Some elder statesmen in Imo State have condemned the destruction of lives and property in the Orlu Local Government Area of Imo State as a result of the clash between the Nigerian Army and the Eastern Security Network, saying that the government must restore law and order.
The stakeholders in a release on Tuesday also demanded justice for those killed by the military, adding that the state governor, Hope Uzodinma, must show leadership at this critical time.
The release was signed by Okechukwu Nwanguma, Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri, Dr Sam Amadi, Fabian Okoye, Stanley Ibe, Dr Walter Duru, Tony Opara, Chidi Igwe and Ogechi Ikeh.
The stakeholders said, "We, concerned Imo citizens, are seriously worried about the outbreak of violent clashes between security forces and a militant group in the Orlu area of Imo State, resulting in deaths and arson.
"We are worried that the current situation in Orlu has put the lives, property and livelihoods of innocent families and residents of the affected communities at great risk and inconveniences.
"People have been forced to flee their homes and many displaced, including poor families who depend on daily income for their livelihoods.
"Considering the outcomes of similar reprisal military attacks in the past, from the Odi massacre, to Zaki Biam, and recently the military onslaught on residents of Oyigbo Rivers State, we fear that a similar fate may befall innocent residents of Orlu.
"Just last October, a reprisal attack by officers of the 34 Artillery Brigade of Nigerian Army during the violence that trailed the #EndSARS protests left five persons dead and others injured in Nwaorieubi, Mbaitolu in Imo State.
"The dead and the injured have yet to get justice. The current massacre in Orlu adds to the list of extrajudicial killings in Imo perpetrated by military forces, without anybody held to account. Imo communities are crying for justice."
The group said it called on the Imo State government and military authorities to exercise restraint in their rhetoric and actions and to immediately withdraw soldiers to the barracks.
"The governor must engage both sides in civil process just as we saw in the South-West.
The state government must demonstrate leadership, prioritise the rights and safety of helpless innocent people who are caught in the crossfire and avoid belligerent and fire-for-fire approach to the crisis," they added.
Many persons were injured when on Monday soldiers stormed Orlu, suspected to be the operational base of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) security outfit, Eastern Security Network (ESN).
The attack by the soldiers was said to be a reprisal after members of the ESN engaged them in a shootout last Friday.
SaharaReporters gathered that one person died at the community market square during the security operation last Friday.
On Monday, five persons were reportedly killed.
Also, about 10 buildings, including a church, Blessed Holy Trinity Sabbath Mission, were allegedly set ablaze by the soldiers.
“They came back today and started killing our people, I can’t confirm the number of casualties now but they are more than five. They were here last Friday and killed one person at the market square. About 10 buildings were also burnt by these masked security agents on Friday.
“Imo State is not safe presently; Governor Hope Uzodinma shouldn’t allow soldiers to kill all his people,” a source told SaharaReporters on Monday.
IPOB leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, had in December 2020 launched ESN to protect the people of South-East and South-South regions from terrorists and bandits allegedly trooping in from the North.
Kanu described the outfit as a replica of the Western Nigeria Security Network, also known as Amotekun, earlier launched by the governors of the South-West to curb insecurity in the region.