By Charles Soludo
Being Press Statement by Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo, CFR (Governor of Anambra State) at a News conference: Awka, Wednesday, 25th May, 2022
Umu nnem, Ndi Anambra!
You employed me to lead the process of building a livable and prosperous homeland. After swearing-in on the 17th March, 2022, I worked for 8 hours and 45 minutes that day and have kept working hard every day to make you proud. A lot is ongoing, and we will report to you in due course. However, we recognized from the first minute that restoring peace and security will be foundational to our larger agenda as a people. We devoted several paragraphs in our inaugural speech to underscore the grave security challenges we inherited (with the deadly criminal gangs largely in occupation of 8 local governments). You may recall that I was attacked by so called “unknown gunmen” while addressing youths at a rally in March 2021 leaving three policemen dead, and indeed hardly any candidate could campaign freely in the seven local governments of the south senatorial zone in 2021. I knew the grave situation, and determined to confront it. I met with the state security council for three and half hours on the first day and there was the consensus to deploy both kinetic and non-kinetic approaches.
While the security agencies have been doing their best with limited resources, we are convinced that sustainable peace and security cannot be achieved without the cooperation and solidarity of the people. Consequently, we went to work to mobilize our people and address the wider socio-economic and legacy issues fueling agitations and insecurity.
We consulted and collaborated with the South East Joint Body of Bishops and traditional rulers; issuing joint statements, with the Joint body of bishops organizing prayers sessions in the entire South East on 4th April, 2022, with the goal of ending the Sit-at-home and ensuring an enduring peace and security in the South East;
We organized Anambra Peace and Security Dialogue, with the leadership of the Christian denominations, town unions, traditional rulers, youth organizations, women, market, and transport unions, as well as political leaders and non-indigenes on XX with a Communique calling for an end to the Sit- at home—and peace and security in the South East on 2nd April, 2022;
We offered the Olive branch to all the armed youths in the forests to come out, surrender their guns and with the commitment that our government would help to retrain and empower them to contribute positively to our development. Our government has, in our proposed revised budget, provided handsomely for youth empowerment.
The official leadership of IPOB also repeatedly issued statements dissociating itself from the senseless and destructive Sit- at home on Mondays etc as well as the kidnappings and criminal actions of gangs in the state and the south east;
We set up the Truth, Justice and Peace Committee, with the goal of getting to the remote and immediate causes of the agitation and criminality, with a view to proffering systematic and lasting solutions;
We have severally again met with town union leaders and traditional rulers; landlords etc, all in the mobilization of the people for lasting peace and security;
True to our commitment to engage with ALL state and non-state actors relevant to the search for lasting peace and security, we visited Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, and he reiterated that he never authorized the senseless Sit at Home, and absolved his organization, IPOB, from the crass criminality especially the barbaric enforcement of the Sit at home and the kidnappings and spilling of blood. Mazi Kanu expressed his willingness to personally address the press to charge his followers to keep the peace. Subsequently, his lawyer issued an official statement confirming this position and his associate also addressed the media in the same vein;
We have also had Town Hall meetings with Ndi Anambra in Lagos and Abuja, and our people are united in their condemnation of the criminality going on in the state and environs, and demonstrated their commitment to join hands with us in solving it.
The list of the public engagements is long (with even a longer list of backroom plans and actions).
Despite the above, the criminal gangs are unrelenting in their desperation to maintain their very lucrative criminal enterprise and expand their other agenda of domination. When the security agencies rooted them out of two of their numerous camps, their reprisals were to burn down the secretariats of two local governments and attack police stations, police and soldiers. Routinely they kidnap for ransom, rape, and murder their victims as well as burn houses and properties. They relish in shooting soft targets, including recently a poor woman frying akara in front of her house on a Monday. Over the past one week, Ndi Anambra and indeed the nation have been treated to the gory stories of the kidnapping and subsequent beheading of Hon Okechukwu Okoye (member of the State House of Assembly) and his aide, Cyril Chiegboka (both from my community, Isuofia) as well as the brutal murder Mrs Harirat Jubril from Adamawa state and her four children and three other northerners. Anambra people have been in shock. This is not who we are. Our deepest condolences are with the families of the various victims. We are working round the clock with the security agencies and the perpetrators must be brought to book.
