Controversy trails killings of 14 wedding Guest in Imo State by Ebubeagu Security Operatives

 In the past one year, Oru East and West local government areas in Orlu zone of Imo State have become a war theatre that has consumed scores of people, particularly youths. Most of the victims were killed as a result of kidnapping or banditry.


Bandits have taken over the once peaceful zone, turning it into a battle field where the hoodlums engage security agencies in gun duels on a daily basis, with many of the residents fleeing their homes to safer environments. The axis has become a beehive for kidnappers and robbers as well as a slaughter house where kidneys and other human parts are reportedly harvested for financial gains.


Earlier, the killings were first traced to herdsmen who allegedly went into the farms to kidnap and rape women. The situation led the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) to set up its own security arm known as Eastern Security Network (ESN) to provide security in the zone and the entire Igboland, using Orlu as the base for their operation.


However, an outfit that was set up to wage war against intruders has turned into a bloodletting one, leaving many to wonder if IPOB/ESN was actually meant to protect the people’s lives, though IPOB/ESN has denied having a hand in the killings and burning of police stations in the state.


The escalating cases of banditry in the zone had prompted the Southeast governors to set up Ebubeagu, to assist security agencies in their efforts to tackle criminality in the region and check the suspicious activities of IPOB/ESN.


Some people have complained that since Ebubeagu was secretly launched in Imo State, killings have risen to alarming level.


Based on intelligence gathering, however, the state government has attributed the killings to the opposition members who had vowed to make the state ungovernable for the incumbent Governor Hope Uzodimma.



Government’s permutation is that the pattern of the insurrection and concentration of criminal activities in Orlu zone, especially Orlu, Orsu, Oru East and Oru West gives the false impression that the governor is not wanted even by his own people.


A pointer to the foregoing is the recent incident that occurred at Awo-Omama in Oru West Local Government Area where residents accused Ebubeagu operatives of killing seven wedding guests.


The incident, which occurred last Sunday, had caused serious panic in the state.


The victims were said to be going back from Awo-Omama in the neighbouring Oru West Local Government Area to their community in Otulu in Oru East Local Government Area of the state when the suspects opened fire on them.


The President General of Otulu community, Nnamdi Agbor, who blew the lid open, told newsmen that seven persons died on the spot.


He said: “Our people were coming back from Awo-Omamma around 7pm after a traditional wedding. Ebube Agu operatives saw them on motorcycles and opened fire on them.


“As I speak to you, we have recovered seven bodies who are our people. Five are missing, two are critically injured and hospitalised while the other person who sustained a minor injury has been discharged.


“This is very unfortunate. Our people are angry. They are protesting. There was no cause for the killing. They were just riding home when the Ebubeagu Security outfit opened fire on them. This has never happened before.



“We have reported the incident to the security agents. The Commissioner of Police and the Commander of the 34 Artillery Brigade Command Obinze have visited. The DPO is also assisting. I have reported the killing to the member representing us at the National Assembly.


“The celebrant is Chijioke Nnanna. Those arrested are Uchenna Orjiribeka, Chido Ekesinachi and Nnamdi Ekesinachi. Those in the hospital are Oluebube Agbor and Thank God Iheukwumere. Those who were killed are Chigozie Obinwa, Ozioma, Chikere Anyadioha, Ifechi Ekesinachi, Emeka Ekesinachi, Aboy Ihegboro and Chijindu. Five persons are still missing.”


 


Police begin investigation as youths protest killings


While the police command has confirmed the latest incident, it said the killing was still being investigated. Police spokesperson, Michael Abattam, told The Nation correspondent that investigation into the matter had begun.


Youths in the area had trooped out en masse to protest the killing. The youths joined by women in their numbers, blocked the Owerri-Onitsha Road as they mourned over the killings.


The protesters, who carried placards with different inscriptions, said that peace will return in the state only if government disbands Ebubeagu.


 


Controversy trails killings


There was, however, a twist to the event as the Department of State Service (DSS) has owned up to the operation, saying that the people that were killed were members of Eastern Security Network (ESN) and Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).


While parading a suspect, Chinoso Mmerem, at the DSS headquarters, Owerri, the Director, Idaminabo Wilcox, said the suspect was a pointer to a joint security operation to Awo-Omama camp of ESN/IPOB on that fateful Sunday.


