There is palpable tension and panic in Anambra State as gunmen on rampage have taken over the streets, attacking security formations and killing officers, seven months to the governorship election in the state.
In the last two months, the security situation in the state has become worrisome with gunmen continuously attacking the military, police and prisons formations in the state, just as cult groups terrorise and kill their rivals as well as innocent citizens.
Despite the apprehension created among the citizens by this state of lawlessness, the state government has always described Anambra State as the safest in the country.
Voters and other people in the state have expressed worries over the possibility of conducting the governorship election in the state giving the deplorable state of insecurity.
Rising killings, attacks
On March 18, gunmen attacked and killed three Naval officers at a check point at Awkuzu, in Oyi LGA of the state and carted away their weapons.
Same day, armed men attacked and killed three policemen at Neni Junction in Anaocha LGA of the state, while their vehicle was set ablaze and weapons also carted away.
Barely 24 hours after the attack on the Naval officers and policemen, gunmen attacked a vehicle of the Nigerian Correctional Service conveying some inmates to court in Ekwulobia, in Aguata LGA of the state, and killed two officials of the Service.
On March 31, the former Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, was attacked by gunmen in his hometown – Isuofia in Aguata LGA of the state, while interacting with youths of the community over his governorship ambition.
Three policemen attached to Soludo, who is a governorship aspirant on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) were killed, while the state commissioner for Public Utilities, Mr. Emeka Ezenwanne, was abducted.
On April 19, gunmen attacked and killed two policemen at Zone 13 Police Headquarters in Ukpo, Dunukofia LGA of the state. One of the buildings belonging to the zone was razed by the hoodlums, while no fewer than four vehicles were burnt.
Similarly, the cases of cult killings have also continued to rise in the state. There have been series of cult wars, leading to the attack and killing of innocent persons.
The latest was on April 19, where four persons were allegedly killed by yet-to-be identified gunmen, in what appeared to be cult war in Awka, the state capital.
No cause for alarm – Police
Going by the killings and attacks on security formations, spokesperson of the Anambra State Police Command, DSP Ikenna Tochukwu, has said that the police will not be distracted by the attacks on the security formations.
According to him, the police in the state have stepped up strategies to neutralise the criminal elements in the state.
“We are on ground and we are in charge, no criminal elements will survive in Anambra State. The command is battle ready to deal with any person or group of persons who would want to create problems in the state,” he said.
The PPRO also debunked the insinuation that the present challenges will affect the governorship election in the state, saying governorship electioneering process would be smooth and free.
He assured that the police in Anambra would do everything within its powers to ensure that peace is maintained in the state before, during and after the elections.
He also appealed to the public to give useful information to the police so as to enable them carry out their duty of protecting lives and property in the state.
Election should not be postponed – Govt
Also speaking on the issue, the state commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, Mr. C. Don Adinuba, told Daily Trust that government is not sleeping over the situation as it has put in place mechanism to deal with the criminal elements in the state.
He said that the security is under control and that the public should volunteer information to the police and government.
On the possibility of affecting the governorship election, he said there is nothing stopping the conduct of the election in the state, noting that activities of the criminal will soon come to an end.
When asked government’s plans to curtail the rising security challenges in the state, he said government is doing a lot which cannot be disclosed to the public.
He urged residents to be calm and go about their lawful business.
PDP expresses worry
Also reacting on the security challenges, the state chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Ndubisi Nwobu, said the security situation may likely affect the governorship election if it is not checked.
He called on government at all levels to step up action towards curtailing the activities of the criminal in the state.
Nwobu also admonished the citizens to partner with security operatives in the state to ensure that there is peace.
“Certainly, the security challenges will affect the conduct of the governorship election in the state. We in the PDP had said that the security situation in the country is bad and that the present government is not doing enough about it. But we are accused of playing politics with security,” he said.
On his part, the South East zonal chairman of the Social Democratic Party SDP, Chief Arinze Ekeleme, urged the residents not to panic over the security challenge, saying that it will soon become a thing of the past.
According to him, “government will certainly address the situation very soon.” He urged the residents to remain law abiding and to go about their normal lawful businesses.
He also said that the security challenges will not affect the governorship election in the state, saying that there will be enough security on ground before the election.
One of the executives of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, Chief Arinze Igboeli, called on all the security agencies and the public to work together to rein in the monster of insecurity in the state.
“Ebube agu, the local vigilante and all the security operatives, as well as the public, should work together in the way of sharing information so that the criminal elements will not continue to terrorise the state,” he said.
He, however, expressed fear over the conduct of the governorship election in the state if the situation is not controlled.
According to him, people may not come for the campaign and subsequently on election day for fear of being attacked.
We are in fear – Residents
Mr. William Nwora, a civil servant, said the insecurity situation is seriously creating fears among the residents, saying that if not controlled, will not affect only the campaign but the governorship election in the state.
“People will not come to listen to the candidates’ campaigns and there cannot be good election without campaigns. I have the fear that if the security challenges continue, it will affect many things including the governorship election as people will prefer to stay indoors,” he said.
Speaking on the security challenges and the election, Mr. Philip Eke, a printer, urged government to address the insecurity challenges before the election.
He, however, called on the public to volunteer information to security men to enable them do their jobs very well.
Another person who did not want his name on print said, “We don’t need to deceive ourselves that governorship election will hold under this insecurity.”
He said there is no security in the state and people will be afraid of coming out for electioneering campaign and the voting.
“If they are attacking police formations successfully, they can also successfully attack the campaigns and polling units unchallenged. They have understudied the security architecture of the state and found out it is weak,” he said.
However, Daily Trust gathered that more policemen have been moved to the state to maintain peace and order.
When contacted, the Public Relations Officer of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Anambra State, Mr. Nimem Samuel, said they are not praying for the security challenges in the state to continue.
According to him, even if it continues, it is the INEC headquarters in Abuja that will decide on what to do on the Anambra State governorship election.