A fortnight ago, Imo State was in the news again for the wrong reasons. This time, it was the report of killings, arson, and destruction which occurred at Eke-Ututu Market in Orsu-Ihiteukwa following an invasion by a combined team of Nigerian security forces. The attack saw the reduction of the famous market to ashes which has now left many families mourning their loved ones and villagers counting their losses.
Over the last three years, Imo State and indeed the entire southeast geopolitical zone of Nigeria has not had the best of times with the security of lives and property. Countless individuals have paid the supreme price for government failure to provide adequate security for the citizenry and this has further highlighted the failure of leadership and the danger of the existential crisis confronting Ndigbo.
Orsu-Ihiteukwa, a community in Orsu Local Government Area (LGA) of Imo state was two Saturdays ago visited with brutal force. A combined team of security forces who were said to be on the lookout for non-state actors terrorising locals in the village and its environs attacked the famous market. Aside from being a location where people go to source their livelihood, the Eke Ututu is a market that has become a symbol of economic wellbeing for the people of Orsu-Ihiteukwa and even neighbouring communities. It is without a doubt that the destruction of a substantial part of the market came as a rude shock to the villagers.
Coming at a time when the world and indeed Nigeria is experiencing one of her worst periods economically in her history, the ravages of the incident has left nothing but tears, blood, and sorrow. A country that has over 100 million people living below the poverty line should not be seen as compounding the economic woes of the downtrodden, but quite sadly, that was the case in Imo State.
Governor Uzodinma, who is supposed to be the chief security officer of the state, in his clarification submitted that the military invaded the town based on intelligence reports. He claimed that the market was being used as a hideout by criminals and the notorious ‘Unknown Gunmen’. Without doubting the veracity of his claims, there are a number of loose ends in it that raises serious questions.
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Firstly, for Uzodinma, as someone who swore under oath to ensure the protection of human lives, could there be any justification, under any known law in Nigeria, or perhaps any international jurisprudence, that sanctioned the oppressive, barbaric, wicked, soulless, and evil destruction of the lives and properties of his own people? A substantial part of the market was reduced to hubris, does it mean that every trader in the said market are all terrorists? What did Uzodinma do to save innocent people? All over the world, we have seen special forces move around to arrest criminals and terrorists, however, they are always very conscious to make sure innocent people are spared. In 2020, some US special forces came into Nigeria to rescue an American citizen from terrorists leaving no casualties, no burnt houses, and raining no bombs. This clearly goes to show that when rules of engagement are religiously followed, stores like this can never emanate. Did Uzodinma raise questions about the possibility that the combined team of security forces must have violated their rules of engagement in the raid? Of course, he won’t! Before now, Governor Uzodinma had displayed some nasty and scary proclivity to unleash violence in some parts of the State. In June this year, he threatened to bomb three different locations in Njaba, and he even went on to warn that if school children were not immediately relocated from the areas, he would not spare them during the rain of bombs. To even start with, it was he who boasted publicly that it was on his invitation that full-blown military operations began in Imo State sometime last year. While working hard to rid the state of bandits and terrorists, must innocent people continue to pay the price for offenses that they never committed?
Furthermore, for the overzealous Security agents who carried out the attack on the market, assuming they were in hot chase of targeted criminal elements on the said day, was it impossible to define and profile their targets? Will it have been a Taboo if they managed to hit just the exact terrorists with precision? Why are security agents in Nigeria synonymous with impunity and recklessness? Why are they always guilty of human rights abuses and violations of human dignity? Indeed, too many questions, and very few answers.
Security is everyone’s business; every member of society is always expected to play their part in ensuring the security of lives and property. Providing security at the local and community level is always expected to be a collaborative effort, between the citizenry and the state. Citizens are expected to furnish security agents with important tip-offs and intelligence reports, how on earth do members of the Nigerian security apparatus expect the citizenry to volunteer information to them given the conditions they have often been subjected to? With the massive show of force that has heralded any raid in recent times, how are citizens expected to seek refuge in security agents in moments of distress? These are the big questions begging for answers from Uzodinma and his security agents.
Over the last few months, the monumental atrocities, destruction of properties, genocidal termination of innocent lives, and obvious crimes against humanity have become the order of the day in Imo state and its environs. Day after day, various kinds of crimes are brazenly perpetrated and superintended under Governor Hope Uzodinma’s watch with reckless abandon. With heart-wrenching impunity, soldiers simply go on to kill innocent people and label them ‘unknown gunmen’ without any iota of investigation. This must not be allowed to continue. It must stop!
In conclusion, Governor Hope Uzodinma must be reminded that power is transient, hence it does not last forever! A good look at the former Governors of the State, Rochas Okorocha and Emeka Ihedioha should give Uzodinma an idea of what one can be without power. Uzodinma must not forget that one day, he will definitely get to give an account of his stewardship and someday, and very certainly too, before the International Criminal Court of Justice. While we will continue to condemn the activities of terrorists in the State, state actors must not be allowed to hide under the guise of restoring order to wreak havoc on hapless Imolites.