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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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NIGER DELTA MILITANTS AT WAR OVER PIPELINES SURVEILLANCE CONTRACT

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Militant leaders of the Niger-Delta region are currently at war over the N4.5 billion monthly pipeline surveillance contract awarded to former leader of Movement for the Emancipation of Niger-Delta, MEND, Government Ekpemupolo, popularly known as Tompolo, by the Federal Government, with Alhaji Asari Dokubo, yesterday, alleging that he (Tompolo) bluntly refused to involve him and other ex-militant leaders in a $144 million coastal protection contract ex-President Goodluck Jonathan gave to all of them during his tenure.

Dokubo, leader of Niger-Delta People’s Volunteer Force, NDPVF, has launched series of verbal attacks on Tompolo since the Federal Government, through the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited, NNPCL, awarded the pipeline surveillance contract to Tompolo and other contractors in the Niger-Delta.

It will be recalled that Commander of defunct MEND, Victor-Ben Ebikabowei, aka Boyloaf, and other ex-militant leaders and stakeholders of the Niger Delta, had on Monday, lashed out at Dokubo over his recent outburst against Tompolo over the pipeline surveillance contract.

The Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, the South-South regional group, and Ijaw National Congress, INC, the umbrella socio-cultural body of Ijaw ethnic nationality in the Niger Delta, had also intervened in the simmering feud.

This came as Niger Delta activist and Itsekiri leader, Chief Rita-Lori Ogbebor, yesterday warned the Federal Government to, as a matter of urgency, withdraw the pipeline contract awarded to Tompolo, describing it as invitation to anarchy.

Reacting, yesterday, Ijaw Peoples Development Initiative, IPDI, a rights group in Niger-Delta, yesterday, urged FG to disregard the call by Lori-Ogbebor to revoke the pipeline surveillance contract awarded Tompolo.

Defunct MEND commander, Boyloaf, who spoke for other ex-militant leaders had said on Tuesday: “I condemn the attack on Tompolo by Dokubo-Asari. This is unacceptable and unexpected of a leader of his calibre.

‘’He is qualified for the contract and Dokubo-Asari did not oppose when somebody else from Edo State, the late Capt Hosa Okunbo did a similar contract in Rivers. His company still operates in Rivers.”

Tompolo just a technical partner — Source

Vanguard could not reach Tompolo for comments on Dokubo’s allegations yesterday, but a source familiar with the matter said: “Maybe he is talking about the Global West Vessel Specialist Nigeria Limited’s $103 million security contract with the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA.

“Besides, the job was not a contract, it was a PPP arrangement which Global West provided platforms to shore up NIMASA’s revenue base above 50 per cent, and only shares from the remaining 50 per cent in the ratio of 60 per cent to Federal Government and Global West — 40 per cent.

“It is common knowledge that President Muhammadu Buhari ended this very contract shortly after he assumed office. Tompolo, as a technical partner, was affected and could not have been involved as Dokubo thought.”

Jonathan confirmed job is for us —Dokubo

However, Dokubo, who did not hide his anger over the Tompolo contract, in a Facebook video, said the Amanyanabo of Okirika, King Ateke Tom, Victor- Ben Ebikabowei, a.k.a. Boyloaf, he, and other ex-militant leaders visited former President Jonathan while he was in office, and confirmed that the contract was for all of them, adding that Tompolo stuck to his guns.

Though Dokubo admitted executing and receiving payment for a pipeline surveillance contract under Jonathan, he said this in a conversation with Tompolo after he sealed the current contract. In addition, he spoke about why he (Dokubo) will not go to Oporoza to meet Tompolo.

He said: “Many people have called me about Tompolo getting a contract. I do not have a problem with Tompolo having a contract, never, and I will never have a problem with Tompolo or any other person.

“Tompolo had been doing contracts, I never complained. Now, during the time of Goodluck (former President), he awarded through NIMASA a coastal protection contract to Tompolo, Amanyanabo Ateke Tom, myself, Boyloaf, Egberipapa, Farah and everybody went to meet with the former President and he said the contract was for all of us. And we left that place. We tried to communicate with Tompolo. He said the contract was exclusively his. We did not want to raise an eyebrow over the $144 million that they gave him per year. He did that contract for two years. He did not give anybody a dime.

“Today, they lied that the Trans-Nembe line contract was the Olu of Warri’s, who has Rivers State; it is a lie. I am talking of Kalabari, I am not talking of Rivers State. 83 kilometers of pipeline pass through Kalabari, through my native Kula, my native Ilama to Cawthorne Channel. They gave it to him.

