Governor of Imo State, Hope Uzodimma, on Tuesday met with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, justifying his invitation of the Nigerian military and other security agencies to execute special operations against Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) elements in Orlu Local Government Area of the State.
Governor Uzodimma said he was forced to involve the military against IPOB because they were kidnapping and killing people, apart from raping old women.
He said the exercise had to be executed since the primary responsibility of government was to protect lives and properties.
Uzodimma said he informed President Buhari whom he described as “very peaceful man” that there had been “progress” after the joint police-military operations “were conducted with no casualties on both sides of the divide.”
He said people arrested were being interrogated while the recovered weapons were intact.
He said: “Well, the issue of bringing the military to Imo state? You recall, during the EndSARS protests, a lot of properties were damaged in Imo state, police stations were burnt down, soldiers were killed, their rifles removed from them and immediately after the EndSARS, we thought it was over.
“Then, issues of kidnapping came in. A Catholic bishop was kidnapped. And these militants come out and begin to shoot. We’ve lost lives, market women were killed, old women were raped in Orlu area of Imo State and they visited this serious terror on the citizenry. And then, I came here, pleaded with Mr. President for his support and he sent additional support by sending in Police and the military who also came in. And that is where we are. It was on my invitation that the military came.
“And I did that because I know the situation was beyond the local arrangement, we needed help. And the help was given to us. And as I speak to you, the situation has come down to normal, people are now going about their businesses. And those caught will soon be charged to court. And all those military riffles from the army, the police, AK 47, and so on, were recovered by the people that came. We as a government have the responsibility to protect lives. And while we have the Nigerian Army, Nigerian police, and security challenges, we invite them to go to walk.”
The Governor ruled out any possibility of negotiating with IPOB, who he labelled killers. He was reacting to a question that sought to know why he called the military to “crush” the militants at a time the federal government and his colleagues from the North were luring insurgents with promises of rehabilitation.
He replied: “Well, I don’t know what you mean. I told you that our initial intelligence and the efforts to control the sporadic shootings in Orlu that led to many dead, innocent women in the market, people selling food foodstuffs dead by a group of people that we were not able to identify, preliminary intelligence reviewed where they were in a bush, our local police and local military went there and confronted them and they were repealed.
“So, we discovered that the people had serious firing power. And that, of course, Nigeria is a federation, Imo state is a federating unit, and all over the world, you have Provincial Police, you have federal police. So, there was a need for me to report situation and that I did and we were supported to deal with the situation.
“It is not about crushing anybody and those that came didn’t do any crushing. Those that came through their intelligence identify where these people were and I can tell you, all the people arrested, all the rifles recovered are intact, the people are under interrogation, not even one, not even one soldier, or one of those militants died in the process. I must commend DCP Abba Kyari for a brilliant job he did. So, let anybody politicize it. But I have a responsibility to protect the lives of my people.”
“The federal government maybe negotiating with the Boko Haram, that God knows if I have the opportunity to see any man who is taking lives. I will confront the person head on. That is why we are government.”
Uzodimma, while speaking on the current controversy in Imo State after the seizure of a hotel linked to the wife of former Governor Rochas Okorocha, said he had no personal quarrel with his predecessor who was briefly detained by the police.
He also dismissed allegation that he was plotting to assassinate Okorocha, stressing that “there is a difference between a Governor and government decisions”.
“Who will assassinate him? I don’t know about any attempt to assassinate Okorocha, rather what I know, because I have no personality issues with Okorocha. You will recall that before I became the Governor, the Ihedioha administration set up a judicial panel of inquiry to look into acquisitions and allegations of lands, converting government lands to personal property, and then removing private lands from individuals and given to other individuals. The judicial panel of inquiry chaired by a judge met and they concluded our job. And a white paper has since been raised.
“You know institutions and agencies that are involved with implementation are doing their job. And the only thing I know is that few days ago, one of the properties was sealed by government, the former governor, went with his thugs. You people saw it, it was live.
“He went there with thugs himself physically, wounded the policemen there, wounded the Civil Defense Civil people, the Civil Defense officer is currently in the hospital, they broke in and entered. Of course, you must have heard him say that he is richer than the government and that he is above the law. I am not directly involved. It is a position taken by the government.
“There is a difference between governor and government. The government of Imo state sealed a property. And I think that if there is anything anybody consider that is not right, the person should go to court to address the issue. Not to take laws, take to self help. I remember that under Ihedioha, there was a recovery committee, chaired by one Jasper Ndubaku, when they tried to visit Okorocha’s house, they were beaten to a stupor. And the same man who did that is now also doing the same thing and almost killed the man who did it during his time.
“So, I don’t want to go into that matter, because government is serious a business, and I’m very serious, I don’t have enough time to run the affairs of the state. But people should know the difference between being a governor and the government decisions and policies. And, you know, we took oath to protect the rule of law, to protect our laws, and we shouldn’t be part of any arrangement to violate our laws.”