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Tension heightens in Anambra as gunmen murder over 15 residents in two weeks

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Awka, Anambra State capital, is again under the siege of gunmen, believed to be cultists.

At the last count, over 15 residents have been murdered in cold blood within the last two weeks, including some victims who cannot be identified as cultists, promoting the belief that what is happening could be targeted assassinations.

DAILY POST has followed the developments, and reports that the major problem seems to be a struggle for the control of revenue windows, especially collection of taxes from bus drivers and commercial tricyclists.

Investigation shows that no fewer than 15 persons have been gunned down in just two weeks in the city.

The orgy of killings started on Easter Sunday when as much as six youths were reportedly gunned down.

A source told DAILY POST that while the Easter merriment was being observed by Christians to commemorate the resurrection of Christ, the happiness of some people were cut short by gunmen.

“Some were felled at Okpuno area, behind Juhel, others were murdered around Eke Awka area and Obinagu,” a source said.

One of the incidents was said to have happened opposite Dike Park, around the Eke Awka Market, in Awka, the State capital.

According to sources, “The incident happened in the noon of Sunday, and also escalated to the Obinagu area, where some more persons were also gunned down by the cultists.”

It was gathered that one of the persons hit by the bullet was a staff of the Anambra State Judiciary, simply identified as Mr. Nwofor, who was said to be innocently going about his normal business before the cultists struck.

A resident of Awka, who did not want his name mentioned, said: “I suspected that there would be cult killings during that period. You know that most wanted cultists have left town, but during festive periods, they always come home to celebrate, and their rivals use the opportunity to pay them back for their past atrocities, which may include that they have killed their members.”

Just seven days after the Easter killings, three other persons also suspected to belong to secret cults were gunned down in the city.

Though security operatives could not confirm the number, a source said that two of the victims were killed in her presence.

The source said: “Two tricycles were driving recklessly along Zik Avenue at Eke Awka. They were pursuing themselves. Around Eke Awka market, the tricycle at the front got stuck in the traffic, and one boy inside it alighted and started running.

“Two boys in the tricycle behind also jumped down and pursued him. He ran towards Parkers’ area, along Zik Avenue, and diverted into a road by the right, into a mechanic workshop.

“The boys pursued him into the place, dragged him out and shot him to death. The incident caused pandemonium, and people were just running in all directions,” the source said.

Not done, two days after the same incident, another person described as Nwanayoeze, a popular Awka youth was gunned down around tricycle park, Unizik Junction.

Traders around Unizik Junction confirmed that Nwanayoeze was a very prominent youth in the entire area and also controlled revenue from tricycle operators in the area, and was feared by many people, even though they denied that he had any link with cultism.

The killings however did not abate. Thursday of the same week, a former president general of Amansea community in Awka North Local Government Area, Chief Cajetan Nwokike was killed.

On Friday also, at Unizik Junction, a man identified as Christian was gunned down. He is said to be an indigene of Enugu State, but manages a popular transport company in Awka that has fleets of luxury SUVs that ferry passengers to Abuja and Lagos.

He was gunned down in the presence of his co-workers by gunmen who came in a yellow tricycle. Eyewitnesses said the assailants were not in a hurry to leave after the assignment, as they entered the tricycle and drove away slowly.

Earlier on Wednesday evening, gunmen caused pandemonium at Aroma junction.

A youth from Amudo Village in Awka, and said to be a former tricycle operator before transiting into a revenue collector was gunned down.

A source said the assailants trailed him from the Ifite area of the state capital and shot him at close range at a filling station which serves as a popular bus stop for buses and tricycles.

Business outfits in the area were forced to close and roadside traders abandoned their articles and fled.

The major roads in the vicinity of the incident suddenly became empty, just as many people abandoned their cars and took to their heels.

Few hours later, residents of the town received news of another killing in the same junction. This time, an official of the Anambra Road Traffic Management Agency (ARTMA) was the victim.

A source said: “The man who was killed is an ARTMA official. He stopped some people who were driving a Toyota Sienna vehicle with tinted glasses, and the people shot him and drove off. It happened just close to me as I was boarding a vehicle this morning to go to Nnewi.”

The developments have heightened tension in the state capital and beyond, with residents not sure of who would be the next target.

“Security agencies seem to be overwhelmed; everyone is in panic mode,” a distressed resident told DAILY POST.

In one of his responses to DAILY POST, Anambra State Police Command’s spokesperson person, SP Tochukwu Ikenga lamented that families of deceased people do not notify the police, so that investigation can commence.

He insisted that operatives were deployed to the areas of the incidents but no news of any killing was gathered.

DAILY POST however gathered that deceased person’s bodies are usually quickly removed by family members to avoid confiscation by police.

Meanwhile, in a recent press conference, the police stated its frustration, saying that most cult kingpins arrested by police were being freed by very influential people in the city.

The commissioner of Police in Anambra State, CP Aderemi Adeoye, who was represented by Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of the Criminal Investigation Department, DCP Akin Fakorede, said: “When those things that have happened over a period of time begin to happen again, the question people should ask is Why?

“Could you imagine that the cultists we arrested, charged to court, and got remanded in prison custody that some powerful locals are going to the judiciary to lobby to get them released?

“And some have been released. And they are the ones unleashing this mayhem again! That is number one.

“Two, you must have heard of the AK-47 we recently recovered from a suspect in Awada. What the suspect told us was that they procured it for him to engage in a showdown with a rival cult group.

“Now, if that AK-47 was not recovered or had joined the recent cult-related clash, could you imagine what the casualty level would have been?

“We are already going after the cultists; and if we find that anybody is subverting justice, or is subverting due process, to get the cultists off the hook, they will face the music, notwithstanding whether the person is in the judiciary or civil populace,” he said.

Currently, major stakeholders in Awka who are worried about the orgy of bloodletting have started working towards finding a lasting solution to the problem.

Three prominent sons of Awka, the member representing Awka South 1 constituency, Hon Henry Mbachu, the Managing Director of Awka Capital Territory Development Authority (ACTDA) Mr. Ossy Onuko and the Transition Committee Chairman of Awka South Local Government Area, Mr Anagor ThankGod have teamed up to get security agencies to stop the killings.

Addressing newsmen on behalf of the three after a meeting, Onuko said “Finding a lasting solution to the security challenges is necessary as the elected and appointed officers owe it as a duty to the people to keep Awka safe not just for residents but for thousands of investors trooping into the city.”

DAILY POST, however, noticed on Friday evening that as a result of the frequent cases of killings, men of the Special Anti Cultism Squad (SPACS) have mounted guard at Aroma junction.

Meanwhile, a popular activist in Awka, Comrade Osita Obi, who spoke to DAILY POST, said it was unfair that Governor Soludo was yet to utter a word over the killings.

He said: “Soludo is doing very well in infrastructure, but protection of lives and property is the major reason we elect leaders. He needs to say something.”

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