Let us be very clear. These criminals causing mayhem in Anambra, albeit of disparate groups and gangs, are Igbos (dominantly from other South East states) whose real objective is lucrative criminality and foisting their idolatrous religion on the region. Unfortunately, every criminal gang (including cult groups) claims to be a “liberation movement”, making it difficult to differentiate between any genuine agitators from criminals. Unfortunately also, the criminals now dominate the space. Anambra is the prime target because that is the most lucrative location for kidnapping for ransom in the South East. With their immense propaganda machine funded largely by their sponsors abroad, they have tried everything to indoctrinate the people with all kinds of false emotive narratives, and divert attention from their real objectives. They claim to be “fighting for the people”, and yet randomly kill the same people, destroying their livelihood, and stopping their children from going to school. What has agitation to do with kidnappings including kidnapping of priests of God, invasion of churches and tabernacles including desecration of the Alters of God? Why is it that everywhere they gather and in every camp they operate, there is a Deity/idol to which they routinely offer blood in sacrifice? From accounts of those kidnapped and later freed the stench of dead bodies in the camps cry up to heaven. We see videos of them and their idol worship; we note their threats to priests and bishops, including threatening to take over some churches?
The truth is that this tiny minority (certainly far less than 0.1% of us), is bent upon challenging the foundation of the things that make us who we are:
Enterprise: We are known for our enterprise but these people are bent on killing our businesses by the forceful Sit at home; kidnapping for ransom; forceful taxation of communities, businesses, and individuals; etc;
Christianity: The people of the South East, especially Anambra, are predominantly Christians. But with this gang, idolatry is back with vengeance. They forcefully try to convert people, especially the young ones to idolatry by initiating them into cults, swearing oaths to their Deities, etc with the promise of invincibility. Consequently, these youths join them as members and informants.
Desecration of our culture: Spilling of the blood of the innocent is considered an abomination by our culture and by our Christian religion. We understand that they kill and harvest human organs for rituals and human sacrifice in their so called camps.
With their new religion of idolatry and deadly weapons which they use to kill at random, they have tried to create a culture of fear and silence. More recently, the people have begun to question their propaganda, motive and means and they know that they have lost the sympathy of the people. That explains why they desperately tried to ignite a national inter-ethnic crisis by killing some innocent northerners who have lived peacefully in our state for decades to divert attention from their criminality and then seek to re-brand themselves as “defenders of the people”. They have failed, and will continue to fail. Millions of our people live in the North and other parts of Nigeria, and Anambra people are known for their uncommon hospitality. In most homes in Anambra, non-indigenes live happily as tenants or as landlords, pursuing their legitimate businesses and this won’t change. We pride ourselves as the Light of the Nation, and Anambra will continue to be a land of opportunity for every Nigerian as well as non-Nigerians. We will continue to work hard with security agencies to ensure security of life and property in our state.
Umu nnem, Ndi Anambra!
The hour has come for us to step up our game, and take back our state. The tiny but vicious gangs that have invaded our state and terrorize us are mostly in eight local governments in Anambra and three neighboring local governments in Imo State. They are in our forests, communities, and houses owned by individuals. They don’t come from the air, and hence are not “unknown” gunmen. They are known. You know them, but are either too scared to speak up or out of indifference. But for how long will you be silent while our people continue to be killed in the most cruel and barbaric manner? It is because we have remained ambivalent, opting to sit on the fence rather than take a stand against an obvious evil, that has made a minor sore to fester so cancerously. The hour has now come, and we must rise up to take our destiny in our hands. Everyone, indeed, everyone has a role to play. While we continue to commit Anambra unto the hands of God, we as a people must rise up to clean and cleanse our land. The security agencies will continue to do their part, but we the people, must proclaim that Enough is Enough and demonstrate full ownership. Consequently, as complementary measures to the efforts of the security agencies, our government has decided on the following immediate steps:
Once again, we are releasing several telephone numbers for the public to report any criminality or suspicious conducts. These phone numbers are managed in my office (in strictest confidentiality). Call us, or text (SMS or WhatsApp), and we will respond expeditiously. The phone numbers are:
In addition to the N10 million cash reward we placed on those who gruesomely murdered Hon Okechukwu Okoye and his aide, we are also offering a cash reward of AT LEAST One Million (N1,000,000) to anyone who provides useful information leading to the arrest of any of the leaders or members of these criminal gangs including those who support them financially or in kind, and all those enforcing the illegal Sit-at-Home order, or anyone involved in the kidnapping, murder, and arson, or access to the camps where the criminals operate from. The bounty will depend upon the profile of the criminal: their leaders will attract higher amounts. Similar bounty will be paid to anyone who gives information about anyone or location where hard drugs (especially “Mkpulu mmili”) are manufactured in the state. The State Government hereby assures any informant of confidentiality in this process and would not disclose your identities or contact.
