Imo, one of the states in Southeast Nigeria is still struggling with one violent crime or another on weekly basis. First was the prison break at Owerri Correctional Centre which took place on April 5 2021. The prison break was almost immediately followed by burning of several police stations in the state by yet to be identified gunmen. All the 27 local governments councils in the state have had their own shares in the burning of their police stations by some armed none state actors whose identities are still not very clear. After that entered the kidnapping of monarchs in the state. The list can go on and on as many people are still in the dark on how the whole violence started in the state.
Of all the crimes in the state, commercial kidnapping seems to be the highest money spinning machine. There is no week at least 4 persons are not kidnapped from various communities across the Southeast state of Imo. One of the worst hit communities in the state is Njaba LGA. Commercial kidnapping seems to be the new found business in the area where many youths have focused their attention on. So far, many youths in the state have been arrested, prosecuted and even killed in action during their clashes with law enforcement agencies. This development, against all odds, does not deter many other youths from joining the commercial kidnap business. An unconfirmed claim Umuaka Times came in contact with some weeks ago, stated that yahoo boys in the state who no longer make ends meet through their yahoo deals, are the ones who have switched over to commercial kidnapping.
Just last week, Umuaka town in Njaba LGA was invaded by some kidnappers who kidnapped two indigenes of the town for some purposes that are not very clear as at press time. By the time of filing in this report, it was still not clear if the kidnapping was politically or commercially motivated. As if the kidnapping was not enough for the town, Amiyi Autonomous Community was attacked by some yet to be identified gunmen and one of the security officers in the community sustained bullet wounds during the attack.
It is not only kidnapping that has found a deep expression in the state of Imo for the last few years now running. Other criminal activities have also made the state their abode. Umuaka Times gathered that last week, violence erupted between the members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and some drivers, especially commercial bus drivers. The violence which gradually became a free-for-all, left a 45 year old driver dead. Umuaka Times correspondent in Owerri confirmed that the drivers who were mostly from the town of Irette and the officials of NURTW disrupted the free flow of traffic from Arugo Park where the fight started to Asumpta Cathedral Roundabout in Owerri, the capital city of the state.
Many persons who took part in the free-for-all sustained injuries as dangerous weapons were said to have been used in the fight by both parties.
Normalcy finally returned to the area when the Imo State Commissioner for Transport Rex Anunobi drove to the scene and appealed to the warring groups to end the fight.
In Imo State today, to drive in an exotic private car or an SUV may be termed an open invitation to kidnappers. According to some security reports, several Imolites and some others from other states have been attacked, kidnapped and taken hostage in the recent time due to their types of cars. As it stands now, Imolites living outside the state seem to be no longer deeply interested in visiting the state they so much love. Hospitality business in the state has somehow gone under. Nightlife activities have also dropped. How Imo State suddenly ended up as the Southeast theatre of violence and kidnapping is what observers are still trying to decode.
A recent report Umuaka Times came across states that, “Of the 4,962 people reported as kidnapped between 2015 and May 2021, a total of 1,516 or 30.5 per cent of them were abducted between 2015 and 2017. Kidnapping has also become a huge money-spinner, creating a thriving criminal economy, which attracts more assailants like ants to sugar.” Imo State is perhaps, the sugar that attracts the ants of crime.
During the first meeting of Imo governor, Hope Uzodimma with the newly inaugurated members of the state APC exco, Uzodimma promised to name “the sponsors of insecurity” in the state on a certain date. Citizens of the state were pleased to hear their governor make the promise because they believed it was going to be the beginning of the end of insecurity in the state. As subsequent events turned out to be, Uzodinma, during the 2022 Imo stakeholders meeting failed to keep his promise. He told the gathering that he would leave the security agencies in the state to do their job.
The Imo State security agencies are still doing their job till date and criminals are also still doing their jobs in the state.