The Catholic Bishops of Owerri Ecclesiastical Province weekend, rose from an emergency meeting in Owerri, expressing deep worry that every part of the country is bleeding, as the level of insecurity escalates.
The Bishops spoke on a day one police personnel was shot and wounded on the leg as gunmen attacked Mike Okiro Police Station, near Ubani Ibeku Main Market, Umuahia.
This came as many communities in Awka North Local Government Area of Anambra State have alleged increasing attacks by suspected herdsmen operating in their forests and farmlands.
This is even as Onitsha residents are currently in fear, as a truck fully loaded with cartons of live bullets fell into a ditch and spilled its content all around the street, in the commercial city.
Also, 13 travelers kidnapped along the Benin by-pass by Ahor village on Thursday and rescued on Saturday by a joint team of policemen and vigilante group are currently receiving medical attention at a Police clinic in Benin City, Edo State, where they have recounted their ordeals in the hands of their abductors.
Rising from the meeting, the Catholic Bishops in a six-point pastoral statement, titled “Nigeria on the brink of collapse: Groping for reliable security”, signed by the Chairman and Secretary, Most Rev. Anthony J. V. Obinna, and Most Rev. Austin Echema, respectively, said: “Large numbers of Nigerians are slaughtered daily in different parts of our nation.
“Unarmed and defenceless citizens are sacked from their communities and compelled to struggle for survival in Internally Displaced People’s, IDPs, camps, with little or no hope of ever returning to their ancestral homes.
“Kidnapping for ransom is now a routine on our highways, farmlands, forests and even in the sacred precincts of churches, homes and mosques. Homes, institutions of learning, are invaded and school children taken hostage, are callously traumatized and even murdered.”
While challenging the government to re-commit itself to the constitutional responsibility of securing the fundamental and social rights of Nigerian citizens, the clerics urged all to exercise self-restraint and shun violence.
“Similarly, we exhort security agents to refrain from stereotyping young people in our communities, as well as their indiscriminate arrest and unlawful detention. This heightens tension and anxiety and leads to avoidable and unnecessary violence,” the clerics said.
Taking a hard look at the nation’s fragmentation, hardship and frustration, the Catholic Bishops said: “The politics of nepotism and exclusion, being executed by the present administration, is yielding sour fruits in hatred, distrust and fragmentation.
“Nigerians are divided as never before. Agitation for self-determination and restructuring are growing louder by the day. The national economy has become very feeble and is crippled even more, by our ever-rising debt profile.
“While the value of our national currency continues to slide and inflation soars, the masses are no longer able to afford their basic needs. As a result, many deprived families are facing untold hardship. They are afflicted daily by hunger, starvation and disease. Nigeria is on the brink of total collapse.
“Without apologies, many government security agents have become wickedly partisan, shielding and protecting those whom they favour, while abandoning and exposing to danger and death, those they dislike and hate.
“Consequently, if this nation is ever to continue together as one, government needs to take urgent steps to regain the confidence of Nigerians, by providing reliable, equitable and up-to-date security.
“Government should act with a deep sense of responsibility and urgency. It cannot continue to disappoint our people, in the face of this national calamity and outcry.”
In a related development, at least one policeman was shot and wounded on the leg in the early hours of yesterday, as gunmen attacked Mike Okiro police station, near Ubani Ibeku Main Market Umuahia.
Invasion of the police station resulted in panic in the capital city when the news filtered in as some churches ended their services abruptly to enable members go home.
Residents, most of whom were already out of their homes, hurried back home to avoid being caught in the crossfire as tension mounted. Initial reports had it that Ubani market was set ablaze by unknown assailants, thus throwing residents of the capital city into panic.
When contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer PPRO Geoffrey Ogbonna, said the incident occurred around 9:45am.
He said the hoodlums came in two Sienna buses, one Hilux van, and three motorcycles but were engaged in a gun battle by policemen on duty.
According to him, the invaders managed to gain entry into the premises where they entered the offices and gathered some documents and office equipment which they set on fire. He said the heat of the fire affected the ceiling of the building and some furniture.
