Nigeria: Insecurity in Anambra – a Conspiracy of Silence

Three days after the beheading of Anambra lawmaker Okechukwu Okoye, the presidency, prominent Anambra groups, and politicians have yet to condemn the barbaric act.

The kidnap of Hon. Okechukwu Okoye, the member representing Aguata II State Constituency in the Anambra House of Assembly, came on Saturday with uncertainty. There had been rumours on social media about the kidnap of a VIP at Aguata, but it was not certain who the person was.

The story, however, gained traction when the Police Command in Anambra State confirmed the kidnapping. A spokesman for the police command in Anambra, DSP Toochukwu Ikenga, who confirmed the kidnap, said the lawmaker’s black Sienna, which he was driving before the incident, had been recovered.

Ikenga said the command had launched a manhunt for the kidnappers to rescue him.

While Anambra people were waiting for an update, there were rumours that the house of assembly had suspended plenaries in honour of the kidnapped lawmaker. Three days into his kidnap, the legislators resumed sitting, allowing Governor Charles Soludo to present a revised 2022 budget to the house.

“I regret, however, that one of you, the member representing the good people of Aguata II Constituency in the House of Assembly (my own representative) – Hon. Okechukwu Okoye – is still in the custody of the kidnappers. The security agencies are working very hard and around the clock to secure his freedom. God is on the throne, and Anambra will win. Let me leave it at that,” said Soludo during his presentation. “We have chosen to confront the foundational issue of security head-on and expected that those profiting from the lucrative criminal enterprise would viciously fight back, and they have. Suffice it to say that so far, so good. They are testing our will and resolve. Let me assure you this: Anambra will win.”

On Saturday evening, a week after the legislator’s kidnap, a decapitated body was found in Nnobi, Idemili South local government area. Just as police operatives moved to recover the body, news filtered in tha the lawmaker’s head was found at Amichi, in Nnewi South local government area, far away from Nnobi.

Meanwhile, there has been a little outcry three days after the incident. The video of the headless body and the head of the lawmaker sent chills down the spine of Anambra residents. The grisly murder of the legislator is a grim reminder to them that insecurity is worsening.

An Anambra politician, Mr Ikechukwu Onyia, condemned the silence that has pervaded the killing of the lawmaker. Onyia, an aide of a House of Representatives member, condemned the Anambra assembly for opening its doors for legislative activities to entertain a revised budget when its member was held hostage by kidnappers.

An Anambra resident, Mr Joe Emedolie, said, “I am still coming to terms with how somebody, who is not just an ordinary individual could be kidnapped, beheaded and his head displayed and videotaped, and nothing happened. I expected the National Assembly, the Presidency and prominent Igbo groups to come in and condemn the act.”

He added, “We know that this is a period of electioneering, and politicians are jostling for votes, but even at that, many groups, including Ohanaeze Ndigbo found time to condemn it, same for Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), but for a lawmaker, we have only seen the Anambra state governor condemn the act. Does that tell how much they hate Anambra State, such that such a level of insecurity could be left to the governor alone, how we do not matter, or how much Ndi Igbo hate themselves, as even brother states are yet to condemn this act?”

The Commissioner of Police in Anambra, Echeng Echeng, while peaking during a press conference in Awka, frowned upon communities’ reluctance to volunteer information about criminals in their areas.

“We have been saying unknown gunmen is not the right name for these criminals. We are trying to mystify something that is not just there. It is time we go into demystifying those people. These people are not spirits. They live with us. They are our nephews, our cousins, our brothers, and they live in communities,” Echeng explained. “We know who they are. The problem of security is that of total silence. Nobody sees something, nobody hears something, and nobody says something. Security is collective, and everyone has a part to play. Crimes are localised, and they happen in our communities. We should be able to come up with information about what is happening in our communities, not glorifying them and tagging them as unknown gunmen. Otherwise, we will end up not making headways.”

The police commissioner insisted that the so-called unknown gunmen were not Fulani criminals.

“We know them, we have actually arrested some of them, and they are human beings. I want us also to shift the narrative that these criminals are Fulani. We have arrested some and taken out some during gun duels. So, when the community who should help to contribute to security decide to stay quiet, that is not a good sign,” added the police commissioner. “Last week, a person I didn’t know told me that a team of gunmen were operating at Umunze in a Hummer Jeep, I sent a team after them, and we were told they had moved to Umuchu, and we pursued them and were able to take out four of them. I don’t know the man who gave me the information, but we used the information to fight the criminals. That black Hummer Jeep you see there (pointing to it) was recovered from the criminals. You can see what information can do. That is how powerful information is, and we expect people to give information.”


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