*A report by New Telegraph Newspaper, 14th April, 202*
Unknown to many, the insecurity in the South East is not caused just by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). In this exclusive report by our CORRESPONDENTS, there appears to be other groups perpetrating unrest in the region
Imo State is still reeling from the April 5, 2021 attacks on the state police headquarters and the Owerri Correctional Centre, both in the capital Owerri.
The attacks, according to the Police Situation Report (SITREP) on the incident, commenced between 1:30 am and 2 am.
Suspects in police cells and prison inmates numbering about 2,300 were freed by the attackers in what the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, described as the worst incident of jailbreak in recent history.
Following the attack, Mr. Dennis Amachree, a former Assistant Director of the Department of State Services (DSS), said in a live interview on national television that the DSS in Owerri alerted the police and the state government at least three times to a pending attack on the Correctional Centre.
According to him, they misused credible intelligence and Imo and many South-East states are still paying the price as evidenced in the new level of strange and audacious criminality in the region.
Following quickly from the jailbreak were the rampant cases of attacks on security officers, burning of police stations and killing of police officers, leading to a near-collapse of the capacity of the state to enforce law and order.
‘Unknown gunmen’ were blamed for most of the attacks, though the police, from the outset, insisted that the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) were behind the attacks on the security institutions and facilities in the state.
IPOB severally denied being behind the attacks.
It is noteworthy to add, however, that at the beginning of the crisis, IPOB sometimes rightly or wrongly referred to as the ‘unknown gunmen’ were not known to attack ordinary citizens.
They were believed to be uninterested in anything and anybody that poses no threat to their struggle.
But along the line, a clearly radical change occurred that left a trail of blood and terror even on pro-Biafra sympathisers.
It did not take too long for discerning observers to notice that the separatist group was also fighting an internal war that threatens the cohesion and coordination of the group.
Strife had erupted within its ranks and it would have stayed under the radar if not for the surprisingly chaotic handling of the stay-at-home order of the group, following Nnamdi Kanu’s detention, which on previous occasions, was executed seamlessly.
Suddenly, enforcers of the stay-at-home directive were crawling out from every corner of the South-East deploying vicious force – burning vehicles, killing commuters, destroying shops, vandalising goods and shooting at the same people who they claimed to be fighting for.
The signs were too bold and conspicuous to miss. Something was clearly amiss.
If there was any doubt about the turmoil within the ranks of IPOB, it was totally erased with the flagrant insubordination that greeted the order from the IPOB high command to end the Monday stay-at-home, which had become counter-productive due to the activities of strange elements in the said Biafran struggle.
The order to end the stay-at-home was blatantly flouted. It was unlike IPOB, which hitherto boasted of its flawless command and control structure that kept everyone in line.
A section of the dissident group was even bold enough to accuse the Directorate of State (DOS) led by Chika Edoziem of having been compromised for calling off the sit-at-home, thereby finding an excuse to continue to operate in defiance of the directive of the IPOB high command.
The same group also accused the DOS of having a hand in the abduction of their leader, Nnamdi Kanu, from Kenya thus creating distrust and deepening their divisive plots within IPOB. There had also been accusations and counter-accusations on the misappropriation of funds in IPOB.
To this, Kanu had to personally react through his lead counsel, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, and his reaction conveyed clearly that though IPOB had tried to cover up the fact that there is a rift and infiltration of its ranks, the insidious intentions of the dissidents were not lost on Kanu.
Conveying Kanu’s concern, Ejiofor said: “Onyendu Mazi Nnamdi Kanu notes with displeasure and rude shock, the obviously false narrative being peddled by those whose primary intention is to cause mischief.
“On that note, he specifically directed that we should inform those who care to listen that neither the trio of Mazi Kanunta Kanu, Carolyn Okoroafor, Madam Nnennaya Anya, nor any other person in the DOS was instrumental in his abduction in Kenya.
“Onyendu Mazi Nnamdi Kanu is not oblivious of the antics of his detractors, who are desperately working day and night to enthrone confusion and destroy all he has labored for years to build. He advised his followers to remain more vigilant now than ever.
