The residents of three local government areas of Okigwe, Ihitte-Uboma and Onuimo said the gunmen terrorizing their areas operate freely especially between 8pm to 11 pm, along Owerri-Okigwe road in Imo state, linking the three council areas.
Some of them who spoke in Owerri pleaded that their names should not be mentioned in the print.
This came following the attack by gunmen last Tuesday, at Umuezeala Owerre in Ehime Mbano Council area of Imo state. The attack led to the death of five (5) security operatives of the State's Joint Task Force (JTF) comprising two (2) NDLEA personnel, one Civil Defense officer, one Police officer, and an Air Force Officer. Earlier, however, eyewitnesses from the affected community put the figure of killed officers to eight.
To this extent, the residents of the three local government areas have called on the Police to beef up security, particularly between Onuimo and Okigwe axis, adding that the residents have been under serious tension.
According to a traditional title holder and a farmer in Onuimo, said: “We can not talk again. They drive into our communities at night and shoot anyhow. Our people have abandoned their homes. Some of the houses now are occupied by strangers. They live there with their guns.
“Some of our traditional rulers have abandoned their palace, they live in Owerri. Some of the houses were attacked and burnt. We need security to come to Onuimo, they should go around, meet villagers, and ask them questions. I think they will get some of these boys doing all this damage.
“There is nothing we can do. We are helpless. We are trying to survive the situation. Very soon they will overrun all of us. We are begging the government to come to our aid.”
Another, resident from Ihitte Uboma and a bus driver, plying Owerri-Okigwe road, claimed; “How can they talk of security while some of the police stations burnt by these gunmen have not been rebuilt? Go around the Ihitte- Uboma, Onuimo, and even some parts of Mbaise areas you see how those police stations are looking.
“Our government should look into these areas. So that police stations in the rural areas can be active. The government should give these officers sophisticated guns to face these guys.
“Along this Owerri-Okigwe road, we see these unknown gunmen but we pretend. If you see them they wear uniforms as if they are genuine security officers. That is why when they kill security officers, they take their guns and uniforms.
“So, if you talk they will kill you. All we are saying is that the government should meet these guys and ask them what they want and settle this matter. The government knows what to do to end insecurity.”
Also, a trader in Okigwe, who wishes to be called Nne, narrated that; “Inside Okigwe town is somehow safe. But go to the villages. We are in fear. Sometimes, we can't go home. We move to the next village to run away from attacks.
We need protection here. Villages that have border with Anambra are under serious siege by gunmen. Let's pray that these killings will end one day.”
Speaking on insecurity in Imo state under Governor Hope Uzodimma, a former governor of the state, Ikedi Ohakim, said: “It needs no exaggeration to say that the security situation in Imo state is worrisome.”
He went further to say: “Anybody who calls himself a leader must sympathize with our young men and women for the situation they are in, arising principally from the near collapse of our national economy and the acute shortage of job opportunities.
“Having said that, let me state that it is also high time, we the elders especially those in authority, changed our tactics and strategy for finding a lasting solution to the problems of the youths, particularly that of unemployment.
The situation has become quite drastic and as such, the approach has to be drastic. We must stop playing politics with the problems of the youths.”
Reacting, the Imo state police command, through the state Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, Henry Okoye, disclosed that since last Tuesday's attacks, the command had sent a special tactical team, well equipped to address the issue of insecurity in the area.