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S’EAST FORESTS OF KIDNAPPERS: GOVERNORS OF REGION IN FRANTIC SEARCH FOR SOLUTION

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Southeast governors in emergency meeting over insecurity in the region

Insecurity has persisted in the Southeast. From Nnewi to Isikwuato, Nsukka to Afikpo and Mbano, the issue has continued to dominate discussions, especially the changing trend of kidnapping in the zone.

Of particular interest is the revelation that most of the kidnap cases occur around forests in the various states, be it in Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, or Imo.

For incidents of kidnapping that did not happen within the precinct of the forests, Sunday Sun finding showed that the victims were usually taken to thick forests.

In fact, it was only in Anambra State that kidnap victims were mostly attacked in towns and cities.

One of the high-profile cases of kidnap in the region was the abduction of the Prelate of the Methodist Church of Nigeria, Dr Samuel Kanu Uche, along with a bishop of the church and one of his aides on May 29, 2022, at the Umunneochi, Abia State axis of Enugu/Port Harcourt Expressway.

Since then, several other kidnappings had taken place in the area, including that of a Catholic priest, Rev. Father Chinedu Nwadike, the Deputy Registrar of Spiritan University, Nneochi (SUN), Umunneochi LGA.

Bandits abducted the priest alongside a seminarian on their way to Enugu for an official assignment, along the now notorious Leru Junction of Umunneochi Local Government Area of Abia State axis of the Enugu/Port Harcourt Expressway.

Though it could not be confirmed whether ransom was paid, but their abductors made contact with the school, demanding N50 million ransom before their release.

Again, on September 7, 2022, bandits intercepted a hearse conveying corpse to Isuikwuato Community in Abia State, and abducted the driver and others, around Umunneochi/Ihube Okigwe axis of the Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway.

A source, who disclosed that the victims were coming from Abaraka, Delta State, said “the armed bandits waylaid the vehicle conveying the corpse and dragged out the occupants, abandoning the coffin in the vehicle on the road.

While the Umunneochi forest, which borders parts of Imo, Enugu and Anambra states, is the most notorious in Abia State; the Enugu-Ugwuogo Nike-Opi-Nsukka Road, has been its equivalent in Enugu State.

Since criminals operating in the Awgu axis of the state were cleared; the forest which extends to parts of Igbo-Etiti, Isi-Uzo and other LGAs has remained a haven for kidnappers.

Former Secretary to Enugu State Government, Dr Dan Shere and many commuters, including students of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, returning to campus after over eight months strike of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) were between October 16-20, abducted along the road, by hoodlums suspected to be Fulani herdsmen.

The abductors had reportedly demanded a ransom of N300 million for the release of the students.

Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi visited the scene of the abduction on Thursday, October 20, alongside heads of security agencies in the state.

The state government then moved bulldozers into the location two days later and commenced clearing of the thick forest.

Shere and many of the victims were eventually released on that day by their abductors, though it was not confirmed whether any ransom was paid.

According to the released victims, some of their abductors were actually security operatives.

Anambra, Imo under attack

In Anambra State, the current wave of insecurity where criminals seem to specifically target security agents, politicians and important public officials, whether serving or retired, started sometime in 2021.

From these classes of people, the criminals came down to businessmen and women and, indeed, other innocent people going about their businesses; killing and sometimes kidnapping them for ransom.

In Imo State, the situation has been clearly restricted to the Orlu axis where security forces have had running battle with criminals, including those claiming to be members of the Eastern Security Network (ESN) sponsored by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).

These persons occupy camps in the border communities of Ihiala and Orsu areas of Anambra and Imo states. There had been military bombardments of the area in the past.

Although, the IPOB accused Imo State governor, Hope Uzodimma and the military of killing their members in the area who were protecting the forests from Fulani herdsmen occupation, Sunday Sun investigation gathered that criminals had already taken over the area and made it their dens; from where they came out to wreak havoc in Imo and Anambra.

Available records show that these hoodlums have also burnt public facilities, especially local government secretariats. At the time it was intense, Nnewi South and Aguata LG secretariats were set ablaze by the hoodlums.

Innocent people who were very important to the society because of their expertise in their professions had their lives cut short by these hardened criminals.

One of such important personalities was Dr Chike Akunyili, husband of the late former Minister of Information, Prof Dora Akunyili.

