By Ikeugonna Eleke
There are fears that the major achievement of the Anambra State Government under Chief Willie Obiano is in danger of being shattered by the recent upsurge in criminal activities in parts of the state, reports Ikeugonna Eleke.
Obiano, had upon his assumption of office in 2014 for his first term, convoked a security summit and also inaugurated a security team known as ''Operation Kpochapu'', with the aim of flushing out some bad elements in society.
These had yielded fruits and helped the governor to garner accolades in the state and around the country. Recently, however, the activities of some young boys suspected to be cultists are already threatening to blight the good work of the governor.
In Awka, the capital city of the state, and in Nkpor, Obosi and other parts of Onitsha and the state, there has lately been an increase in criminal activities, ranging from armed robbery, cultism and others.
In parts of Onitsha, the commercial nerve centre of the state, Fides investigation revealed that bandits operate in their numbers in broad day light and most times, without security agencies to challenge them. A resident of Onitsha who pleaded to remain anonymous recounted his cousin's experience with robbers.
'My cousin who is in a seminary visited me on a Sunday and after exchanging pleasantries, he offered to take my children to an eatery, since he didn't buy any gift for them while coming.
They had finished buying ice cream and popcorn and had just stepped out to find a taxi home when a boy accosted him and held him, shouting, ''So you think you have escaped abi”?
'Before my cousin knew it, he started defending himself for a crime he did not know when he committed and in the presence of everyone, some of boy's friends joined him and they took away everything my cousin had with him. That is how they usually operate, and it is now rampant in most areas of Onitsha.'
In Awka and Obosi however, the activities of cultists have reached an alarming proportion as clashes between rival cults have been taking a great toll on human life. The cultists have however graduated from just having skirmishes with their rivals and moved to wielding dangerous weapons, with which they rob members of the public.
Last Sunday, February 3, a group of six boys were said to have sacked shop owners and residents of Unizik Temporary Site Junction and Emma Nnaemeka Street. The boys moved from shop to shop between the hours of 7 and 9pm, robbing everyone in sight of their money and phones, and also shooting into the air at intervals to scare those who might dare to accost them.
A victim, Mr Christopher Nwachukwu, told Fides, 'I was standing outside my compound when they accosted me and shot into the air, then ordered me to lie face down on the ground.
They collected my phones and money, and then went off to nearby shops.'
Other residents of Awka who spoke to Fides confirmed that the cult war in the town which last year claimed several lives had been ignited again. Mr Joshua, Iloh, a lawyer and human rights activist, said his child almost fell victim to them last Tuesday.
'I sent my son to a nearby shop to buy me call card, when the next thing I heard were gunshots. I looked out from the window, but did not suspect that it was my son, but it was after then that he came back shivering and narrating his experience. He said they mistook him for a member of another cult who lives in our area. We all know who they were looking for.
That is the sorry situation we have found ourselves in this town,' Iloh said.
Also within the same week, gunmen had struck at Oye Market, Nimo, Njikoka LGA, around 10pm and robbed shop owners and their customers of their money and phones
Meanwhile, attempts to reach the Special Adviser to the governor on Security, Chief Chikodi Anara, on the plans of the state government to sustain the tempo of security in the state did not yield fruit as calls to his MTN number showed that his phone was switched off.
But the spokesperson of the Anambra State Police Command, SP Haruna Mohammed, however denied that the state was sliding into insecurity. He pointed out that there was no society that was totally bereft of crime.
He said the command had recently been working harder than before to ensure the state was rid of crime, noting that such efforts had been paying off greatly as many of the cultists, drug peddlers, and armed robbers had been recently rounded up.
'You cannot because of isolated cases of crime in the state claim that the state is insecure.
We have been doing our best, and we have arrested a good number of persons as you have always seen in our press statements.
'We know only a few places in Nkpor, Obosi and Awka where this cult thing is more, but that is not to say that the entire state is insecure,” Haruna said.