By Ikeugonna Eleke
The security challenges in Anambra State precedes the government of Prof Chukwuma Soludo, but the People of the state believe that he has the ability to tackle it.
To a reasonable extent, Soludo has fought insecurity in Anambra State and continues to win the battle, but many believe that it’s not yet Uhuru.
This can be justified by the many incidences of robbery in the state, even within the state capital territory, Awka, and other major cities like Onitsha, Nnewi, Ekwulobia and Ihiala.
In Awka, gangs of armed robbers operating in groups, and using tricycles, have become common, but away from these, in the hinterlands of Anambra State, there still exist more cases of killings and kidnappings than have been reported in the media.
The most recent, which was highly reported because of the involvement of high profile individuals, was the killing of staff members of the United States Consulate and security operatives attached to them in Ogbaru. To date, no real motive for the attack has been found or any genuine arrests made, except for two persons who were said to have been found around an area hitherto used as a camp by fleeing gunmen. The two arrested men were neither paraded before the media nor were they categorically indicted for being part of the attackers.
The Anambra State Police Commissioner, CP Echeng Echeng, had while briefing the media, inferred that the attackers may be separatist elements working with Eastern Security Network (ESN), an armed wing of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
But as the world continues to wait for a conclusion of investigation into the matter, a rights group, International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety), last week, through a press statement by its Chairman, Board of Trustees, Mr Emeka Umeagbalasi, disclosed that there was a correlation between an armed group operating in Awka North Local Government Area and the attack in Ogbaru.
Many communities in Awka North are also agrarian and riverine, just like Ogbaru, and with the Oil War in Ogbaru, which is one of the areas that oil is mined in the state, there is the tendency that using speed boats, armed groups camped in Awka North can also operate in Ogbaru, the area where the attack on the US embassy staff was registered.
Meanwhile, IPOB has come out with a more pointed accusation that seems to corroborate Intersociety’s claims. In a press release also last week, IPOB through its spokesperson, Mr Emma Powerful, claimed to have busted an armed group operating in the state, through its intelligence arm, ESN. Within a space of less than one week, IPOB issued two press releases fingering Soludo’s Commissioner for Homeland Security, Mr Chikodi Anara, as being the leader of the armed group it discovered which operates in Awka North.
IPOB in its accusation listed some Anambra communities in Awka North Local Government Area as the area where Anara harbours armed men that have allegedly been terrorising indigenes of the state. The group said: ‘The atrocities happening in these communities (Awka North) were masterminded by Anambra Homeland Security Commissioner, Chikodili Anara, a.k.a. Igbakigba.
‘Anambra State Governor must investigate his Homeland Security Commissioner, Chikodili Anara’s relationship with some criminals operating in the above named communities and Ogbaru. We maintain that Chikodili Anara, a.k.a. Igbakigba, is sponsoring these criminals operating in these communities. He should be questioned about what is happening at Isiodo, Ugwuaborshi and Achalla and those who are operating near his sister’s house. The Commissioner, Anara, must explain why his security outfit refused to chase those criminals away. Is it because they are partners in crime?’
Anara’s Ministry of Homeland Security heads the Anambra Vigilante Services, a state government sponsored security organisation which has been working in collaboration with conventional security agencies in the state and has also neutralized many criminal elements, some of who were alleged to be members of IPOB. This fueled the insinuation that IPOB may be attacking Anara as a way to get him out of the way as the AVG headed by him has become a nightmare to criminals in the state.
In his response to the allegations, however, Anara, in a press statement he signed, accused IPOB’s spokesperson of several attempts to blackmail and extort money from him and that he had made it clear that he would never part with any money to him.
‘In 2022, Emma Powerful called me and told me he had a story against me. He demanded that I pay him money to drop the publication. He later called again and told me same story which I ignored. He has been out to blackmail me and has been calling me since then, and I have told him expressly that I will never part with a Kobo to him. Today, he has gotten his friends; two brothers who are involved in a murder case here in Isuaniocha, Awka North Local Government Area, (names withheld), and they are sponsoring him to write against me.
