The Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodimma, ordered an investigation into Monday’s invasion of the Izombe community, which resulted in the deaths of residents and the destruction of property by security agents.
The state’s Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Declan Emelumba, said in a statement in Owerri, the state capital, that the state government was saddened by the development in the community.
Attributing the killing to a fracas as a result of oil theft in the community, Emelumba said the security agents went on a reprisal attack after one of them was killed in the community.
The statement read in part, “The Imo State Government is saddened by the unfortunate events that occurred in Izombe, Oguta Local Government Area of the state recently, which led to the loss of lives and destruction of property.
“It is regrettable that the fracas between oil thieves and security agencies was allowed to snowball into fatal violence, despite government advice on the need for restraint from untoward acts, even in the face of provocation.
“The government also understands that the security agencies went on a reprisal attack after losing one of their own. But since two wrongs cannot make a right, the matter, instead of abating, escalated. The government insists that no matter the situation, the rules of engagement must always apply.
“The state government sympathises with the families of those who lost either their loved ones or property in that ill-advised violence.
“The Executive Governor of Imo State, His Excellency, Senator Hope Uzodimma, has already ordered a holistic investigation into the remote and immediate causes of the crisis.
“While the government awaits the report of the investigation, both parties to the conflict are advised to maintain the peace.
“While the security agencies are urged to always ensure the maintenance of rules of engagement, the civilian populace is encouraged to refrain from provoking the men in uniform, no matter the temptation.
“The government will continue to do all within its powers to ensure a harmonious relationship among all segments of the Imo populace.”
Findings by our correspondent revealed that the villagers had started returning home after they fled during the invasion.
A community leader, Chinedu Nnadi, told our correspondent that though there was still panic in the community, people who had run away had started returning home gradually.
He called on the state government to ensure that peace was permanently achieved in the community.
He said, “Our people have started coming home, gradually. The invasion of our community was horrible. We even lost Dee Celestine as a result of shock. Our market was burnt, with several houses razed. Let the state government permanently resolve this issue.”