The barbaric and unconscionable beheading of an intending couple, Master Warrant Officer Linus Audu and Private Gloria Matthew, both of the Nigeria Army, in Imo State last week, reverberated and shook the country from the North to the South. Daily Trust condemns in the strongest terms possible, this latest act of terror against the Nigerian state and its security forces by the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) and its armed wing, the Eastern Security Network (ESN).
Though the South East has been plagued by increasing insecurity due almost wholly on the activities of the IPOB and ESN, the blatant murder of the couple is in a class of its own. The two young soldiers were not killed in action, rather their killers carried out what a wicked, unwarranted and premeditated murder, and to add insult to injury, posted photographs of their evil deed on the social media. That by itself is a dangerous display of the level of insensitivity to human life that the terror group, the IPOB has descended to lately.
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While we join President Muhammadu Buhari and other Nigerians to unequivocally condemn this brutal murder, we insist that it must not be allowed to go unpunished.
A statement by the Director of Army Public Relations, Brig-Gen Onyema Nwachukwu, made it clear that the officers were only on transit through Imo State when they were beheaded. It stated, “The soldiers had embarked on the trip to fulfil the traditional rites of conjugating their matrimony as the very well respected and cherished Igbo tradition demands. Ironically, the fact that one of the soldiers, Pte Matthew, who hailed from Nkwerre Local Government Area of Imo State, has an ethnic affiliation with the good people of the South East, did not prevail on the sensibility of the dissidents.
This dastardly act, one too many, clearly portends the deep seated hate, desperation and lawlessness with which the foot soldiers of the IPOB/ESN have been unleashing terror on Ndigbo, whom they claim they are on a mission to protect and emancipate, as well as other innocent Nigerians who are resident or transiting the South East. This murder, in which they did not spare even their child, clearly depicts callousness, impenitence and is indisputably a brazen act of terrorism.”
The gory manner in which Linus and Gloria were killed follows the pattern of such acts by members of that group in Imo State in the last few years. In May 2021, Ahmed Gulak, a former Special Adviser to Jonathan on Political Affairs, was killed on his way to the airport in Owerri by ‘unknown gunmen.’ The police are yet to convincingly resolve this murder. Also, between July and September 2021, as many as 59 security personnel were killed by the IPOB/ESN militia in Imo State alone. Indeed, in October last year, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), warned that the IPOB had killed 175 Nigerian security personnel and attacked 164 police stations and other federal government facilities up to that point. These figures do not include the killings of other innocent Nigerians and destruction of property by the IPOB, especially during the sit-at-home order imposed on Nigerians in the South East by the separatist group on Mondays.
To prove that the murderers are unrepentant and demonstrate the rising levels of violence, on May 3, 2022, just four days after the beheading of Linus and Gloria, another police officer, Ukam Efut, at the Agwa Police Divisional Headquarters, was killed by suspected members of the IPOB. Reports stated, “Mr Ukam, the deceased officer, was shot dead and his penis cut off and taken away. One of the other two officers sustained wounds on his face. The community is quiet now.”
These killings, and of course, their pattern, have reached intolerable levels and pose direct threats to Nigeria’s corporate existence. The Nigerian government cannot continue to fold its arms and watch our soldiers and policemen killed by people who have sworn to carve out a different country out of Nigeria as it is today. The federal government must take a stand against the IPOB/ESN, not only to protect its own security personnel but also to ensure the safety of the lives and property of Nigerians in the South East.
In many societies, like the United States, Israel, United Kingdom and Europe, security agencies do not endure the brutal murder of their officers; they ensure that perpetrators of such dastardly acts are apprehended as quickly as possible and made to face the wrath of the law. The situation should not be different in Nigeria. We call on the army and police to immediately activate their investigative process and apprehend all those responsible for the killings and ensure that they face the law. This will send a strong message to the perpetrators and serve as deterrent to others who may be contemplating such.
It is high time the people of Imo State and the South East generally desisted from providing cover for these killers, who falsely claim to be freedom fighters. It is a well known fact that if various communities reject the bloody killings going on, the IPOB and ESN militia would have no hiding place. It is also hypocritical that while high level delegations of Igbo leaders have visited President Muhammadu Buhari and pleaded for the release of the IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, they have not shown the same enthusiasm in exposing and calling out IPOB’s reign of terror.
But communities in the South East cannot outsource the responsibility of exposing and calling out IPOB’s terror. To demonstrate that they take no pleasure in these killings, community leaders must expose the killers, report them to the appropriate security agencies to ensure that they are punished for their activities, especially at a time when Nigeria’s security services are overstretched. The killing of security operatives in the South East must be stopped forthwith, and all hands must be on deck to ensure that those behind it are arrested and punished.