To contain these gunmen, the state government has been making spirited efforts to flush them out. It was, however, in the course of trying to end the insecurity that it made some discoveries.

One of such was that the criminals terrorising the state usually came from other states in the Southeast region. The government also said that some of the criminals it arrested so far were all from other states in the region with about 80 per cent of them coming from a particular state.

Former Anambra State governor, Chief Willie Obiano, while in power, made it open that a security report on his desk showed that outsiders were responsible for the insecurity in the state.

Upon assumption of office, his successor, Prof Chukwuma Soludo, reechoed that claim, but vowed to crush the gunmen.

Soludo, however, later discovered that there was some degree of local support for the gunmen.

A few other criminals arrested by security agents were of Anambra origin. These persons, according to reports, were aiding these other criminals from the other states to operate in Anambra State.

Soludo has, however, labelled the insecurity in his state a criminal enterprise. He said that some of the notebooks recovered from the forests where these criminals camped had details of their daily transactions.

According to him, some of the kidnap victims and the ransoms they paid were recorded in these books.

But as part of measures to curb insecurity in the state, the state government slammed 6:00p.m to 6:00a.m curfew on the seven affected local government areas in Anambra South Senatorial District.

However, it is strongly believed in Anambra that the gunmen terrorising Ihiala and Nnewi South LGAs operate from the neighbouring Imo State.

It is also believed that the gunmen that killed three soldiers and one civilian recently in Umunze community, Orumba South LGA came in from either Imo or Abia State as Anambra has boundary with both states in that axis.

These gunmen came in again a few days ago to attack the military, but three of them were killed by the army who had superior firepower. It was gathered that the gunmen first opened fire on the soldiers, but were overpowered.

The state government has, however, said that it would not leave any stone unturned in its efforts to end insecurity in the state.

The governor reiterated that commitment recently in Onitsha, during the 20th Coronation anniversary of the Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe.

Renewed attacks, fresh fears and interventions

It has been established that hoodlums who terrorise the Southeast, be they herdsmen or not, operate from then forests.

In Ebonyi, the Agbebor/Agba forest in Onicha and Ishielu LGAs has been spotted.

Recently, the Ebonyi State Police Command said it arrested the alleged leader of the ESN in the state alongside his gang members, in a thick forest in Agba community of Ishielu local government area of the state.

The command’s spokesman, Chris Anyanwu, said the arrest of the suspects was carried out in a joint operation involving the DSS, Army and other security agencies in the state.

He revealed that the joint security team also carried a similar operation in Isu, in Onicha local government area of the state.

“Ebonyi State Police Command under the able leadership of CP Aliyu Garba armed with credible intelligence, stormed three big Camps of the outlawed IPOB/ESN operatives (including a new one under active construction), located in a thick forest close to Opeke River, in Omege village Agba Community, of Ishielu LGA.

“The gang is also highly suspected to have partaken as a criminal participant in the attack of the Provost of Federal College of Education, Isu Onicha along Agba axis a few days ago judging from the proximity of their camp to the scene of the incident and many other similar ones in the state,” he stated.

The forest extends to the Nkanu East area of Enugu State where military helicopters were recently seen dropping explosives in forests within Ajeme Akpawfu village. Credible security sources confirmed that hoodlums terrorising parts of Nkanu land and Enugu town were believed to be hiding there.

There was a major military operation in the forest last year where stunning revelations were made.

Worried by the growing rate of insecurity in Enugu State particularly those perpetrated by purported Biafra agitators, the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) recently condemned the criminal attacks on the indigenous people of Oduma in Aninri LGA and the neighbouring communities of Nkerefi, Nomeh and Mbulubu in Nkanu East LGA, all in Enugu State.

According to Enugu State Coordinator of MASSOB, Comrade Chukwu Daniel, in a statement on October 29, 2022, information from Biafra Intelligence Agency (BIA), the group’s secret security, showed that these gangsters operated in a camp within the borderline between Nkerefi and Oduma forest called Ngene Awa by Oduma people, then, Okobo by Nkerefi people.

Alleging that these hoodlums had subjected the people of the above mentioned communities to subjective slavery, MASSOB added: “The indigenous people can’t go to their farms during this harvesting season because of fear of being kidnapped, raped or killed by these youths.

“It is very clear that these people are not fighting for Biafra actualization, because Biafra agitators cannot be involved in kidnapping, stealing, raping and making life unbearable for your own people whom you claimed you are fighting for.”