‘I’m not surprised about the write-up. The truth is that Emma Powerful (Whoever he is) is doing a paid job. I have severally invited him, if he is genuine, to come for a meeting if he thinks he can help solve the problem of insecurity we are facing in the state. I need to inform Emma Powerful that the Anambra Vigilante Group (AVG), has existed for many years before I came into office and was not created because of IPOB which is a new and recent creation,’ Anara submitted.
Weighing in on the matter, Intersociety has however called for a detailed investigation into the allegations against Anara, saying it was the only way to solve one arm of the security challenges being faced by the state. The group said the allegations against Anara had remained reoccurring and said if Soludo was sincere about solving the security challenges, he must do the needful, except Soludo meant to communicate to the people of Anambra that Anara was above the law.
The group said: ‘International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law has observed with total dismay and strong condemnation, the unchecked unarmed civilian deaths and incessancy of unlawful arrests and arbitrary detentions by armed state actors and security operatives in Anambra State. The dastardly and prohibited acts are being perpetrated and perpetuated by the personnel and principal officers of the Nigerian Army (302 Artillery Regiment in Onitsha); the Nigerian Naval Base, Ogbaru; the Anambra State Police Command and the State Government funded Anambra Vigilante Services under the supervision of the State Commissioner for Homeland Security.
‘These, they perpetrate and perpetuate by using false security intelligence and rogue-criminal investigations. The above named armed state actors and the present Government of Anambra State have also earned notoriety in false labeling and relied heavily on hearsay conclusions under which unarmed and defenceless citizens are indiscriminately criminalized and rounded up for secret execution or arbitrary detention and denial of custodial liberties.
‘The shooting of the US Embassy staff convoy in Ogbaru is mired in hearsay conclusions and IPOB-phobia. The greatest challenge facing the Nigerian security establishments is lack of diligent criminal investigation, devoid of hearsay conclusions, ethnic and religious profiling, criminal labeling, class criminalization and prosecutorial vindictiveness. The Nigerian security establishments also incurably lack modern criminal intelligence and policing, including proactive and preventive policing and effective early warning response capacities.
‘It is therefore most likely correct to say that the recently reported shooting of the US Embassy convoy in Ogbaru Local Government Area, along Atani-Ogwu-Ikpere Federal Road in Anambra State, is inescapably riddled with hearsay conclusions and IPOB-phobia.
‘It further saddens our heart that the Government of Prof Charles Soludo is relying on corrupted and biased intelligence supplied by the State Police Command and the deployed principal officers of the Ogbaru Naval Base and the 302 Artillery Regiment of the Nigerian Army, Onitsha.
‘The silence of the Prof Charles Soludo-led Government of Anambra State regarding the recent weighty allegations against his Commissioner for Homeland Security; Mr. Chikaodili Anara, is totally condemned. The denial of same by the person of Mr. Chikaodili Anara is watery and has failed woefully to critically address the core issues raised. It must be reminded that the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) had twice in one week, 28th May and 4th June, 2023, leveled weighty allegations against the Homeland Security Commissioner, bordering on insecurity raging across Anambra State.
‘He was strongly accused by the leadership of IPOB of “running a hit squad, including high profile kidnap-for-ransom gangs using government connections and functionaries as a back-up”. He was also strongly accused of “clandestinely purchasing acres of land for Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen as middleman for the Miyatti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) and facilitating incursions by the Fulani Herdsmen Jihadists into Awka North and environs”.
‘Commissioner Chikaodili Anara was further accused by IPOB of “being the brain behind the general security challenges across the state” and that “he used AVG to murder unarmed citizens and label them ‘suspected IPOB/ESN members’
‘Intersociety therefore calls on Gov Charles Soludo and his Government of Anambra State/State Executive Council to carry out a detailed and unbiased investigation into such weighty allegations leveled against Commissioner Chikaodili Anara so as to ascertain the veracity or otherwise of the weighty allegations so leveled. The Soludo Government must also look inward regarding the Ogbaru US Embassy’s convoy shootings and killings for possibility of insider connections or conspiratorial roles,’ the group concluded.