Pandemonium broke out at Assa community in the Ohaji-Egbema Local Government Area of Imo State as unknown gunmen stormed and killed at least 9 persons in a week-long attack over oil deposit in the area.
The bandits suspected to be cult members attacked reportedly invaded the community last Monday and a handful of residents were said to have fled to neighbouring communities for safety.
Among the victims was a 32-year-old father of two identified Vitalis Walata who was gunned down at the market square, according to Punch.
A relative of the deceased, Kingsley Igwe, said: “The incident happened on Monday morning while he was on a visit. Those men attacked him at the market square and shot him dead. He was married with two children and his wife was pregnant.
“After he was killed on Monday, those gunmen shot two people dead on Tuesday. On Wednesday, another man in the community was killed. On Thursday, a taxi driver was waylaid and shot dead. A total of nine people were killed last week.
“As I speak to you, there is no school, market or church in the community that is functioning. Everybody has deserted the place. I have also run away.”
Confirming the incident, the Government Liaison Officer of the council, Oluchi Odita, said the situation has gone out of control and pleaded with the government to intervene.
He said: “It is the youths who are killing one another. We have been trying to mediate without any success. Help us use your medium to beg the government to come to our rescue. People are running away from the community.”
An indigene of the council, Emeka Ononomadu, said the situation was caused by the imposition of traditional rulers on the community by the government.
“That place has been reduced to a war zone by cult members due to the deposit of oil in the community. And the problem started when the state government decided to encroach into the traditional selection process. Some groups, who did not want to be ruled by leaders imposed by the government, kicked and started fomenting trouble. This developed into a full-blown war among communities, led by cult groups,” he said.
When contacted, the Commissioner of Police, Imo State, Taiwo Lakanu, said the command was working with the military to end the crisis in the community.
Additionally, the Imo State Governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Sam Onwuemeodo confirmed the crisis.
He said: “There has been a crisis in that area over oil. I don’t know whether this oil is a blessing or a curse. Some of the attacks are senseless.
“Sometimes, those youths would allege that their community leaders collected money from the oil companies and they would attack them. I don’t know whether to tell God to dry up the supply of oil in the community,” he added.
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