The beheaded military couple

IN what must count as one of the most dastardly and tragic events ever recorded in the country since the return to civil rule in 1999, a Nigerian Army couple who were on their way to their traditional wedding were recently murdered by gunmen in Imo State. According to reports, the woman, on a day that may have been the eve of her wedding, was first raped before she was killed along with her fiancé. The duo were beheaded. Reacting to the incident, the Army spokesman, Major-General Onyema Nwachukwu, linked it to what he called the deep-seated hate, desperation and lawlessness with which foot soldiers of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) and the Eastern Security Network(ESN) had been unleashing terror on the people of the South-East, “whom they claim they are on a mission to protect and emancipate, as well as other innocent Nigerians resident or transiting the South-East.”

He added: “The Nigerian Army, on Saturday 30 April 2022, received information on the gruesome, barbaric and most despicable manner in which members of the IPOB and its armed affiliate, ESN, murdered in cold blood two soldiers, Master Warrant Officer  (MWO) Audu M Linus (retired) and Private(Pte)Gloria Matthew, who were in transit to Imo State for their traditional wedding. Apparently, the soldiers had embarked on the trip to fulfil the traditional rites of conjugating their matrimony, as the very well respected and cherished Igbo tradition demands. Ironically, the fact that one of the soldiers, Pte Gloria Matthew who hails from Nkwerre LGA of Imo State, has an ethnic affiliation with the good people of South-East Nigeria did not prevail on the sensibility of the dissidents.”

Nwachukwu added that the gruesome murder clearly depicted callousness and impenitence by IPOB/ESN. He assured that the Nigerian Army would ensure that the perpetrators of the dastardly act were punished. In his own reaction to the incident, President Muhammadu Buhari  commiserated with the Nigerian Army and the families of the affected couple. He condemned “the barbarism of the perpetrators of the incident and similar acts of violence against law enforcement agents,” describing it as alien to all cultures and civilisations. He then directed the military authorities and other security agencies to do their utmost in apprehending the perpetrators of the barbaric acts and bringing them to justice. The president also called on all communities, regional and national leaders to “speak with one voice, to show that the entire country is one against this cruel and barbaric act of violence.”

To say the least, the killing of MWO Audu and Private Mathew is horrendous and should never have happened. And its denial notwithstanding, IPOB, together with its armed wing, ESN, will have a hard time extricating itself from this dastardly incident. If anything, the video of the gory incident uploaded on social media is consistent with the patterns of ESN terrorism in the South-East.  It shows the groom and his friends lying lifeless while the bride, still alive but in her birthday suit, was subjected to sundry indignities before being decapitated with a knife. Next, her genitalia was sliced off, with her killers warning that their war against the Nigerian state was not a joke. The video is too gory.

Members of the ESN have been known to kill at will and commit rape and brigandage while enforcing their sit-at-home order, which has contributed in no small measure in impoverishing and tormenting the long-suffering people of the South-East who, like people in other parts of the country, have endured genocidal activities by armed nomadic herders for years. There is no need to beat about the bush: ESN, by the nature of its activities, has effectively become a terror outfit and the earlier this is acknowledged by all Nigerians, the better for the country. Videos of ESN operatives killing people in cold blood for violating their enforced Monday holiday are now routine. Recently, ESN operatives invaded an Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) registration point in Ihite Uboma Local Government Area of Imo State and murdered an INEC official while shooting at people who had come to collect their permanent voter cards (PVC). If IPOB is sure that neither it nor ESN is behind the acts of terror in the South-East, then it should tell the nation, with credible evidence, who the perpetrators are.

The security situation in the South-East is scary. People cannot easily move around; they even find it difficult to leave their homes. Sadly, the Nigerian State, which allowed the crisis in the South-East to degenerate to the current level, does not know how to handle dissidents. ESN operatives  have beheaded and murdered so many people and virtually put the geopolitical zone in limbo. Students cannot sit public examinations and the economy of the zone is gradually being destroyed. It is time the Federal Government and the six state governments of the South-East came together and, with critical inputs from stakeholders such as traditional institutions and community leaders, fashioned a solution to the menace of IPOB/ESN.

Needless to say, the killers of the military couple should be fished out and treated in accordance with the laws of the land. Justice demands no less.

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