“People said he is not a greedy man. If a man can take $144 million that the former President gave us, Goodluck is alive, let them meet him. Boyloaf was there, Ateke was there, ask them. I will not try to please anybody; he vehemently refused that the contract is his, that he will involve nobody and did not involve any of us.

“I do not need anybody’s respect, you do not have to respect me, I will say the truth. You cannot take what is Gbaramatu’s, after taking Gbaramatu, you want to take Kalabari’s own (portion). I do not want to talk about these things but when you make comments, I will talk about it, and I will clarify issues.

“So, if the Olu of Warri has taken Rivers State, he took this, he took that, what was the approach of Olu of Warri to the people from where they gave them and the approach of Tompolo? Did Tompolo reach out to anybody when he got the contract? He assembled small boys at Oporoza and people started complaining, and he said we should come to Oporoza.

Why I will not go to Oporoza

“I spoke to him on the phone; I am older than him; that I should take my two legs, enter a boat, and go to Oporoza. Amanyanabo Ateke should take his two legs, enter a boat, and come to Oporoza. All the others should come, they went because they want the money, I cannot condescend to that level because of money and go to Oporoza.

“What is the approach of the Olu of Warri to the people within the area that he operates, how has the Olu of Warri been reaching out to the people? Did he sit somewhere and be sending people or even if he sent people, did he ask all of them to come to Ode-Itsekiri or to Warri to meet him in his palace?”

Reverse contract or wait for anarchy, Lori-Ogbebor tells FG

Reacting to the contract awarded Tompolo yesterday, Chief Lori-Ogbebor lambasted the Federal Government for failing in its responsibility to manage oil resources in the Niger Delta and maintaining peace in the country.

Addressing newsmen in Abuja, she said: “I have called you because of the anarchy in our land. There is anarchy in Niger Delta. Some weeks ago, I was a guest at national television and they sought my position on insecurity in the country. ‘’What they asked was connected to the train tragedy. But I told him then that the instability in the country, which is in the Northern areas of the country is little compared to what was coming in Niger Delta.

“I said there will be anarchy and it will be very serious. I told the anchor people should be worried about what is happening in the Niger Delta for two reasons. One, the Niger Delta is where the food is produced, the food basket of the nation and is also what gives us foreign exchange.

Till today, people have been crying about foreign exchange and it keeps worsening every day.

“It is not only that our food basket will stop, our food production, even the foreign exchange of Nigeria will keep going down the drains. I told them, kidnapping is one thing but killing, bloodshed and kidnapping, alongside lack of foreign exchange will be double tragedy. At the time I said it, they said I did not understand the question posed to me.

‘’But I am sure now that they understand. It is not more than four weeks and everyone is running amok, with revelations coming out. When I talked about small and big thieves, they did not understand me. When I talked about vessels being used to take our oil to the high seas and oil bunkering, they did not understand me. I warned then that it is not the small thieves that they should worry about but the big thieves and since then, they have pursued vessels out of our waters.

“Mallam Kyari, GMD of NNPC agreed that everybody is involved in the stealing, that they even found pipelines in churches and mosques. That is how bad it is. I said then that the problem we have is FG, all they do, instead of tackling this problem, is to give few people money to go and give few boys in the communities.”

She noted that the award of the humongous contract sum to one individual in the Niger Delta is a clear demonstration of government abdicating its responsibilities to the people.

Chief Lori-Egbebor cautioned that both state and federal governments must demonstrate the needed political will to implement the NDDC Master Plan and avoid enriching few individuals to the detriment of the common good of the people of Niger Delta, insisting that failure to heed the advice could spell doom for the country.

“In fact, it is unable to manage oil in Niger Delta, take control of the country. They now went back to what we cried against some years ago, dumping money in the hands of some people, abdicating their responsibility to the people to take care of Niger Delta. This was why a week ago, they handed over pipeline surveillance to Tompolo and another man who is part of them, Dokubo has come out to say no, that Tompolo is nobody, and that he dared not come to his area.

“I am not to say who is right or who is wrong but the truth is that you dare not go to another man’s land to take care of what he laboured to plant. So, Dokubo has said it, that when they were fighting the Itsekiris, they knew that the oil in Delta State belong to Itsekiris but they all converged to fight the Itsekiris, that the main oil is in Ijaw land — Bayelsa, Rivers, Kalabari and other areas.

