It has been said at various times and in different places that this is not the best of times for Imo people, residents and others passing through the state. People have since learnt not to sleep with their two eyes closed, at least for now. This issue of insecurity has remained on the lips of most people and may remain so for some time to come, especially as crime is yet to abate.
The list of innocent citizens brazenly robbed, kidnapped or gruesomely murdered in cold blood appears long and endless. Nobody knows where, when and how the hoodlums would strike again. The Principal Secretary to Imo State Deputy Governor, Emenike Ihekwoaba, an architect by profession, was kidnapped more than five months ago on his way to his Nkwerre country home and has not been seen till date. He is still being kept by his captors, albeit against his will, despite the huge ransom already collected by the gangsters.
Prior to this ugly incident, the likes of former Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Mrs. Chioma Ogoke, former Speaker of Imo State House of Assembly, Chief Godfrey Dikeocha, Ugoeze Millicent Odimegwu and former News Editor of Imo Broadcasting Corporation, Chief Ndubuizu Ugorji, were all victims of kidnapping.
The present Chairman of Imo State Council of Traditional Rulers, Eze Samuel Agunwa Ohiri, 82-year old Mrs. Christiana Okere and the Nollywood actress, Miss Nkeiru Sylvanus, were lucky to live and tell their tales of woe.
The aspect of this kidnapping that baffled sane minds was when innocent toddlers became targets. About three small children, the youngest being about one a half years, were kidnapped from Saint Mulumba Catholic Parish, Owerri. Apart from this church, children were equally picked from other Catholic Churches in Imo State.
The bubble burst when the hoodlums tried one of the churches in Nekede, Owerri West local council area. Criminals are not tired of coming out with fresh modes of operation. In Nigeria, some people have continued to re-model their criminal tendencies from pick-pocketing, petty stealing, bag snatching, armed robbery, ritual murder, human trafficking, gang rape of even very young girls, child abuse, armed militancy and suicide bombing. There are other sordid acts not mentioned here. They all add up to the bad press Imo and Nigeria are getting in newspapers and magazines.
In Imo State, incidents of kidnapping have remained a thorn in the flesh of innocent citizens. The list of kidnap victims is long. Even traditional rulers, medical doctors, high court judges, industrialists and businessmen were not spared from the trauma of being forcefully incarcerated by the hoodlums. Vanguard Metro is not aware that any of the kidnap victims came out without paying for their freedom
A startling revelation came through the recent success story told by Imo State Command of the Department of State Security, DSS. The security outfit successfully smashed the kidnap gang that has allegedly been using Ise Nail Industry as a safe haven for their nefarious act.
The factory is alleged to be owned by the traditional ruler of Lagwa autonomous community in Aboh Mbaise local council area, Eze Cosmas Onyeneke. The startling aspect of the entire story is not that the kidnappers were nabbed and their victims released unharmed, but the fact that the alleged owner of the premises is a royal father, who equally appreciates the gravity of the offence of harbouring kidnappers in his premises. Onyeneke had variously denied knowledge of the use of the premises by hoodlums but the state government was not favourably disposed to hearing that story.
There are some unlucky ones. The latest incident was that of Imo State Deputy Governor's Director of Protocol, DOP, Mr. Laz Anyanwu. He was picked from his house and never came back alive to tell his story.
Faced with the continuing gory stories from Imo State, top ranking officers of Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, who are indigenes of the state, recently took a trip to the state. While in the state, they had chats with Governor Rochas Okorocha and the Chairman of the State Council of Traditional Rulers, Eze Samuel Agunwa Ohiri, in his palace at Orodo, Mbaitoli local council area of the state.
The NSCDC top brass, which was led by the Deputy Commandant General, DCG, in charge of operations, Mr. Evans Ewurum, told their hosts in clear terms how they felt about the sagging security situation in the state, as well as their preparedness to work in synergy with other security agencies to eradicate all forms of crime in the state.
Others officers that made the trip included the Assistant Commandant General, ACG, (Intelligence), Mr. Hilary Kelechi Madu, the Commandant in charge finance, National Headquarters, Mr. Fabian Ejezie, the Commandant, Bayelsa state Command, Mr. Desmond Agu and the Commandant, Zone B, Kaduna, Mr. Walter Akubuiro.
Also in attendance during the courtesy call to the royal father were the Assistant Commandant General, Zone E, Mr. Mohammed Lapai and Imo State Commandant, Mr. Adamu Soja Sadabs.
Responding, Eze Ohiri commended them for their special interest in the state, especially their concern over the sagging security situation in Imo. The royal father assured them of the preparedness of the traditional rulers in tackling the pervading insecurity in the state.
All that can be added to this is our collective prayer that the visit of the NSCDC top brass to Imo will change things for good. Only time will tell if this will happen in our time.