By Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu
In John Pepper Clark’s poem” the Casualties”, various categories of Nigerian Civil War casualties were captured. The categories of the casualties stretched beyond those who lost their lives in the war to those who were amputated and, according to the poet, ” await burial by instalment”. They include those the poet describes as ” emissaries of rift”- those sent on foreign missions to negotiate for assistance on behalf of Biafra. They were confined to the comfort of their hotel accommodations overseas while their compatriots back home languish in untold suffering.
Recently, a tragedy befell Ariaria International Market,a hub for commerce and trade in Abia. Security agents,allegedly on an operation to raid drug hideouts within the neighbourhood of the market, inflicted pain on the peaceful and serene environment.
The incident left on its trail scores of people severely injured, including a Divisional Crime Officer, DCO of Ariaria Police Station, who sustained a serious machete cut from miscreants, and few other civilians whose lives were cut short in the process.
The first casualties of the Ariaria tragedy are members of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA , who engaged in such operation in a densely populated market and threw professionalism and rules of engagement to the whirlwind.
One would have expected the agency to take a critical study of the operations and design the best practices to undertake. The lives of innocent civilians are not worth more than whatever operations they went for in the market, and no amount of provocation could warrant them to apply live ammunitions in a densely populated environment.
I don’t want to delve into the argument of why our security agencies are still using live ammunitions in the 21st century to demobilise mobs, while pepper spray and synthetic ammunitions can serve the same purpose. That is an argument for another day.
Security agencies such as police and NDLEA have tampered with the forms and narrations of the incident to suit their intents and purposes,whereas this piece is not for bulk passing, the security agencies are seriously indicted in the Ariaria tragedy- including those who initially went for the operations and the soldiers who were later drafted to put the situation under control, who rather allegedly escalated the casualty rate.
The second casualties are the miscreants who allegedly took laws into their hands and made two frantic efforts to burn down Ariaria and Uratta police stations respectively, and in the process injured the DCO and burnt two exhibit vehicles.
At this era of world development, people are not expected to take laws into their hands. There are legal and informed means of venting their anger ,which the miscreants were expected to abide with.
However, the laudable efforts of the Governor Okezie Ikpeazu deserve mention here. The governor did not hesitate to visit the victims in the hospital where he sympathised with them and made unspecified donation to them. The governor’s action portrays him as a governor who has the interest of his subjects at heart and is ready, at all time, to identify with them in thick or in thing.
To this end, civilians and security agencies are enjoined not to upset the peace and stability which is currently enjoyed in Abia State.
The giant strides of Gov Ikpeazu in securing lives and property in the state is self-evident.Ikpeazu’s administration recently restored military checkpoints on the state’s roads, and established a special security operations with open security phone lines to be used at the collation centre.
Establishment of the centre came on the heels of the launching of a special security outfit, comprising army, police, and SSS to check insecurity, especially kidnapping in the state. Members of the public were by the statement encouraged to make use of the numbers in giving useful information that will aid the security agencies in the fight against the crime of kidnapping and other offences.
The latest effort by Abia State Government is the re-enforcement of the order that banned commercial motorcyclists from operating within Aba and Umuahia metropolis. This order now restricts the operations of the motorcyclists to the outskirts and the communities.
The order is accompanied by the regulation that restricts tricycle operators to operate beyond 7pm.The order was borne out of security reports which reveal that the hoodlums operate with motorcycles and tricycles.
For the security agencies, instead of dissipating energies in operations which leave in their trails human and material casualties, there is an onerous task before them to secure public facilities, especially INEC offices across the state.
It will be recalled that recently the INEC building at Mgboko, Obingwa Local Government Headquarters was razed by yet- to-be identified hoodlums. The state government said it has also uncovered a plot by the same hoodlums to raze INEC building at the headquarters in Umuahia in line with the desperate bid by some disgruntled elements to paint the state as unsafe to justify any excuse to relocate the governorship tribunal sitting at Umuahia to Abuja.
Abia State is peaceful and stable and no cause calls for alarm. Security agencies should live up to their expectations by complimenting the laudable efforts of the government by securing lives and property, especially public facilities such as INEC offices in the state. A stitch in nine saves nine!
Ukegbu, a former secretary of Civil Liberties Organisation,CLO, Abia State Branch, wrote in this piece from Umuahia.