The PPRO said that the building was still intact and not burnt down, contrary to reports, explaining that the police personnel on duty were able to repel the attackers.
Ogbonna said the attackers later burnt two vehicles and two motorcycles parked in the premises.
He also said that one police personnel was wounded in the leg by bullet during the exchange of fire with the invaders, but added that the injured cop was receiving treatment in the hospital.
The PPRO further said that the incident occurred a few hours after a gang of five robbers was intercepted by the police in Aba.
He said the robbers were operating in a jeep when they were intercepted by the police who opened fire on them. He said three of the robbers were arrested, while two escaped, adding that the SUV was recovered from them.
In Akwa Ibom State, gunmen, identified as members of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, yesterday killed two policemen, twelve cows and razed Mkpatak police post in Essien Udim Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State. It was gathered that the gunmen also burnt a police post and a patrol vehicle in Abak Local Government Area.
According to a source from the area, who spoke on the ground of anonymity, the two police officers were killed in Ukana Ikot Ntuen while the cows were killed at Afaha Ikot Ebak, all in Essien Udim.
The source said: “Two police officers have been killed in Ukana Ikot Ntuen. One was burnt inside his vehicle, while the other one was shot by the gunmen. As we speak, the situation is still tense. They killed 12 cows in Afaha Ikot Ebak village.”
One of the police officers whose identity could not be ascertained at press time, is said to be a staff at the Police Secondary School, located in Ukana, Essien Udim LGA.
Another source from the community, said: “Those boys, according to a commercial motorcyclist, mounted a road block after the Federal Polytechnic, Ukana this afternoon (yesterday) doing stop-and-search. I learned that the motorcyclist who carried the policeman told him that they should use another turn but he refused.
“It is like when he noticed that the boys have recognized him, he jumped down from the motorcyle, and started running away, but they went after him and killed him. After killing him, they went back and burnt the motorcycle. Luckily the motorcyclist had fled when they got back.”
Similarly, a resident of Abak local government area who also spoke on the ground of anonymity, said the gunmen equally attacked a police post, popularly called Mile 10 and burnt a Volvo patrol vehicle.
The source said the hoodlums stormed the police post at about 1pm yesterday on motorcyles.
“A police post located in Ikot Odon, in Abak local government area popularly called Mile 10 was attacked this afternoon (yesterday) about three hours ago by gunmen. I was told they came on motorcycles. But no casualty was recorded. They only set ablaze a Volvo patrol vehicle,’’ he simply said.
The Public Public Relations Officer, Odiko Macdon, who confirmed the attacks, said he was yet to get official report but that the command had demanded an update which will be made known as soon as it was ready.
“Well, I am yet to get official report but we are following the trend. We have asked for an update and in no distant time, there will be an update. As soon as we have the update, we will let the world know.
“The Commissioner of Police, Mr. Andrew Amiengheme, has ordered deployment of tactical team to the affected areas,” Macdon said.
Similarly, many communities in Awka North Local Government Area of Anambra State have alleged increasing attacks by suspected herdsmen operating in their forests and farmlands.
Those who spoke yesterday, claimed that many people in their communities have been kidnapped for ransom, while some were killed.
According to residents, those who managed to escape from the grip of the herdsmen sustained varying degrees of gunshot injuries.
One of the victims who gave his name as Jideofor from Amanuke community, showed gunshot wounds inflicted on him by the suspected herdsmen while on his way to neighbouring Achalla community.
He said: “The herdsmen, who were three in number, shot me on my way to Achalla around the hill towards the town.’’
Another victim, a native of Isuaniocha, who didn’t want his name in print, said he was also attacked on the Urum-Achalla road while travelling to Achalla, adding that a woman travelling in the same vehicle was killed by the herdsmen.
“My right hand has been paralyzed as a result of the gun shots. They shot at us and the woman was beaten to death. They dragged me into the bush and I was only released when my wife paid N1 million ransom.
“I was with them in the bush for three days and my hands were tied for those three days which caused my hand to be paralyzed.
