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17 killed as soldiers smash fleeing bank robbers in Ebonyi State

On 24 January, about 17 people were killed, as an armed gang attempted to rob a bank in Ugep, Cross River State, and was later intercepted and smashed by soldiers in Ebonyi State.

Local sources report that three persons, including a policeman, were killed during a gun duel between the robbers and security agents in the bank at Ugep, after the gang had raided another bank at Ikom.

The sources said another four people were killed by stray bullets, as the robbers shot indiscriminately while escaping the town in two vehicles, heading towards Ebonyi State through the Ugep-Abomege Road.

As the robbers fled, soldiers on routine patrol in Ebonyi State were alerted of their movement. Troops from the 103 Battalion and the 24 Engineer Regiment, 82 Division Garrison, blocked all the routes through which the gang could have escaped. The soldiers soon intercepted the robbers as they were heading towards the Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway.

In the fierce gun fight that followed, seven of the robbers were killed; two others were seriously wounded and bled to death before reaching a hospital, while six escaped into the bush, apparently with bullet wounds. The soldiers lost one man, with two others wounded.

The Assistant Director of Army Public Relations at the Army’s 82 Division headquarters in Enugu, Lt Col Sagir Musa, confirmed the casualties.

He added that items recovered from the robbers included two RPG7 bombs, 28 empty magazines, two gas cylinders, 37 empty cases of 7.62 mm special ammunition, 22 live rounds of 7.62mm special ammunition and two vehicles.

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Kidnapped Rev Fr Chijioke Amoke freed in Enugu State

Map of Nigeria showing Enugu State

On 9 November, Rev. Fr. Chijioke Amoke, a Catholic priest kidnapped by armed men on 2 November, regained his freedom in Enugu State.

The Commissioner of Police in the State, Mr Danazumi Doma, said the priest was released by his abductors unharmed on the night of Wednesday 9 November and had been re-united with his parish members.

Fr.  Amoke was abducted in Onitsha-Enugu Ezike in Igbo-Eze North Local Government Area of the state, by armed men who came in a black jeep and pounced on him as he was driving into his parish-house. On 9 November, Rev Fr Simon Ugwueze, Coordinator of Justice and Peace Commission in the Nsukka Catholic diocese, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that the abductors had called, threatening to kill the kidnapped priest if the Diocese failed to pay a ransom of N10 million. 

However, the church said it would not pay any ransom, or accept assistance from anyone offering to pay. In a press statement entitled: Horrible kidnap of a Catholic Priest, Reverend Father Chijioke Amoke, and signed by the Bishop, Most Rev. Dr. Francis Okobo, the Nsukka diocese of the church said it would stand by its policy never to pay ransom for kidnapped priests.

The statement read in part: “No ransom will be paid to free Fr. Chijioke and whoever tries to do such will be doing both ourselves and Fr. Chijioke more harm than good. We will not pay any ransom and we will not accept anyone pretending to be doing so on our behalf. We wish to remind the kidnappers that they can never hold Fr. Chijioke forever. They will surely release him either to us (church) and humanity or return him to God by killing him and thereby end the work God has given him here on earth”.

Both priests and laymen across the parish had prayed fervently for Fr Amoke’s release. Hours before he was freed, the Nsukka diocese had held a High Mass, seeking God’s intervention to end his ordeal. However, police sources also indicated that the priest’s family had engaged the kidnappers in negotiations. It is however not clear whether any ransom featured in the negotiations.

Earlier, on 9 November, the kidnappers had killed Mr. Roland Iyida, a herbalist they abducted on the same day as the priest, in Uda, a community in Igbo-Eze North Local Government Area of Enugu State. Iyida, popularly called Ojenammuo, meaning “He who visits the land of the spirits”, was seized while driving in his jeep. The kidnappers shot and killed a policeman who tried to intercept them, wounding another.

A local source reports that Iyida’s body was found by worshippers inside the Anglican Church in the community, who promptly reported to the police. A Police source confirmed that the corpse had been recovered and deposited in a morgue at the Enugu Ezike General Hospital.

