New Telegraph

Abia Communities Cry Out Over Incessant Kidnapping, Demand Serious Security Attention

The residents of communities in Umunneochi Local Government Area of Abia State have pleaded with the Federal Government to redeploy all soldiers in their area to ensure the bad eggs alleged to be helping kidnappers are removed.

The residents who spoke to New Telegraph in separate interviews in Aba on Tuesday said they suspect that the soldiers in their area have been compromised by kidnappers they suspect to be herdsmen.

They said they suspected compromise following recent and past incidences which showed that some military men chased away policemen at the checkpoint only for a Pastor to be kidnapped at the spot.

A resident of Lekwesi town in Umunneochi LGA who simply gave his name as Mr Ekwerike said that some soldiers are supporting the kidnappers raiding the area.

The residents called on Governor Alex Otti to withdraw all conventional Police officers and Military men in the area and send in the newly formed “Operation Crush” to stop the menace.

They alleged that kidnapping activities in their communities are done by herdsmen who operate a cow market around Gariki Market, who appear to have coverage from soldiers.

They said that sending Special Police Team from either the Abia Commissioner of Police or the Assistant Inspector General (AIG) in charge of Zone-Nine cannot help the situation.

The residents said they witnessed the same police officers ordered to vacate their mission while approaching the crime spot are threatened by soldiers who claim the area was assigned to them.

“Our people are suffering because these herdsmen and whoever they are working for have turned Isuochi, Lekwesi, and Leru communities into no-go areas for visitors and indigenes.

“What we see now is that they kidnap people along Ndiawa Road in Isuochi and other Umunneochi roads, then under heavy arms, move the victims at night towards our neighbouring towns in Ebonyi State from where they continue their negotiations.

“These people are building networks in the bushes in Umunneochi Local Government Area of Abia State, Ivo Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, and Awgu Local Government Area of Enugu State. It’s a serious kidnapping cartel”, Ekwerike said.

Another source who pleaded anonymity said “We, as local people have reported to soldiers, given accurate information but we’ve noticed that such information is against them because they are involved. Our brothers have had bitter experiences reporting to them. The police team isn’t the best either.

“I’ve seen where we gave the police information and to be fair to them, they gave us hope by doing their job. However, on their way to the place, we learn an order from above asked them to withdraw.

“We’ve equally heard and seen where soldiers ordered police to leave a certain area where they suspected kidnapping to be taken place.

“The soldiers claimed they were stationed there as well. When the police left, the same soldiers instead of staying there left as well and somebody was kidnapped that same day right at that spot. We’ve seen many dramas to cry out and shout as inhabitants of Umunneochi Local Government Area that soldiers here are not for us.

“Those soldiers should be redeployed. The conventional police team here should be removed as well. They’re just wasting time here. Let the Operation Crush Team and probably with the help of the Nigerian Air Force try an airstrike on the majority of the bushes in our land. Kidnapers, criminals are making millions from our bushes why we can’t go to the farm or even travel on our roads.”

The natives said that the insecurity in Umunneochi Local Government Area and her neighbouring Isuikwuato Local Government Area is no longer what one can fight by bush combing due to the topography of the area.

They urged the Federal and State Governments to apply a technological approach and a more encompassing, massive result-oriented approach to end the menace.

“Why is the army silent about insecurity in Umunneochi? Why can’t they call for an airstrike to destroy the camp of those kidnappers at Isuochi in the Umunneochi and Isuikwuato forests?

“Viral videos of some kidnap victims have emerged yet nobody wants to do something about the activities of Herdsmen in our land.

“People are using us to learn how to play diplomatic games. We’re now objects of ‘political correctness’ because our lives do not matter. Little boys are brought down here to do kidnapping and buy cows.

“We plead with the state and federal government for the transfer of all the soldiers attached to Umunneochi and Isiukwuato camp especially those of one ethnic extraction and others who have stayed above three months. They should help us because some of them aren’t security men anymore.

“They’re here to make money. How can we have the presence of all these soldiers yet, they can’t catch these people?

“Someone needs to take charge and prove that we’re part of Abia State. For us, Operation Crush should come to Umunneochi, for there’s a lot of things to crush in our land”, the source said.

When consulted, the Abia PPRO, Maureen Chinaka said the police had found no evidence to support the allegations of the collaboration of security agencies with kidnappers.

She urged the public to forward for further action any evidence that could assist in catching the culprits.

“In recent times, several kidnapping suspects have been apprehended.

“The police are actively conducting operations in the area, and the public needs to be aware that the police are diligently fulfilling their responsibilities.

“The police, being responsible for internal security, are collaborating closely with other sister security agencies to enhance safety.

“Our track record demonstrates significant achievements in this regard”, she said.

Chinaka said security is a collective effort where the public must play a crucial role and urged citizens to report any suspicious activities with useful information needed to solve a crime.

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