Gov Ikpeazu meets with heads of security agencies in the state
…calls for calm in a statewide broadcast
The Governor of Abia State, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu has met with heads of various agencies in the state over the ongoing #ENDSARS protests in the state which has been overtaken by hoodlums, causing untold hardship to the inhabitants and visitors to the state.
Though the details of the meeting which lasted for hours could not be immediately ascertained, it was said to have bordered around issues emanating from the insecurity in the state in the past 24hrs.
In a monitored 6pm broadcast on Wednesday, Ikpeazu who was visibly worried that the once peaceful protest has degenerated as hoodlums have hijacked the protest, called on those that were still on the streets of the state protesting to back down.
“I wish to place it on record that I agree that peaceful protests are a legitimate means of ventilating anger in a democratic setting and I therefore agree with the rights of the citizens especially of Abia State to peacefully protest any situation that they are uncomfortable with. You will also agree that the Abia State Government and her officials have ensured that the legitimate peaceful protesters have been given every avenue to ventilate their grievances.
“It has however become obvious that the legitimate protesters have been unable to control the spread of the protest and have allowed it to degenerate into civil disobedience which has been hijacked by criminal elements as a means to foment trouble, endanger lives and damage public property.
“A situation where a Policeman will be killed, Police stations attacked and burnt down with other harm to government infrastructure, is sadly outside the realm of acceptable conducts in the cause of a protest. Citizens have become apprehensive with clear and present danger to lives of Ndi Abia and no responsible Government will sit back and allow this state of affairs to continue.
“Over the last 5 years, we have managed to keep Abia State very peaceful through the instrumentality of security agencies working in concert with Government and the citizenry and we intend to take all legitimate steps to safeguard the peace and security of the State and its inhabitants.
“We are not unmindful of the fact that some people are not happy with the peaceful atmosphere in the state and will seek any available means to foment trouble for their nefarious and political ends but we will continue to frustrate their efforts at every turn.
“As a response to the initial demands of the protesters, we have set up a Judicial Panel of Inquiry chaired by the former Chief Judge of Abia State, Hon. Justice S.N. Imo with 70% of the membership made up of youths and those familiar with the situation. We are awaiting their report and I pledge to work with relevant agencies to ensure full implementation.
“Furthermore, the Abia State government has provided a cash reward for any individual with incontrovertible evidence of police brutality and high-handedness that will help the Panel with its assignment.
“We have also announced a cash reward for those who will give us information about the criminal elements who carted away the arms and ammunitions of Police Officers who were attacked in Aba yesterday.
“In addition to the above, let me assure our people that we are prepared to accept, and in appropriate cases, grant audience physically to all those who wish to bring forward documented cases of Police brutality in Abia State.
“Once we get indications from such persons, we shall open our doors and listen directly, provided such persons undertake to behave decently and responsibly. We commit to presenting these documented cases at the highest level in the country.
“I also wish to remind us that we have diligently ensured the arrest and prosecution of all officers who have been involved in highhandedness on citizens. Our records of intolerance to the maltreatment of Abians by security operatives speak for us.
“We therefore advise restraint and maturity on the part of the agitators while assuring them that the Abia State Government does not support the attack of innocent peaceful protesters.
“Let me also place it on record that the Abia State Government did not and has no intention to order the arrest of any peaceful protester and any report to the contrary should be discountenanced.
“I wish to emphasize that no sitting Governor controls rule of engagement of security agents but we shall ensure that all allegations of high handedness by security agents will be investigated by the judicial panel. But we encourage our people not to confront armed security agents as doing so might lead to unfortunate outcomes.”
Ikpeazu who lamented the negative effect of the protest on the Aba and Abia business community coupled with the state was yet to recover from the economic loss it suffered during the heat of the COVID-19 pandemic said “It is therefore my view that what we, especially Ndigbo, need at the moment, is a peaceful atmosphere and the right ambience for our businesses to flourish. This is a key priority of this government and we are dedicated to creating that environment.”
Continuing Gov. Ikpeazu said “as your Governor, exercising the mandate of security and protection of your lives, livelihoods and properties, I shall not allow our people to be cajoled, overwhelmed and intimidated in the course of their legitimate endeavours and I pledge to keep you all safe.
“It is for this reason that we have taken the painful but necessary step of imposing a curfew in Aba and Umuahia. It began by 6pm on October 20 and we will be reviewing prevailing security situations to decide on next steps.
“The curfew is a temporary measure meant to ensure the restoration of law and order in the state. We regret the inconveniences this will cause our citizens and residents and urge everyone not on essential duty to stay indoors for the duration.
“Law enforcement agents have been detailed to act decisively against anyone willfully disobeying the order. As is the custom, all essential service providers validly identified are exempt from the curfew.
“I do not want any more Abia life to be lost and I am therefore appealing for calm and good sense. Nobody starts a fire in his mother’s kitchen and nobody cuts his nose to spite his face.
“Whatever is our personal and collective grievances can and will certainly be resolved. Ndi Abia, please call your children and encourage them to stand down for peace to reign.
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“We have to do this to avoid losing control of the situation and allow forces outside the state to have reason to unleash death, sorrow and tears on our people.”