…Call for immediate release of 5,000 suspected IPOB/ESN militants
Leaders from the South East, on the platform of Igbo Elders Consultative Forum, on Tuesday, urged the Federal Government to immediately demilitarise the region and embrace dialogue with a view to resolving any security threat to the November 6, governorship election in Anambra State.
They also demanded the immediate release of over 5, 000 Igbo youths arrested by security agencies on the suspicion of being members of proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) Eastern Security Network (ESN). They stressed that doing so would facilitate peace process and restoration of normalcy in the South East.
The Forum’s chairman and former Governor of Anambra State, Chukwuemeka Ezeife, stated this while briefing journalists in Abuja.
He lamented that people in the South East no longer sleep with two eyes closed, because of the rampancy of sporadic gunshots in the region, especially as nobody was willing to accept responsibility for the ugly development.
The Forum, therefore, called on political parties and their flagbearers to shun every activity that would prove inimical to a smooth conduct of Saturday’s governorship election in the State.
Ezeife said: “Our attention has been drawn to the increasing militarization of the South East, and the consequent built-up tension and security challenges in the zone, thus threatening a hitch free conduct of the scheduled November 6, 2021 Anambra State Elections.
“The increasing insecurity in the South East has taken a frightening dimension and remains a terrible and worrisome puzzle that must be addressed for the Independent National Electoral Committee, INEC, to conduct a free, fair and credible election in Anambra State.
“We, therefore call upon the Federal Government to demilitarise the South East, as well as take other necessary administrative and non-kinetic measures to restore peace in the zone, thus paving way for a smooth conduct of the scheduled Anambra State election.
“Similarly, Federal Government immediate release of over 5000 Igbo youths arrested by security agencies, and dumped in different detention camps in various parts of the country under dehumanizing conditions in the name of unknown gun men, IPOB, ESN, among others, will facilitate peace process and restoration of normalcy in the South East. A political solution through the instrumentality of dialogue with all relevant stakeholders is key to the present security imbroglio in the South East.
“It is our firm belief that a secured and peaceful environment is indispensable for the conduct of free, fair and credible election in any democratic state, including Anambra State.”
However, Ezeife noted that movement from one city to other in Igboland had become a nightmare with several police and military checkpoints littered all over the place.
According to him, a journey from one part of the South East to the other, including inter and intra cities movements have turned into night mares as several hours are wasted on short-routes that ordinarily would not take more than 30 minutes.
He added: “We are still worried by the unprecedented senseless killings and bloodletting in various parts of the South East especially in Imo and Ebonyi States by yet to be unmasked unknown gunmen.
“The unprovoked military invasion of Izombe community in Oguta Local government of Imo State, where over 70 houses were said to had been destroyed by the enraged soldiers, as well as similar others in various parts of the state have aggravated the insecurity situation in the South East.”
While stating that the Federal Government was central to the restoration of normalcy and peace in the zone, the erstwhile Anambra governor nonetheless urged other stakeholders to rise-up to the occasion of ensuring security of lives and property in Igboland.
He continued: “The scheduled November 6, 2021 Anambra State is very important to us, but we know that a free, fair and credible election is an essential ingredient of democracy, and may remain a pipe dream in a tensed and security challenged environment, It is a collective responsibility of every lover of democracy and the rule of law to support the conduct of a credible and generally acceptable election in Anambra State.
“We also appeal specially to our youths, including members of the Indigenous people of Biafra, IPOB, Movement for actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOP, and other similar groups, irrespective of their grievances and agitation, to give peace a chance for the smooth conduct of the Anambra State election.
“The media reports that IPOB has rescinded its earlier order of the sit at home during the election deserve a special commendation. We thank them very sincerely for this patriotic decision of allowing the election to hold in Anambra State on November 6 as planned.
“The Igbo Elders Consultative Forum shares some of your grievances and agitations, but believes that dialogue and non-kinetic measures by all stakeholders will facilitate peace process in Igbo land. It is not in our interest to turn Igbo land into a battle ground; hence we appeal for your understanding and cooperation for a lasting peace in our land.”
Ezeife urged the people of Anambra to go out en masse and elect the next governor of the state; stressing that boycotting the election will be counterproductive and a disservice to the State.
“The consequences of not voting will be unimaginable because people who do not wish us well would use that opportunity to impose any unpatriotic element on us as a Governor.
“All hands must be on deck to ensure that the Anambra State election is not only free, fair and credible, but also seen by all as meeting all necessary standards.
“We equally call on INEC to put every necessary machinery in place to ensure a smooth conduct of the Anambra State,” he added.