By Tijani Labaran | Daily Trust Report
Suspected members of the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) have infiltrated Akpanya community in Igalamela-Odolu LGA of Kogi State which shares boundary with Enugu State. Residents and the state government say frequent attacks by the hoodlums are crippling economic activities in the area and leaving a trail of death and gloom. In this report, Daily Trust Saturday shares the anguish of the people and how the state government is tackling the cross-boundary crime.
Akpanya has recently come under incessant attacks by suspected IPOB members. The hoodlums, according to government officials, invade Akpanya at will and leave tales of bloodbath and woes on their trail.
With the attacks intensified from July, 2022, elders say the hoodlums target village markets, POS operators, filling stations, traders and farmers.
An elder in the community, Negedu Achema, said “Our markets, filling stations and shops have been raided many times. Farmers have kept off from farms and traders are afraid of opening their shops on market days.”
“A native who was abducted last month is yet to be located despite the payment of a N3m ransom by his family.” The Chairman of Igalamela-Odolu LGA, James Onoja, told Daily Trust Saturday that he initiated meetings with the chairmen of Igbeje North and Igbeje South LGAs of Enugu State but that the meeting did not take place as his counterparts did not show up.
He said, “Members of IPOB have their base at Agubeje and Iyonu in Igbeje North LGA of Enugu State which shares a border with Amaka in Igalamela-Odolu LGA of Kogi State. From there, they push through and attack our people in Akpanya community.
“These identified gunmen have been coming to invade us from their base at Iyonu and Ukubeje in Enugu State on market days. They always storm the community armed to the teeth and head for the market straight, stealing anything that appeals to them: food, money and materials, including kidnapping our people for ransom.”
He further said that during the last attack about 60 members of IPOB invaded the community on motorcycles, but that they met a prepared security network that confronted them and inflicted heavy casualties on them.
Our correspondent gathered that on Sunday, July 17, 2022, the hoodlums stormed the community and killed two people. Less than a month later, residents said they struck again at a local market called Ede.
Another resident of Akpanya, Joseph Ajodo, said although there was no loss of lives during the Ede market attack, the hoodlums stole items worth millions of naira.
Our correspondent further reports that on August 14, the gunmen returned to the community and attacked the shop of one Mr Edwin Itodo and kidnapped him after killing one Mr Johnson Ameh who was in the shop with him.
Ajodo said, “Even though Mr Itodo’s family paid a ransom of N3m he has not been heard from and is feared killed.”
Our correspondent gathered that the gunmen returned to the community on October 30, and unleashed terror.
A resident, Enemali Godwin, said, “The town witnessed a black Sunday during the attack. The community’s effort put in place in the form of vigilantes and the security network composed of navy and police officers helped in repelling the attackers.
“About six members of the invading group lost their lives, while the community unfortunately lost one of its gallant vigilante officers, Mr Ali.”
Faced with this challenge, it was gathered that the leaders of the community have put together a security network to assist in warding off the attacks.
An elder in the community, Mr Stephen Ojotule, said the community was building a naval base through individual donations.
When contacted, the Kogi State Government warned that it would not tolerate the attack of its people by the outlawed group and stressed that the government was fully prepared for the hoodlums.
The Security Adviser to Governor Yahaya Bello, Navy Commander Jerry Omodara (Rtd), said, “We are securing our border community in our own way. The last of such attacks was rebuffed with heavy casualties on the part of the invaders. Under Gov Yahaya Bello’s administration, we will respond adequately any day, any time.”
Omodara, who said that the governor had directed a total overhaul of the security of the area to ward off future attacks of the outlawed group, advised residents to remain calm as efforts were being made for a lasting solution.
Asked if the governor has reached out to his counterpart in Enugu State, Omodara said, “The governor may be talking to his counterpart in Enugu State over the security breach in Kogi by the group from Enugu at political level. I cannot confirm that. But as far as we are concerned, we cannot tolerate the attack of members of IPOB on Kogi soil any longer.”
When contacted, the Enugu State police spokesman, DSP Daniel Ndukwe Ekea, said the command did not receive any report of the attacks.
Ekea, in a telephone interview, added that the command would not hesitate to investigate and take action if a report was received from any quarter.