Peterclaver Egbochue and Raymond Ozoji in Awka write on the reactions that have trailed the Federal Government’s decision to transfer suspected Boko Haram members to Ekwulobia in Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State.
Following Federal Government’s decision to relocate some suspected members of the Boko Haram to Ekwulobia prisons in Anambra State; there have been protests from the governors of the affected states, individuals and groups who are challenging the rationale of that decision. Governors from the Southeast zone on Monday condemned this move by the federal government.
They noted that the presence of the terror suspects in the region was creating tension and fear and urged the federal government to relocate them to Abuja “where there is security” Since the decision, there have been series of protests in Anambra state by traders and some community leaders over the relocation of the prisoners to the state. The governors met in Owerri, the Imo State capital. In attendance were Governors Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, (Enugu) and Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia) while Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi was represented by his Deputy Kelechi Igwe. Anambra State Governor Willie Obiano was “unavoidably absent” according to Okorocha.
Speaking on behalf of the governors, Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha, disclosed that the meeting deliberated on the possible consequences of the relocation of the Boko Haram suspects and concluded that it was not in the best interest of the zone. He said though the decision was purely a security matter, it has far-reaching effect on the psyche of the people in the zone. “We are appealing to the Federal Government to have a rethink on the relocation of the Boko Haram suspects.
If there is any place they should be relocated to it should be Abuja where they have enough security. The issue is already creating security concern in the zone,” he stressed. He however ruled out any plan by the governors to recall Igbo in the troubled North, stressing that, “we are all part of the entity called Nigeria and we share in the plight of our brothers in the North East, so it is not the issue of recalling the Igbo in any part of the country but to make sure that they are secured anywhere they find themselves”.
The Forum according to him, also deliberated on the fate of the Igbo displaced in the North as a result of the insurgency and appealed to the Federal Government to adequately compensate them. Similarly, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Anambra State chapter, on Monday added its voice to the call on the Federal Government to urgently relocate the Boko Haram suspects in Ekwulobia prison in the state to other places outside the South-east.
The call, which was contained in a communiqué issued by the body after a marathon meeting Monday in Awka came on the heels of protests by the body’s women and youth wings as well as clerics under the aegis of (WOWICAN) at the Emmaus House in the state against the camping of the Boko Haram suspects at the Ekwulobia prison facility.
The protesters, who included the Archbishop of the Diocese of the Niger and Dean, Anglican Communion, Most Rev. Christian Efobi, Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese, Most Rev. Paulinus Ezekafor, Anglican Bishop of Awka, Most Rev. Alex Ibezim, Bishop of the Niger West, Most Rev. Johnson Ekwe and Bishop Samuel Ezeofor among others denounced the relocation of Boko Haram inmates to Anambra State. “We have not slept since the ugly situation in Ekwulobia”, “Anambra CAN says no to Boko-Haram,” WOWICAN rejects Boko-Haram”, some of the placards they wielded read.
The situation they insisted had created undue fear and panic among Ekwulobia people, while the residents in the area are relocating to other communities for safety. But the communiqué after the emergency meeting of the state Executive and Leaders of CAN forum in the state and signed by the state chairman of the association, Tim Okpala, said that though the Ekwulobia prison is a federal facility and that the federal government has the power to use it for inmates from any part of the country, bringing Boko- Haram insurgents to the prison in the state poses a security threat to the lives and property of the people in the state. Meanwhile, irked by the development, a civil rights group identified as Civil Rights Realisation and Advancement Network on Monday dragged the Federal Government to court, seeking a reversal of the action.
The organisation demanded the immediate relocation of the 47 suspected Boko Haram members from Anambra to the northern part of the country where the offence was committed. The group is asking the court in the suit (FHC/AWK/CS/296/15), which was filed on Monday at the Federal High Court, Awka, for a declaration “that the continued detention of the suspected 47 Boko Haram members at the Ezinifite/Ekwulobia Prisons, Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State and subsequent commencement of their trial at the expiration of the 90 days maximum days of detention stipulated by the Terrorism (prevention Amendment) Act 2013, posses a grave threat to the right to life of the applicants and the entire people guaranteed by sections 33 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As amended) and Article 4, of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, (Ratification and Enforcement Act) Cap. A9 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and is therefore illegal, unconstitutional, null and void.”