Following fresh attacks coupled with the fears and concerns over the security situation in the region, ahead of this year’s Yuletide, the South East Governors’ Forum, last Sunday, met in Enugu.

Rising from their emergency meeting at the Government House Enugu, the governors announced their resolve to set up a 24-hour joint security patrol of the highways in the zone to tackle the incessant kidnapping and killings in the region.

The communique of the meeting, which was attended by Governor’s Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu, David Umahi of Ebonyi, Okezie Ikpeazụ of Abia; Deputy Governor of Imo, Prof Placid Njoku and Deputy Governor of Anambra, Dr Onyekachukwu Ibezim, was read to the newsmen by its chairman, Umahi.

“One of the issues of our discussion today and the major reason for our meeting is the issue of security within the region. And so, South East Governors decried the state of insecurity in the region. You are all aware that our economic activities have come to a halt while kidnapping and wanton killing have become the order of the day.

“South East Governors, therefore, call on the Federal Government to come to the aid of people of Southeast in beefing up security in the zone bearing in mind that elections are around the corner and there are heightened activities within this period.

“Meanwhile, we deliberated on the best way to help our people and also restore their confidence to go about their businesses and we all agreed definitely and totally to start a joint patrol in all our major highways in Southeast and this will commence before December 1.

“We are going to put funds together to purchase vehicles to ensure that we have 24-hour joint patrol of security people in most of our highways in the Southeast,” Umahi stated.

Prior to this period, the individual states had made various interventions. In Abia, the state government set up a committee to address the persistent insecurity in the Umunneochi axis of the state.

Despite the setting up of the committee, pockets of kidnappings had been recorded there, although the effort seemed to have paid off.

The Abia State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Eze Chikamnanyo, who is also a member of the committee said they combed the forest and discovered the flashpoints.

“We have banned anything that has to do with Okada at the Enugu/Port Harcourt Expressway Junction. That is where they use to have their informants. We have equally banned the operation of Keke beyond a certain time. We have done the massive clearing of the bushes along the major highways where the criminals used to hide and target their victims. To ensure better visibility, we have engaged in aggressive cutting down of those trees that obstruct visibility,” the Commissioner said.

Chikamnanyo said that with these measures, the committee had put the criminals on their toes.

It is important to mention that the abduction the Prelate of Methodist Church Nigeria, Dr Kanu Uche and two other clerics, who were released after N100 million ransom was paid, exposed so many things about the criminal enterprise at the Umunneochi area.

Their abduction had elicited protests by youths of the area who among other things demanded that the cattle market should be relocated as it allegedly served as haven for all forms of criminal elements.

In fact, the Prelate had in a press briefing in Lagos narrated how people he described as Fulani herders abducted them at Isuochi. He equally accused soldiers at a checkpoint not far from where they were kidnapped, of complicity.

Following the youths’ protest, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu had directed that “all settlers, herders and individuals residing inside the forests around Umunneochi LGA to vacate such locations with immediate effect,” adding that, “government can no longer guarantee the safety of any person or group found to be residing in the forests around Umunneochi LGA.

“All cows and herders around Umunneochi LGA are hereby restricted strictly to the Cattle Market located at Umuchieze until a final decision is reached concerning the menace in the Cattle Market.”

The governor further directed the leadership of the youths of Umunneochi LGA Vigilante Groups, hunters and the Hausa Community, to continue to meet with him until an amicable solution was found to the incessant cases of insecurity in the area.

Meanwhile, victims of the latest kidnapping incidents at the Enugu-Ugwuogo Nike-Opi-Nsukka Road, alleged that some of the perpetrators were military personnel working hand in gloves with herdsmen. They further alleged the use of sophisticated weapons including AK49, by the kidnappers.

And, the army authorities in the 82 Division are yet to react to the allegations.

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GIGANTIC NEW SNAKE SPECIES DISCOVERED IN AMAZON RAIN FOREST

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A team of scientists went to observe anacondas rumored to be the largest in existence. Professor Bryan Fry/The University of Queensland

Gigantic new snake species were discovered in the Amazon rain forest by a team of scientists who went to observe anacondas rumored to be the largest in existence. 

Scientists working in the Amazon rainforest have discovered a new species of snake, rumored to be the biggest in the world.

