2 June 2004

Nigeria: Police Discover Arms Depot in Abia

Ukwa, Abia — THE police in Abia State have discovered an illegal firearms factory at Isi-Ohizor in Ukwa West Local Government Area following a tip-off by the town's vigilante group. The person behind the arms factory, one Augustine Ejiasa Nwogu, who is already being detained by the police, has confessed to the police that he used to supply guns made from the factory to some hoodlums who often terrorise motorists along the Aba-Port Harcourt expressway. However, leaders of the community disclosed that Nwogu was not alone in the arms manufacturing and distribution, adding that some prominent people in the area (names withheld) were the main financiers of the illegal firearms deal.

In a petition to the Inspector General of Police, the chairman of Isi-Obuzor Youths Association, Mr Sunday Nwogu and secretary of Isi-Obuzor Elders' Council, Mr Morgan Ulkunwa called for the arrest of those behind the arms deal, insisting that it is only by so doing that the incidence of armed robbery in the area would be minimised.

Community protests

Part of their protest letter reads:

"For a very long time, there has been a repeated cases of armed robbery operation along Port Harcourt, Enugu expressway, especially between Obehie in Ukwa West LGA and Oyibo in Rivers State where Isi-Obuzor community is located. In addition, there has been open display of illegal firearms by some hoodlums in the community. The people behind it are terrorising the entire community."

According to the community leaders, the people's source of worry was that the various organs set up in the area led to the discovery that a former local government chieftain allegedly commissioned the illegal manufacture of the firearms. They requested the IG to urgently intervene in the matter "so as to save the lives of innocent citizens who volunteered information to the police in line with the on-going nationwide crusade against illegal possession of firearms and armed robbery."

In another petition addressed to the Assistant Inspector-General of Police (AIG) in charge of zone 9, Umuahia, the people of Umuoju village union also in Isi-Obuzor autonomous community traced the problem in the area to alleged move by the former chairman of the transition committee of Ukwa West Local Government, Chief Sylvanus Nwaji to request for the creation of another autonomous community from Isi-Obuzor.

"If the police do not intervene in time, the likehood of an intolerable breakdown of law and order in Isi-Obuzor autonomous community may not be ruled out completely," Mr J.O. Enyinnah, chairman of Umuojku village union and 10 others who signed the protest letter said.

However, Nwaji told Vanguard that the problem in the area arose because of his support for a candidate not favoured by the petitioners during the last local government elections. He claimed that his life had been in danger since the election, hence the decision to run away from his community.

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