BY CHIDIEBUBE OKEOMA, TONY OKAFOR, RAPHAEL EDE, EDWARD NNACHI and SUNDAY NWAKANMA 10 October 2021 No fewer than 175 persons including soldiers, police and civilians, have lost their lives in the South-East within the last 6 months, due to the insecurity that has engulfed the region, investigations by Sunday PUNCH revealed. Our correspondents gathered that the killings took place in 72 attacks by hoodlums across the 5 states in the region, namely Anambra, Enugu, Imo, Ebonyi and Abia. Violence, killings and arson attacks escalated in the region in recent times, with many accusing members of the proscribed IPOB and the Eastern Security Network of being behind the violence. The groups have however denied any involvement. Apart the killings, government facilities such as police stations and offices belonging to INEC were also attacked and some set ablaze. In Imo State, for example, one of our correspondents reported that 49 policemen and civilians were killed and not less than 11 vehicles burnt in 37 attacks. In Anambra, 76 security agents and civilians were killed within the period, while 15 buildings and 28 vehicles were set ablaze. In Enugu, 23 persons were killed, 4 INEC offices and 2 police stations burnt. Ebonyi recorded 32 killings and 3 arson cases in 5 attacks while Abia State witnessed 7 attacks. In Imo State, among the several attacks, a law student at Imo State University, Kingsley Chiwueze, was killed at Douglas Road on April 27 while a policeman was killed at the university’s back gate on May 19. On May 8, a female officer of the NSCDC, Chinenye Nwokeocha, was killed. On Independence Day being October 1, a man was beheaded at Oru West and in separate attacks the following day, the palace of the traditional ruler of Obor and property belonging to a former leader of Orlu legislative council were set ablaze in Orlu LGA. On October 4, a DSS official identified as Nwachinamere Ozuzu was also killed on Owerri-Onitsha Expressway. Three persons were also beheaded in Orlu on August 2; four oil workers killed on August 16; an Anglican priest killed on September 14; a Germany-based Nigerian, Oguchi Unachukwu, reportedly killed by security operatives at the toll gate of Imo Airport while a businessman, Noel Chigbu, was allegedly killed by soldiers in Owerri on May 30. In Anambra State, top police sources confirmed to one of our correspondents that about 24 security agents, including police, navy, army, DSS and NSCDC, and about 52 civillians were killed within the period. Prominent among recent attacks in the state were the murder of Dr Chike Akunyili, widower of a former Minister of Information, Prof Dora Akunyili, and 8 other persons at Nkpor on 29 September 2021. About 19 persons were killed in Awkuzu in Oyi LGA in May after 4 naval officers were killed in the same Awkuzu. The attacks in the state had worsened in recent times, which according to analysts and observers, could be tied to the forthcoming November 6 governorship election in the state. Traditional rulers in the state, led by the Obi of Onitsha, Nnaemeka Achebe, after a meeting in Awka called on the FG to improve the security situation in the state. In Ebonyi State, some of the attacks include killing of 2 soldiers at a checkpoint in Afikpo North LGA on 26 April 2021, and killing of a policeman by gunmen at Onueke in Ezza local government April 27. On May 2, another policeman was killed by gunmen at Abaomege Police Station. Also, 5 farmers were killed by gunmen at Ali Ugwelu village in Ekoli on July 12; while 3 persons were killed during enforcement of IPOB’s sit-at-home order on August 9 at a boundary between Onicha and Ohaozara LGAs. A 6-month-old baby, her 7-year-old brother and their mother were brutally murdered by hoodlums in Ohaukwu LGA on August 13, while on September 8, security agents killed a fruit seller in Onicha-Igboeze, Onicha LGA. Also, two suspected IPOB members were shot dead at Ugwulangwu in Ohaozara LGA on September 16, and on 7 October gunmen killed 2 policemen and 8 civilians at Isu and Onicha-Igboeze communities in Onicha LGA. 48 police stations, INEC offices burnt, 700 arrested in Ebonyi: About 48 police stations, INEC offices and other property were attacked in the region within the period under review. In Imo State, the state police command headquarters, the Owerri Correctional Centre and an army checkpoint on Owerri-Onitsha Road were attacked on April 5. Several inmates were freed during the attack on the correctional centre. Also, the home of Governor Hope Uzodinma in his hometown, Omuma, was set ablaze on April 24. Izombe and Isu Divisional Police headquarters were also torched in different attacks. Some policemen were injured in the Isu station attack. On May 25, the Orji police station was burnt and 3 persons killed; on May 28, Atta police station was attacked while Atta Magistrate’s Court and health centre were attacked on May 28. On July 26, Omuma Divisional Police headquarters was attacked, which led to killing of 4 policemen and the DPO. Also, the INEC