The applicant is also seeking for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the respondents, whether by themselves, their agents, privies or otherwise howsoever from further transferring other Boko Haram members to the Ezinifite/Ekwulobia, Aguata Local Government Area, Anambra State. Basil Chukwu, the Programme Officer of the organisation who deposed to the affidavit in support of the suit further insisted that the respondents with their actions are likely to infringe on the fundamental right to life of the applicants and the people of Ezinifite/ Ekwulobia, Anambra State, adding that it was unconstitutional for the respondents to take an action that would affect the constitutional right to life of the applicants and the people of the state.
On his part, Governor Obiano has re-assured the people of the state that his administration was currently in talks with the relevant authorities to resolve the issue amicably without rancour and bitterness. Also the position of the ruling party in Anambra State is not far from the standpoint of the state government. In other words, the State Secretary of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Hon. Tony Ifeanya, who spoke with The UNION at the party’s secretariat in Awka recently said that the party was not in support of the relocation Boko Haram members from the North-east to Anambra State and by extension the Southeast geo-political zone. Hon. Ifeanya further stated that granted that “President Buhari is the president of the federal republic of Nigeria; the bone of contention is that, why should it be Anambra State?”
According to him, the Ekwulobia prison facility in question does not have the wherewithal in terms of security to checkmate whatever may result from this development. “There might be an attack. We are human beings and naturally we should fear for our lives,” he added. He also revealed that it had been proven that the decision to bring Boko Haram members to Anambra State was not taken during Obiano’s era rather it was taken when Mr. Peter Obi was still in office, emphasizing that the decision was reached in 2012 when Obiano was not the State Governor. He was of the opinion that the State Government was doing everything within its powers to arrest the situation as he clearly explained that the state governor had contacted the presidency on the issue and that concrete steps were being taken to allay the fears of Anambra people over the Boko Haram hullabaloo!
He equally told The UNION that the decision of the Buhari administration to relocate Boko Haram inmates to the South-east was not in the best interest of the Igbo nation which was why they all rose in utter condemnation of it. The former transition committee chairman of Ayamelum Local Government Area also said that the party was not comfortable with the relocation of the dreaded sect to the state for obvious reasons. He recalled that Anambra State has been the victim of Boko Haram attacks in the Northeast, stressing that relocating them to the state reminds one of the gruesome massacre of Anambra people residing in the North.
His words, “The prison at Ekwulobia is not a maximum security prison. There are better maximum security prisons in Abuja, Lagos and other developed areas,” adding that there is an element of unfairness in the federal government’s to transfer Boko Haram boys to Anambra State. Bringing some of them down to the state according to Barr. Ifeanya is to attract the wrath of the insurgents which he believes might lead to more Boko Haram terrorists finding their way into Anambra State which he observed spells doom for the people even though he was equally emphatic that Anambra is no longer safe if the decision of the federal government is implemented. Since the insurgency in the North-east began, the number of lives slain in the attacks is uncountable, inestimable and unquantifiable.
This has led to the loss of loved ones and millions of people rendered homeless and hopeless as majority of them now find solace in refugee camps across the country under what is now known as Internally Displaced Persons’ camps. One of the most heart-breaking attacks of the faceless, dreaded, hydra-headed monsters is the terror unleashed on secondary school children in Chibok where more than 200 school girls were abducted and have remained in their custody ever since. These faceless suicide bombers have destroyed many houses, market places, churches, mosques, and a host of other public places.
Most of the cities in the North-east like Potiscum and some others that hitherto were peaceful and congenial for visitors and its inhabitants, have now metamorphosed into war zones where the Boko Haram elements slaughtered human beings like animals. Regrettably, the federal government has not risen to the challenge. Many Nigerians have therefore been made strangers and refugees in their own country following the activities of Boko Haram members.
Like the scourge of the dreaded Ebola disease, Boko Haram insurgency has gained entrance into major cities in the country. The news of the relocation of these dreaded sect has generated a lot of ripples in the state such that socio-economic activities were crippled and major cities like Onitsha, Nkpor, Ekwulobia and some other areas in the state saw people embarking on peaceful protest against the decision of the federal government. Before now, Anambra indigenes residing in the North-east zone of the country have been victims of Boko Haram incessant attacks. Scores of dead bodies of Anambra indigenes have been brought back from different parts of the North-east region to Anambra; these were people of Anambra extraction annihilated by the rampaging religious sect. In spite of the harm already done to the state, the federal government’s decision on transfer of the insurgents to Anambra seems to have been the last straw that has broken the camel’s back.