SUN NEWS EDITORIAL
The recent spate of killings in the South East, especially in Anambra State, demands urgent and drastic action. These killings have no pattern. The other day, for instance, a group of gunmen suspected to be cultists invaded a funeral ceremony at Ebenebe in Awka North Local Government Area of Anambra. They not only killed at least 20 mourners, they also desecrated the corpse inside a coffin by shooting at it several times. This is insane.
Nigerians were yet to come to terms with this absurdity when reports came that Chief Gab Ofoma, the billionaire Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of Ofoma Associates Limited, an estate surveying firm with headquarters in Port Harcourt, was gunned down while returning to his base in Port Harcourt from his home town, Nnewi. The incident took place at Ukpor-Lilu-Orsumoghu-Azia, Mbosi Road which connects Anambra and Imo State.
Besides, a professor of Economics and former permanent secretary in the old Anambra State, Professor I.O. Onyemelukwe (88) was also killed recently at Oko in Orumba North LGA of Anambra State. Onyemelukwe was the father of the winner of the Nigeria NLNG Prize for Literature 2021, Dr. Cheluchi Onyemelukwe. In Abia State, some gunmen also invaded a new cattle market at Omumauzor in Ukwa West Local Government Area recently and killed at least eight people.
The danger zones in the South East include Orlu, Orsu, Oru-East local governments in Imo State; Ihiala axis of Anambra State such as Isekke, Lilu, Orsumoghu, Azia, and Mbosi; Aguata and Orumba Local Government Areas of Anambra with Oko, Ekwulobia and Isuofia as major flashpoints.
Poverty and unemployment have helped to trigger the security crisis. The current rate of unemployment in Nigeria is 33.3 per cent. What this means is that a great number of youths are idle and have become willing tools for crime.They take all sorts of hard drugs which make them lose value for human life. A few weeks ago, the South East was designated as a haven for drugs. The reigning one now is called ‘mkpuru mmiri’ in local parlance. It is obvious that drugs and crime go together. Youths who take them can go to any length to commit evil.
Proliferation of small arms in the region has also helped to fuel the problem. Last year, some so-called unknown gunmen went on a killing spree of security agents. After killing them, they dispossessed them of their weapons. Security agents were killed in such places as Nkpologwu, Omogho, Neni, Awkuzu all in Anambra State. In different other parts of the South East, police stations and vehicles were destroyed and scores of policemen killed. In 2020, the EndSARS protests against police brutality had led to the killing of over 60 policemen and burning of over 200 police stations across the country. These actions significantly weakened the Nigeria Police Force as an institution. Now, criminals are having a field day and operating without much hindrance.
Consequently, the South East has become a cemetery of some sort as people become more careful of their movements. Driving a good car is now a crime in the region. If you are seen to be wealthy in any way, you are a target. The region is not too far from what happened in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, and Syria where gangsters rule.
The South East is noted for entrepreneurship and high economic activities. Nnewi alone can account for half of what we have in some other parts of Nigeria economically. But now, people are already finding it difficult to invest in the region. What will happen in the next few years will shock people and this will have a spiral effect on the economy of Nigeria.
We can’t continue this way. Major stakeholders in Igbo land should meet and decide on how to contain the spate of insecurity in the region. Political leadership in the region should also sit up. We seem to have lost our humanity. It appears our youths are no longer abreast of our cultural and ethical values. Some of them do dirty jobs for politicians. With the general election coming up in 2023, we should exercise extreme caution to avoid witnessing severe violence. This calls for a reorientation of the youths.
It is pertinent to warn youths who are behind this criminality to desist from it. One day, nemesis will catch up with them. Non-state actors cannot be allowed to dictate the security pace. It is government that has the monopoly of violence.
Unfortunately, the problem has gone beyond the South East governors. It is time the Federal Government stepped in. There is need for a special security operation in the region to mop up illegal arms in circulation and flush out these bad elements.
Security agents should also intensify efforts to eliminate cultism and the use of hard drugs in the country. They should collaborate with local vigilance groups in different communities for the purpose of sharing intelligence. The hideouts of some of these criminals are known. Security agents must take the war to them and flush them out of the zone. Enough of these mindless killings!