Police arrests MASSOB leader Uwazuruike, 250 others, in Enugu

On 24 August, police arrested the leader of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Chief Ralph Uwazuruike, along with over 250 members of the organization, in Enugu, capital of Enugu State.

Arrest of MASSOB members

Uwazulike’s arrest followed the earlier arrest of about 200 MASSOB members by the police. The members were arrested as their buses drove into Enugu from different parts of Igboland for the 12th anniversary ceremony of an Igbo youth organization, the Igbo Youth Movement (IYM). The highpoint of the ceremony was to be the conferment of an honour on the ailing ex-Biafran leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, currently in a London hospital after suffering a stroke in December 2010.

The MASSOB youth were apprehended on the highways leading into Enugu, by soldiers who said they were instructed to stop them from entering the city. The soldiers first took the arrested youths to the headquarters of 82 Division, Nigerian Army, there in Enugu, before handing them over to the police.

Thereafter, the soldiers raided the venue of the ceremony, the Hotel Presidential, carrying away about 50 members they found outside, in five Hilux patrol jeeps. Apparently suspecting that some of the MASSOB youths may have gathered at Ojukwu’s residence in the former Government Reserved Area (GRA), the soldiers proceeded to search the house, but found none of the youths there.

Arrest of MASSOB leader Uwazuruike

Sources say after he learnt of the arrests, Uwazuruike went to the Police Commissioner’s office, accompanied by the National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Victor Umeh, and some other leaders. His mission was to ascertain why members of his movement were arrested and to possibly negotiate their release. However, while at the police headquarters, the MASSOB leader was himself arrested and detained around 7.00pm.

Police explanation of the arrests

The State Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Ebere Amaraizu, had said the MASSOB members were arrested based on an intelligence report which said they were coming into Enugu to disrupt the peace. He said: “We arrested the MASSOB members who are up to 200, because we don’t know their mission to Enugu.  We were informed that they were coming to cause havoc. We have commenced investigation to ascertain their true mission to the state”. Police authorities reportedly said Uwazurike was arrested and detained for “treasonable felony”.

Reactions from MASSOB members

MASSOB activists, however, view the arrests as a further incident of official repression of their group. One member said: “This arrest clearly demonstrates the double standards and injustice applied by Nigerian rulers. Niger Delta militants destroy heavy oil installations and they are rewarded with scholarships to study abroad. Boko Haram fighters bomb police headquarters and the government is begging them to come for peace talks. But MASSOB, which has chosen to be non-violent, is constantly harassed and brutalized by the police”.

At the ceremony which the MASSOB youth were going to attend, IYM honoured Ojukwu with an award as the Igbo Icon of All Time. His wife, Bianca, who came back from London for the ceremony, received the award on his behalf.

Fire accident in Enugu: 6 feared dead, over 20 houses destroyed

Oil tanker fire (File photo).

On 28 July, about six people were feared dead, with scores of buildings and automobiles razed, after a fuel-laden tanker caught fire and exploded at a roundabout near the popular Ogbete Market in Enugu, capital of Enugu State. The Ogbete market is the largest market in the city.

Mr. Sikiru Raimi, Commandant, Enugu State Command of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), said the incident occurred when the tanker loaded with diesel lost control while negotiating the roundabout. Witnesses said the crash was followed by leakage of fuel from the tanker, operated by the Port Harcourt-based Shorelink Oil and Gas Services Company.

They said as the leaked fuel flowed into the barracks of the Enugu Central Police Station and some parts of the Ogbete market, the tanker driver raised alarm and ran to the police station to seek for help; one source said there was no immediate response, apparently as the police had no fire-prevention equipment. A short while later, the tanker exploded and went up in huge flames.