office at Njaba was burnt on May 29, while the Njaba Divisional Police headquarters was attacked on July 30. On August 4 and 5, there were attacks on Orsu division police headquarters, leading to killing of an Inspector. In Anambra State, police sources told one of our correspondents that about 15 public and private buildings were attacked within the period. For example, INEC headquarters in Awka was set ablaze, though 6 of the hoodlums who attacked the facility were killed by security agents. Also a police station at Ajali was burnt in early October. Six policemen were reportedly killed during the attack. In Enugu State, no fewer than 4 INEC offices were razed during the period. They are the commission’s headquarters in the state and its offices in Udenu LGA, Igbo-Eze South LGA and most recently the Awgu council office attacked on 19 Sept 2021. Although nobody was killed in the attacks, property belonging to the electoral body, including vehicles, generators and office equipment were destroyed. Two police stations were razed while 15 policemen were killed in different attacks. Three civilians and two soldiers were reportedly killed as well. Police stations attacked include Iwollo Oghe police station on May 25 with four policemen reportedly killed; Adani police post on April 21 with two policemen reportedly killed. Also, on July 21, a police checkpoint at Obeagu Uno-Amechi Road was attacked and four policemen were reported killed, while a police checkpoint at Nachi in Oji-River was attacked with two policemen reportedly killed on 20 September 2021. In Ebonyi State, it was also learnt that within the period under review, hoodlums burnt police stations, a Federal High Court Complex and an INEC office. Police stations in Ugbodo in Ebonyi LGA and Abaomege were attacked while farmers and others in Ali Ugwelu and Onicha-Igboeze communities were attacked by hoodlums. Sunday PUNCH also learnt arsonists burnt the Federal High Court in Abakaliki, on April 26; they set a car ablaze at Onueke on April 27 and they set ablaze the INEC office at Ebiaji in Ezza North LGA on June 18. Meanwhile, the Ebonyi State Police Command said it had arrested over 700 suspects in the state in nine months. The state Commissioner of Police, Aliyu Garba, said they recovered many arms and ammunition from the criminals, adding that strategic synergy with stakeholders made it possible. Garba said in a statement that the command also rescued about 33 underage girls trafficked from Nigeria to Ghana within the period. The statement read in part, “It is pertinent to note that over 700 suspects have been arrested in connection with different heinous crimes perpetrated in the state and conviction of sizable number out of them have been secured.” In Abia State, one attack was recorded at the Uzuakoli police station where the building was set ablaze in April. In May, five attacks were recorded. They include Ubani Umuahia police station, Bende police station, Ubakala police station with two police killed, the SCID in Umuahia with two police reportedly killed. On May 30, the Immigration office in Umuahia was attacked but no life was lost. On June 7, angry traders burnt the Umuahia modern timber office of the Abia Vigilance Service office. However, no life was lost. EX GOV EZEIFE, OTHERS SEEK PEACE Meanwhile, an elder statesman and former Governor of Anambra State, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife; a former Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Nigeria, Nsukka and former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Trafficking, Prof Joy Ezeilo, and other leaders in the region have called for peace in the region. Ezeife advised that everyone should go into prayer and fasting for God’s intervention, adding that a meeting of all serious Igbo elite should be called to holistically look at the issues and proffer solutions. He added, “We are praying also that God will intervene. The noise about state of emergency is nothing. Is Anambra State more violent compared to what is going on in Kaduna State and all the states in the north? We have to keep on praying. Let God help us. Some people want to rig the election and they want to create a favourable condition for it but it will not work.” Also, Ezeilo said the South-East was crying for justice and fairness. She called on the government to engage the youth, noting that if they failed to do so, others “will fill the void because nature abhors vacuum.” She added, “Our youths feel hopeless when they think of their future in this country. Good governance and leadership responsiveness are vital to finding a durable solution. I see a lot of opportunities in dialogue and negotiation for a political solution.” Also, a former Commissioner for Information in Ebonyi State, Chief Abia Onyike, in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents recently, said pressure should be mounted on the authorities and the international community to allow self-determination for the Igbo and Nnamdi Kanu’s release from detention.