By Johnbosco Agbakwuru & Chinonso Alozie, Owerri
Some schools in Owerri metropolis yesterday, ended school session abruptly and forced their students to return home over alleged threat to attack them by unknown gunmen
It gathered from some locations especially in Owerri, the state capital, that parents were seen anxiously taking their children home.
Some of the school proprietors who could not mention their names for security reasons, said they had to shut down their schools because of a letter that went viral on social media linked to unknown gunmen, warning that there would no longer be movements and schools will shut down every Monday of the week in Igboland.
According to them, “There would be an attack on any school that fails to obey such an order.”
At the time of filing this report, some schools along Egbu road, Akwakuma, Amakohia, Owerri-Aba road and Owerri- Onitsha road out of fear closed their schools.
Also affected were some schools along MCC/Uratta Road, Okigwe road leading to Orji axis as well as World Bank areas.
At the early hours of the day, Vanguard gathered there were few human and vehicular activities within Owerri.
Some of the residents who spoke said that last week’s attacks on police stations and buildings of individuals were the reason people decided to stay home.
According to one Tobe Ugwuegbu, a resident along Wethedral road: “The various attacks on police stations including the killings of police officers now put fear in the people that Mondays which are usually seen as sit-at-home could be a dangerous day.
“That is why some streets are almost empty. People are just sitting inside their houses. Nobody wants to be killed.”
Another resident, Mr Fabian, a trader along Tetlow road said: “When the news broke this morning that unknown gunmen issued the last warning to shut down schools in Imo State, I quickly rushed and collected my children from school before I went to open my shop.”
Imo govt vows to punish workers who stay at home on Mondays
Meantime, the Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodimma, has vowed to punish any civil servant who stays at home on Mondays of every week.
The State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Declan Emelumba, made this known to newsmen in Owerri while reacting to the report that there was a sit-at-home order in the state.
He said that the government has not issued any sit-at-home order in the state, adding that the government has made adequate security for workers to go to work and carry out their responsibilities.
According to the Commissioner, “The government of Imo State has warned civil servants to ignore any call not to go to work on Mondays or be ready to be punished for staying away from the office. Adequate arrangements for security is put in place to ensure they are in the office to do their work.
“This is to inform all indigenes and residents of Imo State that government has not authorised any public holiday or sit-at-home in the state, either today, Monday, March 21, 2022, or any other working day.
“Consequently, everyone is advised to go about his or her normal duties. Civil servants are particularly advised to ensure that they are in their offices discharging their responsibilities. Those who abstain from duty without authorisation will be sanctioned accordingly.
Government hereby assures all indigenes and residents of adequate security as they go about their lawful activities,” the government said.
Buhari approves more security for Imo
Sequel to the spate of attacks in Imo recently, the State Governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma, yesterday, said that President Muhammadu Buhari has approved his request for additional security to curb the recent resurgence in the state.
Recall that the President had summoned Governor Uzodimma over the recent destruction of buildings and assets of the Police and the home of Prof. George Obiozor, President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo.
The President also summoned the Minister of Power, Abubakar Aliyu, and the Chief Economic Adviser, Prof Doyin Salami.
The trio met with Buhari at the Presidential Villa on Monday afternoon.
A statement issued by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, had explained that President Buhari was scheduled to meet separately with them and he would be apprised of the latest developments in Imo State, the power sector and the state of the economy.
The statement recalled that the President while condemning the spate of violence in Imo State in the aftermath of the destruction of buildings and assets of the Police and the home of Prof. George Obiozor, President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, pledged to review the security situation in southeast Nigeria.
President Buhari had also voiced his concern over the frequent power outages, apologising to Nigerians and assuring a quick relief to the situation.
Briefing State House correspondents after the closed-door meeting with the President, Governor Uzodimma said: “Generally, it is about insecurity in the South East and what is required to ensure that it is properly controlled.
“We discussed that and he took seriously my recommendations and indeed I tell you he immediately gave approval to all that which includes an increase in manpower of security agencies and then logistic supports ranging from additional arms and ammunition.
“Also, we are making use of our local vigilante and the involvement of community leaders to ensure that through community arrangements, additional security is provided to the people.
“Well, you will recall a few days ago that the home of the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo was attacked by armed bandits and in the same night, a police station in Umuguma Owerri West was also attacked; and for a very long time, if you remember, we’ve never had such a situation. In fact, our people have relaxed thinking insecurity has become a thing of the past.