“He further expressed his disappointment over those who opened several social media platforms, deceitfully acting as his fans, disciples or mouthpiece, which avenue they now conveniently employed in dishing out orders and counter orders – orders apparently inimical to the interest of his peaceful followers and movement. He shall have a word for them in the fullness of time.
*The Fallen Angels (The Auto-Pilot Group)*
The question is who are these purported dissidents in IPOB that Kanu was referring to? Except for recent press releases, a keen observer would have noticed that the IPOB leadership and the said dissident groups were not in a hurry to disclose the fact that there is a brewing storm in their midst. They had tried to trivialize the situation as still ‘within control’.
But no matter how carefully guarded the facts are, the truth is that the crevices of discord are widening by the day.
In closed circles, they call them ‘the Fallen Angels’ and in more common parlance, they are known as ‘the Auto-Pilot group’.
The name ‘Fallen Angels’ came up in the course of investigations to figure out the real identity of the group defying the leadership of Nnamdi Kanu and undermining the command and control structure of IPOB, while claiming to fight for the release of Kanu and emancipation of the Igbo nation.
In a conversation with two different sources within the separatist group, in two different council areas in Imo State and Anambra State respectively – Oru West and Ihiala – who were clearly uncomfortable with the deepening rift in the organisation and the perversion of their ‘genuine struggle’, they told investigators in two different interviews, that those behind the anarchy in Igboland and the enforcement of the Monday stay-at-home order are the Fallen Angels.
From their estimation, the Fallen Angels are largely made up of former members of IPOB – some expelled members, some disgruntled members, others who could not endure the discipline (and sometimes, highhandedness) embodied in the command and control structure of IPOB and a few others co-opted into the dissident group from external groups and gangs whose interests are not defined.
“Most of these men are largely loyal to themselves or whatever they find convenient,” the source from Ihiala told our correspondent.
It is the Fallen Angels, some other small splinter groups within the IPOB family that are fast being rolled into one violent body under the Auto-Pilot group. The Auto-Pilot group has a known leader in the person of Simon Ekpa.
While claiming that their loyalty is to Nnamdi Kanu alone and that their struggle is to free him from incarceration, the Auto-Pilot group has repeatedly defied and denounced the leadership of the DOS, the highest governing body in IPOB set up by Nnamdi Kanu himself.
*Why has the ESN not moved against the Fallen Angels?*
The leadership of the Auto-Pilot group has effectively planted distrust across all cadres of the organisation by spreading the notion that members of the DOS betrayed Nnamdi Kanu, compromised the struggle and cancelled Monday’s stay-at-home to suit a purported paymaster.
Ironically, their ranks are swelling as the false narrative catches on. The stories spun by the auto-pilot group appear compelling and apparently suit the perception and idiosyncrasies of the many artisans and semi-literates that constitute the bulk of the IPOB membership.
One of our sources confirmed that many of those that escaped from the Owerri Correctional Centre who found shelter in the organization are hardly able to cope with the internal rules and operational modalities of IPOB and as such naturally drifted towards the Auto-Pilot group, thereby increasing their population, their firepower and boosting their ability to face-off and contend with the IPOB group under the leadership of Kanu’s DOS.
While the Simon Ekpa-led Auto-Pilot group claims loyalty to Kanu, they are gradually but steadily mimicking the structure of IPOB and appear to be systematically creating their own organization inside an organization, yet latching onto the name of Nnamdi Kanu and IPOB to rally the unsuspecting members to their side.
Like the Eastern Security Network (ESN), which is the militant arm of IPOB, Ekpa also has his own ESN, an armed group operating across the South-East for which he is currently planning a fundraiser scheduled to hold on April 9.
While IPOB communicates its ideologies through Radio Biafra, Ekpa and the Auto-Pilot group have also set up their own platform called the Voice of Biafra.
Nnamdi Kanu set up the M-Branch of IPOB which was described as the intelligence arm of the group, Ekpa only recently set up his own M-Branch which he also designated as an intelligence outfit. Though Ekpa’s M-Branch uses uniforms, Kanu’s M–Branch operates without uniforms.
Recent developments also indicate that while IPOB says its focus is on the emancipation of Biafra, the Auto-Pilot group, through one of their leaders, Dr. Nelly Ofoegbu is tilting towards a ‘new nation’, they call ‘Iduu Kingdom’. The purported Iduu nation is still creating some outrage among most pro-Biafra activists.
