Igbo traditional and religious leaders under the auspices of The South-East Council of Traditional Rulers and Representatives of Igbo Archbishops and Bishops on Peace and Conflict Resolution have expressed concern over the killings and violence in the state.
They expressed their concerns in a statement titled, ‘Imo politicians must de-escalate hostilities to save Imo State’, signed by the Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe, and the Methodist Archbishop of Umuahia, Chibuzo Opoko, on Sunday.
While lamenting that Imo State has become “a war zone”, they frowned on the action of the police in arresting a former governorship candidate in Imo State, Uche Nwosu, in a place of worship recently.
The statement read, “The dramatic and condemnable invasion of a place of worship by officers of the Nigeria Police Force on December 26, 2021 ostensibly to effect the arrest of a former governorship candidate in Imo State has brought to the public consciousness the long-running troubling state of affairs in the state, which has led to the loss of many lives, hundreds of millions of naira of property, a deterioration of the environment for business and a debilitating poisoning of public culture and trust.
“Even as we write this statement, a report is breaking of an exchange of gunfire between unknown gunmen and law enforcement officers, which may have left several people dead. Imo has become a war zone and the Igbo nation is appalled that those responsible seem unable to gauge the consequences of their conduct.
“The tensions, violence, and failing law and order situation have resulted in a significant number of deaths, including those of traditional rulers, a considerable number of missing persons, and the abduction of scores of youths presumably by law enforcement and non-state actors.
“Many attribute this to the prevailing political differences in the state. These arrested and kidnapped young men are said to be held in concentration camp conditions.
“This state of affairs in Imo State, blamed largely on a few politicians of the state and their cohorts, constitutes an assault on the dignity and well-being of Ndi Imo and the Igbo nation. It is unacceptable and must be brought to a speedy resolution.”
The traditional and religious leaders also proposed meetings with the governor, Hope Uzodimma, past governors, former governorship candidates, and elders of the state.
“We, as the clergy, traditional rulers, and elders of conscience of Alaigbo, under the auspices of the Joint Body of the South East Council of Traditional Rulers and the Representatives of Igbo Archbishops and Bishops on Peace and Conflict Resolution (J. B.) are compelled to intervene.
“First, we urge all the political leaders in contestations and their followers to cease and desist from all actions that will escalate or compound the situation on the ground in the state.
“Next, we ask for an examination of conscience of the actors in Imo State, FCT, Abuja, or elsewhere.
“We trust that the Igbo Spirit, which guided our intervention in the run-up to the recent Anambra State governorship election and resulted in peaceful and salutary outcomes, will lead the key antagonists in Imo State politics to collaborate with us to help reconstruct the social order in Imo to greater civility,” the statement added.