The Imo State governor, Senator Hope Uzodinma, has explained that his decision to invite the military to douse recent uprising in Orlu district of the state was precautionary, citing the experience during the recent #EndSARS protests as reason.
The governor spoke to State House Correspondents on Tuesday after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari in his office at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa in Abuja.
According to the governor, the whole episode of the protest and the escalation of criminal activities that trailed them, leading to deaths and destructions, adding that the situation in Orlu region of the state had gone beyond what could be handled locally, hence his invitation to the military.
“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, where you know, a Catholic bishop was kidnapped, who was killed. And these militants came 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 they I came here (presidential villa), pleaded with Mr. President for his support and he sent additional support by sending in police and the military 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 are a government; it is our responsibility to protect lives. And while we have the Nigerian Army, Nigerian police. We had security challenges, we invited them to go to work,” he explained.
The governor also rejected insinuations that he used the military to pound his people, unlike some of his governor colleagues who are negotiating with bandits to solve their security problem.
According to him, he did not use military for to ‘crush’ his people in Orlu, as had been portrayed by a section of the media, but rather used the security personnel he invited to restore peace and normalcy.
“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, were repelled.
“So, we discovered that the people had serious fire 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 identified 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.”
On his meeting with the president Tuesday, he said he informed Buhari about the progress on the effort to tackle insecurity.
He stated: “Well, of course, I informed Mr. President that were already making progress. And of course, you know, President is a very peaceful man.
“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 ahead on. That is why we are government.”
On his recent confrontation with his predecessor, Senator Rochas Okorocha, the governor denied that there was an assassination attempt.
“Who will assassinate him? I don’t know about any attempt to assassinated Okorocha. Rather, what I know is that I have no personal 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 giving to other individuals.
“The judicial panel of inquiry chaired by a judge met and they concluded our job and a white paper have 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 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 still in the hospital and then broke in and entered.
“Of course, you must have heard him say that he is richer than government and that he is above the law. I am not directly involved. It is a position taken by 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 considers 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,” he said.