Southeast Nigeria – A war without an end in sight

In the Southeast, the police have not had the best of times in recent weeks. Unidentified gunmen have attacked their formations and killed their men in unprecedented numbers. Though the attackers’ identities have not been released, the body language of Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the banned pro-Biafra agitator, indicates that the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) may be to blame.

Kanu’s disdain for security services has never been concealed. Thirty police stations have been burned in the Southeast in the last two months. Not only that, but over 30 police officers have been killed in such assaults, while their operating cars have been burned and guns have been carted away.

The tale has been the same from Abia to Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, and Imo. However, Anambra, Imo, and Abia are the hardest hit. According to reports, the IPOB has declared war on the police and other security agencies in the region. The situation has heightened tensions in the country, with fear gripping every home.

In March, gunmen attacked Awkuzu, Oyi Local Government Area (LGA), and Neni, Anaocha LGA at the same time, killing seven naval officers and police officers and torching dozens of vehicles and carting away weapons. On March 19, they struck again in Ekwulobia, Aguata LGA, killing another police officer and two prison officials on their way to court.

The assault by the group on former Central Bank governor, Prof Charles Soludo, in Isuofia, his community in Aguata LGA, however, shook the entire world. In the process, the hoodlums killed two of his security aides and kidnapped Emeka Ezenwanne, the Governor Willie Obiano administration’s Commissioner for Public Utilities.

The incident occurred during a town hall meeting with the youth of the region as part of Prof Soludo’s ongoing consultations ahead of Anambra State’s governorship election on November 6.

The conflict in Imo State between security forces and IPOB operatives has been difficult. The people of Omuma, Oru LGA, awoke last Saturday to find Governor Hope Uzodinma’s building in flames. All of the cars in the area were set on fire, including his white Rolls Royce. Two of his security detail members were also assassinated. Members of the Eastern Security Network (ESN), a militant branch of the IPOB, have been accused of being the perpetrators.

According to Kanu’s social media video instructions, Imo State had been a battleground between security services and the ESN prior to the attack on the governor’s house. Five police stations were set ablaze in Mbaise, Mgbidi, Ihite Uboma, and Mbano. Security guards were also killed. However, IPOB spokesman Emma Powerful has continued to deny the pro-Biafra group’s presence in any of the attacks.

Nonetheless, the group was forced to confess after its second in command, popularly known as ‘Ikonso,’ was killed in a gunfight with security forces last Saturday. Since then, things have deteriorated in the ESN camp, with its representatives continuing to threaten fire and brimstone against Governor Uzodimma’s government.

The party accused Uzodinma of masterminding Ikonso’s death.

The IPOB claimed in a statement issued by Powerful that Uzodimma’s decision to destroy its second in command was motivated by his reluctance to lead Ebube Agu, the new regional security outfit. It also said that after many failed attempts to entice its ESN operatives to work with Ebube Agu, the governor decided to kill its patriotic heroes who vowed never to betray Biafra.

Last Wednesday, the same unidentified gunmen allegedly burned down the Divisional Police Headquarters, Adani, in Enugu State’s Uzo-Uwani LGA. The attack was said to have started about 2.30 a.m. and lasted more than an hour, according to reports. Two of the officers on duty were killed, and several others were injured. The police station was also set ablaze.

According to a statement issued by Public Public Relations Officer Daniel Ndukwe, the Command will soon locate and arrest the gunmen.

The latest clashes between unidentified gunmen and regular security forces have also affected Abia State, which borders Akwa Ibom, Rivers, and Cross River. Some residents and indigenes are concerned that a power struggle between ESN representatives and yet-to-be-formed Ebube Agu officials is in the works.

However, some people have backed both the ESN and Ebube Agu. Okechukwu Isiguzo of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth group, for example, stated that Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide supports any security efforts or arrangements that will assist Ndigbo in curbing nefarious activities and violent killings in the Southeast.

“Security is a local issue; every Igbo should be aware of the precarious condition that the Igbo are in. Igbo would end any competition between ESN and Ebube Agu and unite them as sister organisations aimed at resolving Southeast insecurity challenges. To end banditry, the Igbo should help all groups and collaborate with all security formations in the Southeast.”

According to Victor Chibueze, a defence expert, Abia State already has a security outfit (Homeland security) with officials spread across the 17 LGAs. He claims that adding another security outfit would result in duplication of roles and an increased financial strain on Abia State. “Enugu State already has forest guards,” he said. We don’t know what will happen to Abia Homeland and Enugu State Forest Guard.”

Chibueze has called for the strengthening of Abia State’s current Homeland Security. “The fact is that ESN is not recognised by any law because its parent organisation, IPOB, is a proscribed group with no authority to function in any part of the country,” he said. What is the legal framework under which they operate? Until Biafra is formed, their actions would be illegal because there is no law to support them.

“The truth is that the governors wasted time before establishing regional security, which gave relevance to the ESN’s activities. I watched Channels TV’s interview with Abia State’s governor. He did not explain how the group would be financed. He didn’t say whether or not Ebube Agu would bear weapons, or what kind of guns. Although we continue to investigate the origins of the arms wielded by ESN staff, we are concerned about a potential confrontation between the two parties.

“The way Nigeria is going right now, I can tell you for free that we are on our way to state police. If we have the Ebube Agu, every effort should be made to ensure that all lapses are addressed in order to avoid any potential clashes between it and the ESN.”

Valentine Ozigbo, a governorship candidate in Anambra State, lamented the country’s degree of insecurity. He said, “The rise in the loss of Anambra State’s internal security system has contributed enormously to the sad incidence of killings in the state today.” Between 2010 and 2015, I vividly recall communal security officers preventing crime in different neighbourhoods. In Anambra, the level of insecurity has risen between 2016 and now.”

Ifeanyi Nwankwo, a human rights activist, claims Ndigbo are producing the monster that would kill them. “We can’t be joking because we’re cutting our nose off to spite our face,” he said. Every day, one police station is demolished, and we applaud. It was recently the Zone 13 headquarters in Ukpo, Dunukofia LGA, Anambra State, and another station in Uzuakoli, Abia State.

“In the entire zone, there are almost no police checkpoints on the highways. About 30 police stations have been demolished and looted. We’ve just sat back and waited, clapping under the table. To be clear, the land that hosts the war will inevitably lose. There is no historical record of the host country ever winning the battle. Nobody invites war into his home.”

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