“Now, Dokubo has said Tompolo should not come to his area, whose area will Tompolo go with money being paid to him to look after? Because it is clear now that Itsekiri people have more oil in Delta State than anybody else? What is the Federal Government going to do? Now the house is divided against itself? The Federal Government is busy creating NNPC Limited to come and carry oil in the Niger Delta, and they want to do that very quickly, and talk unequivocally as if all is well but all is not well.

“Recently, Dokubo was brandishing assorted weapons and the Federal Government kept quiet. If this is allowed to continue, anarchy will consume the nation. The Federal Government must stand up to its responsibility against any form of lawlessness and do the needful, so that peace will return to Niger Delta and Nigeria in general. To achieve a lasting peace in the region, FG must withdraw the Tompolo pipeline contract award, constitute NDDC board properly and ensure a holistic implementation of the Petroleum Industry Act.”

Ignore Lori-Ogbebor’s call to revoke Tompolo contract

—IPDI

Tackling Lori-Ogbebor yesterday, the National president of IPDI, Austin Ozobo, said in a statement: “We have studied Chief Lori-Ogbebor’s statement and wish to state that it did not come as a surprise because she is on record to have opposed every effort to attract development and positive appointments to Warri area, Delta State and the Niger Delta region.

“The IPDI calls on the NNPC and FG to ignore Chief Lori-Ogbebor. She is neither a Niger Delta activist nor a leader in the region. Also, she does not live in the Niger Delta to feel the devastating effect of the activities of oil theft nor has any stake in the region through investments.

“All her investments are in Abuja and Lagos, from where she addressed press conferences from time to time to promote her selfish interests at the expense of the ordinary Itsekiri people that she claims to be fighting for. Let her invest in rural Itsekiri communities like Ogheye and Ebrohimi to develop the communities as Chief Tompolo did with Kurutie, if she loves her people.

“Niger Deltans from across the nine states of the region have wholeheartedly embraced the award of the surveillance contract to Tompolo and are ready to work with him. This is evident in the thousands of people that have paid solidarity and consultative visits to him at Oporoza, Delta State.

“The fact that Tompolo can deliver on this very sensitive national assignment is not in doubt and key stakeholders are all behind him to stop the environmental genocide in the Niger -Delta, increase the nation’s oil production and protect the environment.

“IPDI strongly believes that this contract would lead to the employment of thousands of youths and help in addressing youth restiveness in the region; hence well-meaning Niger Deltans support him.’’

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ZAKI BIAM INVASION: VICTIMS YET TO BE PAID 15 YEARS AFTER COURT ORDERED FG TO PAY COMPENSATION

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Zaki Biam…The attack on Zaki Biam could best be described as an ethnic cleansing considering the magnitude of the carnage that trailed the attack and the global outrage that greeted the Army operation

…Survivors lament delay, ask FG to comply

A VISIT to Zaki Biam, also known as the ‘yam headquarters’ or the ‘food basket of Benue State’, was quite revealing.

Though bustling with activities, the relics of the 2001 infamous invasion by the military that left many dead and villages in ruins, still dot the landscape.

Located in the Sankera axis of Benue State, Zaki Biam and several other communities on that path, including Gbeji, Vaase, Iorja, Tse Adoor, Kyado, Anyiin and Ugba were invaded by troops and reduced to mere rubble following reports of the murder of no fewer than 19 soldiers who were sent to maintain the peace over a lingering crisis involving communities there.

The military attack reportedly resulted in massive destruction of lives and property, which ultimately forced the victims to seek reparation through litigation spearheaded by the late leader of the Benue Development Movement, Dr. Alexander Gaadi, who dragged the Federal Government to court, demanding N200 billion for the victims.

Six years later, and specifically in 2007, what was seen as respite for the victims, came when Justice Lewis Alagoa of the Federal High Court Enugu entered a N41.8 billion judgement against the Federal Government which was eventually pruned to N8 billion in a compromise agreement.

Regrettably, 21 years after the massacre and 15 years after the judgement that was entered in favour of the victims, they are yet to reap from the celebrated verdict of the court.

While many of the survivors of the invasion are dead, many others are actively expecting when they will receive their cheques from government, which appears not to be bothered about their plight and is apparently not doing anything in that regard.

Some survivors of the massacre, who lamented their fate when Arewa Voice visited Zaki Biam, said that it was unbelievable that they were yet to be compensated more than two decades after a valid and subsisting court order.

