There was pandemonium as security operatives invaded Umuonyeoka Ihitteafoukwu and Okponkume communities in the Ahiazu Mbaise Local Government Area of Imo State on Saturday and allegedly burnt down houses belonging to suspected members of the Eastern Security Network.
On arriving in the communities, the security operatives, who allegedly came in seven vehicles, headed for the homes of their targets and set them ablaze after not meeting the suspected ESN members.
An indigene of the community, identified simply as Emmanuella, said her grandma was injured during the raid and was currently unconscious.
A statement by an indigene of the area, Emeka Obasi, condemned the manner in which the operation was carried out.
The statement read in part, “In the early hours of Saturday, February 12, 2022, Umuonyeoka, a quiet and peaceful community in Ihitteafoukwu town was ruffled with a seemingly Gestapo style of invasion by armed men suspected to be law enforcement agents, who came in seven cars, shooting indiscriminately and headed for the compound of the Madu.
“It was alleged that they came to apprehend one Mr Uche Madu, who is alleged to be a member of the ESN group, but when they couldn’t get him, hell was let loose and they descended on the country home of his siblings, Sonyval and Chinonso Madu, which they set ablaze, without allowing even a pin to be evacuated from the buildings.
“While I do not condone any indigene of Ihitteafoukwu land to be involved in any unlawful act or criminal activities, it is still pertinent to state that the invasion and arson perpetrated in our land is highly condemnable and ill-advised.
“In an era where security matters and investigation are handled and unravelled by intelligence gathering, the resort to arson by supposed law enforcement agents can best be described as an affront and highly unlawful.
“In recent times, Imo State has continued to make screaming headlines in both the local and international media for the wrong reasons. It is, therefore, incumbent on the state governor, Hope Uzodimma, who is also the chief security officer of the state, to rise up to the challenge and ensure that such incidents like the Ihitteafoukwu invasion that exposed the security volatility of the state is nipped in the bud.”
“Ihitteafoukwu remains a peaceful town and its indigenes have always been known for their patriotism and law-abiding nature.
“I, therefore, call on the state government to, without delay, unravel those behind the Saturday invasion of Ihitteafoukwu land with a view to bringing them to justice as well as forestalling a future recurrence of this unlawful act.”
Another source in the Ihitteafoukwu Autonomous Community disclosed that the security men invaded the house of one Mr Ekene, popularly known as Ekeson, a member of vigilance security group in the community, and apprehended him while he was trying to escape.
His family house and three other neighbouring houses in the compound were later set ablaze.
“Unidentified security men came to Okponkume, arrested Ekeson and burnt down his house and his neighbours’. It’s believed that the security men are after ESN members,” the source stated.
A video circulating online Ekeson’s family house burning and family members and public spirited individuals trying to extinguish the inferno and a voice was heard saying, “See this house has been burnt with people’s property also burnt to ashes.”
Footage showed Chinomso Madu’s house being set ablaze as his brother, Uche, who the security operatives came to apprehend fled.
A voice stated, “This is what we are seeing now, the house of our brother, Chinomso Madu; see how security operatives set it on fire and watched it burn. They came with seven cars; this is what we are seeing in our land.”
As of the time of filing this report, the spokesman for the police in the state, Michael Abattam, had not responded to an inquiry about the incident.