By Magnus Eze, Enugu

The people of Ihiala community in Anambra State which has for some years become a den of criminals, recently took a bold step, to retrieve the town from the clutches of bandits. 

The community leadership last weekend, banished 11 persons said to be masterminds of cult-related killings and kidnappings in the area.

The town which shares boundary with Imo State has been held hostage by ‘unknown gunmen,’ cultists in the past few years, leading to many residents either fleeing or relocating to safe neighbouring communities.

The leadership of the community said it had traced the recent spate of insecurity in the area to mostly cultism and cult-related activities.

President-General of Ihiala Progressive Union (IPU), Okey Ohagba, in a statement on March 2, said that the 11 suspects have been banned for life from setting foot on the community.

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He explained that the names of the affected persons were arrived at after diligent and unimpeachable intelligence identified them as architects of the cult-related crisis in the community and its environs: “After these persons were identified, they refused to make themselves available to security agencies within a period of 48 hours given to them to clear their names and discharge the allegations made against them and another 72 hours’ grace period given by the community for public renunciation of cultism by repentant cultists.”

Ohagba further said that the names and photographs of the identified suspected criminals shall be displayed in various social media platforms and giant billboards to be erected at strategic locations within and around Ihiala for ease of identification.

He advised the parents, guardians or relatives of the cultists that it is in their own interest to provide useful information on the whereabouts of the listed persons to facilitate their apprehension by law enforcement agencies, so as to avoid dire consequences of complicity: “Any person resident in Ihiala, whether indigene or not, who harbours or seen to be associating with the aforementioned criminals and their cohorts within Ihiala town and environs hereafter, shall be treated as an accomplice by the law enforcement agencies and shall be made to suffer the same consequences/punishment meted out on the criminals.

“It is pertinent to remind the good people of Ihiala Town that in line with the subsisting Anambra State Government proscription order on cultism and cult related activities, and in synergy with relevant law enforcement agencies, cultism and cult related activities remains proscribed and banned in Ihiala town.”

Shortly after the statement was released, security operatives arrested one Onyebuchi Igboanusi a.k.a. “H.I.T” from Alatiampom, Ihiala, and one Chukwuka Okoye (Ejemba) alias “Scorpion” from Umuizuogu Ndiezike.

Ohagba said the suspected cultists were on the list of 11 persons earlier declared persona non grata and banished from the community: “The arrest of these suspected hoodlums by security operatives signals a major breakthrough in the collective quest by the people of Ihiala to frontally combat crime and criminality in the community and its environs.”