The gruesome killing and beheading of people, especially politicians, by gunmen in the South East, is a disturbing trend. The latest in these disturbing episodes is the brutal killing of the Sole Administrator of Ideato North Local Government Area (LGA) of Imo State, Mr. Christopher Ohizu. The victim was first abducted alongside two others and later killed after collecting a ransom of N6 million. His house was also set ablaze.

The killing of Ohizu occurred a few days after the spokesman of the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP), Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere, escaped death in his house at Akokwa in Ideato North LGA of Imo State. While some people were killed, Ugochinyere’s house and many cars were burnt.

A similar beheading of a politician took place in May last year in Anambra State. The lawmaker representing Aguata II Constituency in the state House of Assembly, Hon. Okey Okoye, and his aide, Mr. Cyril Chiegboka Jnr, were abducted after attending a meeting in their hometown. Later, their abductors beheaded them after collecting a huge ransom. In Ebonyi State, some gunmen also killed the Commander of Ebubeagu security outfit in Ogboji Ward, Ezza North LGA, Mr. Charles Nwankwo, recently.

Some stakeholders in the region are of the view that some of these killings are politically motivated. It is not only frightening, but also totally unacceptable and condemnable.

The barbaric acts have continued to occur because the Nigeria Police Force is apparently weak and incapacitated to deal with the situation. Aside from the EndSARS protests against police brutality of 2020, which led to the killing of over 60 policemen and burning of over 200 police stations in Nigeria, there were several attacks on policemen in the South-East thereafter. This led to the killing of many of them and burning of some of their stations and operational vehicles. Some of their weapons were also seized.

These weapons now form part of what the criminals use to terrorise the people of the region. They are increasingly emboldened by other sophisticated weapons smuggled into the country through Nigeria’s porous borders. And because these boys are idle due to the high level of unemployment in the country, they become willing tools in the hands of daredevil politicians who use them to achieve their selfish ends.  

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The South-East was never known for this type of barbarism, heard only in a jungle. What is happening now in the region is pure criminality. If not quickly arrested, it will snowball into a monster that nobody can control anymore. Those who are behind the killings should know that there is life after politics.

Obviously, the crisis is affecting the economy of the region, as no investment thrives in an atmosphere of insecurity,f especially gruesome killing of innocent citizens. Already, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo states are among the 24 states in Nigeria that attracted no investment in 2021, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). The region was once rated as the safest for investment in the country.  

Governors and political leaders in the South-East should put heads together to find out where the rain started beating us. Last year, Anambra State government started the process by setting up a truth, justice and peace committee. The 15-member committee, headed by Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, had eminent personalities from different parts of the South-East. Part of their terms of reference was to identify the remote and immediate causes of the agitations, violence and armed struggle in the South-East since 1999, and make recommendations for the sustainable peace and security not just in Anambra but also in the entire region. It is not certain yet what the committee has found out and what its recommendations towards sustainable peace in the South-East are.            

Whatever may be the case, the governors must equip security agencies to do their work effectively. They must justify the security votes which they collect every month. The problem is not something one governor or state can fight alone. There is need for synergy. They can draw example with what the South-West governors have done with their regional security outfit, Amotekun. They can approach the Federal Government for help. The FG cannot abandon the region to its fate. It must be decisive in reining in the criminals.

Security agents must intensify efforts in combating this problem. The need for them to collaborate and share intelligence with local vigilance groups in different communities cannot be overemphasised. They should take the war to the criminals in their hideouts. In all, there must be a closure to this unfortunate episode in the South-East.