Gunmen have gone on the rampage in the Southeast states of Imo, Ebonyi and Abia, killing no fewer than four people.
Among the victims was the traditional ruler of Orsu Obodo in Oguta Local Government Area, Imo State, HRH Eze Victor Ijioma, who was set ablaze in his car, reports The Nation.
Also killed was the Isama (traditional prime minister) of Mgbele community also in Oguta LGA.
It was gathered that the two leaders were killed in separate attacks and different locations on Thursday.
Some residents said the Orsu Obodo monarch was accosted at Umuamaka Junction in the neighbouring Izombe town, where he was killed inside his car.
It was further learnt that the assailants, who were not satisfied with his death, went ahead to set his corpse ablaze together with his car.
On his part, the Mgbele community leader was said to have been killed in his town.
Village sources also disclosed that military and other security operatives have increased their presence in Izombe, Mgbele and the communities around the area in their bid to fish out the perpetrators, who were said to have resorted to hit-and-run tactics.
A villager who pleaded anonymity said: “The Eze Igwe of Orsu Obodo was accosted while he was driving along Umuakama Junction in the afternoon.
“They shot him, set him ablaze inside his car and left the scene.
“As I am talking to you now, soldiers and other security operatives are combing the villages in search of the assailants”.
Police spokesperson in Imo State, Henry Okoye, told newsmen that ”the Commissioner of police condemns in strong terms the gruesome murder of the traditional ruler and the prime minister. He has inaugurated high powered team of security men to go all out to arrest the hoodlums.
“We are collaborating with the military and we have increased security presence in the areas with a view to arresting the killers.
“The Commissioner of Police commiserates with the families of the killed community leaders and prays God gives them the fortitude to bear these irreparable losses.”
Again, gunmen abduct Catholic priest, three others in Imo
Another Catholic priest, Rev Fr Mathias Opara, was yesterday kidnapped by gunmen in Imo State.
The priest was abducted in the evening alongside three other occupants of his car.
Opara’s abduction came barely five days after a priest in charge of Christ the King Catholic Church at Ezinachi/Ugwuago parish of the Catholic Diocese of Okigwe, Rev. Fr. Jude Maduka, was kidnapped on Sunday just moments before he went for a Sunday Mass.
It was gathered that the priest was abducted along Ejemekwuru- Ogbaku Road housing Oguta and Mbaitoli Local Government Areas of Imo State.
An eyewitness said that the priest popularly known as Owu Ujo was ambushed while driving back to Owerri, the state capital, after the burial rites of the father of one of his colleagues at Izombe community in the Oguta LGA.
According to the source, the victim is in charge of Man of Order and Discipline of the Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri.
The source said: “Rev. Fr. Mathias Opara, popularly known as Owu Ujo, has just been kidnapped along Ejemekwuru/Ogbaku Road. He was kidnapped alongside others he was in the same vehicle with.
“The incident happened right before us. We were also coming back to Owerri from the funeral rites of the father of another Catholic priest at Izombe in the Oguta Local Government Area of Imo State.”
When contacted, the Director of Public Communications of the Owerri Catholic Archdiocese, Rev Fr Raymond Ogu, confirmed the abduction of the priest.
Man in mid-30s killed in Abia
In Aba South Local Government Area, Abia State, gunmen operating in a commercial tricycle numbering four yesterday killed a man in his mid-thirties in front of the First Gate on the Ngwa Road flank of the popular and busy Ahia Ohuru (New Marke).
The gunmen were said to have trailed their target to the first gate where they accosted him and demanded that he hand over the handbag he was carrying.
He was said to have resisted the gang’s attempt to take away the bag from him, leading to his being shot dead.
It was learnt that the incident caused a pandemonium as both traders and customers who were carrying out their businesses around the Emejiaka area scampered into safety.
Operatives of the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) arrived at the scene shortly after their army counterparts took the body of the deceased to the morgue.
A trader who pleaded anonymity said: “You know that today (Friday) is usually a busy day for us. Because of the busy economic activities going on here, nobody suspected anything.
“We were here trading when we heard gunshots and people started running in different directions.
“Later, we saw some boys numbering four walking towards a commercial tricycle that parked ahead of them and drove off.
“People close to the scene said that they only saw the group of boys dragging the bag that the victim was carrying, and when he refused to hand over the bag to them, they shot him and left him in the pool of his blood.
“Soldiers on hearing the sound of the gun, rushed to the scene but couldn’t meet them. They were just firing warning shots.
“Policemen wearing RRS vest and cap later came to the scene and took the corpse of the deceased away.”
When contacted the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Geoffrey Ogbonna who was at the Umuahia Township for the rehearsal ahead of the May 29 swearing-in ceremony, said he was yet to be informed about the incident, promising to get back to our correspondent as soon as he got information on the incident.
He was, however, yet to get back at the time of filing this report
Hoodlums kill medical trainee in Ebonyi
In Ebonyi State, gunmen suspected to be armed robbers on Wednesday killed a medical trainee attached to the Dental Therapy Department of Alex Ekwueme Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki.
The deceased, Kelvin Onuchie, was shot dead in front of the entrance gate of his residence at Mberi Street, Abakaliki.
It was gathered he was outside the gate making calls around 8 pm when gunmen shot at him before fleeing the area.
A source in the area said the victim came back from midweek service and was making a call outside his gate at ‘Corpers’ lodge’ where he stays when the gunmen shot him.
The gunmen, according to the source, were suspected to have finished their operation/robbery somewhere in the area.
“They were probably fleeing, only to see Mr. Kelvin Onuchie making calls outside, which they apparently perceived as a threat, and consequently shot him,” he said.
The deceased, it was gathered, hailed from Agbor in Delta State.
Police spokesperson in Ebonyi State, Onome Onovwakpoyeya, said she was yet to receive a report on the matter.