Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo state has defended the attack on some residents and the burning of a market in two southeastern communities by Nigerian troops.
OHAFIATV News reported how troops invaded the Orsu-Ihiteukwa community in the Orsu Local Government Area of Imo State and Orsumugho, a community in the Ihiala Local Government Area of Anambra State, all in southeastern Nigeria on Saturday. , killing about two people and leveling several stores.
Troops were said to have invaded the communities around 4 am with numerous combat vans, armored tankers, and military helicopters.
Residents said troops also fired and detonated bombs as helicopters flew over communities.
But Mr. Uzodinma, while addressing reporters about the incident at Government House, Owerri, on Wednesday, said no lives were lost in the operation, according to a report in the Vanguard newspaper.
However, the governor’s claim was incorrect as death had confirmed the death of one person from the Orsu-Ihiteukwa community in Anambra and another person from Orsumugho, a neighboring community.
Mr. Uzodinma also claimed that troops raided and burned some shops in the Eke-Utu market in the Orsu-Ihiteukwa community because materials used to make improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were allegedly discovered in the market.
The governor claimed that suspected “bandits” operating in the area use improvised explosive devices to fight security agents and that an army officer, on duty in the Orsu Awo-idemili community, died last month. due to an explosion of the device.
“Last Saturday, a joint security force, who arrested a bandit, took him after his confession to guide them to where they operate and make the explosives.
“It turned out to be the Eke-Ututu Market.
“They discovered four stores where fertilizers, ammonium sulfate, and electrical appliances used in the manufacture of explosives were packaged,” the governor said.
But PREMIUM TIMES previously learned from sources in the community that more than 30 stores were leveled by troops during the operation.
The operation, the governor confirmed, was carried out by a combined team of Nigerian troops, officers from the Nigerian Navy, the Nigerian Civil Defense and Security Corps, and the Nigerian Police Force.
He said the captain, who led the operation, along with another officer, was “critical” at the Federal Medical Center, Owerri.
The troops recovered all the weapons and fertilizers used by the bandits to make the improvised explosive devices, he said.
“In the process, they burned stores and this is consistent with our policy.
“They were able to destroy all the shops, where the items were stored,” said Uzodinma.
He accused members of opposition political parties in the state of condemning the operation and also brazenly blackmailing the troops without understanding the “true situation.”
The governor claimed that merchants in the market were forced to “pay taxes to unknown gunmen” before being allowed to enter the market.
“These are illegitimate taxes to allow people to open their stores.
“This is what we have been fighting for all along,” he said.
He maintained that his administration would stop at nothing in the fight against terrorism, banditry and kidnapping in the state.
Rebuilding the market, compensating innocent traders
The governor stated that “the Eke-Ututu market was destroyed to give Imo peace” and that the government would rebuild it.
“If in the process, there are innocent merchants who lost their items, the government will compensate them.
“But the government has a responsibility to fight crime,” said Uzodinma.
The governor denied that members of Ebubeagu, a security outfit backed by the Imo state government, were part of the operation.
The invasion of the two southeastern communities by troops has drawn condemnation and is described by some as “painful.”
The military has not yet commented on the incident.
The Uzodinma reaction occurs about four days after the attack.
Amnesty International Nigeria and other organizations have accused the army of extrajudicial executions in the southeast under the pretext of fighting the proscribed indigenous people of Biafra, who are leading the agitation for an independent Biafran state.