By Uche Nwosu
Just yesterday Governor Okezie Ikpeazu imposed a 24-hour curfew in the state. This is in apparent bid to contain the protests against police brutality known as #EndSARS from turning to a more violent one. Indeed, the protests have gone viral; in many parts of Nigeria until recently when hoodlums took over the match particularly in Edo State.
However, before now, it was only Lagos and Abuja that the protests were known to exist until Monday, October 19, 2020 when Abia became a hotbed. Details reports have it that Aba was relatively calm on Monday until late afternoon.
Umuahia protests were done peacefully as the protesters matched from Amankwo-Umuopara axis of the Enugu-Port Harcourt expressway (Express Tower) to the town. In fact, the protesters had moved from street to street before terminating their match at the Government House, Umuahia where expectantly they should’ve been addressed by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu like other governors were doing.
But surprisingly, Ikpeazu shunned the protesters, preferring to stay incommunicado in Government House, keeping the protesters waiting, singing and dancing to solidarity songs in the open in front of the Abia seat of power. Various reports had it that some government officials who pretended to be part of the demonstration were invited inside the Government House and given fat brown envelops. Ironically, some of the demonstrators witnessed this.
What that means was that the government wanted to weaken the protests and apparently make it to appear nonexistent in Abia State. Even as the governor was not available to address the protesters, the nonappearance of any of his cabinet members or aides didn’t help matters; it actually stimulated the protests as the protesters swore to occupy the frontiers of the Abia seat of power; uttering unspeakable words against the Abia governor and his government.
Regrettably, because of the Ikpeazu poor approach to the #EndSARS protests, the demonstrators, who had seen it as an affront, immediately devised their own revenge technique which was to cook and serve foods in the façade of the Abia seat of power in an apparent derogatory payback. It was then that some persons suspected to be sponsors of the protests brought foodstuffs, cooking utensils and motor tires for the business. They made bonfire there and roasted anything they could lay their hands on.
Elsewhere, governors would stand on the dais, take some popular solidarity salutes and songs; give the protesters sorting and comforting messages and assurances before addressing them. But Abia’s was different due the unfortunate leadership handling of the situation. It couldn’t have been this violent if it was properly handled. Certainly, the government contributed immensely in making the protests turn violent in Aba and Umuahia.
Sadly, because of the poor outing by the government, the protesters there and then vowed to occupy the Government House, Umuahia, and indeed they did; between Monday and late Tuesday when some hoodlums actually took over.
At the Federal Medical Centre Umuahia, a stone throw from the Abia seat of power, hell was let loose; the medical facility was totally barricaded, forcing patients, doctors and other medical staff to flee, while those coming in to access the facility couldn’t do so.
In Aba, two policemen were killed and their weapons carted away, while a police station in Ogbor Hill was attacked and a protester was also killed. Violence also erupted in Umuahia, the state capital.
Then, after all these, the government came out with this…
“Last night a contingent of police officers on official duty around Azikiwe Road by Asa in Aba, was attacked by yet to be identified hoodlums numbering over 30 who sadly killed one of the officers and also carted away their arms and ammunition even though one of the suspected attackers was apprehended with gunshot injuries.
“After detailed review and assessment of the general security situation, including reports of armed cultists and hoodlums sneaking into the state from different parts of the country in large numbers, the burning down of at least two police stations, reported killing of two policemen in the last two days as well as leaked plans to unleash more violence on innocent citizens, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu has directed security agents to ensure the immediate arrest and prosecution of the hoodlums, pursue a swift and complete recovery of the stolen arms and ammunition with the necessary vigour, and ensure the cultists are comprehensively flushed out.
“To ensure the continued security of lives and property of law abiding citizens, the Governor has also directed the imposition of a 24-hour curfew on Aba and Umuahia from 6pm today till further notice.
“Furthermore, Governor Ikpeazu has approved a cash reward of Five Million Naira Only (N5, 000,000.00) to anyone who provides information leading to the arrest of the hoodlums and armed cultists. This is in addition to the approval of a reward of One Million Naira Only (N1,000,000.00) for each authentic video evidence on brutality and extrajudicial killings by security agents in the state submitted to the Judicial Panel of Inquiry being inaugurated to investigate the incidents.
“Parents and guardians are strongly advised to monitor the activities of their children and wards to ensure that they are not engaged in nefarious activities, predispose themselves to harm or allow themselves to be used to cause mayhem in the State”.
EndUche Nwosu is a two time Shell Petroleum PLC award winner in the year 2000;
He won the Shell Award on Investigative Journalism and Environmental Cleanliness.