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Lawyers begin 3-day court boycott over rising crime in Anambra

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By Olisemeka Obeche & Lawrence Nwimo

The committee of chairmen and secretaries of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) branches in Anambra state, has directed lawyers practising in the state to keep away from courts between today, Monday, March 22 and Wednesday, March 24, 2021 in protest against the escalating violent crime wave in the state.

In a directive, the committee said lawyers in the state would also stage a public protest in Awka in their bid to draw government attention to the rising crime wave in the state.

It will be recalled that a member of the Otuocha branch of the NBA and president general of Omor Town Union, Barr Frank Anyanwumelu Onwuachi, was kidnapped on March 12, 2021 at about 7:30 pm, along Ezu River/Anaku Road in Ayamelum local government area of Anambra state.

Onwuachi’s abductors, according to a source, demanded N30 million ransom and later reduced it to N10 million. However, the request by the family to hear his voice before payment was never granted. It was later discovered that the deceased had been killed even when negotiations for payment of the ransom were ongoing.

The source said: “They demanded N30 million in the first place and, at the end of the day, we said we had N10 million. When they accepted our offer and demanded the money, the family requested to hear from their son. That day, we had the apprehension that something wrong had happened to him.

“They said we should give them 30 minutes and, thereafter, switched off their phone. They didn’t call back again. It was one of the people they kidnapped that told us that, while we were calling, they had shot him.”

According to the source, the remains of the deceased were discovered inside a forest at Nando, Anambra East local government area.

Another kidnap victim who was released after payment of ransom also shared with this paper the dramatic incident that culminated in the gruesome murder of the Omor PG. According to the kidnap victim, the lawyer almost secured his life by denying being a native of Omor town but was killed when his abductors discovered he lied.

“He speaks Hausa language well and, in that language, claimed to be a native of Nando in Anambra East local government area of Anambra state. The kidnappers went some meters away and put up a call after which they returned and told him he was lying to them,” the victim said.

“This call brought to end the already established contact and discussion of delivery of the N10million ransom. After the call they made, they went ahead to shoot him at close range. I never knew he was from Omor till the time they took him a bit out of where we were, tied and shot him and he screamed in Omor dialect,” the victim added.

Citing Onwuachi’s murder as well as other recent deadly criminal activities in parts of the state, the NBA called on the federal and Anambra state governments and heads of security agencies in the state to wake up to their responsibilities of protecting lives and property of citizens.

The statement, jointly signed by the chairmen and secretaries read in parts: “The committee notes that the security situation in Anambra state is highly tensed up and frightening to say the least. Recently, there have been cases of kidnap and gruesome murder and killing of innocent citizens and security personnel in the state and nothing is being done to curb this frightening security challenges in the state.

“Just last week Friday, a lawyer, Barr Frank Onwuachi, who is also the president general of Omor in Ayamelum local government area of Anambra state was kidnapped along Ezu River, Anaku road and gruesomely murdered the following day by his captors. Friday, two prison officers were killed at Ekwulobia, Aguata local government area and this is (sic) barely 24 hours after naval officers and policemen were killed at Awkuzu and Neni respectively. Also, a naval outpost close to Bridgehead was attacked sometime last week, resulting to the killing of some naval officers, and their weapons carted away.”

The committee called on the state government to summon a meeting of various security agencies in the state to address the worrisome security situation and tackle it headlong, noting that failure by the state government to act immediately may lead to a descent to anarchy.

The traditional ruler of Onitsha, Igwe Nnaemeka Alfred Achebe, also, at the weekend, urged security agencies in Anambra state to live up to their responsibility by arresting the current scourge of insecurity across the state. Igwe Achebe made the plea at Ime-Obi Palace, Awka Road, Onitsha after being presented with keys of six motorcycles, communication gadgets and other equipment donated by R&S Lotto Company for the enhancement of Onitsha Ado Community Vigilante Service.

Also, the regent of Oba community in Idemmili South local government area, Prince Noel Ezenwa, urged the police to intensify efforts to address the rising insecurity in some parts of the state in recent times.

Ezenwa, who spoke at the weekend when he hosted the assistant inspector general of police in-charge of the Zone-13, Ukpo Anambra state, AIG Hafiz Mohammed Inuwa, also promised to build a befitting police station in the community.

Meanwhile, Orient Daily gathered on Sunday that Onwuachi’s corpse was presented to the joint meeting of all the presidents general in Anambra state, security chiefs and government of Anambra state on March 19, 2021. “It was at the floor that the death of the PG was made official to the people of the clan.  Following the official declaration of the death of the legal practitioner, several organisations and individuals have, through their condolence messages, condemned the action of the abductors,” the source said.

The transition committee chairman of Ayamelum local government, Barr Benjamin Onyeabor, condemned the gruesome murder of the Omor PG and urged security agencies to fish out the perpetrators and bring them to book and also work towards flushing criminal elements out of the area and across the state.

Efforts to get the reaction of the traditional ruler of Omor, Igwe Chris Chidume Oranu, on the death of the community leader, proved abortive as at press time. 

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