Stakeholders meet to end violence, human rights abuses against Imo youths
The Nigerian Army, yesterday, denied alleged burning houses, shops and other commercial ventures in Awo-Mmamma, in Oru East Council of Imo State on Monday.
Military officers were accused of committing the arson in alleged reprisals following suspected hoodlums’ killing of an officer.
A visit to the scene of the incident, yesterday, revealed that over 20 shops, eight houses, a hotel, 17 vehicles, six tricycles and four motorcycles, among other valuable items were razed during the incident.
In a statement issued by the Acting Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, 82 Division, Abubakar Abdullahi, the military insisted that they only went to the scene to disperse members of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) and Eastern Security Network (ESN) who were compelling people to comply with the Mondays sit-at-home order.
“Troops conducting Exercise Golden Dawn dispersed IPOB and ESN hoodlums carrying out arson, while enforcing the sit-at-home order imposed by the proscribed group in Awo-Mmamma Community, Oru East Council of Imo State on November 22, 2021.
“In the quest to compel citizens to comply with the illegal order, IPOB and ESN hoodlums harassed, intimidated and physical abused commuters, who were going about their legitimate businesses.
“They burnt and destroyed homes and businesses at Ishieke junction (along Owerri-Onitsha expressway) as a vendetta against Imo people for not complying with the illegal order,” the statement reads.
It added that the hoodlums blocked the highway and set ablaze a commercial vehicle heading to Onitsha, but troops, who responded to distress calls from motorists and shop owners, moved to the scene and engaged the hoodlums in a gun duel.
Reacting to the incident, Governor Hope Uzodimma, who condemned the incident, describing it as regrettable and unacceptable, ordered an investigation into the incident to unravel the cause of the crisis and the loss of life and property.
He stated this in a statement issued by the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Declan Emelumba, saying: “Imo State Government is shocked and dismayed over the events at Awommamma.
“Government condemns the killing of a soldier by the unknown gunmen. Certainly, the soldier who was on a legitimate duty to ensure free flow of traffic and protect life and property did not deserve to die such a gruesome death.”
MEANWHILE, following the reported cases of alleged police and military brutality and human rights violations against Imo youths, human rights groups, youth representatives and the police held a meeting in Owerri aimed at ending the debacle.
Attendees are from Soro Soke (Speak Up), Centre for Social Awareness, Advocacy and Ethics (CSAAE) and the Imo State Police Command.
Founder of CSAAE, Rev. Fr. Godswill Agbagwa; representative of Owerri North in the Imo State House of Assembly, Philip Ejiogu; the state Commissioner of Police (CP), Rabiu Hussaini, who was represented by the Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), in charge of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), Akinyede Joseph Okusola, an Owerri-based lawyer, Kissinger Ikeokwu and youth leaders from the 27 councils of the state, among others attended the meeting.