It was the same Dr. Nelly Ofoegbu, who was loudest in declaring Nnamdi Kanu’s lead counsel, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, a traitor, after Ejiofor conveyed Kanu’s clarifications following his extraordinary rendition from Kenya, dismissing all the conspiracy theories weaved by the Auto-Pilot group that members of the DOS were behind Kanu’s arrest.
Ofoegbu’s statement read in part: “Ifeanyi Ejiofor said Mazi Nnamdi Kanu (MNK) supports peaceful protests and rallies. In other words, our leader condemned the sit-at-home and any form of civil disobedience aimed at facilitating his own freedom.
“These evil people want our leader to languish in the DSS dungeon until after the 2023 elections. My great people, Ifeanyi Ejiofor is a traitor and this is the time to rise up and chase the saboteurs and traitors out of our land.”
Her statement also left clear hints that there are deep-seated grievances in the organization that have neither been addressed nor resolved.
Ofoegbu continued: “Ifeanyi Ejiofor is telling the people that our leader approved no demonstration in the British and Nigerian embassies. That MNK approved the exposing and killing of ESN members who refused to follow Chinasa Nworu’s command, control and kill.
“Ejiofor literally said that MNK endorsed whatever the DOS is doing including killing of ESN and working with all his enemies”
Reacting to Ofoegbu’s statement online on a pro-Biafra platform (Biafra News Today), a loyalist of Kanu and the DOS, Charles Eze said: “Glory be to God Almighty that these evil people have exposed themselves – Nsima Nsoebong, Nelly Ofoegbu, Simon Ekpa and other Auto-Piloters.
God Almighty and the spirit of our dead heroes and heroines that died in the course of this Biafran struggle will haunt all of you that are trying to sabotage this struggle. May the spirit of Ikonso and the rest of them that have paid the supreme price never let you people rest”
He added: “The lawyer that won a N1 billion case for MNK and has been defending and effecting the release of IPOB members from detention, is now working for the caliphate?
“You were all warned to stay away from desperate Simon Ekpa, you refused. Now he has almost crashed the freedom struggle. I wish all of you goodluck in your show of stupidity.”
For Nsoebong, who was insistent on defying the directive of the DOS that cancelled the Monday sit-at-home, and calling out IPOB to continue to uphold the Monday sit-at-home, another commentator challenged him saying:
“Must we continue in this stupidity until we have crumbled the entire South-East? You are quick to insist that there must be a sit-at-home in Biafraland, why is there no sit-at-home in Akwa Ibom your place. Charity must also begin at home.”
*Acts of Violence*
The Auto-Pilot group makes no pretences about their resolve to sustain every ‘civil disobedience’ option available to them to press home whatever their grievances may be. Not just their uncertain grievances against the Government, but even more, their grievances against IPOB DOS.
Our findings also indicate that the Auto-Pilot group has left nobody in doubt that the group is committed to sustaining the Monday stay-at-home exercise in defiance to the directives from the IPOB high command under the DOS which had put an end to Monday’s sit-at-home.
Through the use of violence and threat of violence, they have continued to subject almost all the rural communities in the South-East to forced compliance with Monday’s stay-at-home. They are believed to have also taken the attacks on prominent individuals, police formations and other security facilities to a whole new level.
In some respects, there has also been a shade of petty criminality to their operations.
One of their officials arrested in September last year around the airport road in Ngor Okpala, confessed that they had come to enforce the sit-at-home, but after the exercise, had made to snatch a vehicle along the airport road area which led to their arrest by a combined team of security forces, following a distress call.
There are indications also, that with the advent of the Auto-Pilot, there have been a surge in avoidable bloodletting, and wanton destruction of lives and properties, leading to the recent discovery of such camps where human beings were being killed, roasted and eaten in brazen practice of cannibalism at Nkwerre-Odah Village, in Orsu Ihitte-Ukwa community, a boundary area between Orsu and Ihiala council areas in Imo and Anambra states.
Abduction, kidnapping, armed robbery, arson and other acts of criminality seem to have become an integral part of the IPOB Auto-Pilot struggle, apparently, because of the loose authority and control system of the Auto-Pilot group.
