Planned Relocation Of Convicted Boko Haram Terrorists To Ekwulobia Prison In Anambra State Draws The Ire Of The People

Anthony Awunor, Emenike Ubani (Umuahia) and Raymond Ozoji (Awka)

Southeast interest groups have condemned in strong terms the Federal Government’s plan to relocate Boko Haram convicts to Prisons in Anambra State. Condemning the proposal, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council (OYC) warned the Federal Government against the rumoured plan to relocate some Boko Haram terror suspects to some prison facilities in the South East.

National President of OYC, Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro, who gave the warning in a press statement issued Monday in Umuahia, described such plan as “exportation of terrorism to the peaceful South East region”. He expressed dismay that “anybody would contemplate relocating terror suspects who had wreaked havoc in the North East to the South East which shares no geographical boundaries with the hotbed of Boko Haram”.

According to him, relocating terror suspects to Onitsha, or any other federal prison in the Southeast, amounts to exposing the region to Boko Haram attacks. He recalled that some prison facilities in the North including Abuja “with their sophistications” had severally come under attack by Boko Haram in their desperation to free their members detained in such facilities. The statement read in part: “Ohaneze wants to warn the Federal Government to rescind its rumoured plans to relocate Boko Haram suspects to Onitsha prison.

“We view such move as a declaration of war on the peaceful and law- abiding people of the South East, and we will vigorously resist any step considered injurious to Ndigbo. The Federal Government should not export terrorism to Igbo land the way Patrick Sawyer exported Ebola to Nigeria because we don’t deserve such treatment. While we appreciate our federal system of government, we will not tolerate any move, policy or action that will make the South East a target of Boko Haram terrorists who have ruined some Northern states”.

OYC advised Buhari not to be deceived into taking any action that would portray him as tribalist in view of the heterogeneous nature of Nigeria. “That we voted massively for exPresident Goodluck Jonathan does not mean that we should be treated as prisoners of war. We are equal stakeholders in Nigeria and nobody should try to push us to the wall or take our patience and inestimable sacrifices for the unity of Nigeria as foolishness or sign of weakness. Igbo land which enjoyed peace and stability under ex- President Jonathan should not be made porous or exposed to terror attack under the current administration,” the statement noted.

OYC also warned that any attempt to remove Senator Ike Ekweremadu from his position as the Deputy Senate President will be taken as a declaration of war against the people of South East. It said his emergence as Deputy Senate President was God’s intervention against sidelining Ndigbo in the political equation of the country. OYC therefore, advised Buhari to maintain his neutrality and non-interference in the affairs of the National
Assembly to safeguard the independence of the legislative arm of government.

The council also enjoined all senators from the Southern part of Nigeria to support Ekweremadu’s emergence and resist any attempt by anti- Igbo elements to impeach him. Speaking also, the Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese, Most Rev. Paulinus Ezeokafor condemned in strong terms the alleged attempt by the Nigeria Prisons Service (NPS) to relocate Boko Haram suspects from NorthEast prisons to Anambra State even as he cautioned the protesting traders to allow reason to prevail. Bishop Ezeokafor, who made his position known on Monday, said such ugly attempt, if found to be true, could spell doom for the people of Southeast geopolitical zone.

He called on Anambra State government to ensure that the mystery surrounding the alleged attempt was spelt out for all to see and understand, stressing that the situation if not properly handled could lead to break-down of law and order. The Catholic prelate, who recently during his routine visit to Awka prisons donated an 18 seater bus and items worth millions of naira, enjoined wellmeaning Anambrarians to seek the decongestion of Anambra prisons, which according to him, was filled to the brim”.

“We should be talking about better welfare package for Anambra prisons’ inmates, decongestion and not relocation”, Bishop Ezeokafor said. In his reaction, the immediate Past National Chairman of All progressives Grand Alliance, (APGA) Chief Victor Umeh threw his support behind the protesting Anambra State traders.

Chief Umeh who spoke at Neros Stadium Nanka during the 2015 grand finale of Awka diocesan priests sports competition said it was most uncharitable for the Comptroller of Prisons or the Federal Government to send to Anambra prisons, Boko Haram extremists caught in Borno State rather than expand the prisons there. He noted that the attempt would destabilize the peace experienced in the Southeast and Anambra in particular.

He advised the Federal Government and comptroller of prisons not to attempt relocating the extremists to any southeastern states, noting that the people are in support of the traders protest against the dastardly act. Umeh said it was not the kind of development Ndigbo was hoping to get from his government but fiing of our roads and other basic infrastructure. Meanwhile, the Anambra State government has reacted on the development, saying that Governor Willie Obiano had since raised objection to the plan.

In a statement released on Monday, the state government said “the attention of the Governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano has been drawn to the mischievous speculations on the social media that the planned relocation of some Boko Haram convicts to some prisons in Anambra State was done with his tacit approval and endorsement. I wish to categorically dismiss these speculations, hearsay and beer parlour banters as fundamentally untrue and should be disregarded by Nigerians”.

It added that “the fact is that when governor Obiano got wind of the planned relocation of these high risk prisoners to Anambra State, he quickly swung into action and contacted the relevant authorities to seek clarifications on the matter after which he raised several objections to the plan”. According to the state government, among Governor Obiano’s many objections include: “that Anambra has been one of the most peaceful states in Nigeria in the past one year under his watch and that the arrival of these radical elements in any part of the state would disrupt this peace and lead to a new regime of a different kind of fear in the state”.

“That Ekwulobia Prisons is not a Maximum Security Prison. It is therefore not suitable as holding place for convicted terrorists. Global experiences show that terrorists and terror suspects are kept in strongly fortified and isolated places. A good example is the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp where the US keeps high-risk terror suspects and convicts which is a military facility, located away from the people. Ekwulobia Prisons does not fit into this category of detention facilities.

“That Ekwulobia Prisons has a capacity to hold 85 inmates. At the moment, there are 135 inmates in the prison. Therefore, there is no space for new prisoners. The acute shortage of space presents a high possibility for the radicalization of other inmates by the Boko Haram convicts”.

Other objections of Governor Obiano also include “that unlike other locations where the terror-convicts are held in sparsely populated areas which makes their isolation from the people easy, Ekwulobia is a densely populated town. There is a very high risk of contact between these radical prisoners and the civilian population with an avoidable danger.

“That the relocation of these prisoners to Anambra may not have paid adequate attention to the sensibilities of the country, especially the fact that some ethnic populations have suffered the most from the activities of these convicts across the North”, the Anambra State government stated just as Obiano urged Anambra people, and Ndigbo in general, “to remain calm and avoid anything that might lead to a breach of the peace as the matter is being resolved at the highest level”.

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