A team from the University of Queensland traveled to the Ecuadorian Amazon to search for the previously undocumented northern green anaconda (Eunectes akayima), following an invitation from the Waorani people to observe anacondas “rumoured to be the largest in existence,” according to the scientists.

The team joined the hunters on a 10-day expedition to the Bameno region of Baihuaeri Waorani Territory, before paddling down the river system to “find several anacondas lurking in the shallows, lying in wait for prey,” Professor Bryan Fry, a biologist from the University of Queensland, who led the team, said in a statement.

Anacondas are giant, non-venomous constricting snakes found in or near water in warm parts of South America.

“The size of these magnificent creatures was incredible – one female anaconda we encountered measured an astounding 6.3 metres (20.7 feet) long,” Fry said of the team’s discovery, which was made while filming for National Geographic’s upcoming series “Pole to Pole with Will Smith.”

The team also said they had heard anecdotal evidence that snakes of 7.5 meters (24.6 feet) and 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds) had been sighted in the area.

Green anacondas are the world’s heaviest snakes, according to the UK’s Natural History Museum, which noted that the heaviest individual ever recorded weighed 227 kilograms (500 pounds). It measured 8.43 meters long (27.7 feet) and 1.11 meters (3.6 feet) wide.
While another species, the reticulated python, tends to be longer – often reaching more than 6.25 meters (20.5 feet) in length – it is lighter.

The discovery was made while filming for a National Geographic series.

The discovery was made while filming for a National Geographic series. Professor Bryan Fry/The University of Queensland

However, experts studying the creatures discovered that the newly identified gigantic snake species discovered in the Amazon rain forest, the northern green anaconda species diverged from the southern green anaconda almost 10 million years ago, and they differ genetically by 5.5%.

“It’s quite significant – to put it in perspective, humans differ from chimpanzees by only about 2 percent,” Fry said. The findings are described in the journal MDPI Diversity.

The team then set out to compare the genetics of the green anaconda with other specimens elsewhere to assess them as an indicator species for the health of ecosystems and warned that the Amazon is facing numerous threats.

“Deforestation of the Amazon basin from agricultural expansion has resulted in an estimated 20-31 percent habitat loss, which may impact up to 40 percent of its forests by 2050,” Fry said.

Habitat degradation, forest fires, drought and climate change threaten rare species like the anacondas, which exist in such rare ecosystems, he added.

CNN

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A WHOLE TOWN UNDER ONE ROOF

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A whole town under one roof!The town of Whittier, Alaska, is known for having nearly the entire population living in a single apartment building.

The building is called Begich Towers, a 14-story apartment complex that houses about 90% of the town’s residents (total: 272). This has earned Whittier the nickname of a “town under one roof”.

The building, originally constructed as an army barracks, now serves as a cozy condominium featuring a post office, general store, police station, laundromat, health clinic, mayor’s office, and a heated indoor pool.

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Whittier, Alaska is accessible only by air or through a single-lane tunnel that stretches over two miles through neighboring Maynard Mountain. The town’s weather conditions can be harsh during winter, making the Begich Towers a convenient and practical living solution for the residents, under one roof.

In addition to the Begich Towers, there is a second condo building in the town where the remaining residents also live under one roof. The town’s school and gym are located in a separate structure but are connected to the Begich Towers by a tunnel, allowing for easy access during the winter months. Isn’t it amazing, that in this town everyone lives under one roof.

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AMADIYA THE TOWN THAT NEVER EXPANDS NOR SHRINKS

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The mountain table-top town of Amadiya

Iraq is beautiful and Amadiya the town that never expands or shrinks, is a shining example of its beauty. And you know what? Amadiya is a town that never expands or shrinks.

You can travel through roads that take you past immense and immaculate mountain ranges without an army patrol in sight. And also – it’s very friendly and safe.

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Where is Amadiya?

Amadiya is in Iraqi Kurdistan. Iraqi Kurdistan is a region of northern Iraq, close to the Turkish border. You can enter the Kurdistan region from Turkey and Iran and also by flying into Erbil or Sulimaniyeh airports. The town is also sometimes spelt Amadiye, Amedi and Amadiyeh. The nearest other town is Sulav, a small mountain village. Google Maps will kind of give you an inkling.

Approach view to the town

So, it is a Kurdish and Assyrian mountain village in northern Iraq – Kurdistan region. It sits proudly on a mountaintop and dates back to the year 3000 BC. It sits an astonishingly close to 10 miles from the Turkish border. The village has been rumoured to have been part of the Persian Empire and was a semi-autonomous region for a period lasting from 1376 to 1843.

