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Ebonyi killings: Umahi orders councils to set up vigilante groups

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By Ruth Oginyi

Ebonyi state government has directed 13 local council chairmen in the state to set up neighbourhood vigilante security operatives as part of the bid to avert further killings suspected Fulani herders and hoodlums in the state.

The commissioner of Information, Bar Uchenna Orji who disclosed the development on Wednesday in Abakaliki, said the vigilante operatives will not bear arms but will work in line with the law of the land to ensure that no hoodlums invade, slaughter Ebonyi people, and escape unhurt as it happened in the Egedegede community.

According to him, the state government led by David Umahi considered the latest killings at Egedegede community in Ishielu local government area as a sleight of security crisis rocking the state and country in recent time and decided to take proactive measures to checkmate it. The attacks on residents of Nkalaha, Obegu, Amaezu and Umuhuali communities claimed lives of 15 villagers including a cleric.

Orji read out key decisions taken by the state executive council meeting on Wednesday: “The local government area chairmen were directed to form local vigilante and put across at strategic locations. Executive council directed that 100 neighbourhood watch per LGA be deployed to effectively police our various communities. Because of the lingering war in the Effium community, the government said two additional mobile police posts will be created in the buffer zone.

“Exco noted the report on Effium/Ezza Effium and commended the efforts of government in establishing additional two Mobile Police (MOPOL) units in the communities and providing additional 600 soldiers to the affected community.

Exco considered a report on the activities of the Chairman of Ohaukwu Local Government Area and all elected/appointed officials from the area; frowned at the actions and inactions of the elected and appointed public office holders which were responsible for the crisis in the area.

“Exco recommended to Ebonyi State House of Assembly that all elected/appointed officials from Effium and Ezza Effium including the Councilors, the Council Chairman, and the Ebonyi State House of Assembly member be suspended from office.

“Exco resolved to place dusk to dawn curfew in Effium/Ezza Effium community with effect from 31st March 2021 till normalcy returns to the place. That anybody who sends false information or false alarm on the situation in Effium/Ezza Effium shall be prosecuted.

Recall that Governor Umahi had earlier visited the scene and described the bloody attack on four communities in Ishielu local government area of the state by suspected herdsmen as shocking and vowed to fish the perpetrators of the killings and their sponsors.

“I want to demand from the security chiefs to fish out this people [behind this attack] because they are well known. They should fish them out; let them face the wrath of the law. It has happened in so many places and they were not fished out and that’s why this kind of thing is happening.

“I want to appeal to these communities; be assured that we will get them. We have their identities; we have their connections and we have the contact. Please stay calm, don’t take laws into your hands, two wrong can never make a right so that you give us the opportunity to fish them out”, the governor said.

He disclosed that his administration had continued to put in place measures to checkmate such crime. “I remembered that about a year ago, we had incident of killing of two herdsmen within this same location and immediately the security agencies, the local government chairman and community leaders all came together to condemn the attack and the killing. And we immediately asked the security agencies to fish out the people that did that. They did fish them out and as we talk, they are standing trial in Ebonyi state and the community and security agencies appeased the herdsmen and made peace with them.

“And so, it is very shocking that overnight, all the herdsmen in Ishielu local government vacated Ishielu local government which means that the local herdsmen in Ishielu are part of the conspiracy in killing of our people. They vacated despite all efforts my government, the governors of South East and security agencies have been making to give them full protection not only in the state but in entire south east.

The governor expressed worried over the security crisis in the state and parts of the south east. “We feel so sad that this kind of thing should happen to Ebonyi state, we feel so worried for our country Nigeria and we are short of words”.

He reiterated his administration’s determination to tackle security breaches in the state and to ensure that perpetrators of such crime and their sponsors are never left unpunished.

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