“But to the glory of God, security agencies rose to it and by the second day, they were properly repelled by security agencies particularly men of the Department of State Services. They have been very useful working with other security agencies.
“And we didn’t also wait, we initiated a community-oriented programme where the vigilante approach has been reached and the community leaders have shown sufficient interest and we will get there.”
Asked to explain what he meant by political bandits being behind attacks in the state, he said: “I didn’t say, political bandits. I know that it is banditry and the crisis ravaging the country. I have said times without number that the crisis in Imo State in particular is politically contrived and we’re working with security agencies to unravel those behind it. And I am very confident that sooner or later they will be unravelled.”
Fielding question on his attempt to assuage the feelings harboured by aggrieved persons towards him or the state, the governor said, “Since January 2020, when I came into office, one of the things I initiated was quarterly stakeholders meeting. As a matter of fact, I have had six stakeholders engagements. And the purpose of that engagement is to create a platform where the stakeholders will meet and will also act as an opinion poll to involve people in governance and that has yielded a lot of positive results.
“Arising from that, we have also done one-on-one engagement with some critical stakeholders. For those who are aggrieved, I don’t know if those grievances are against the government or against individuals.
“But those who are part of the political system that are not contributing positively to the current administration, we are also reaching out to them. Of course, I know some of the reasonable minds have started coming back.
“If you have been following the politics of Imo State of late, given the evolution we have just deployed to rescue the infrastructure, that was almost absent and our achievements so far, it has attracted a lot of support from our people. Leaders from Imo State are together and united in commending our efforts.
“And if you can go to Imo State and be on the ground, apart from some dissenting voices that are on the social media, I think the state is almost recovered and we’re doing very, very well.
“So, there’s no need at this point in time for people to be aggrieved over what is not in existence. All I urge people to do is to be part of the growing concern, contributing your quota towards the development of the state and supporting the government of the day to deliver democratic dividends to our people.
“All these grievances here and there, what is the origin of the grievances? Why are people not able to look at reality on the ground? And I know that at this point in time, globally speaking, we must not be left behind as a country, we must also not be left behind as a state.
“We need to unite ourselves, we need to be realistic with ourselves, we need to be proactive in making sure that our tomorrow is better.”
Asked to react to the allegation that he was culpable in the crisis in the state and that his government was paying people to ferment trouble, he denied being behind the unknown gunmen.
“Well thank God that you called us government. I don’t know how a government with the paraphernalia of office, the Air Force, the Navy, the DSS, the Civil Defense will now go for non-state actors to be used for governance.
“So, as civilized people, you also represent the elites, so you should be able to advise such minds to reason well and think well. Because the only person that officially has the power of cohesion is government. If anything is to go by, we are a God-fearing government, that is why we have not used force as the only way of controlling the violence in Imo State.
“I just told you that we initiated the involvement of vigilante, where community leaders will get involved. As a government and one man, I sit there in Owerri looking at things and doing my work, but at the remote villages, where most of these things are happening, every community has been modelled in a manner that if they are together they will defend their land.
“So community by community, leadership by leadership, they will be able to defend themselves come together. Even before this time, we from that part of the world, we from the East, believe in the town union system. “
“This town union apart from the traditional institutions, leaders come together, set up a town upon and the purpose of this union is to attract development to the community. It is not to allow the only government to be the one providing developmental projects.
“Through community efforts, a lot of projects have been completed in the southeast ranging from town halls, rural roads, electricity health centres. So it will not stop now.
“All we can do, any reasonable government is modify and encourage such partnerships to be able to have an optimized result. So those people who are of that thinking that they need to renew their thinking and think right.”
Asked why the home of the President General of Ohaneze Ndigbo Ambassador George Obiazor was attacked he is not a politician, he said, “You know the President General of Ohaneze, you know that is the apex of the socio-political organization of Ndigbo and is a position that comes with envy.
“In fact, it is when you succeed in life that, you know, if you don’t take time, the first enemy, you have will be your close friend, because of envy and unnecessary rivalry.
“We will do our best using the security agencies to arrest those who did the arson and to see what security will be able to extract from them in terms of information.
“But until that is done, unless there is any prophesy from any of us to be able to tell us this is the exact thing that led to this, let’s wait for the investigation report. At least the preliminary investigation report will come out before we can discuss the matter.”
Sorce:Vanguard News Nigeria