They seem more focused on conveying their capacity for terror and violence, which apparently may be why Ekpa was prompt to threaten violence when Governor Charles Soludo of Anambra state directed civil servants to start coming to work on Mondays.
Writing via his Twitter handle @Simon_Ekpa, he wrote: “Soludo’s directive to civil servants in Anambra is dead on arrival, he should ask other Governors. Obiano went to the street as a town crier to no avail. We are warning Soludo not to use his overzealousness to endanger the lives of our women and children, as the DSS are killing them.”
Not so long after, Nnewi South Local Government secretariat was burnt, followed in quick succession by the razing of four police stations in Anambra. What was Soludo’s crime? He only asked workers to come to work on Mondays and all hell was let loose.
What is most disconcerting is the celebration of these atrocities that go on online, on most of the Auto-Pilot social media handles and online platforms not minding that a greater percentage of the victims of their mindless atrocities are Igbos. Regrettably, the premise and logic deployed to justify these acts of violence are even more unnerving.
The Ohanaeze Youth Council (NYC) is also of the opinion that the IPOB’s Biafran struggle has been hijacked by blood-thirsty hoodlums, thereby leading to an ugly spike in insecurity in the South-East.
In a press statement, the National President of the council, Comrade Igboayaka O. Igboayaka lamented that criminals have hijacked the IPOB struggle.
The OYC President regretted that some faceless elements had sworn to besmirch the reputation of Nnamdi Kanu by disguising as IPOB members, with the sole aim of impeding attempts towards the release of Kanu.
His words: “Our investigations have proven that hoodlums have taken over Alaigbo pretending to be IPOB members, all in conspiratorial attempt to attack and intimidate those making genuine efforts towards Kanu’s release and also to indict Mazi Nnamdi Kanu through their activities and scuttle his release and the political solution being championed by Prof. George Obiozor, the President-General, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide whose country home was also razed about two weeks ago by these same hoodlums.
Commenting also, IPOB’s spokesman, Emma Powerful conceded that the Simon Ekpa-led Auto-Pilot group was set up to destabilize IPOB.
He also agreed that most of the violence and blood-letting in the South-East were masterminded by the Auto-Pilot group.
His word: “The Auto-Pilot reared its head when they learnt that our leader, Mazi Nnamdi has been unlawfully abducted and extraordinarily rendition from Kenya to Nigeria. The one hiding in Finland (referring to Ekpa), mobilized his accomplices thinking they could destroy the structure of IPOB. Most of the senseless killings and attacks going on now in the South-East and South-South regions were masterminded by them but IPOB is handling them now.
“It is an unfortunate group that has no responsibility or business in the struggle for the restoration of Biafra. We are monitoring them and moving on because they do not have what it takes to distract us, we are focused on the pursuit of the freedom of our people and there is no going back. Their plan was to destabilize IPOB and ESN but that is impossible and many of our people perfectly understand their gimmicks and antics. IPOB is rooted on the rock and no man born of a woman can destroy the movement because it was ordained by God Almighty.”
For balance, we sought the reaction of the Auto-Pilot group as to the rationale behind the establishment of the group.
As of the time of filing this report, there was no known spokesperson for the Auto-Pilot group.
However, a statement posted on the Facebook wall of one Ikechim Obinna, an avowed member of the Auto-Pilot group, read in part (paraphrased):
“In the course of our flight to the restoration of Biafra, the DOS secretly compromised and sold out our leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu to the DSS and Nigerian government.
“Once Kanu was incapacitated, the IPOB plane started to nose-dive towards a fatal crash with the hopes of all the Indigenous People of Biafra, all Africans and the entire black race, on board, heading towards an inevitable crash.
“With the compromised DOS unable to control or stabilize the IPOB craft which was about to crash, there was great panic and a loud outcry from all of us on board. Luckily, we had a competent, truthful and willing pilot amongst us called Mazi Simon Ekpa, we begged and encouraged him to help and take over from the incompetent traitors called the DOS.
“Simon Ekpa accepted and noted that all he was going to do is to activate the Auto-Pilot system built into the IPOB command structure by Mazi Nnamdi Kanu himself.
“That is why we, the truthful IPOB members, are proudly cruising in high altitude courtesy of the Auto-Pilot.”