“They killed a man from Achalla at the same axis two weeks ago. When his people raided the bush to avenge his death, the killer herdsmen had fled. Another person from Awka was also shot in that area.”
There were also reports of attacks in other parts of the local government area, particularly at Ugbene, Ugbenu, Awba-Ofemmili, and Ebenebe communities where rice fields and other farmlands were destroyed by cattle guided by the herdsmen.
Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, in the state, Mr. Ikenga Tochukwu, said the police was yet to get an official report on the matter.
He, however, advised the people to report officially to the police so that investigations could commence.
Also, Onitsha residents are currently in fear, as a truck fully loaded with cartons of live bullets fell into a ditch and spilled its content in the commercial city of Anambra State.
It was gathered that the incident occurred yesterday morning on Awka Road in the city as early worshipers made their way to churches.
The incident attracted heavy security presence to the Awka Road area and Shoprite axis of the city.
It was learned that the truck, a Mercedes Benz 911 model, was said to be moving the goods out of Onitsha to an undisclosed location when the driver lost control and the vehicle skidded off the road and fell into a gutter.
An eyewitness who spoke at the scene of the accident, said: “The truck fell around 5 am, the driver and his conductor, after sustaining minor injuries, tried to evacuate and conceal the content of the truck but they could not do much before dawn when some police operatives arrived the accident scene only to discover the truck was loaded with live bullets.”
The police subsequently called for back-up and instantly arrested the truck driver, while his conductor escaped. The State Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Ikenganya Tochukwu, said he was not aware of the incident, but promised to get back after confirmation but never did at press time yesterday.
Meanwhile, the 13 travelers who were kidnapped along the Benin by-pass, by Ahor village, on Thursday and rescued on Saturday by a joint team of policemen and vigilante group are currently receiving medical attention at the police clinic in Benin City, Edo State.
The victims who were traveling differently from Lagos and Ibadan to Onitsha in Anambra State and Akwa-Ibom State when they were kidnapped and then brought to the same den, are Yusuf Oladimeji, Oluwaseun Adisa, Okoh Sunday, Oladele Waliyat, Samson Effiong, Ayenigoyeda Amos and Omobayo Ibukun Ayobanji. Others are Muniru Akeem, Kudi Sebastien, Effiong Mary, Adeoye Rasaaq, Awal Okon and Asimiyu Rilwan.
Narrating their ordeals, one of the victims, Adeoye Rasaaq, said: “We were on our way from Ibadan on Thursday night when we were kidnapped. We were eighteen in the vehicle but they released some whose families were able to pay ransom.
“We suffered, we were beaten mercilessly from that Thursday till Saturday when we were rescued. They did not give us either food or water; we were beaten by the rain. They called our people to bring money but as they didn’t get the money on Friday, they beat us endlessly from Friday night till Saturday morning.
‘’But I thank Edo State security, God will help them. It was this morning (Saturday) I saw palm kernel and I picked to eat because they did not give us anything to eat from that Thursday that they kidnapped us.”
Another victim, Samson Effiong, who was kidnapped with two of his siblings, said: “We were travelling from Lagos to Akwa-Ibom State when they kidnapped us. My sister fainted that night and we wanted to help her stand up but they did not allow us to help her, they abandoned her there until after some time, she woke up again.
“When they saw the police, they ran away and abandoned us. Since Thursday morning they kidnapped us, we did not eat anything until we were rescued — no water, no food and upon that, they were beating us.
“They tied our hands, our legs and blindfolded us and they beat us with machetes and the guns they were carrying. They are more than 15 and they have different camps in the forest. That night they took us, they brought some other people and then separated us to different camps.”
Edo State Commissioner of Police, Philip Ogbadu, said the joint rescue operation was successful because they deployed drones to comb the area to know the location before deploying his men, insisting that such strategy would continue to be deployed.
On his part, Haruna Yusuf, a security aide to Governor Godwin Obaseki, said the rescue of the kidnapped victims was part of the new security architecture for the state where the police work with the locals, including Edo State Vigilante Group, to secure the state.