The Deputy Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr Steven Ekpei, confirmed three people dead. But local residents and witnesses said apart from the three charred bodies recovered initially, the toll may be up to six. Over 20 buildings, housing officers of the Nigeria Police Force and the Nigeria Prisons Service, were burnt. About 10 cars and several motorcycles were also in ruins. As the fire also destroyed poles and cables of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), the company’s Principal Manager, Public Affairs, Mr Eseme Udo, said some facilities, including the Enugu Prisons, may run without electricity for some time.

Witnesses say personnel from the Enugu Fire Service, and their colleagues from other agencies like the NSCDC and Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), rallied to save the market and the police station from ruin. But they said fire-fighting vehicles could not get to some of the burning buildings as structures constructed without approvals blocked access routes. Some fire-fighters, injured while battling the inferno, were later rushed to Parklane Hospital.

Addressing reporters shortly after inspecting the scene of the accident, the Deputy Governor, Mr Sunday Onyebuchi, said the state government would do everything possible to minimise the damage from such accidents in future. He said as a first step, Governor Sullivan Chime had ordered the demolition and clearance of all illegal structures in the city, within the next two weeks.

He praised the Fire Service and other emergency agencies for their quick response to the incident and pledged the state government’s assistance to alleviate the suffering of the victims.

Robbers kill 2 policemen, snatch bullion van in Nsukka, Enugu State, later caught by police

On 22 July, an armed gang numbering between 10 and 15 men, killed two policemen who were escorting a bullion van conveying a large sum of money, and hijacked the van in Nsukka, Enugu State. However, the police intercepted and apprehended them, about four hours later, as they attempted to escape into Ebonyi State.

Narating the incident, local sources said the robbers had apparently trailed the cash-laden van and the police escort vehicle from the Opi-Nsukka road up to the Fen Park junction. They then suddenly blocked both vehicles with their Mercedes Benz car and a Toyota Sienna Space Wagon, and opened intense fire at the policemen around 10.20am.

The reports said after they had killed the policemen, the robbers ordered the bullion van driver to move ahead of their van towards Queen’s College, Nsukka, while they fired indiscriminately in different directions. The reports said when they got close to the College, the robbers stopped and brought out a gas cylinder.  One account said they also brought out a welding machine with which they then ripped open the roof of the bullion van.

Another said they used the gas in igniting a fire, which then activated an explosive with the blast of dynamite. This account said after blowing the bullion van open, they then carted the bags of money it was conveying over to their own van and sped off.

The reports said one of the slain policemen was an Inspector who hailed from Enugu-Ezike in Enugu State, while the other was a Constable. Another policeman and three other persons were injured by stray bullets.

News of the incident brought commercial activities in Nsukka to a standstill for about one hour, and most banks and major shops in the town remained shut for most of the day. One report said police stations in the town were also on high alert against possible attacks, with barricades on their access roads.

However, the police later caught up with the fleeing robbers. The Public Relations Officer (PPRO) of the Enugu State Police Command, Mr Ebere Amarizu, told newsmen that once alerted of the incident, the Command immediately dispatched several patrol teams to the Nsukka area, in pursuit of the fleeing robbers. He said the pursuit yielded result at about 3.50 pm, when the patrol teams, aided by soldiers, intercepted the hoodlums along Ehamufu-Nkalagu road, as they attempted to escape into Ebonyi State. By this time, they had snatched and changed the vehicles in which they were fleeing at least three times, in the effort to shake the police off their trail.

The police spokesman said: “A general purpose machine gun (GPMG) and the stolen money were recovered, but the actual amount has not been ascertained for now”.

University girls forced into lesbian sex video in Enugu: 20 cultists arrested

Maj Gen SARKIN YAKI BELLO, GOC 82 Division

On 15 July, 20 young men who had allegedly forced some female university students in their captivity to perform lesbian acts, which they then recorded for possible public distribution or blackmail, were paraded at the headquarters of 82 Division, Nigerian Army, in Enugu, Enugu State.

The arrested men are suspected to be members of violent student cults at the Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT) in Enugu; their unfortunate female victims are also believed to be students of the same institution.