In an exclusive interview with a security consultant whose operations have cut across the South-East and South-South in the last 20 years, more perspectives were brought to light.
Speaking under a strict condition of anonymity, after two previous meetings were put off, he said: “The Fallen Angels or the Auto-Pilots, whatever name they may bear now, are the ones causing problems in the South-East every Monday. Unfortunately, I can tell you that they have gathered some of the toughest members of ESN to their side, which apparently explains why the ESN has not been quick to respond, quash their rebellion and put an end to their excesses in the South-East.
“As you know, they are no longer under the control of Chika Edoziem, who is heading the DOS. I gathered from a reliable source that the Imo State government at some point succeeded in forcing most of them out of the state into Anambra and Enugu states after some major operations and raids in Orsu and other parts of the state.
“Having severed relationships with their high command and with little or no funds coming from overseas unlike previous times, they resort to armed robbery and kidnapping for ransom. The more than a dozen vehicles recovered from their camps during the Orsu raids are owned by kidnapped victims many of who were gruesomely murdered. When hundreds of men are heavily armed and without funds, their options are obvious, they will use the arms to get fund by all possible means.
“That is why Uli, Okija, Azia, Amorka, Isseke, Ubuluisiuzor, Orsumorghu, Lilu, Mbosi, Akwaihedi, Ekwulummiri and Ukpor town all in Nnewi South and Ihiala LGAs are now becoming security flashpoints. Apparently, they may want to force the new Governor of Anambra state, Prof. Charles Soludo to pay them off, as has been mooted in some quarters. Some governors may do that but Imo and Ebonyi did not.
“It is a serious situation for Soludo, he will have to pay them or fight them. The middle ground will be to negotiate but what will be the terms of the negotiation? And in all sincerity, what do the Auto-Pilots want? From my perspective, and like many other security stakeholders, I do not believe they pursue any genuine cause. Most of their operatives believe they are on a noble cause but sadly, they are victims of a grand manipulation using the name of Nnamdi Kanu as the magic wand.
“Since last month, they have been writing letters to business owners in Aba and other major business places in the East warning and threatening them not to open their businesses on Mondays. They are getting some level of compliance and they seem to be winning. Even at that, if any governor succumbs and pays them off, they will disappear. But of course, one way or the other, they will still return because they will run out of funds and will always need funds.”
*Operations of the Fallen Angels/Auto-Pilot*
He continued: “When this crisis erupted in Imo, do you know that about 70 percent of their foot soldiers in Orlu then, were from Ebonyi State? They only recruited a few jobless indigenous youths to spy and keep track of their traditional rulers, village heads and town union leaders. You may not understand exactly how these guys work until you know what I know.
“Their method of operation is to recruit youths from a state, send them to another state. If they recruit you and you are from Anambra for instance, they will send you to Abia and then recruit some village urchins to serve as guides and look out for the combatants. The lookouts also help them master indigenous escape routes in case of attacks. This is why they can operate in Orsu, Oru East and a few other places leaving their faces open because nobody will recognize them. You will also recall that when the slain ESN commander, Ikonso and his men were operating, they were covering their faces because they were known indigenes of the area. But it is not the same with this new group.”
Continuing, the security expert said: “These hoodlums keep blaming Governor Hope Uzodinma for everything they can lay their hands on and this is because, after the burning of Uzodinma’s country home by some IPOB element, Uzodinma took the war to them. So far, nobody has given them the type of fight that man gave them.
“I know Uzodinma made a lot of mistakes but IPOB contributed to the woes of Imo state today. Their intention was to scare everybody away and make Imo state ungovernable. The military in Orlu Camp and Obinze pulled their weight seriously but it was the unconventional Ebubeagu security outfit, which some stakeholders in Imo also refer to as Hopism Strike Force (HSF) that gave the Auto-Pilot group a run for their money in their joint effort with Federal forces.”
*Ebubeagu Security Network/ Hopism Strike Force*
Officially, so little is known about the Ebubeagu Security Network in Imo and its officials. The law establishing the outfit was secretly passed by the House of Assembly without any public hearing, thus denying Imo people the opportunity to know and understand the structure and operational modality of the group.
Nobody knows the commander of the group and many have said they operate at the instance of the state government, which apparently may be the reason they are called Hopism Strike Force in some circles.