Wilcox said: “Following the arrest of Chinoso Mmerem a.k.a. Network, a member of IPOB militant wing, ESN, a sting operation was conducted by a joint security team on 17th July, 2022 to arrest members of the criminal gang terrorising Awo-Omama and other parts of the state.


“In the course of the operation, the elements opened fire on the security forces, which was consequently repelled with superior fire power, leading to the neutralisation of about seven members of the group in the hideout used as their camp.


“Meanwhile, the elements were gathered at the location planning for armed enforcement of the illegal Monday sit-at-home order in Awo-Omamma and other parts of the state, which informed the operation to neutralise their plan.


“At this juncture, it is pertinent to inform that the elements gathered to plan their nefarious operations and not attending a traditional marriage as being speculated by members of the outlawed group.”


Mmerem, answering questions from newsmen, however admitted that the people that were killed on that day were members of ESN and were killed at their camp. He said: “I am Chinonso Mmerem. I led the DSS to the ESN camp at Awo-Omama. I was caught a week ago by the security agents. On Sunday, I led them to the camp where they were having meetings against Monday for the sit-at-home.


“Some of the members were shot, including ‘One Man Squad’ who is our leader at Awo-Omama. Although he did not die, he escaped with bullet wounds but his phone was retrieved by the DSS.”


The speculation linking Ebubeagu to the incident continued unabated, but Governor Hope Uzodimma vowed that government will not be deterred by propaganda and blackmail in her quest to protect the lives and property of Imo citizens.


Governor Uzodimma said that the government had been briefed about the incident by the Director of State Services in an interim report made available to members of the Security Council, adding that the people killed were bandits.


He spoke on Monday after the Imo State Security Council meeting over the incident.


The Governor added that the DSS Director confirmed that his men carried out an operation in a Camp at Awo-Omama with the assistance of their informant and not at a wedding place as claimed by the youths, and that it was in the process that some bandits were neutralised.


He said while the Security Council awaits detailed report on the incident, it is important that the public is wary of those using the incident as propaganda tool to blackmail the security agencies and the government.


He said: “You know I will never allow anything ungodly to happen in Imo State. Their target is to puncture the relative peace the security agencies have helped us to achieve in Imo State, and we are determined to sustain the peace.


“We won’t be deterred and no amount of propaganda and blackmail will deter the security agencies from doing their work.”


One of the survivors of the killings, however, insisted that they were all innocent, unarmed kinsmen returning from a wedding.


Nnamdi Nnanna, elder brother to the bridegroom, Chijioke Nnanna, on Wednesday narrated how the Ebubeagu operatives allegedly shot and killed seven of his kinsmen before him in Awo-Omama.


Nnamdi, who works with a borehole drilling company, said he survived the massacre only by a whisker even though the shooting, according to them, ran into midnight.


On how he survived the massacre, he said he pleaded with the leader of the Ebubeagu team, whom he identified as Izuchukwu Akuegbulenwa, popularly known as Ogwu Mozambique, who is also not an operative of the DSS as claimed.


“I called out to him and begged him to spare my life”, he said. Nnamdi, a father of two, explained that on their way home, they travelled on four motorcycles with the three others ahead of the one he rode on with two others.


He said that as he saw his kinsmen being gunned down, he shouted and told the rider to retreat.


He said the Ebubeagu operatives gave them a hot chase and the rider of their motor bike ran into a bump and one of them fell off. The operatives caught up with the one that fell off and shot him dead while the rider of the bike was also shot on his left arm.


His words: “When we finished the traditional wedding ceremony, we set out for home on four motorcycles. Three motorcycles were ahead of us while we rode behind.


“Before we knew it, Ebubeagu operatives, without any warning, opened fire and killed the ones ahead of us.


“As we witnessed the gunning down of my kinsmen, I shouted to the rider of our motorcycle to reverse as fast as possible. We did but the Ebubeagu men came after us in high speed. As they pursued us, they were shooting at us.


“As we were speeding of, we ran into a bump, one of us fell off the bike and they came to him and shot him dead. Our bike was forced to stop by a barricade set by men of the Ebubeagu.


“At that point, they shot the rider of our motorcycle on his arm. I immediately started shouting, telling them that we were not criminals or ESN people.


“As those that were pursuing us alighted from their vehicle and approached, I identified their leader, Izuchukwu Akuegbulenwa, popularly known as” Ogwu Mozambique” and asked him not to kill me.