How the suspected cultists were arrested

Briefing newsmen on the arrests and the case, the Assistant Director of Public Relations of the 82 Division, Nigerian Army, Lt Col Sagir Musa, said on 4 July, sporadic gunshots at ESUT drew the attention of a military patrol team, which moved to the institution and arrested one Franklin Anikwe, who was found with 5 rounds of ammunition.

Sagir said following that arrest, the General Officer Commanding the Division, Maj Gen Sarkin Yakin Bello, directed that the arrested Anikwe and the entire shooting incident be thoroughly investigated. He said preliminary investigations by the Division’s intelligence group led to the arrest of 19 other members of various student cult groups, in their hideouts in the Agbani area of the city, between 8 and 12 July. The raids also yielded 4 locally-made pistols, 10 AA cartridges and 10 telephone handsets, which the suspected cultists could not account for.

How the video of forced lesbian acts was uncovered

Col Sagir said it was during the raid that security personnel stumbled on the video recording of scenes, in which some female students were performing illicit lesbian sex. He said the tape showed that the poor girls were in captivity and had been forced, brutally, to perform the acts. He described the discovery as “nasty’ and “terrible”, saying the arrested cultists, who may also have been kidnappers, would be turned over to police for further investigation and prosecution.

[See also on this website: INSIGHT: Forced lesbian sex on campus: A new crime in schools already endangered].

INSIGHT: Forced lesbian sex on campuses: A new crime in schools already endangered

The parade in Enugu, on 15 July, of 20 suspected student cultists who had brutally forced some female university students to perform lesbian acts, and then made video recordings of those acts for their own evil purposes, has finally raised the curtain on a new criminal practice by cult groups in Nigerian tertiary institutions, namely: sexual violence, blackmail and exploitation against female students, facilitated by guns and camera phones.

To be sure, there had been numerous reports of female students raped by male cultists at these institutions. There had also been reports, in at least two higher institutions in one southern state, of female students abducted by male cultists, and forced into performing lesbian acts on camera. In fact, in one of the cases, the cultists were said to have later posted the scenes on the internet.

However, while many of those incidents were largely hushed up, the parade of the latest suspects, by the Nigerian Army’s 82 Division in Enugu, marks the first time the criminals suspected to have carried out the heinous acts are being dragged into public glare.

How the victims are set up

Student sources in one institution where such acts had been reported in the past, say the victims do not fall into the hands of their tormentors by accident: they are girls whom the cultists already know and deliberately target for abduction.

When abducted, the girls are made to perform the lesbian acts under duress, sometimes after they must have been tortured physically or terrorised emotionally. One source said they may also be drugged with libido boosters timed for maximum effect at the time of the act. It is also said that the girls are usually instructed to wear a smile, feign pleasure, even fake extacy, while performing on camera; otherwise, they are subjected to even more brutal treatment, before they are again freshened up to resume recording. The idea is to create the impression that the lesbian act was voluntary, a part of the victim’s regular lifestyle.

Once the cultists succeed in forcing the girls to perform the acts, they know they have obtained an instrument that can be used to devastating effect. This is because Nigerian society strongly disapproves of homosexual relations.

A 2007 survey organised by the US-based Pew Global Attitudes Project, reported a strong 97 per cent of Nigeria residents saying that homosexuality should be rejected by society, one of the highest rejection rates for the 44 countries surveyed. In such a society, where homosexuality is viewed not just as deviance but as extreme depravity, a video tape in which a girl is shown engaging in such a taboo “voluntarily”, instantly becomes a potent instrument for endless blackmail, emotional torment and monetary extortion.

What the criminals use the “lesbian clips” to achieve

That “instrument” could lend itself to infinite uses. One student said some of the victims of these coerced acts may have been girl friends to leaders or members of rival cults, and that clips of the girls so brutalized and violated may be  sent to such boyfriends subsequently, to humiliate them. She said a clip sent to a girl’s boyfriend or fiancé, almost certainly wrecks the relationship, either instantly or later. She added that: “Even if the guy himself wants to stick with you, sooner or later, his friends will taunt and ridicule him until he can no longer bear the embarrassment, so he dumps you and moves on”.