During the Ngor Okpala House of Assembly by-election, Ebubeagu was sighted at the election and their presence was used to encourage the alleged impunity and malpractices that marred the election. They were effectively used to intimidate opposition parties thus strengthening the argument that they operate at the behest of the state government.
Nobody knows exactly where the Ebubeagu operatives were recruited from, but grapevine sources insist that most of them were hired from Niger Delta.
Another source said: “Clearly, not many of them are indigenes of Imo State but they have the tell-tale signs of underworld operatives whose guns are for hire. They seem to have raw courage but little depth in the strategic engagement of criminals, which is why the security agencies compliment them. They appear largely lawless in their operations; they violate the human rights of locals in most of the villages they operate, they are reckless with the use of firearms and are dreaded by most locals because they are hardly known to engage locals except with the force of arm. They have been accused of extrajudicial killings; they have been accused of arson and have also been accused of trespassing and harassing fear-stricken locals without necessary intelligence.
“In spite of all these flaws, Ebubeagu are clearly dreaded by the IPOB and Auto-Pilot militant arms as they do not employ known conventional approaches and neither respects any rule of engagement. They seem as crude as the hoodlums they are after. They all dress in black combat gears, with many of them wearing dreadlocks and earrings while baring their talisman and charms for anyone who cares to see.
IPOB and the Auto-Pilot militant arms believe quite a lot in the use of charms and talisman in their operations, so perhaps the message from the Ebubeagu outfit may be better understood by them.
It is widely believed that the Ebubeagu security outfit was instrumental in the busting of most of the dreaded IPOB/Auto-Pilot camps in Imo state thereby forcing some of the hoodlums to flee to neighbouring states.
*Topography of terror*
Originally, the Eastern Security Network was created to tackle insecurity in the entire Igboland with a greater focus on the South-East. However, with the presence of factions within the group leading to the emergence of Auto Pilots (Fallen Angels), there are clear indications that Igbo land is now terrorized by the supposed security network.
A resource person and security consultant took the conversation further to highlight the nature, location and topography of the operations of the Auto-Pilot group.
He said: “Having gone out from the original plan, the Auto-Pilots (Fallen Angels) seem to have gradually dislodged the original ESN from their domains and camps strategically located in most of the mangrove forests and the unnoticed, inconspicuous and poorly governed riverine towns in Igboland.
“Pause a little and ask yourselves, why did they choose some parts of Orlu Zone -Oguta, Ohaji-Egbema, Njaba, Orsu, Oru East and Oru West in Imo? And also Ihiala and Ogbaru in Anambra, as camps for their insurgency?
“You must note that those coordinating the affairs of these dissidents aren’t stupid. They know the topography of Igboland and are using it to their advantage. They studied well and discovered the relevance of Ogbuide River (Oguta Lake), Orashi/Ulasi River, Njaba River, River Niger and too many tributaries of the named rivers that appear as streams like Enyinja, Obana, Ubu, Utu and some others.
“Many Igbo do not know that Oguta Lake flows through Utu River in Ogba-Egbema-Ndoni LGA in Rivers State, Awbana (Obana) River that goes through Oru West and Oguta LGA of Imo, Orashi (Ulasi) River that connects almost all parts of Orsu, Oru West, Oguta, Ihiala, Ogbaru, Ndoni and many parts of Rivers State.
“These people have shown that they are good at diversionary tactics. They can strike in Akatta town in Oru East LGA, while you’re busy looking for them in Akatta, they’ve already meandered through Akuma, down to Ebenator in Orsu and within few minutes to Orsu Ihitte-Ukwa, to Lilu, Okija and cross the Onitsha-Owerri Highway to Osuakwa-Ihiala. Once they are at Osuakwa-Ihiala, the next destination is Umunnakwo, Ogwuanaocha, Ogwuikpele, Ndoni to Aboh in Ndokwa East LGA of Delta State. This is why you will hardly hear that they were cut off while escaping because they have done a good job on their choice of escape routes.
