Between March and April, Enugu residents lived in fear because of the activities of gunmen; but the government quickly arrested the situation. However, OZIOMA UBABUKOH reports that it is not yet uhuru, as fresh gale of killings has hit the state
After the March-April 2012 episode that culminated in the death of 11 persons, relief came the way of Enugu residents and investors when police heightened security in the state. However, just when residents thought the strife was over, the war returned on Friday, June 15, 2012, this time, in a very sporadic way.
It started with the shooting of Chidi Uwakwe, a Pharmacy graduate of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and first son to Mr. Gabriel Uwakwe, the proprietor of a popular Enugu pharmaceutical shop, Gabby Pharmacy, in Achara Layout, Enugu.
The deceased, 39, who owned Life Care Pharmacy, also in Achara Layout, was shot dead in front of his shop when he wanted to enter his car.
An eyewitness said that the young men who killed him had made a phone call to the deceased, aka Alaga Turbo – obviously to identify him; and that as soon as he picked the call, they fired shots at him.
The eyewitness said, “They came on a motorbike and parked at a distance. A call came into his phone, but as soon as he made to answer the call, his assailants shot him.”
He said, “I think they made the call to ensure that he was the one. As soon as he picked the call, they shot him on the stomach. When he fell down, they came close and shot him twice on the head and he died instantly. Immediately assailants confirmed that he was dead, they fled on their motorbike.
Some hours after Uwakwe was gunned down, two men, one a student of Enugu State University of Technology and the other a trader, were also shot dead in another part of Achara Layout.
Mr. Olisaemeka Nnaji, 26-year-old phone shop owner on 91, Ogui Road, was next. He was killed in front of his shop on Saturday, June 16. “The boys who killed him came on a motorbike and fled after their successful operation. They didn’t even alight from the okada,” a neighbour to Nnaji told our correspondent.
Then the following day, a Sunday, traders and customers at Artisan Market in Enugu ran for cover when three men on a motorbike shot dead an unidentified man inside the market.
Students living close to the market said that the victim, believed to be a student of Enugu State University of Technology, might have been killed by rival cult members.
That same Sunday, at night, five other people, all of them male, were killed in several parts of the state, bringing the casualty figure to 10 within three days.
The suspected cultists seemed to have got to the height of the killings on Tuesday, June 19, when they mowed down four more people within an hour, bringing the casualty figure to 14.
The killing at Naiko Hotel of Mr. Ugochukwu Onuoha, probably got the police on their toes as they responded swiftly by arresting nine suspects, all students. Items recovered from them include one mask, two rounds of live ammunition, one AK-47, one ECOWAS passport, one double-barrelled shotgun, one cut-to-size double-barrelled shotgun, one wrap of Indian hemp, 27 live cartridges, one Jetta car with registration number ENU 67 AA, and other valuables presumably stolen from their victims.
According to the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Mr. Ebere Amaraizu, “This arrest and recovery of items came based on information made available to the command’’s security operatives, following the shooting and killing of one Ugochukwu Onuoha of Naiko Hotel, Awkunanaw-Gariki in Enugu.”
He said, “The state commissioner of Police, Musa Daura, has applauded the efforts of his men for the arrest and item recovery and has also used the occasion to thank the good people of the state for their timely and prompt information, which led to the arrest of the suspects.
“He also promised that his command, in partnership with other security agencies and relevant stakeholders in the state, will not rest on their oars in ensuring that perpetrators of any crime in the state are brought to book.”
Amaraizu, however, refused to disclose if the suspects were students of the state-owned university, despite insistence from residents that they (the suspects) are students of Enugu State University of Technology. He rather said, “What matters most is that the suspects are helping the police in their investigations.”
Sensing the image crisis the allegations could bring to the university, the ESUT management promptly denied its students’ involvement in cult-related killings in the state.
Disputing the claims, the Public Relations Officer of the university, Mr. Osita Ugwuoti, said there was no way ESUT students could be involved in cult activities because they are currently on a two-week vacation.
He said, “If there are claims by the suspects that they are students of ESUT, such names need to be verified. Currently, ESUT students are on vacation for two weeks, having ended the first semester. The second semester will commence on June 25, 2012.”
According to him, “If these cult activities are said to be done within this period, the claim needs to be investigated for anyone to be identified as a student of the institution.”