Abuja (Agenzia Fides) - "Stop further killing of innocent people and destruction of livelihoods". This is the appeal launched by Msgr. Augustine Tochukwu Ukwuoma, Bishop of Orlu, in Imo State, in southern Nigeria, to the security forces accused of extrajudicial killings and of having devastated the market of a local town.
"On Saturday September 17, 2022, armed men alleged to be government security agencies invaded Orsuihiteukwa community in Orsu Local Government Area of Imo State, causing the death of some people and the burning down of Eke Ututu market which is the economic mainstay of the people of Orsu Local Government Area and other surrounding communities", writes Msgr. Ukwuoma.
"I have already condemned the past violence", recalls the Bishop. "I still maintain the view, that human life is sacred and should be respected. Violence begets violence and the circle continues. Genuine dialogue remains the answer. My sincere condolences go to all families who lost loved ones during this painful incident. May the souls of these our brethren rest in peace".
Msgr. Ukwuoma underlines how the action of the military, who are damaging the livelihoods of local populations, risks definitively aligning their support to the State. "The burning down of Eke Ututu market has added another sad dimension to our existing bad situation. The inhabitants of this area are petty traders and subsistent farmers who live basically from hand to mouth. They go to the market to sell their produce and buy food for the day to feed their families".
"Did the perpetrators of this mayhem think of how many indigent people who depend on this market for their main source of livelihood? Did they think of the number of children who will have nothing to eat because their parents have lost their sources of income?
"Did they think of the resources burnt especially during this economic hardship? Did they think of the psychological trauma these local inhabitants will go through due to the violent act?"
Msgr. Ukwuoma concludes by appealing to "government authorities to investigate this incident and take necessary steps to prevent reoccurrence. Finally, I appeal to all to remain steadfast in our prayer for peace in our region".
In the State of Imo there is the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) separatist movement, which aims to rebuild the Republic of Biafra, the ephemeral state (1966-1970) born from the attempted secession of southern Nigeria, which caused a bloody civil war. The IPOB accused the governor of Imo State of ordering the assault on the Orsu-Ihiteukwa community. Accusation rejected by the governor's spokesman. "Governor Uzodinma has never, can never and will never give instructions to security agents or anybody for that matter to kill innocent people" said the spokesman, who however recalled that there are "operational rules of engagement" for "security agencies, with their different hierarchies who take responsibility for their actions". Let us remember that Nigeria is a federation with several state and federal security bodies. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 21/9/2022)