“If they flee through Awo-Omamma Njaba River route in Oru East LGA and join Mgbele town in Oguta LGA. From there, they move through Orsu-Obodo, Ezzi-Orsu and Ossemotto River Port and straight to Mbiama in Rivers State. There is also another inconspicuous route at Eluaba River that links Mgbidi, the headquarters of Oru West LGA, Awo-Omamma in Oru East and Mgbele in Oguta.
“It took the Imo State Government several months to discover that the so-called unknown gunmen were not actually operating from Orlu Main towns like Umutanze, Okporo, Umuowa and Amaifeke as once thought. When their camp was discovered and busted in Nkwerre-Odah Village, a boundary community in Orsu Ihitte-Ukwa, Orsu LGA, it reduced their influence within Orlu Zone, as attention shifted to Ihiala and now, Nnewi South LGA of Anambra State.
“If nothing is done around Osuakwa-Ihiala where Orashi (Ulasi) River is barely 18 nautical miles away from the Atlantic Ocean and Ossemotto which used to be a strong port where vessels from Liverpool berthed up till the late 1950s, these criminals will continue to make use of that two abandoned access for their activities and escape route.
“Security agencies in Imo, for instance, should be smart enough to know that barricading Onitsha-Owerri Highway is just not enough of a blockade to these people as their plans are well crafted. It is more like those operating around Oru, Njaba and Oguta are meant to escape through Ossemotto while those operating through Orsu, Ihiala and Ogbaru are to escape through Osuakwa.
“Don’t forget that their dislodged and existing camps in Lilu, Orsumoghu, Orsu Ihitte-Ukwa, Umutanze, Awo-Idemili, Awo-Omamma, Njaba, Okporo and others were located in areas with steep and dangerous topography and difficult accessibility. With several streams and some unusually dense forests with topographies that are tough and unknown to many.
“They’re not stupid. They are very smart to the extent that even in those forests, they still apply the techniques of digging ditches and trenches which they have mastered, to impede movement and make it difficult or extremely impossible for security operatives to invade their camps with armoured vehicles, except on foot.
“These guys are creating not just fear and panic, but environmental and social hazards for the future. They’re connected with recent upsurge in the use of hard drugs in rural areas. There had been some drug users in the rural communities alright, but the recent upsurge in these hard drugs particularly Methamphetamine may be linked to the activities of these hoodlums. The fact that they also need quick cash for their operations, makes them open to drug dealing.
“These people actually abandoned one of their most important camps located within Imo Gate, around the boundary linking Obigbo in Rivers State meant to stretch from Obeaku Port to Azumini Blue River in Ndoki, Ukwa East LGA of Abia State due to the uncompromising onslaught of the Rivers State Government on them earlier and the possible territorial conflict that may arise between them and Niger Delta militants and oil bunkerers.
“Besides the seeming topography shield and escape plans, these hoodlums recruit youthful locals to spy for the fighters who are often non-indigenes, operating from the camps.
“Their recruits are divided into A-Company, B-Company, C-Company and so on. If you’re from Afikpo for instance and Afikpo is meant to be covered by A-Company, they’ll transfer you to H-Company very far from your home where you operate, claiming it’s your land where you can operate without masks, because nobody will recognize you.
“Parents and guardians should start asking their wards questions. They can’t just disappear for five months and return just like that. For five months your ward went incommunicado to avoid contact and returned with a flimsy excuse? And some people are comfortable with that. If the South-East governors know how valuable those relatively abandoned remote and sleepy boundary towns are to these hoodlums, they will stop sleeping and go into serious strategy meetings on the security of their state. All those desolate stretches of land and forests in the state and every area or community that has inadvertently been reduced to an ungoverned space due to very minimal government and human activities should be paid a lot more serious attention if our security measures must move from reactive to pre-emptive.”
On the attacks on police stations, he said that Police must find a way of not just protecting its formations but using every attack on its facility as an opportunity to generate data and operational patterns of the hoodlums, which are needed for major security and strategic decisions that will enable pre-emptive policing of the state.
“At this point, it needs no saying that every police formation in the region no matter how small should have a hidden CCTV camera. It will help and it should be located where it can capture footage of people entering the station and others covering the perimeter of the station. Also necessary is a watchtower equipped with necessary night vision gadgets and long-range firearms, and built from the ground to up with fortified concrete without blocks,” he advised.
A report by New Telegraph Newspaper, 14th April, 2022