Chidiebube Okeoma, Owerri
On Sunday, 14 youths who were returning from a traditional wedding at Awo Omamma in the Orun East Local Government Area of Imo State were allegedly shot dead by the state-owned security operatives, Ebubeagu. In an interview with our correspondent, CHIDIEBUBE OKEOMA, a survivor, Nnamdi Nnanna, explains how his seven brothers were killed by the security operatives
A survivor of the Sunday killing at Awo Omamma in the Oru East Local Government Area of Imo State, Nnamdi Nnanna, has explained how operatives of the state-owned Ebubeagu security outfit allegedly shot seven of his brothers dead in his presence.
The PUNCH had on Wednesday reported that the family of two siblings killed alongside 12 others on Sunday while returning from a traditional wedding at Awo Omamma in Oru East Local Government Area of Imo State, had called on the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba; and the state governor, Hope Uzodimma, to ensure justice.
Narrating how his seven brothers were killed, the emotionally laden borehole driller, Nnanna whose immediate younger brother, Chijioke Nnanna, was the one who wedded traditionally on that day, told The PUNCH that but for the grace of God, he would have been a dead man.
He said that he pleaded with the Ebubeagu security outfit to spare his wife.
The father of two said that while the suspects shot dead his six brothers who were on three motorcycles ahead of him, he told his other brother who was driving him and another person to make a U-Turn.
He said that the Ebubeagu security operatives came after them and eventually met them, shot the driver dead and shot the other on his left arm.
Nnanna said, “As we finished the traditional wedding ceremony, we set out to go in four motorcycles. Three motorcycles were ahead of us while we drove behind. Before you could know it, the Ebubeagu people opened fire and killed the ones ahead of us. As I noticed that, I told the driver of our motorcycle to make a turnaround and the Ebubeagu people came after us.
“As we sped, we got to a road bump and fell down. They caught up with us and immediately shot dead the driver and shot the other person on his arm. I immediately started shouting, telling them that we were not criminals nor ESN people.
“As they approached, I identified their leader and asked him not to kill me. One of them had already cocked his gun to shoot me but he ordered him to stop. I was bundled into their operational vehicle, tied and blindfolded.
“They took me to their camp at Omuma and locked me. I kept telling them that I was not a criminal, that my immediate younger brother did his traditional wedding and we were returning home from Awomama. They then brought me out and asked me to take them to the venue of the traditional marriage.
“We went there and they equally took me to the compound of our traditional ruler and later brought me back to their camp where I spent the night.
“It was in the morning that they brought us out and asked us to start smiling that we were going home. They gave me back my phone but refused to give me back my charger and Bluetooth device which they collected.
“I want to call on every lover of justice to come to my rescue and that of my family. We have committed no crime. No provocation. My brothers were killed for nothing.
While the Imo State Police Command had said that the incident was under investigation, the state government said that those who were killed were bandits and terrorists.
The killings attracted reaction from the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra which called for the disbandment of Ebubeagu in Imo State.
MASSOB made its position known in a statement issued by its leader, Uchenna Madu.
The statement read in part, “They are primarily established as a witch-hunting outfit to fight political enemies and pro-Biafra agitators who are non-violent.
“MASSOB described ESO as evil and an agent of death established by the Imo State Government.
“MASSOB warns Governor Uzodimma to immediately disband his ESO now or we shall see their activities in Biafra land as a declaration of internal war. The so-called ESO must cease their operation in Imo State now.”
However, the Governor of Imo State, Uzodimma, on Tuesday dissociated Ebubeagu from the operation that led to the killings which he blamed on the Department of State Services.
The governor said the operation, according to the information available to him, was targeted at bandits and not wedding guests as alleged.
A statement issued by the governor’s spokesperson, Oguwike Nwachuku, read in part, “Governor Uzodimma said the state government would not be deterred by propaganda and blackmail in her quest to protect the lives and property of Imo citizens.
“He spoke on Monday after the Imo State Security Council meeting with regard to the alleged incident that took place at Awo Omamma on Monday that led to the death of some bandits.
“Governor Uzodimma said the government had been briefed on the incident by the Director of State Services in an interim report made available to members of the Security Council.
“The Governor added that the DSS Director confirmed that his men carried out an operation in a camp at Awo Omamma with the assistance of their informant and not at a wedding place as claimed by the youths and that it was in the process that some bandits were neutralised.
“He said while the Security Council awaits a detailed report on the incident, it is important that the public must be wary of those using the incident as a propaganda tool to blackmail the security agencies and the government.”
The Ebubeagu security outfit was established on April 11, 2021, following the burning of police stations, violent attacks on custodial centres with the unlawful release of inmates, and the killings of security personnel, natives, farmers and herdsmen in the South-East region.
This was after a meeting attended by the governors of Anambra, Abia, Ebonyi, Imo and Enugu states. Also present at the meeting were Navy and Air Force Commanders, the Inspector-General of Police, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and other stakeholders.