How armed gang under guise of ESN/IPOB took over Imo community, killed monarch, security personnel, over 100 others –Report

A report by the Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC) on insecurity, crime and human rights violations in the Southeast region has revealed how armed persons that operate under the guise of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and its militant wing, the Eastern Security Network (ESN), took over Agwa community in Imo State in 2013.

The report said that the armed gang formed by a group of young men of the Agwa community between 2013 and 2014 purposely to terrorise the community, rob and rape women in and around the area, had killed the traditional ruler of the community, H. R. M. Eze I. O. Asor of Obudi-Agwa and over 100 others. 

A member of the community who has been a victim of the armed gang’s atrocities narrated the origin of the armed gang and all the atrocities they have committed in the community and neighbouring villages.

He recalled that on January 1, 2014, the armed men raped a lady to death at a town school near a market square in the community while the victim was returning from the New Year crossover church service.

“Other vices and criminal activities were carried out by this gang of boys. The community leaders involved the government security agencies, the Nigeria Police who made certain arrests. Some of the people arrested were released.

“The vices and criminal activities increased and so rival groups/factions rose up. There was a fracas and two people from the first group of rascals were killed. The Eze (the traditional ruler) worked with the Police and some were prosecuted and convicted.

“In April 2021, during the jailbreak at Owerri Prison, many of them regained freedom and returned to the community and continued with their criminal activities. Some of them ran to Izombe (neighbouring community) and joined the Eastern Security Network (ESN) and the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) and started killing their perceived enemies.

“They killed many people including one Emenike who was killed at Obudi-Agwa in May 2022. The Police made some arrests but they were later released on bail. One of them who was shot in the leg died in the Police detention,” he was quoted as saying.

The source further noted that after the killing of Emenike, the armed gang killed some security personnel including three policemen and a Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) officer around May/June 2022.

“These miscreants operate from their camp at Izombe. Many people were killed at Ogbaku, our neighbour towards Owerri. These killers call themselves IPOB and ESN. They say they are freedom fighters. They have IPOB uniforms and materials. The Eze, H. R. M. Eze I. O. Asor of Obudi-Agwa (now late) made several reports to the government on their activities,” he was quoted as saying.

According to him, on August 5, 2021, the same set of criminals invaded Agwa Divisional Police headquarters and killed five policemen on duty including two policewomen and three policemen and burnt their bodies.

“The Imo State Commissioner of Police visited the crime scene. The governor asked the Eze to write, explaining what happened. The Eze submitted a written report to the Governor. Agwa is in a state of insecurity.

“On November 14, 2022, at about 9a.m to 10a.m, these criminals invaded the palace of the Eze of Agwa and killed the Eze and two of his visitors. His body was riddled with bullets. More than 25 bullets were seen in his body.

“Since then, Agwa community has known no peace. Over a hundred people have been killed in Agwa. Many people are being buried without coffins. The criminal gangs have occupied the entire community. They have broken into the Eze’s Palace and carted away all valuables including generators. They have taken over the Community.”

Revealing more atrocities that the armed gang has committed in the community, the source said that one 40-year-old Salome Alakam, popularly known as Ugbala, was kidnapped, killed and buried just because her brother allegedly gave money to the police.

“We know these criminals. They are led by one Uzondu Nneji. They operate under the guise of ESN. Everybody in Agwa has fled. Agwa is a peasant farming community. Houses have been razed down. They burned the house of the lawyer to the murdered Eze Asor. The police have gone after the gang and burned down Nneji’s house.

“Agwa people have fled the community. They cannot farm or trade. The youths of the community now seeing the gang activities as a money-making venture have joined them. They threaten people living outside and they pay money or have their houses burnt down. The police find it difficult to arrest them because they have many escape routes,” he was quoted as saying.

He said that on June 11 this year, the armed gang accused a woman of bringing ‘agbara’ (juju) and they threw her into a pit and when she managed to come out of the pit, they killed her.

“They always fear such juju may turn against them. Even passers-by in flashy cars are stopped, robbed of their vehicles and killed. A former member of the Imo State House of Assembly was kidnapped with his wife and his two security details. They were robbed of their Hilux truck and all killed. The police later recovered his vehicle and their bodies.”

He said that recently, the police in the state visited the community and the armed gang reacted by killing some people. 

According to him, many unidentified persons have been killed and buried in shallow graves.

“These killers are known and the police are powerless. Many bodies of the dead are lying in the mortuary and have not been buried due to the bad security situation.

“We want peace. A police detachment with armoured vehicles should be stationed in Agwa,” he was quoted as saying in the report.

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