Orlu Crisis: How Innocent Residents were killed, Businesses Destroyed

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The serenity of Orlu in Imo state was truncated on Monday as soldiers engaged suspected members of the Eastern Security Network (ESN) in a gun battle that lasted for hours, leading to several deaths and destruction of properties.

TheLeadng reliably gathered that trouble started when soldiers invaded the community in a bid to avenge the death of their colleagues and dislodged members of the ESN from the area. The ESN was set up by leader of the separatist group, Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu for the security of the Eastern region of Nigeria.

READ: ‘Forget Biafra, we are not fighting Nigeria,’ Ohanaeze Ndigbo president tells Nnamdi Kanu

It was learnt that the crisis started last week when some soldiers and policemen were allegedly killed by ESN volunteers.

The group had released a video, last week, showing ESN volunteers boasting how they dislodged security men who attacked them, and displayed the vehicles the policemen had abandoned during the encounter.

Revenge Mission

Apparently irked by the killing, the soldiers launched a reprisal, shooting sporadically and killing some of the residents.

The soldiers drawn from the 34 Artillery Brigade in Obinze decided to launch a revenge mission on Monday, following information that ESN volunteers were meeting in Orlu and using one of the facilities in the community to train its men.

The soldiers who stormed the community in a commando-style shot sporadically as residents scamper for safety in order to escape the rain of bullets.

The staccato of guns were heard as far as Okporo, Akata and Umutanze.

The military mounted several checkpoints in and around Orlu during the operation as travellers were advised to avoid using the Orlu road or moving about the area at night.

There were also reports of low-flying military aircrafts over the community as reported by some eyewitnesses.

Blood, deaths

Ten residents were reportedly killed, while over 13 buildings, including a church, Blessed Holy Trinity Sabbath Mission inside Orlu Local Government Area and shops were burnt.

A video posted on Twitter, Monday afternoon, showed soldiers taking positions in a calmed street and firing gunshots.

Some military trucks are seen, in another video, being driven through a street.

A woman’s voice could be heard from the background of the video crying.

“Oh my God, look at them, look at them. Oh, Jesus, I want to go home. I want to go home,” the woman, apparently frightened, cried.

Another video showed flames of fire engulfing a building, while a corpse is seen close by at a veranda of what looks like a shop.

Viewer discretion advised as some of the footages contain acts of violence

“This is what is happening in Orlu,” said a man’s voice in a video. He was secretly filming the scenes of the military operation.

“The army are shooting sporadically. They are just shooting at any vehicle that is moving, although I can’t get everything from where I am right now.

“Orlu is in a total mess,” he said.

Attack against the Igbos in Nigeria

The leadership of Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, has described the military operation as an attack against the Igbos in Nigeria.

Aloy Ejimakor, a lawyer and special counsel to the IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, said the operation portend sufficient danger.

“Personally, I was traveling to Orlu and I was turned back about a mile to Orlu. Everybody was making a u-turn, vehicles can’t go into Orlu right now. So, on the spot assessment portended sufficient danger that people mounted themselves on the road and they were turning people back for their own safety,” the lawyer said.

“The military operation is ongoing in Orlu right now against unarmed civilians. Unarmed civilians, for God’s sake,” he said.

Reacting to the clash, the media and publicity secretary of IPOB, Emma Powerful, said “I have said it time without number, did we go to their barracks to look for their trouble or they came into our forest to attack us?”

Curfew

The Governor of Imo State, Hope Uzodinma, has condemned the attack by gunmen in Orlu Area of the state which led to the killing and maiming of innocent citizens on Monday.

In a statement issued, Uzodinma said he has ordered security agencies to fish out the perpetrators and bring them to book.

To restore peace in Orlu, the Governor ordered a curfew in some local government areas namely Orlu, Orsu, Oru East, Oru West, Ideato North, Ideao South, Njaba, Isu, Nwangele and Nkwerre.

He said, “This afternoon, I received a very disturbing report on the activities of a group of Militants who unleashed a shooting spree in the Orlu area of the state,killing and maiming innocent citizen in the process

“I am totally appalled by this sad report which appears to paint a picture of near breakdown of law and order in the Orlu area. The government condemns in its entirety this act of extreme hooliganism and brigandage.

“This is completely unacceptable to this administration. Those behind this callous barbarism will surely regret their actions.

“Consequently, I have directed the security agencies to fish out without fail, all those behind the carnage and immediately bring them to book. Let no one be in any doubt that the perpetrators of this dastardly act will ever escape justice. I assure them that they will pay for for their cruelty against a peace-loving and innocent people.

“As an interim measure to immediately restore the peace in Orlu zone, a dusk to dawn curfew (6 pm to 6 am) is hereby imposed in the following Local Government Areas of Orlu zone; namely; Orlu, Orsu, Oru East, Oru West, Ideato North, Ideao South, Njaba, Isu, Nwangele and Nkwerre.

“All law-abiding citizens are advised to comply strictly with the curfew as announced. Anyone caught violating the curfew will be treated as a suspect.

“The government wants to assure all Imo people that the situation in Orlu area is under control. Security operatives have been deployed on a 24-hour patrol of the zone. Equally, every security measure necessary has been put in place to ensure that law-abiding citizens can go about their businesses in the affected areas without any fear of molestation.”

The governor who condoned with the families of the bereaved and all the victims of the unfortunate incident assured them that those who committed the heinous crime against them and their loved ones will never go unfurnished.

Orlu: Reminiscence of Biafra war

Orlu is the second largest city after Owerri, in Imo State with an estimated population of 420,000. It has a long history and has played a critical role as the headquarters for the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) ran humanitarian relief agencies during the Nigeria-Biafra Civil War. The Nigerian headquarters of the British Cheshire Home is in the city.

Orlu is a home for enterprise and industry which gives it the unofficial tag of the commercial capital of Imo state. Many successful Nigerian businessmen, industrialists and champions of industries hail from its eleven local government areas that make up what is widely called Orlu Senatorial Zone