Insecurity in Enugu State
Mr. Obayi (not real name), a mid-aged civil servant, narrates:
“I was told to buy Malt and Food while coming. So, the bike man stopped at Eke Ibagwa where I bought what they needed. The bikeman carried me again and dropped me at the point they had told me to stop.
It was a road path deep in the forest. I made a call to the number I had been conversing with. Not quite long, a young man with gentle countenance, wielding AK-47, came out. He led me into the bush, following no road path.
In all, I was able to secure the release of the men who had been kidnapped, taking the ransom asked in a small bag. As I presented the money to the kidnappers, I said this is 200,000, this is 1 million, this is 2.5 million. At the point of leaving, with the drugs for my health intact in the bag, I was glad I wasn’t held back as a hostage, too, with the ransom.”
This Mr Obayi’s story is coming at a time when far too many people have been reporting cases of kidnap in Nsukka area of Enugu State. The stories not making it to the mainstream media is nothing other than the cooperation between the mainstream media and the Enugu State Government. Seeking to protect the image of “a secure state,” Enugu State Government spends a lot of money greasing the palm of the media.
Since the highly publicized killing in Nimbo in 2016, where some Fulani Herdsmen had attacked the community, destroying and killing, the Enugu State Government has tried to shield such negative reports about Enugu in the media. From 2016 until now, there are still security issues relating to Farmers-Herders clash, or simply some criminals causing havoc in the state. Most of these cases go unreported, or under-reported.
Isi-Uzo Local Government has been under siege for quite a while.
However, Nsukka Local Government, especially Nsukka West area, has come under siege as of recent. The rising insecurity in Nsukka area is surprising, and not because it is happening but due to how under-reported the situation is. In a space of one week, over 5 kidnap cases happened in Nsukka with the same style, and the Enugu State Government is silent about the whole situation.
Mrs. Ugwuja (not real name), a radio presenter, wrote on her Facebook Page:
“Two ladies were recently kidnapped at Olivet Hill area, and the kidnappers have called asking for ransom. A traditional ruler was kidnapped along Ibagwa-ani road, and huge ransom was paid before he was released with heavy beating. Two men were kidnapped close to their homes at Ibagwa Road. Stay safe, guys. Nsukka is no longer safe.”
It is the same pattern of kidnapping in an open way, asking for ransom, and the victims paying for ransom, usually in millions, without the cases getting reported. In fact, at the moment, most residents of Nsukka aren’t aware of such horrendous kidnapping cases.
The only activities of the government towards solving insecurity in the area as of recent was the banning of tricycle and bikes, and the imposition of curfew in two local government areas close to Nsukk, but it has done nothing to solve the insecurity issue. It seems to have worsened it. There’s no definite steps by the State Government to deal with the matter.
What are the Economic Implication of this Insecurity in Enugu State?
The increased insecurity in Enugu State has led to constant attacks on INEC offices in the zone, the most recent done in Igbo-eze North Local Government Area of the state, and this has led to a halt in voters’ registration in the council. Thus, disenfranchising the large number of willing voters in the council. It could get worse.
Mr. Obetta (not real name), a prominent farmer, lamented:
“I left my 3 hectares farm in Okpuje to get four plots of land close to the road in Ibagwa-ani. Kidnappers and robbers have overrun the area. I am afraid to go to the farm there. The residents are suspecting it is due to the return of the Fulani to the area.”
In 2016 to 2018, at the height of the Farmers-Herders clash, many agrarian communities in Nsukka area of Enugu State had asked the Herders to leave. Relative peace was restored, and one man had quipped: “You can go to your farm in peace.” Majority of farmlands in Okpuje were put up for sale, and many invested in the farms. Now, they are running away from the area.
Earlier this year, a police checkpoint along the road leading to Okpuje was attacked, the policemen scampering for safety. It is also along this road that a traditional ruler was abducted. Then, there have been several cases of unreported kidnappings and holding of hostages happening deep in the forests in the area.
If this continues unabated, there would be low production of food in the area, fear of going to the market, and the relocation of people to safer areas. The already suffering economy would suffer more. The police, and other security agents like Forest Guards and the Neighborhood Watch, are more interested in obstructing road to collect bribe than working together to halt the ugly trend. Most individuals, who are employed as Forest Guards, collect money for doing nothing.
Since the rise of this issue in the area, neither Nsukka Local Government or Enugu State Government has made a statement or decision concerning the ugly trend. People continuously get kidnapped, pay ransom, and keep it a secret. For people like Mr Obayi, he would have to sell his land or borrow to free his relative with the fear of being kidnapped, maimed or killed. For people like Mr. Obetta, he would have to go hungry to stay alive.