The Imo State Police Command has disclosed that it has arrested over 150 terrorists belonging to the Independent People of Biafra’s Eastern Security Network otherwise known as unknown gunmen, between January and August 2023.
Residents of Imo and Anambra states as well as some South-Eastern-born Nigerians who recently moved to the South-Western part of the country have revealed how the insurgency caused by the activities of the group otherwise known as gunmen, has led to a mass migration of people from the Eastern region of the country.
Though the spokesperson for the Anambra Police Command could not be reached for comments, the Police Public Relations Officer, Imo State Command, Henry Okoye, speaking with our correspondent in a telephone interview noted that the stop and search directive given by the CP has reduced the activities of IPOB/ESN.
He said, “This has been the challenge that we have been facing for over three years now. However, the Imo State Police Command under the leadership of the Commissioner of Police, Mohammed Barde, is doing its best to secure the state. We have improved patrol and security has improved.
“The CP has directed Area Commanders and tactical commanders to deploy men and carry out feasibility policing and stop and search in strategic points in the state, and it has helped in reducing the activities of these IPOB and ESN guys.
“Also, we have our officers at the SID that work with the DSS, and it has helped us in gathering credible information that has helped us in raiding and dismantling several IPOB/ESN camps. Because of this, between January this year and now, we have arrested over 150 IPOB and ESN criminal elements, and also those involved in armed robbery and kidnapping in Imo State.
“Imo State is now safer than before. We have secured Owerri, we’re securing Orlu, and the only places we have problem with now is along Oguta LGA, Okigwe, and these are areas that share boundary with other states.
“Some of these rogues used to come from neighbouring states, unleash mayhem, and go back. But the governor, Hope Uzodinma has given us his support, and we’re working on securing all the entrances into and out of the state, to chase these guys out.”
Meanwhile, some residents who spoke to our correspondent, noted that markets are usually no longer filled up with people as they were in the past, adding that the IPOB-induced insurgency has emboldened other criminal elements and groups, to perpetuate several forms of criminality ranging from armed robbery, rape, assassination, to banditry.
“The South-East is no longer safe due to the activities of these IPOB guys. Imo state in particular. Just recently, these so-called unknown gunmen went into a king’s palace in Mbaise and killed the man. If a king is no longer safe, then how about the ordinary people?
“I was living in Mbaise and I’ve now moved to Akure in Ondo State because I no longer feel safe. Though I’m part Igbo and part Yoruba, but I grew up in Imo State, and I’ve been living there for over 20 years until about two weeks ago when I left,” a young man who simply identified himself as Johnson said.
A young lady, simply identified as Ijeoma, for fear of the unknown gunmen, said, “I live here in Owerri, Imo State. Since their violence started, we’ve never rested. Our markets are now dry, and most of our shops are usually empty because they could just come at any time, especially on Mondays to assault and kill people.
“Many people are now leaving Owerri and running to Lagos. Also, because of these things, robbery and rape has increased in Owerri. The popular phone shop, SLOT, was robbed a few days ago, and a man and his wife were robbed of over N2 million today (Saturday). It has become a regular occurrence.”
A 31-year-old man, simply identified as Chinedu said, “Here in Anambra, Ihiala LGA where I live, these IPOB guys are not putting our minds to rest at all. One can’t go to the market or the rivers in peace. It is tiring, and we hope the government will come to our aid.”
“I live here in Awka, Anambra State. Almost all my friends and cousins have left Anambra for Lagos and Ibadan because of the insecurity. Our businesses are no longer booming as many people now fear going to the market because they don’t know when the unknown gunmen will attack,” another Anambra resident, Chukwudi, told our correspondent.