On May 21 2022, the decapitated body of Hon Okechukwu Okoye, member representing Aguata Constituency II at the Anambra State House of Assembly was found at Nnobi in Idemili South Local Government Area of the state. Six days earlier, a shadowy group of outlaws had abducted Okoye and his aide, Cyril Chiegboka. The whereabouts of Chiegboka is still unknown.
On May 24, rampaging gunmen took their murderous rage to a bestial level when 32-year-old Harira Jubril and her four children were rounded up in Orumba South Local Government Area ofAnambra State, and gruesomely killed. At the time of their horrific deaths, Harira was nine months pregnant while her children, Fatima, Aisha, Hadiza and Zaituna were aged nine, seven, five and two years respectively.
Reports from Anambra and other states in the South-East in recent times have been blood-curdling. Residents have been subjected to wanton violence, arson, killing, maiming and kidnapping. Without doubt the horrors of murder, infanticide, violence, destruction of properties and instituting the reign of terror has absolutely nothing to with the democratic rights of the people of South-East to raise awareness of the plight of the region with years of goverment neglect. Criminal elements hiding under the legitimate demand for self-determination by the people are poisoning the waters with a violent criminal enterprise that has no benefit for the progressive cause of the people of the Southeast.
The National Association of Seadogs (Pyrates Confraternity) is saddened by these spates of violence and lawlessness being perpetrated in Anambra and other parts of South-East. It is repugnant, totally unacceptable and must be stopped. It is frustrating the legitimate cause of improving the welfare and wellbeing of the vibrant southeastern Nigeria. It is increasingly becoming counterproductive to the urgent need to address the concerns that the people of Southeastern Nigeria genuinely have with regards to their place in Nigeria.
A report by the human rights group, Centre for Democracy and Development, indicated that 647 people were killed in 2021 in the region. Data provided by the Nigeria Security Tracker, a project of the Council for Foreign Relations’ Africa programme indicates that between January and May 2022, as many as 287 killings have been recorded with 95 of such killings carried out in Anambra State.
The Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), a group the Federal High Court Abuja in 2017 proscribed for “acts of terrorism and illegality” had in July 2021 imposed the sit-at-home order on the entire South-East. According to its publicity secretary, Emmanuel Powerful, “the lockdown tagged ‘ghost Monday’ will also affect schools and marketplaces” and would be in force “until our leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu who was unlawfully abducted in Kenya and illegally detained by the federal government of Nigeria is released.”
Though IPOB had in September 2021 suspended the sit-at-home order, it would seem that self appointed and non-state faceless groups are taking it upon themselves to, in mob action style, mete out reprisals on so called violators with death or injury. This had prompted IPOB through Powerful to emphatically pronounce that these fiends are neither its members nor acting on its instructions, “urging governors in the South-East and citizens to apprehend and deal decisively with criminals enforcing sit-at-home in the region by prosecuting them.”
The suspended sit-at-home curfew has been exploited grievously by criminal elements that are doing more harm than good to the good people and economy of the South-East. It seems lost to those who are perpetuating the gruesome violence amid security laxity, that it is crippling life and economic activities in the region. It is saddening and raises severe concerns of either government complicity or ineptitude that with the level of military and security presence in the southeast, the violent criminality of unknown gunmen has continued to bastardise the legitimate agitation of the people of the Southeast.
As a human rights and advocacy organisation, we very much understand that in the face of years of neglect and insensitivity to its plight, a people may seek various forms of agitations to push awareness for their cause. However, the sit-at-home order violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) especially article 5 which holds that: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” and article 13(1) which stipulates: “everyone has right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
Those who genuinely believe that the sit-at-home is a relevant form of agitation are humbly encouraged to consider that it is extracting a grave cost from the southeast economy amounting to billions of naira. Much of these financial costs impact the ordinary citizens for whom the agitation must have been proposed to benefit. It is the land of the South-East and it’s people who are bearing its brunt.
The Governor of Anambra State, Prof Chukwuma Charles Soludo had lamented that Anambra loses 20 billion naira every Monday the sit-at-home is enforced. The disastrous effect this has on living conditions, business investment and growth cannot be discounted. It is absolutely important that the economy of the commercially and technologically vibrant southeast must be protected and progressively revived. The industrious and creative entrepreneurship of the southeast is a precious treasure for the people of the southeast as well as Nigeria and Africa as a whole. Ensuring that this continues to thrive must be part of the solution towards the attainment of the agitation for increased government investment, development of its infrastructure and delivering on the democratic dividends that will truly give the people of the southeast the adequate assurances of a sense of belonging. Undermining the goose that lays the golden egg is not a veritable strategy in progressing any legitimate cause. The thriving markets, industries, importation and exportation enterprises, vibrant transportation businesses, creative arts must not be allowed to be destroyed by the rising insecurity.
Across the southeast, security checkpoints on state and federal roads are almost amounting to a chokehold on the populace. Thus raising worry on how exactly these criminals are able to operate with all the sandbags and security obstructions across the region. The people of the southeast deserve adequate security and protection to their lives and property. Government investing adequate duty of care and sensitivity should help ensure that lives and properties of the people are adequately protected. The agitation of some citizens of the region does not justify the government abandoning the region to the whims and cruelty of murderous criminal enterprises.
The National Association of Seadogs (Pyrates Confraternity) implores the Federal Government to work with stakeholders in Anambra and the South-East to put an end to this mindless violence in the region. In addition to the curfew already imposed by Governor Soludo, new strategies must be devised to fish out these hoodlums and bring them to justice. These strategies must be anchored on intelligence gathering with full participation of the people. For the security agencies to gain the full confidence of the traumatised people of the South-East, the Federal Government must tone down the undue militarisation of the region. The stereotyping actions, routine hostile belligerence of security agencies and the unjustifiable profiling of South-Easterners only succeed to alienate the ordinary innocent citizens of the South-East who just want to go about their normal entrepreneurial and industrious lives. This must end and the people of South-East Nigeria must not be treated as a conquered people or second class citizens but as partners in the task of restoring peace and lawfulness to a beleaguered region.
Ebubeagu, the regional security outfit created by South-East governors in 2019 to tackle the flurry of insecurity should be revitalised. This viable community based security must not be starved of funds and moral support which has continued to undermine its smooth take-off. The recent challenge thrown by the erstwhile Chairman of the South-East Security Committee and retired General of the Nigerian Army, General Obi Umahi, accusing South-East governors of abandoning the security outfit should be a wake-up call. The South-East Governors should provide the necessary funds and governmental impetus to strengthen Ebubeagu to perform its complementary role with the national and state security agencies in arresting the drift into anarchy in the region.
We recognise that the violence is seriously compelling the people to cower in fear of reprisals. However, for the sake of the blessed land of the South-East, its political elites, religious leaders and traditional rulers should take a cue from what is happening in northern Nigeria and summon the will to speak up against the bloodshed.
More notably, IPOB’ must move beyond denouncing the activities of the unknown gunmen and do more to expose this faceless group to demonstrate their non-involvement in the widespread senseless killing and violence. Community leaders must galvanise their communities to protect the land from those who seek to destroy it. The raging violence is an ill-wind that blows no one any good. The South-East must be saved from avoidable anarchy.