She said the male cultists may also use such recordings as “remote control” devices to keep the unfortunate victims “in line or under control for years”. This means that by blackmailing the girls with the threat of publicizing the tapes, including now on the internet, they are able to manipulate the victims to do their bidding at every turn. The source said the criminals often reckon that “once they’ve got you, they own you for life. Which means the older you grow and the more you achieve in life, the more they may be able to extract even more from you”.

The recordings may therefore be used to extort money endlessly, especially from those girls who come from well-to-do families or are known to be dating moneyed politicians, upscale artists or foreign-based soccer stars. Victims who fail to “find and pay” the amounts demanded at every turn, risk devastating publicity and disgrace. One student said those who seek to break free may be coldly reminded that they have lost so much already, and that they may be risking more unpleasant consequences for themselves – and even their families – if they ignore demands for more money.

What the laws say

Nigerian criminal law contains provisions against same-sex sexual activity, which is punishable by up to 14 years imprisonment throughout the country and by stoning to death in the 12 states that adopted Sharia law about a decade ago.

The Criminal Code applicable in southern Nigeria also has provisions against rape, which it defines as “unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman or a girl, without her consent”. The law further provides that intercourse even with a woman’s consent still amounts to rape if, among other things, the consent is obtained by force or threats or intimidation of any kind. The code provides that punishment for rape is 14 years imprisonment, with or without caning; while attempted rape also attracts 14 years imprisonment. There are also provisions against forced labour, laying out appropriate penalties.

No confidence in Police and Courts: You have to sort it out by yourself 

The problem is that all these work very well, only on paper! In reality, most Nigerians, especially young adults, have no very low confidence in the police and justice systems. One university source said most students who are raped or coerced into performing lesbian acts by cultists, may bear their traumatic experiences and subsequent emotional and financial misfortunes privately, drawing succour from friends and family, rather than report to the police.

Victims fear that reporting to public security and law-enforcement personnel will only earn them a huge amount of public attention and ridicule, but no real redress at the end of day. Police sources say the problem is not usually with the investigations but with the courts, and especially the reluctance of witnesses to step forward and support prosecution, sometimes for fear of reprisals by the cults. 

A female undergraduate student in one of the Niger Delta states said if she ever suffered the humiliation of forced lesbian sex on camera in captivity, she would take her life at the earliest opportunity thereafter. Alternatively she said, if she knew the real identities and precise location of her violators, she would spare no resources in arranging her own hit squad to retaliate, possibly by killing them.

Asked why she would not want to report to the police and seek judicial redress, she said it would all be “a waste of my time, a waste of my money, a waste of my emotions and, maybe eventually, a waste of my life”.

She said: “The policemen are guys, the women among them are very few. Their own is to watch the video and laugh at you, even ask you stupid questions just to make you look stupid. To them, anything between a guy and a girl is a game; so as far as they are concerned, the guy just chanced you (outwitted you), so two of you should go home and settle”.

“Moreover”, she said, “some of the policemen we have today, were former frat boys. (“Frat” is a short form of the word “fraternity” or “students’ fraternity”). Some of them are still in frats. In short, carrying your case to them will only expose you to more ridicule and danger. The only thing that can come out of it, is that they may eventually eliminate you. So, maybe you just find your way. You have to sort it out, all by yourself”.

It will be interesting to see how the police and justice systems in Enugu handle the most recent case in Enugu. How it is handled – how soon it is addressed, how well it is resolved and how well that resolution is publicised – will all either improve or further erode public confidence in the police and in the courts. But a country in which female university students cannot be assured of security in schools is drifting further towards failure. And a society in which people can be seized and violated at will, and in which victims of crime cannot turn to the state for redress but must “sort things out by themselves”, may only be drifting in the direction of anarchy.

[SEE OUR EARLIER REPORT: University girls forced to do lesbian video in Enugu: 20 cultists arrested].

