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Awomama Killings: Needless Waste Of Human Lives



The dust is yet to settle as regards the gruesome killing of 14 young men at Awomama town in Oru East Local Government Area of Imo State on mid last month. In the wake of that needless waste of human lives, there have been conflicting accounts of the shooting of the youths, most of whom hailed from Otulu community in the state.

The Directorate of State Services (DSS), Imo State Command, claimed that its operatives carried out the shooting and that their victims were members of the Eastern Security Network (ESN), the militant wing of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). The DSS said it trailed and killed the terrorists with the help of an informant in their camp in Awomama, and not at a traditional wedding place as was claimed in other accounts by community leaders.

The Imo State government has readily adopted the DSS’ report and cautioned the public against using the incident “as a propaganda tool to blackmail the security agencies and the government.”

However, the President General of Otulu town union, Nnamdi Agbor, accused operatives of an Imo State government-sponsored security outfit, Ebubeagu, of executing the victims without any cause. He said the victims were returning from a traditional wedding at Awomama on motorcycles at around 7pm on that day when Ebubeagu operatives opened fire on them.  He named the bridegroom, and listed the names of the seven youths slain on the spot, the two who were hospitalised as well as five others who were missing at the time.

This account was corroborated by a survivor of the shooting, one Nnamdi Nnanna, who narrated to the press how those he identified as Ebubeagu militias shot seven of his brothers dead in his presence and only spared him when he begged for his life and screamed that he was not a member of ESN.

For somebody who was at the scene of the shooting and spent hours in the custody of the shooters during which, according to him, the operatives took him to the palace of the traditional ruler of the town before releasing him, the testimony of Mr Nnanna bears subjecting to a thorough and independent scrutiny. Anything to the contrary will leave everyone with no alternative than to see the DSS’ narrative as nothing but a coverup by the Imo State government.

Already, several individuals and groups have condemned the killings and called for a proper enquiry into it. Among them are the Coalition of South East Youth Leaders (COSEYL); the youth wing of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council Worldwide (OYC); frontline rights group, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), and the Metropolitan Archbishop of Owerri, Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji.

COSEYL, for instance, said 32 other persons were injured in the attack and taken to the hospital and called on the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Usman Baba, to prosecute Ebubeagu operatives involved in the act. HURIWA, on its part, described it as a state-sponsored extrajudicial execution and called on the National Assembly to investigate this particular incident so that the killers can be prosecuted for murder.

As a newspaper we are appalled that, in a country where high-profile Boko Haram/ISWAP/Ansaru terrorists are being arrested and put through a rehabilitation and reintegration  process, and where a notorious bandit leader in Zamfara State,  popularly called Aleru, who is known to have kidnapped and killed countless innocent Nigerians among other crimes, was recently turbaned as a traditional ruler in Zamfara state, that youths in Imo State and other South East states whose involvement in crime is unconfirmed are summarily executed by government forces. Earlier in July, community leaders in Ogbaru town in neigbouring Anambra State had lamented what they described as the mass killing of more than 100 innocent youths by soldiers in the guise of fighting insecurity. This selective strategy by security agencies can only raise questions about the government’s sincerity in combating terrorism and crimes as well as aggravate the already tense situation in the South East region.

Whether the Awomama killings were perpetrated by the DSS or Ebubeagu, we join the Archbishop of Owerri in condemning what he described as “this mindless blood-letting, and similar senseless killings in the South East, especially Imo State in recent times and the descent of our country to one that has no regard for the sanctity of human life and is ready to waste human life at the least provocation.”

We also align ourselves with the positions espoused by Archbishop Ugorji and the Ohaneze youth group that this matter should not be swept under the carpet, and that an independent enquiry should be instituted into the matter for appropriate punishment and compensation to be doled out to the culprits and their victims respectively. The state government and the DSS cannot carry out the enquiry as they cannot be judges in their own case.

Similarly, we urge relevant government and professional organizations to reach out to the family members of the slain youths to help them deal with the trauma of the tragedy that has befallen them. Already, the mother of two siblings killed in the incident, Ifechi and Emeka Ekesinachi, has reportedly given up the ghost due to heartbreak. Such intervention could help to prevent further casualties in the Awomama killing. One way to help them is to ensure that justice is served, and quickly too, in this matter through the instrumentality of the law.

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