Youths from ABSU host community protest incessant kidnapping, killings of students, others


*ABSU shut down

From Boniface Okoro, Umuahia

A placard carried by one of the protester

Youths of Uturu in Isuikwuato Local Government Area of Abia State, host community of Abia State University, Uturu(ABSU), on Thursday, barricaded the busy Okigwe junction along Enugu-Port Harcourt expressway and the Okigwe–Uturu-Afikpo road to protest the incessant killings and kidnappings by suspected herdsmen which occur along the Okigwe-Ihube-Uturu road.

The latest round kidnapping took place on Monday, May 16, 2022 and Tuesday, May 17, 2022, week, which resulted in the killing of a motorist and abduction of scores of persons, including lecturers and about seven students of ABSU.

The protesters who were miffed that despite about 12check points dotting the Okigwe-Ihube-Uturu road of less than three kilometres, manned differently by the Army, Police and Prisons personnel, no kidnapper has been nabbed over the years, with many victims killed and hundreds of millions of naira ransom paid to the marauding kidnappers.

Chanting anti-government songs, the protesters who kicked off from Ukwunwangwu, near Marists Brothers (Catholic) Secondary School, Uturu, blocked the popular Okigwe junction along the Enugu- Aba- Port Harcourt expressway, as well as the Uturu-Afikpo road end, thereby leaving commuters stranded for hours.

Brandishing placards, some of which read: “Uturu is crying for help,” “Say no to Army check point at ABSU,” “Say no to kidnapping,” the protesters, it was learnt, sacked security operatives from their duty posts at the various check points along the Okigwe-Ihube-Uturu road.

They demanded urgent security action from the federal and Abia State governments to stem the tide of kidnapping and other forms of criminalities in the area, which ,they said, were affecting their economy and have endangered the life of their people and residents.

They also called on the Abia State Government to close down the cattle market at Lokpanta in Umuchieze of Umunneochi LGA which, they suspect, was serving as a take-off point for the herdsmen that brandish military assault rifles such as AK47.

According to sources, a top military Commander and the Isuikwuato LGA chairman, Hon. Chima Agbaeze, were said to have addressed the angry youths who, as at 2pm, still blocked the roads. The Commander and the Isuikwuato Council boss were said to have persuaded the protesters to go home and assured them that they would register their grievances to appropriate quarters.

But sources said that as of 2.30 pm Thursday, the military returned to their checkpoint at ABSU and started shooting sporadically into the air to disperse the protesting youths.

However, news filtered in Thursday evening that the seven students kidnapped last Monday have all been released, unharmed.  It was not immediately known if ransom was paid to secure their release.

Meanwhile, ABSU management has approved immediate mid-term semester break for its students, beginning from Friday, May 20, 2022.

A statement by ABSU Registrar, Acho Elendu, dated 19th May 2022, disclosed that the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Onyemachi Ogbulu, approved the mid-semester break, asking students to vacate their hostels and await further directives on their return date.

It was not established if the move was in connection with the security situation in Uturu.