“One of them had already cocked his gun to shoot me but he (Akuegbulenwa) ordered him to stop. I was bundled into their operational vehicle, tied and blindfolded. They took me to their camp at Omuma and locked me up.


“I kept telling them that I was not a criminal; that my immediate younger brother did his traditional wedding and we were just heading home from Awo-Omamma.


“They then brought me out and asked me to take them to the venue of the traditional marriage. While we went, they masked me.


“We went there and they also took me to the compound of our traditional ruler and later brought me back to their camp where I spent the night. It was in the morning that they brought us out and asked us to go home.


“I am calling on every lover of justice to come to the rescue of my family and community. We have committed no crime.


“There was no provocation whatsoever. My kinsmen and brothers were killed for nothing.”


Also giving his own account of the incident, the celebrant, Chijioke, said: “It was when we finished eating the food that our in-laws prepared for me and my brothers that they decided to go, because they said they had another place they were invited to. But they had not gone three poles when we had gunshots and all of us scampered for safety.


“The shooting lasted between 12 and 1 midnight. So, it was in the morning when the army intervened that I came out to see the dead bodies were those of my brothers that accompanied me to the wedding.”


Killings spark outrage


Since the incident took place, many people have been reacting asking Government to investigate the killing while some have called for total disbandment of Ebubeagu.


The Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) on Tuesday called on Governor Uzodimma to disband the Ebubeagu security outfit in the state.


The group said this call becomes necessary following what it called “the insensitive and atrocious murdering of innocent and defenceless youths from Otulu town returning from traditional marriage by Ebubeagu security outfit.


In a statement by MASSOB leader, Comrade Uchenna Madu, which was made available to The Nation in Owerri, the organisation urged Governor Uzodimma to either disband Ebubeagu or it would be viewed as “a declaration of war.”


The statement reads: “This killing of innocent citizens is one of the several, uncountable and secret killing of our people by government-backed Ebubeagu. They are primarily established as a witch-hunting outfit to fight political enemies and non-violence pro-Biafra agitators.


“MASSOB described Ebubeagu security outfit as a Dracula evil and agents of death created by the Imo State Government.


MASSOB warns Governor Hope Uzodinma to immediately disband his Ebubeagu security outfit now or we shall see their activities in Biafra land as a declaration of internal war. The so called Ebubeagu security outfit must cease their operation in Imo State now.”


Former Deputy Governor of Imo State, Prince Eze Madumere, called for immediate independent investigation into the causes of alleged deaths of innocent sons and daughters of the state.


Madumere made the call through a statement signed by his media aide, Uche Onwuchekwa, while reacting to reported Sunday killings.


The former deputy governor insisted that securing Imo and warding away criminal elements should not include erasing the youthful human resources of the state.


While commending the governor’s stance in fighting insecurity in the state, he calls for an independent investigation into the root cause of the myriad reports of killing of innocent family members and other incidents of deaths shrouded in mystery.


“We call for an independent investigation into some of the reported mysterious killings. Some families have been wiped out while others have been eternally injured. Most of these people are said to be innocent of any gangsterism, banditry and other criminal activities.


“I will suggest that “Forensic Experts” should be deployed to resolve some of the killings.


“I have always recommended deployment of crisis resolution approach to resolving some these security challenges. We have tried it in the past and we got great result. Carrot and stick is part of the strategies and everything is wrong if we continue to keep quiet just to be politically correct.”


Prince Madumere called on Governor Uzodimma to review the modus operandi of the state government sponsored “Ebubeagu” to avoid wiping out those who will sustain the survival of Imo as a state.


Also, the Coalition of South East Youth Leaders (COSEYL), the apex socio-political youth group in the South East geopolitical zone, described the incident as barbaric, villainous and senseless.


“The unlawful killings going on in Imo State is unacceptable, wicked, barbaric, villainous and senseless, and we condemn it in its entirety,” COSEYL said.


Its President General, Goodluck Ibem, said the spate of unlawful killings in the region has increased with the introduction of the Ebubeagu security outfit in the state.


Ibem said: “Criminality cannot be stamped out by killing innocent people who came for a traditional marriage in a village but rather you increase the number of the hoodlums and also embolden them.


“We demand for immediate arrest and prosecution of the Ebubeagu operatives who perpetrated this wicked and evil act and call for immediate independent panel of inquiry to properly investigate such heinous crime against humanity.”





Source: The Nation

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