30 persons, including 4 recent NYSC graduands, killed in road accident in Enugu State

On 20 June, 30 persons were killed as two commercial buses collided at Egede village on the Enugu -Nsukka Highway in Enugu State.

Twenty eight of the victims were passengers while the other two were the drivers of the two buses.

The identities of most of the casualties are not yet known as there is yet no official report from the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC).

But offficers on the FRSC rescue team say that four National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) discharge certificates have been found among the wreckage, suggesting that four of the casualties must have been among the most recent batch of graduands who passed out from the national service scheme last week.

Federal Government destroys thousands of weapons surrendered by former Niger Delta militants

Niger Delta militants submitting their arms to the Presidential Amnesty Committee in 2009

On 25 May, the Nigerian Army, following a directive by President Goodluck Jonathan, began demolishing a large stockpile of arms and explosives which Niger Delta militants had submitted to the Federal Government after accepting the amnesty that was offered to them in 2009.

Briefing journalists on the exercise which took place at 82 Base Ammunition Depot Demolition ground at Lokpanta, a boundary town between Enugu and Abia States, the General Officer Commanding 82 Division of the Nigerian Army, Major General Sarkin Yakin Bello, explained that a total of 1,798 riffles, 1,981 guns of various types, 70 RPGs, 159 pistols, 1 Spear and 6 cannons were handed over to 82 Division by the Niger Delta Amnesty Committee. He said Army Headquarters in Abuja subsequently authorised the destruction and demolition of the arms and ammunition.

Speaking on behalf of President Goodluck Jonathan, the Presidential Adviser on Niger Delta and Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Amnesty, Hon. Kingsley Kuku, said the destruction of the weapons marked the end of militant agitation in the Niger Delta. He said, henceforth, anyone who takes up arms as an instrument of agitation, will be regarded as bearing “crime arms”.

The Presidential Adviser said the destruction of the arms and ammunition was not only to underline the success of the federal government’s amnesty programme but also to dispose of instruments that could become a destabilising influence in the country.

Hon Kuku paid tribute to late President Umaru Yar’Adua for initiating the amnesty programme. He said the continued implementation of the programme up to the public destruction of the surrendered weapons attests to President Jonathan’s commitment to achieving lasting peace and security in the Niger Delta. He also noted that among the many gains of the amnesty programme, Nigeria’s crude petroleum production which sank as low as 700,000 barrels per day at the height of the delta insurgency, has since recovered to about 2.3 million barrels per day.

It will be recalled that the late President Yar’Adua had, on 25 June 2009, proclaimed unconditional amnesty for thousands of militants who had been fighting for economic, environmental and political rights in the Niger Delta. The amnesty programme provided that any militants who show willingness and readiness to surrender their arms, unconditionally renounce militancy and sign an undertaking to that effect, would be free from prosecution but rather benefit from programmes designed to facilitate their rehabilitation and reintegration into the normal society.

By 4 October 2009, which was the government’s deadline for the militants to disarm, 20,192 of the youths had accepted the amnesty.  About seven months later, another 6,126 youths signed up and were included in the programme, following President Jonathan’s approval.

Police Inspector shot dead by robbers in Enugu State

On 30 April, a Police Inspector attached to the Enugu State Police Command, Mr. Elias Ikpo, was shot dead by a gang of armed robbers operating along the Enugu-Onitsha highway.

The Inspector, dressed in mufti, was travelling with other passengers in a commuter bus from Enugu to Awka, Anambra State. The bus ran into the armed bandits around Onyeama Mine. Some reports said the robbers were searching all passengers until they stumbled on Inspector Ikpo’s identity card which gave him away as a police officer, and then they shot him. But the State Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Ebere Amaraizu, said “It was a stray bullet that killed the man, and not necessarily that he was spotted and shot because he was an officer”.

His corpse was later removed from the scene by operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the state police command.

Mr Amaraizu, who described the incident as a tragedy, said the police has spread its dragnet across the state, to ensure that the robbers are apprehended and brought to justice.

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