They wondered why the Federal Government had resorted to dilly- dallying over the matter and buying time in court through unjustifiable court processes all in a bid to frustrate efforts to give effect to the verdict, thereby further worsening their condition.

Elder John Tsafa, the Orya (Village Head) of Tse-Amachigh, Ugbaam Council Ward in Sankera, lamented that his subjects are still suffering the effect of the invasion and had been traumatised by the non-payment of the approved compensation to them by the Federal Government.

Tsafa said: “The money has not been given to us and my subjects are suffering as a result. Our condition is very critical now. Although many people have rebuilt their houses, some have not been able to settle down since that time because their livelihoods were completely destroyed.

“If that compensation is given to us, it will do us a great deal of good. We will be able to pick up our lives again and live normal lives because the truth is that the invasion adversely affected even the survivors, many of who have died untimely deaths because of the pains and trauma they had to live with.”

Also, Dooga Nyiashima, the second Orya of Tse-Amachigh, whose house and belongings were also destroyed, disclosed that 21 years after, he had not been able to overcome the trauma and found his feet. “I have been doing my best but I lost much during the invasion and I have no hope again unless I get compensated to add speed to my life again,” he said.

Recounting his ordeal, Ugodo Ukpelakpela from Tse-hiive said, his two brothers whose houses were burnt during the invasion, were unable to rebuild them until they died and never got compensated.

“It is heartbreaking and we appeal to the Federal Government to pay the compensation so that the victims who are still alive can get the support they need to pick up their lives again while those who died in the course of waiting for the payment can rest peacefully,” he said.

Another resident and survivor, Torhee Taawen who looked dejected and helpless, said: “We have not been compensated and we are suffering but there’s nothing we can do about it. My father’s house was destroyed by the Army in 2001. He could not rebuild it until he died and we built his tomb in the ruins of a wing of the house because it was a big house that accommodated our large family.”

Reacting, the lawmaker representing the Logo/Ukum/Katsina-Ala Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Dr. Richard Gbande urged the Federal Government to be guided by the principles of rule of law and obey the orders of the court by paying compensation to victims of the invasion.

“The Zaki Biam invasion was a sad one and we all expect that government will immediately comply with the court ruling by paying the compensation to alleviate the suffering of the survivors/victims who are my constituents so that they can pick themselves up and push the incident behind them. The time to act is now; it is long overdue and long awaited,” Dr. Gbande said.

Speaking on the issue, the lawyer who led in the suit to secure reparation for the victims/survivors, Mr. Ocha Ulegede narrated the intrigues that trailed the quest for justice for the victims who dragged the matter to court and expressed optimism that solace would soon come the way of the people.

Mr. Ulegede explained that on July 5, 2007 he secured a judgment of N41.8 billion at the Federal High Court Enugu and by October 22, 2007 he garnished the Federal Government’s account for that judgement.

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ANAMBRA WOMEN IN ENUGU APPLAUD GOV. UGWUANYI’S INCLUSIVE POLICIES

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Anambra Women living in Enugu State on Tuesday applauded Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi for the inclusiveness exhibited in the selection of the 2022 Pilgrims to the holy land, Israel.

No fewer than 274 pilgrims under Enugu state government sponsorship left the state last Thursday to the holy land.

In a statement, the group under the auspices of Anambra Women in Nigeria, Enugu State wing, stated that it was delighted with the inclusion of persons of diverse professionals irrespective of state of origin as part of the contingent.

The statement signed by its President Mrs Ujunwa Chinweze, said that Ugwuanyi has distinguished himself among his peers as one interested in promoting the Christian virtues for the good of the country.

“He has indeed shown that prayers were key to solving the challenges of the country and he has ensured that pilgrimage to holy land is sustained to enable Christians pray and strengthen their faith. It is something worth emulating by other governors for the good of our country.

“Those who benefited from the pilgrimage included indigenes and non-indigenes of the state and from diverse professions”, she said

Describing pilgrimage as a set time for Christians all over the world irrespective of state among others to come together to pray for their nation, state and family and  tap the blessings from  God, she said that it called for concentrated efforts

She added that pilgrimage offer opportunity for education and enjoined the beneficiaries to cease every moment of it to better their lives.

Mrs Chinweze said it was a great privilege for Anambra indigenes living in Enugu state to be selected to participate in the exercise and called on them to reciprocate the governor’s magnanimity by remaining law abiding.

She thanked Governor Ugwuanyi for deeming it fit to sponsor the year’s pilgrimage despite the challenges facing the state.

She enthused that with prayers, the country will overcome her challenges 

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