Residents of Oriendu in Umualumaku Umueze in Ehime Mbano Local Government Area in Imo State are currently living in fear for their lives following the alleged invasion of the community and destruction of property by security personnel suspected to be soldiers.
The community invasion by the armed men came a day after some gunmen killed and set some soldiers, policemen and men of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps ablaze in two patrol vehicles in the community on Tuesday.
A video sighted by one of our correspondents showed the destruction of property in the community, even as the narrator alleged that the act was perpetrated by the armed officials.
It was gathered that residents of the area were currently living in fear of their lives and decried the burning of houses.
The resident who spoke in the video lamented that they were being punished for what they knew nothing about.
According to a video, several shops, buildings, properties, food shops and bars were allegedly razed by the rampaging soldiers seeking justice for their colleagues.
The roads of the quiet village looked deserted after the soldiers allegedly wreaked a devastating havoc on the community with only a handful of countable residents whose properties were destroyed seen.
PUNCH Metro observed from the video that uncountable crates of alcoholic drinks were destroyed, several lockup shops were set ablaze, some shop with pots, plates, chairs were also destroyed.
The narrator called on Nigerians to see the unfair treatment meted out to the community.
He said, “We have suffered in this community. What do they want us to do in this community? That a crime was committed in this community does not mean that it is Ehime Mbano people that did it. You people should come to our rescue. Shops, bars, event centres and food stalls were all burned down today by the military men of the Nigeria.
“The people they destroyed their shops; were they the ones that committed the crime? Please, we are suffering in this community; leave us alone because things are bad. People are crying and asking what did we do?”
The narrator in the video added that some indigenes of the community had fled into the bush.
A resident of Ehime Mbano, who sells building materials in the area, told PUNCH Metro that the shops and other property destroyed by soldiers belonged to innocent people who knew nothing about Tuesday’s incident.
The resident, who pleaded anonymity for the fear of being harmed, said, “The destruction of some shops and drinking joints today in Ehime Mbano by soldiers is not necessary. Shops and tents belonging to pap sellers were destroyed.
“They should investigate, arrest those behind the killing of the soldiers and bring them to book and not going setting traders shops and buildings on fire.
“The entire place is boiling; I had to close my shop and leave to avoid problem. The heavy presence of soldiers along the road is worrisome.”
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Army has denied involvement in any attack or destruction of shops, including drinking joints and restaurants, in Ehime Mbano, Imo State, following the gruesome murder of some security personnel in Umualumaku community on Tuesday.
The Assistant Director, Army Public Relations Officer, 34 Artillery Brigade, Obinze, Joseph Akubo, in a telephone interview, said he was unaware of any destruction by the men of the force in the area.
“Is it that military men came to destroy? Let’s be sure of what you are asking. I am not aware of anything like that. We don’t have a report of anything related to this.
“Unfortunately, everybody is bringing on whatever they like, but for now, the military is not conducting any operations around there. I will suggest you speak with the Police PRO.
“I think you should speak with the police; they are the ones in charge of internal security. They should be the ones speaking about whatever is taking place.”
Also, The Director, Defence Information, Brig. Gen. Tukur Gusau, said he was not aware of the incident.
When one of our correspondents called him, he said, “I am not aware.”
In a related development, the acting Inspector-General of Police, Olukayode Egbetokun, has said that the Nigeria Police Force was committed to inter-agency collaboration to uncover those behind the recent killings of security operatives in Imo State.
Reacting to the tragic loss on Wednesday, the IG, through a statement by the Force’s Public Relations Officer, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, said the Nigeria Police would leave no stone unturned in order to ensure that those responsible for the killings were apprehended.
While extending condolences to the friends, families, and relatives of the deceased officers, Egbetokun further urged anyone with useful information related to the incident to report to the police in order to aid their investigation.
Meanwhile, the Governor of Imo State, Hope Uzodimma, and the governorship candidate of the Labour Party for the November 11 governorship election in the state, Athan Achonu, have condemned the Tuesday killing of security operatives in the state.
In separate statements, Uzodimma and Achonu described the killing and reprehensible.
In a statement issued by Uzodimma’s spokesperson, Oguwike Nwachuku, the governor, assured the people of the state that the suspects would be caught.
The statement read, “Governor Hope Uzodimma has assured the public that those behind the Tuesday killing of security operatives at Ehime Mbano area of Imo State will be fished out and made to face the law.
“When Governor Uzodimma visited the scene of the ugly incident accompanied by the Imo State Commissioner of Police and the Director Department of State Services, he expressed sadness over the lives lost.
“He assured the people that the state government in collaboration with security agencies would fish out the perpetrators with a view to bringing them to book.”
On his part, Achonu asked the state government to become more serious with security in the state.
The statement which he personally issued read, “That unconscionable murder of innocent security operatives in the line of duty is reprehensible, highly condemnable and unacceptable in a modern society like ours.
“The latest onslaught in the recurrent sparks of violence is more condemnable because it happened in my own constituency.”