By Oginyi Ruth
The pre-election related clashes between supporters of the All Progressive Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ebonyi State has taken a new dimension with over 30 houses set ablaze in some communities in Izzi local government area of the state.
Izzi local government area has been boiling since Friday night with two lives lost on eve of Sunday before the burning of houses and properties running into billions of naira destroyed.
Our correspondent reports that the new Commissioner of Police in the state, CP Awosola Awotunde, on Monday in Abakaliki appealed for calm from residents of the state over the attacks allegedly carried out by suspected political thugs in some communities in the state.
Awotunde who spoke to journalists after his assessment visits to areas affected by the violence vowed that police authority would ensure that perpetrators of the dastardly acts were arrested and prosecuted accordingly including their sponsors.
The police commissioner described the attacks as barbaric and man’s inhumanity to man.
“We appeal for calm and assure the public that police will spare no efforts in ensuring that everyone who is involved in the dastardly act is brought to book including their sponsors.
“The police further reassures the public of commitment to protection of lives and property of every citizen of the state before, during and after the elections”, Awotunde said.
One of the victim, Mr Donatus Nwofe who spoke to journalists at Aguabata in Agbaja community of Izzi said that he lost two of his buildings and property worthy several millions to the attackers.
Nwofe, who is the Chairman of the Nigerian Union of Pensioners (NUP), Ebonyi council, said that the suspected political thugs invaded his compound and shot sporadically before setting the houses ablaze.
“I lost everything; even the boxers I am wearing was donated to me by a sympathizer, as you can see, no pin was removed from the burnt down houses.
“We now live in fear as no one knows when the hoodlums will attack again with their AK 47 riffles and other weapons.
“I am appealing to police to beef up security in the community and I am also calling on state and Federal governments to come to the rescue of the victims of the attacks,” Nwofe said.
Another victim, Mr Paulinus Onyike on his part, said the suspected political thugs from a major political party invaded Izenyi, in Agbaja community and set houses suspected to belong to members of the opposition ablaze.
He called on the security operatives to investigate and bring the suspects to book.
Reacting to the attack on their party members, the APC state Chairman, Eze Nwachukwu described the attacks as unprovoked war and urged police and other security agencies to intensify security surveillance in the state.
APC warned that it would no longer tolerate any attack on its members and urged police to arrest and prosecute perpetrators of the violent attacks.
According to him APC members has been attacked on several occasions in the state even before the election and petitions with evidences sent to the security operatives for onward arrested and prosecution of the hoodlums.
Eze Nwachukwu chronicled the alleged gruesome attacks to include; attack on the senatorial candidate of the party in Ebonyi South Senatorial District, Mr Nweze Onu, attacks on APC members, destruction of their houses and property in Izzi local government area.
Others include; attacks and disruption of APC local government rallies by suspected political thugs at Ebonyi, Onitcha, Ohaozara local government areas and destruction of APC campaign office in Ohaozara.
He also listed alleged attacks on the home of APC Zonal Publicity Secretary, Mr Chris Ogba at Ezzama, Ezza South on February 16 and attack on members of the party at Ekoli-Edda among others.
“All these incidents have been duly reported to the Police in the state and we call on the police to ensure that perpetrators are arrested and brought to justice.
“We also call on all our members and supporters to remain resolute, refuse been intimidated as we assure victims of the party’s resolve to bring justice”, Nwachukwu said.
In his submission, the Chairman of the PDP, Onyekachi Nwebonyi denied the allegations.
“It is not true, they are the ones attacking our members. I had briefed you on the killing of two persons on Sunday who were attached by political thugs while six others were injured”
” PDP has been very peaceful despite the provocations. The governor, who is a man of peace, have continued to calm the party faithful down and urging them not to retaliate despite the provocations”.
“I want to use this medium to condemn the wanton destruction of properties and killing of innocent Nigerians all over the nation.
“Of my particular interest is the wanton destruction of properties and killing of innocent Ebonyians in Ebonyi state. The opposition in the state are visibly out to instigate violence in Ebonyi state so as to scare voters from coming out to vote”.
“I therefore warn them to desist from this act which is capable of causing unrest in the state. Let me also call on the security agencies in the state to immediately wade into investigation these killings and wanton destruction of properties to ensure that these does not escalate”, he said.