New Telegraph

Anambra: Lamentations Of Ghost Communities

Abandonment reigns

Umuchukwu (Children of God), in Orumba South Local Government Area, a border community to Abia State, village square in the last three months cut the picture of desolation and abandonment as the once busy and bustling village square has become a ghost area. Most shops and local bars have been under lock and key as business activities in the square have been shut down but sadly not by the villagers but by their tormentors.

Most young men in the town had either fled for safety or are in the bushes laying ambush for possible victims of Kidnapping. In most homesteads only the elderly and aged men and women as well as the frail and sickly young ones are those left behind to hold the fort.

They are the only one who you would found going about their daily activities unharnessed or attacked by these gunmen that have held a number of the communities in Anambra State especially those on the fringes of neighbouring states in their throes.

They are not the target as they have no ransom to pay for their release hence they cannot be abducted and their children do not come home for the obvious fact that they are targets for abduction by the deadly gunmen in the bushes. Farmlands have become no go areas as one would certainly be a victim if you dare venture to visit your farm. The crops planted on those farmlands no longer belong to the owners but to the dare devil gunmen.

Communities under siege

Some of the communities now under the control of the gunmen include; parts of Umunze, Ogbunka, Owerrezukala up to Umuchukwu towns in Orumba South Local Government Area; Isuochi in Umunochi Local Government Area of Abia State; Ogwuanocha; Ogwuikpele Ochuche; and Umuzu communities in Ogbaru Local Government Area of Anambra State, which shares boundaries with Ihiala Local Government Area; South Senatorial District of Anambra State as well as Ndoni community in Rivers State.

The aquatic splendour of that area has made it easy for the gunmen to thrive unhindered in their trade of Kidnapping, killing and oil bunkering. Those communities sleep with one eye closed and are always on their toes in the event of any anticipated attacks by the gunmen. Commercial and agricultural activities are almost non-existence but for the old members of the community who have no other options than to resign to fate.

Lamentation

Mr Michael

Odiari, aged 87, laments over their precarious situation, as he queried, ‘‘what do you want us to do? We are here to stay and we cannot run away from our homes because of those boys but the only problem is that most of us have not seen our children for more than one year now except for the fact that we talk on phone.

“You set your fishing net but you cannot go there to check your net because you must seek approval from those boys and sometimes they go to harvest the fishes and give you some if they like or they take everything.”

Oil bunkering

Deepening the fate of the communities in Ogbaru LGA is the bunkering activities of oil firms that had in the last three years been syphoning Anambra oil and transporting them to towns in Delta State under the cover and protection of the gunmen. “Large and long trailers come and go carting away crude oil while some lay pipes to Delta and Rivers states syphoning our oil and there is nothing one can do about it,” a staff of the Nigerian Security And Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) in Ogbaru Local Government Area disclosed.

He revealed that, “Sometimes we go for raiding along with the Nigerian Navy and before you make any arrest or try to dislodge them it would take several hours and almost a day because these oil firms arm them with sophisticated arms and ammunition to protect them from us. “Here you don’t come out any how and for me I have not worn my uniform for more than a year now in this part of Ogbaru because that means ultimate death when found.”

This is the sad situation of the few towns in Anambra State that are yet to be rescued from the fangs of the gunmen who parade themselves as Biafran freedom fighters. Anambra Joint Task Force on Security no doubt have been on top of the situation by freeing most affected communities in the eight local government areas that the gunmen have been occupying before Governor Charles Soludo came into government.

Most of the LGAs such as Nnewi South, Ekwusigo, parts of Ihiala, parts of Ogbaru, Aguata, Orumba North and South local government areas have regained normalcy but for the major border areas with Imo, Abia and Rivers state they are still under the stronghold of the heavily armed men.

Gunmen approach

In those areas one cannot hold a funeral ceremony or wedding without the approval of the gunmen and they would also provide security for the family. Madam Adaku Obieri narrated how she was able to bury her late husband last year followed the approval the family obtained from the gunmen.

According to her, “As we were holding a family meeting two boys came with a motorcycle to see my brother in-law. They told him that if the funeral ceremony would hold we must pay N500, 000 but we were only able to pay N350, 000.

They told us that if any uniform person like police or the army is sighted at the venue during the funeral they would not only disrupt the function but kill all the uniformed personnel and offered to take over security functions.

“While you are putting up canopies for your guests, you also set their own canopy in a position where they can monitor those attending the funeral.”

Abandoned camps

Deep inside the border towns of Orsu Ihiteukwa, Orsumoghu, Lilu, towards Orlu in Imo State are abandoned camps of these gunmen who fled during the last air strike by the Nigerian Navy.

Those areas are the hide out of the gunmen where they keep their victims hostage until ransom is paid and inside those camps there are Commanders that entertain cases as law courts and deliver judgments.

While it is a sad tale for most the people in the communities, especially the young men, it is not so for the ladies, especially the young ones who are of easy virtue and ready to compromise their bodies for some spoils and security from the gunmen.

They are the ones that freely move about without any fear as they have insured themselves and bought their freedom through the liaisons that they have with the gunmen.

Most times some of them are invited by the gunmen to their den where parties and other fun filled activities are hosted. No one in the communities dare challenge or cross the paths of some of these young ladies. As any attempt by anyone to confront them will be met with repercussions from the gunmen.

ASATU urges peace

Due to this current situation the President General of Anambra State Association of Town Unions (ASATU), Barrister Titus Akpudo, has urged the task force and the federal government to redeploy officers and men of the Police, Army and other sister security organisations to rescue those communities from the claws of the gunmen.

This is as he noted, “However, boundaries of Anambra, Abia and Imo state still have grey areas and flash points that are trouble spots. Those flash points are Umunze heading towards Isuochi in Abia State, Ogwuikpele Ogwuanocha, Akili Ogidi, Atani in Anambra State.

“We also have areas such as communities in Orsu Ihiteukwa, Luli, Azia in Ihiala local government areas towards Amaoka, Mgbidi, Nnempi in Imo State that need more security assistance.

‘‘It is our opinion that the security operatives should go a step further to engage these people because some come from neighboring states to join those here to cause trouble and also there should be that joint arrangement among states in that regard and I believe that the South East Governor’s Forum are doing their best.

We, the President Generals of all the communities in the South East, are also working together to assist our respective state governors in that regard.

“Though in addition, ASATU still urge the state government to conscript the men of Nigeria Hunters and Forest Security Service into the state security architecture so as to complement the efforts of other security agencies in combating crimes especially to man our bushes and farmland.”

The President General further stressed, “These, if done will certainly re-instill confidence in our farmers and those living in hinterlands now that the farming season has commenced. We are very passionate about it and the best time to engage the Hunters is now.’’

Govt plans mop up operations

Commissioner for Homeland Matters, Chief Chikodi Anarah disclosed plan by the government for a mop up operations in the neighbouring towns of Anambra State.

According to him, “We are taking steps to commence mop up operations in those affected communities and we are in close contact with security operatives in those neighbouring towns in those states for the eventual final push and we can assure you that very soon you will hear scores.

“Another issue of note is that most of those boys are no longer outsiders but people from those towns who see that as a very quick way of making money and the villagers are shielding them.

“Before you get there stories have gone round that we are in town and they would all run to the neighbouring states and hide and when we go back they come back to continue with their heinous activities.

“But we have devised other means which I cannot tell you and those means having been working wonders for security operatives and it is only a matter of time you will no longer hear of such incidents in Anambra State.”

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