The bewildering large scale bloodletting and arson which has left Anambra State tethering on the brink of anarchy for some months now descended to a new low in the past couple of weeks.
This banality of evil has etched in its infernal scorecard extremities like the beheading of Dr. Okey Okoye, the legislator representing Governor Chukwuma Soludo’s constituency in the Anambra State House of Assembly and Hajira Jubril, the pregnant young lady murdered with her four little children.
We condemn in very strong terms the widespread grievous criminality which has gripped Anambra State and the South East in general in the guise of agitations, and find the following reminders apposite. We warned of the dire consequences when criminal elements started their systematic delegitimization of the law enforcement agencies with the murder of policemen and burning of their stations. Similarly, in an obvious threat against holding last year’s gubernatorial election in Anambra State, the bloodthirsty miscreants attacked a political gathering by then Candidate Soludo, the acknowledged front-runner, and killed four policemen providing security there. In condemning that dastardly act then, we had called on all the gubernatorial aspirants to condemn it publicly but none of them heeded the call.
We use this opportunity to extend our heartfelt condolences to the families of all the victims of the present unrest in Anambra State. With particular reference to the late Hajira, we hasten to remind ourselves of the very cosmopolitan nature of Anambra State and its people. Anambrarians readily make home of far flung and most challenging places, even as they readily accept strangers in their homeland. In the predominant Christian faith of the populace and indeed in Igbo cosmology, accommodation of the peaceable stranger is an article of faith.
The show of ownership of the problem by the Anambra State Government by full participation in the burial of Late Hajira, commitment to apprehension of the murderers and due assurances to non-indigenes, especially those from the Northern States, is commendable. We commend this to the governments of those States also suffering widespread breakdown of law and order.
It is against this backdrop that we find most distasteful the mischievous narrative championed by the Daily Trust newspaper that the murder of Hajira and her little children, a completely abhorrent evil act, was ethnic in nature. It was not. It was a random act of bestiality which the perpetrators have been known for. From unrefuted reports, the commercial motorcycle on which they were being ferried ran into an ‘operation’ by the gunmen and were fired at.
It is noteworthy that Anambra State indigenes have borne much greater brunt of the murderous activities of these criminal gangs running amok in our homeland. Among the countless fatalities are high-profile Anambrarians such as Chief Gab Ofoma, one of Nigeria’s foremost estate surveyors and an Nnewi High Chief and the 88-year-old Professor emeritus I. O. Onyemelukwe who was killed in his car and in the presence of his wife. The case of Dr. Chike Akunyili last year arrested national attention just as the current ones. Added to these insufferable casualties is the heavy toll taken on the economy of Anambra State, with the concomitant dire consequences for the residents and government revenue.
It is axiomatic that care and circumspection must be deployed by every responsible citizen and organization in the present circumstances. We therefore commend the response of The Presidency which has counseled against drawing hasty conclusions from unverified, incendiary posts and videos on social media. Many of the social media posts are invariably doctored or are outrightly false and designed to inflame passions.
The Federal Government, which is the primary controller of instruments and agencies of law enforcement, should however do much more. Anambra State has the second to the last land mass in Nigeria; it is also the second most urbanized state in the country. The challenges of Sambisa forest and the swampy Niger Delta creeks are largely absent. Therefore, routing the bloodthirsty criminal gangs – of whatever hue or description – should not be extraordinarily difficult if there is the will. It must however be stated that this is not an invitation to unbridled abuse of the human rights of an already traumatized populace.
The Anambra State Governor, Chukwuma Soludo had gone out of his way to offer the olive branch to all disgruntled elements in and with influence within the state, but to no avail. Indeed, it appears the criminal elements interpreted the gesture as a sign of weakness. Recourse to robust kinetic containment measures has become inevitable to complement the drastic measures already rolled out by the state government.
The obviously cowed populace need to shake off their fear and do more in terms of providing the law enforcement agencies with the needed information to confront and rout the hoodlums. The state government has provided hotlines for citizens to relay information. There is an urgent need to enlighten the populace on the existence of these hotlines through the mass media.
Finally, the State Governor had made the well known point that, without disregarding informants in the indigenous communities, the gunmen – from the testimonies of survivors and apprehended suspects – are not from Anambra State but from nearby states.
We make bold to say that Anambra State indigenes have prospered greatly in very many places away from their homeland and welcome the prospects of visitors equally finding prosperity in the state. But this gesture is only for the peaceful and law-abiding compatriot. No stone should therefore be left unturned to apprehend all criminal elements within the state and bring them to justice.
Mr. Chijioke Okoli, SAN
President, League of Anambra Professionals