Buildings perched by the cliff edge of the mountain table-top town. This peculiar city boundary makes expansion impossible

These days Amadiya is governed by the Kurdish government but ultimately controlled by Iraq, from the capital city of Baghdad. Christians and Muslims live in harmony inside this marvellous lofty village. The current population of Amadiya is rumoured to be around 4,000.

Getting to Amadiya

I’ll not lie to you – backpacking in Iraq is not the easiest thing you’ll ever do if you are used to booking things online. You can’t just go on the internet and book an online train ticket direct to Amadiya! Buses are infrequent, hard to spot and few and far between. Therefore getting to this mountain village leaves you with three main options:

One of the Taxis that commute to Amadiya

1. Know someone local to take you (a great option to have). 2. Hitch-hike (safer than you’d think). 3. Taxi (ouch – but you’ll probably have to!).

However, hitchhiking is not always safe. Bear that in mind somehow. So, on getting to Amadiya, get a taxi. You should ideally base in the town of Dohuk.

Dohuk to Amadiya by Shared Taxi

This is actually very easy. In Dohuk, head to a street called Cinema Street, on the other side of the road, if you look down you will see a car park with buses and taxis. This is the “Garaj” as they call it. From this “Garaj” in Dohuk you can get a shared taxi all the way to Amadiya.

Taxis will leave when they are full and make sure you have some Iraqi Dinars to pay. If you are rich and really cannot wait, you can pay more and just take the taxi with the driver as the only other person inside.

A typical Garaj from where taxis are boarded to the town

Driving from Dohuk to Amadiya

The drive from Dohuk to Amadiya is sensational. Iraq’s mountains are beautiful. You will be on a very smooth road through the valleys. Views are beautiful out on either side, showing the mountains and the villages.

One of the approach roads

The journey from Dohuk to Amadiya takes around one and a half hours depending on traffic. It’s not all twists and turns and it’s probably about 70 kilometres of road. Road signs state 60 km between Dohuk and Sulav, while the Lonely Planet offers 65 km. Another local map says 90 km…it’s hard to know!

Your taxi should drop you off nicely in downtown Amadiya – it’s not a big place so you won’t be lost.

Downtown Amadiya

Downtown Amadiya

In the grand scheme of things, Amadiya is a fairly average town. It has all the usual amenities – a shop – a police station – a youth club – a sports shop – restaurants and a main street. However, it’s on top of a mountain and that is why it’s magical!

There are also a few statues and a large Kurdistan flag flying from a roundabout in the village centre. Wandering around at your leisure is a good idea to get a feel for the village.

Amedi Mosque and Minaret

Approach to the mosque with the minaret visible

The central focus of the actual town is of course the Mosque/Masjid. As tourists sometimes flock here, there is a sign written in English inside the Mosque. The Amedi Mosque is hard to miss due to its towering Minaret – the highest point in the village.

The Minaret at the Mosque in Amadiya – towers over the town.

If you do become unsure, just ask locals for “Masjid” and they’ll know you mean Mosque. The Mosque is mostly green in colour. You can walk inside the Mosque grounds with no problem. If you want to enter the actual Mosque – wear a hajib for females and no shorts/skirts etc. Plus shoes must be taken off.

Bahdinan Gate/The Eastern Gate

This is the real reason why you’re here. The Bahdinan Gate is the only significant reminder of the ancient fortress city which once existed here. Modern housing blocks have taken over and the old walls have crumbled.

The ancient Bahdinan Gate

Head on your way down the streets of Amadiya until you find the Bahdinan Gate. It’s on the Sulav side of the town towards Dohuk, but it’s a good idea to carry a photo of the Gate (the Kurdistan tourist map has one, as did the Lonely Planet copy we had with us). This will make it easier to find the beloved Amadiya, the town that never expands or shrinks.

Most locals will stop and help you with no problem. A lot of them will also be happy and shocked to see foreigners in their town.

Once you get to the Gate, it’s basically a pathway down to an arch, you head in through the arch for excellent views and you’ll be on the path around the walls of what was once a fortress.

All in all, the ancient mountaintop village of Amadiya will always be a really cool day out. And because of its perch on a mountaintop, Amadiya is indeed the town that never expands or shrinks.

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