From freedom fighters to ‘killers’: How sit-at-home enforcers turned South-East to ‘war zone’ – Stakeholders

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  • Igbo leaders seek FG’s intervention, say residents moving out of region for fear

BY TIMOTHY AGBOR, OSOGBO

Uba Group

Even before June 2021, when the leader of the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, was arrested by the Federal Government, it had been a case of uneasy calm in the South-East.

Sadly, the security situation in the region has worsened since Kanu’s detention in the custody of the Department of State Services as those agitating for his release have gradually paralysed the economy of the region and robbed it of the peace it had hitherto enjoyed.

IPOB, in August 2021, introduced a sit-at-home order every Monday across the South-East to pressure the Nigerian government to release its detained leader, who is standing trial on treason charges at the Federal High Court, Abuja.

The separatist group later suspended the order and said it would only be implemented on the days Kanu appears in court.

However, gunmen said to be part of agitation for Biafra in the region have continued to enforce the suspended order. The IPOB faction led by Kanu has repeatedly disowned those enforcing the civil order.

The Igbo land has been boiling with attacks on residents, shooting and killing of innocent pedestrians and road users. No thanks to onslaughts by a factional IPOB group, led by a Finland-based Biafra agitator, Simon Ekpa, who has continued to spearhead regular Monday sit-at-home in the South-East despite the mainstream leadership of the IPOB, suspending the exercise.

From every Monday, Ekpa’s faction also directed that people should remain at home on any day Kanu would appear in court. To worsen the matter, Ekpa mandated the region to sit at home for a week in a bid to compel the Federal Government to release Kanu.

The last one week’s coerced restriction order witnessed some pockets of deaths, burning of markets in Imo, Ebonyi and Enugu, among others, and destruction of traders’ goods and properties by the supposed freedom fighters, who have now allegedly turned themselves into killers.

Recently, in Imo, at least, two residents were killed by armed enforcers of the sit-at-home order after attacking markets in the state. The enforcers also got a tragic share of the insecurity they created as the Police had killed no fewer than 10 of them in Ebonyi and Enugu alone.

Reacting to the rising insecurity in the region, Enugu State Governor, Peter Mbah, while addressing journalists, said those enforcing the order were only “criminals” hiding under the guise of being Biafra agitators and protesting the detention of Kanu to commit crimes.

“It is important you (journalists) educate our people for them to know that these sit-at-home enforcers are not after Mazi Nnamdi Kanu’s welfare or freedom. We must be able to separate the two. The so-called sit-at-home enforcers are mere criminals and our people must face them frontally,” he said.

Also, some residents of the region told The Point that some of the sit-at-home enforcers now kidnap for ransom and also maim motorists under the guise of raising money to free Kanu.

One of the victims of the criminal activities of the self acclaimed freedom fighters, Obinna Anyagbuo, an Indigene of Igboezunu Aguleri in Anambra State, narrated how he was kidnapped while driving at Nsugbe T Junction in Anambra East Local Government Area on July 1, 2023 by some gunmen said to be enforcing the sit-at-home order.

He revealed how the agitators cum kidnappers stopped some vehicles at the popular T Junction that leads to Nsugbe Town from Nneyi around 6:00pm and forced him out of his car.

Anyagbuo said he was released on July 5, 2023, after spending five days in captivity.

“I thought it was a police checkpoint, but as soon as I stopped, I saw men coming out from the bush with AK-47 riffles, and I got scared. I began to apologise to them. I saw only three men who rushed me with guns. They pointed at me and picked me out of other road users. I did not know that some of them were lying low by the roadside, hiding behind the tall grasses.

“They ordered me to come down from the vehicle and as soon as I alighted, I heard the kidnappers shouting: “ka anyi puo!” (let’s go!) Move! They spoke Igbo language. That was when it dawned on me that I was beingattacked. The kidnappers blindfolded me, pushed me back to the vehicle and zoomed off. After some minutes’drive, they stopped and marched me towards the bush,” he narrated.

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He further revealed, “I was only aware that we were walking in the bush but I was not seeing, they were just dragging me, as I was blindfolded, in the thick forest for nearly one hour that evening. They eventually stopped at a location. They asked me to sleep there and at dawn, I noticed there were more than five captives in their camp.

“They collected my phones. After that, they asked me to provide the contact numbers of my relatives. They were going to ask them for money, and once it was provided, they would release me, that was their promise.

“They told me they had begun the business of calling my relatives one after the other, demanding for the ransom, which according to them, would be used to bail Nnamdi Kanu. They said there was no network in the location where we were kept so they were going out of the place to make calls.

“I stayed for five days and they were serving me beans. While we got talking, their leader got annoyed when I told them that we were brothers as he spoke Omabala dialect like me. The leader told me that he would shoot me if I repeated that. He said they don’t mix business with brotherhood.”

The victim said he didn’t know how much ransom was collected from his relatives as he was still in shock, but that he was released after five days and when they untied the cloth on his face, he could not see clearly, yet, they ordered him to move quickly or they would shoot him.

Condemning insecurity in Igbo land, the Spiritual Director of the Canaanland Adoration Counselling Centre, Onicha, Ezinihitte Mbaise Local Government Area of Imo State, Rev Fr Magnus Ebere, popularly known as Fr E-Dey Work, described sit-at-home enforcers as enemies of both Nnamdi Kanu and Ndigbo, pointing out that the exercise did not in any way affect or perturb those who were holding Kanu hostage.

The cleric, who said this at the Adoration Counselling Centre, noted that the so-called sit-at-home was exactly what those holding Nnamdi Kanu in captivity wanted so that the South-East would continue to boil and its people would continue to go down and have no peace.

Meanwhile, following the announcement of a fresh 14-day sit-at-home in the South-East between July 31 and August 8, by the Ekpa-led faction of IPOB, Ohaneze Ndigbo has promised N37million for anyone with useful information on how to arrest Ekpa.

Also, political leaders from the South-East region have met and called on the Federal Government to intervene in order to ensure that normalcy returns to the region.

At the meeting of governors and elected members of the National Assembly from the region, held in Abuja recently, the Chairman of the Progressives Governors Forum and Governor of Imo State, Hope Uzodinma, said the governments in the region needed the assistance of the Federal Government to address the security challenges in the region.