an open letter to the Inspector General of Police (IGP), where it described the incident as an affront on the people of the zone and accused police of complicity in the entire saga.

The President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo in the letter he titled, “Road to anarchy” had insisted that the matter had not been given due attention following the attitude of the police, and wondered why it would not swing into action to bring to book those allegedly behind it.

He said: “The Inspector-General of Police, Ohanaeze Ndigbo is alarmed by this wanton act because of the danger it portends. This raises the following questions: Is the bearing of unlicensed firearms (especially sophisticated ones like Ak-47) no longer illegal and therefore punishable in breach of the laws of this country? Do we now have different laws for different ethnic groups in Nigeria?

“If it were to be IPOB members or any other group other than Fulani that bear such illegal arms, what fate would befall them? Does the impetuous action and utterance of the Fulani leaders not a clear and definite invitation to anarchy? If everybody in this country, irrespective of tribe, carries such firearms to protect themselves, will the security agencies be able to contain the mayhem that will ensue? Can the IGP imagine the fate that would have befallen any Igbo leader in any part of the North who dares to challenge their hosts and the police with such impunity and callousness?”

Ohanaeze Ndigbo said it believed there was enough tension in the country already to allow room for more, warning that it was only a tree that would not move when there was a plan to bring it down.

“The principle of self-defence is even enshrined in the country’s statutes. Peaceful coexistence is a prerequisite for development. The police are by statute empowered, equipped and expected to make peace between two warring factions and not to take sides or protect one group.

“The action of the police in Anambra State is, to say the least, despicable and a tacit invitation to anarchy. Except for a coward, nobody will ever run away from his fatherland and leave it for another to occupy. Ndigbo is not cowards.”

Anambra Government Reacts
IT was Ohanaeze’s reaction that drew Anambra State government out of its shell. The government had insisted there was no truth in the matter and challenged Ohanaeze Ndigbo to lay bare its facts. A visibly angry
Commissioner of Information, Mr. C. Don Adinuba had accused the leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo of failing to verify its information before going public with it.

Adinuba told The Guardian: “It is an unfortunate statement. It has nothing to do with reality. Ohanaeze clearly failed to crosscheck a very funny rumour.”

Adinuba, who said he attended a meeting of Anambra State elders, where the matter came up, disclosed that Chairman of Anambra State chapter of Ohanaeze, stated that the President General never consulted him before issuing the statement.

He insisted that the report was fake, stressing, “No persons called a peace meeting anywhere. Therefore, it is irresponsible to claim that any group walked out on police officers. No civilians were sighted anywhere in recent days in Anambra State with rifles illegally.”

Need To Revisit Southeast Security
THERE are concerns that what is happening in Anambra State could snowball into major crisis that could affect the entire Southeast if not well handled. Is the state government ready to pay compensation for the alleged cows that were killed? How about those whose cultivated farmlands have been destroyed? Would they equally be compensated?

Residents insist that the porous security nature of the Southeast zone was responsible for this. They believe that Southeast Governors’ Forum, which has almost become complacent on issues affecting Ndigbo should rise to the challenge and begin to rethink the security of the zone.

At a security meeting with the Inspector General of Police and leaders of the zone in Enugu last month, the Southeast governors had dumped the idea of a regional security network, which they started planning since last year, to embrace the police model of community policing. Their sudden U-turn had not gone down well with residents, who believe that they have become “slaves” in the hands of the country’s leadership.

Only a few days ago, some travellers were abducted by unknown gunmen suspected to be Fulani herdsmen in Isiukwuato local government council of Abia State.

A source said some strange-looking men were sighted in the bush around Onuaku area of the council and were confronted by the locals.

They were said to have left the vicinity and moved towards the gully after the Abia State University on the road towards Isuikwuato town, where they later waylaid travellers around the gully erosion site by the road.

The governors’ stand against regional security network that is entirely local has continued to be condemned by the people. Last week, an Igbo group, Igbo National Council (INC) rejected the proposed community policing adopted by the governors in curbing the menace of herdsmen, banditry, and kidnappers in the society.

The group claimed that the proposed Community Policing was another tactic to officially aid the framework for intelligence gathering and invasion of Igbo communities by Jihadists.

They said in a statement jointly signed by the INC President General, Chilos Godsent, Comrade Eze Adiuku, Chairman, Communiqué Drafting Committee and Secretary, Mrs. Regina Obasi, in Umuahia, that they condemned in totality what it termed the naked cowardice exhibited by the Governors on the failure to establish and officially inaugurate the highly demanded Southeast Regional security outfit like their contemporaries in the North West and Southwest geopolitical zones.

Also, Imeobi Igbo Forum rejected the governors’ position in a statement by its National Chairman and Secretary of the Igbo forum, Chief Mike Ikegulu-Onugha and Chibuike Nwabueze respectively, after their meeting in Onitsha, Anambra State, condemned the mantra of community policing for the zone, which they said had been there for decades without achieving desired results.

The forum insisted on the establishment of southeast security outfit like the South West, warning that it should be devoid of Federal Government involvement.


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