The Nigerian Army has been drafted in to end the serial kidnapping and insecurity in Ikem, Isiuzo Local Government headquarters.
By Anayochukwu Agbo
Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi held an emergency meeting with representatives of Ikem, headquarters of Isiuzo Local Government Area of Enugu State, Tuesday afternoon, as insecurity heightened in the heart of the local government. This is coming 31 days to the presidential election and on the heels of the Eha Amufu crisis, which led to the loss of hundreds of lives and massive displacement of the natives.
Unknown Gunmen returned to Ikem Isioroto hotspot on Tuesday, January 24, after one week kidnapping spree that turned the Community into internally displaced persons for fear of their lives.
In a dawn operation, they swooped on a hapless traveller at Isioroto, the same strategic spot where most of the kidnapping incidents take place at about 6am. According to eye witnesses, he was travelling from Obollo through Ikem and was stopped by the gunmen at Ugwuatu. They shot him, dragged him out of his car into the bush and headed towards the boundary with Benue State.
The community quickly raised alarm. Soldiers were called in and they combed the forest with the local vigilantes. They tracked the kidnappers through the blood of their latest victim to the Ado River, suggesting the abductors may have crossed into Benue State.
Tuesday evening the local vigilantes arrested a suspicious man with dried blood on his body in the village. He was found to be from Benue State and may have taken part in the kidnap earlier in the day. He has been handed over to the police for further Investigation.
In a space of eight days, the kidnappers have shot two persons and abducted seven others, including a female National Youth Corps Member and a 70 year old Mr Benjamin Ogbodo, father of a Catholic Reverend Father. They have demanded a ransome of ₦5m for him alone and lesser amounts for others. But the villagers have been unable to raise the money. Nothing has been heard of the Youth Corps member.
The kidnappers are getting more desperate as the deadline for changing of Naira notes approaches on January 31.
The Isioroto people now live in fear and are running away from their homes for fear of being kidnapped as the gunmen confidently terrorise them morning and evening without challenge. The security operatives arrive when they are gone and search to no avail.
Leaders of Ikem met with Governor Ugwuanyi Tuesday afternoon and asked for a security post at the Ugwuatu, hotspot, and a strengthening of the local vigilantes and forest guards by the Enugu State government to contain the menace. Led by the President of Federated Ikem Improvement Union, Professor Sam Ugwu, Dean of Post Graduate School, Enugu State University of Technology, and Engineer Okey Ogbodo, Igwe of Ikem Uno Autonomous Community, the team had a fruitful discussion with the Governor. Hon Mrs Amaka Ugwueze, member representing Isiuzo in Enugu State House of Assembly who was unavoidably absent was represented by Mr Ejike Ugwueze. The delegation included Emeka Asokwa, who escaped the gunmen last week with his vehicle riddled with bullets.
Professor Ugwu said that Governor Ugwuanyi assured the delegation that soldiers will be sent to strengthen security in the embattled area so that both the indigenes and travellers will be safe along the route.
Ikem people assured of security
The Community also called on the Department of State Services, DSS, to act on intelligence given to them and arrest the suspects swiftly before they leave their present location as this will restore lasting peace in the community ahead of the general elections in February and March.
Professor Ugwu said the people of Ikem were grateful to Governor Ugwuanyi for his swift response to the challenge. He is confident that the Army will restore security in the community.