With effect from tomorrow, Friday, 26th May, 2022, a 6pm to 6am curfew is hereby placed on motorcycles (okada), tricycles (keke), and shuttle buses in Aguata, Ihiala, Ekwusigo, Nnewi North, Nnewi South, Ogbaru, Orumba North and Orumba South Local Governments until further notice. Until further notice also, motorcycles, keke and shuttle buses are banned from operating in these local governments on Mondays until the Sit-at-Home completely stops. The youths of every community in the zone are hereby enjoined to assist the security agencies in the implementation of this policy and are mandated to seize any such motorcycle or tricycle on the spot. Local Vigilantes should report such motorcycles or tricycles (keke) immediately, and they will be confiscated by government and the owner prosecuted. The Okada, Keke, and shuttle bus union leaders must take responsibility to report their members who are involved in criminal activities. We shall review this after two weeks, and if members of these unions continue to be involved in criminal activities, the government will have no choice but to either disband the Unions and/or ban them out rightly in the state.
No part of Anambra State (house, bush or forest) shall be used as camps for these criminals. Anyone with a gun in a camp is considered a criminal in Anambra State, and the government and people will work with security agencies to flush them out. The State Government shall pursuant to its powers under the Land Use Act revoke and acquire any land found to be harboring these criminals, for public purpose. Henceforth, every community is required to provide information on any part of their land occupied by these criminals as camps. If the community fails to do so, the government will take over such land.
All communities are hereby charged to take over their communities completely and through the leadership of their Town Unions and Traditional Rulers give weekly security reports (submitted every Friday) to the State Government on the state of security in their communities. The cooperation of the youths in that regard is now imperative. I charge the vigilantes of each community to rise to the occasion and contend with these criminals in your locality whether they are in your bush or the houses in your community. The State Government expects the report of any progress made in this regard and shall support and reward you accordingly.
Any buildings found to be harboring these kidnappers and murderers who have laid siege on our State will, as provided by Criminal Code (Amendment No.3) Law 2013, be forfeited to the State Government. To that extent, all landlords are hereby directed to proceed on “Operation Know Your Tenant” by keeping appropriate records of their tenants and report anyone suspected of being involved in criminal activities. Each community leadership must keep full register of all tenants in their communities, their occupation, etc and keep an eye on their activities. The State Government shall as an emergency measure, disband the leadership of any community which fails to report criminal activities in their communities or immediately respond to the requests contained in this address.
All market leaders and stakeholders are hereby charged to join the communities in taking back their territory and monitor the activities in their markets. They are all required to return weekly security reports to the State Government.
Everybody who either in person or through telephone calls demands cash support or ransom from anyone in furtherance of any criminal activities or groups should immediately be reported to the government via the telephone lines provided.
All transporters, i.e, bus drivers, shuttle drivers, tricycle (keke) and motorcycle (okada) riders must immediately report any suspicious passengers. Because it has come to the knowledge of the State Government that over 80% of transport operators use fake plate numbers and identities, all transport operators must henceforth re-register their vehicles, tricycles and motorcycles with their valid means of identification and their biometrics captured. This exercise shall immediately be commenced and anyone who defaults in doing that after four weeks from today would be treated as a suspect and adequate measures taken against him or her.
All hotels are directed to obtain the means of identification of their guests and keep an inventory of all guests in their hotels. The management of the hotels should immediately report any suspicious persons or group of persons checking into or converging in their hotels. Immediate sanctions would attend any dereliction in that regard, including possibly shutting down or demolition of such hotels.
All fuel stations are hereby directed to, within 4 weeks from today, place surveillance cameras in their stations and keep the records generated by those cameras in order to assist the State Government, when required, in tracking these criminals who inevitably fuel their vehicles at fuel stations.
Finally, let me urge our people to remain calm. This season shall pass. The God of Anambra assures that we shall overcome the forces of darkness. Indeed, this tough beginning foretells of a more glorious future. We thank all the stakeholders in the Anambra project, and particularly thank the security agencies for their determination and sacrifice. We enjoin our religious leaders to continue to lift up the state in prayers and to also mobilize our people as they fight evil in our land. Together, we shall take back our state and make it the true Light of the Nation.
God bless you all,
God bless Anambra State,
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
@views exclusive rights: Charles Chukwuma Soludo, Governor, Anambra State, May 25, 2022.