The residents of Ekwulobia in Aguata local government area of Anambra State, and by extension, people of South-East geo-political zone, have been in a state of ecstasy since news filtered that the federal government has relocated the controversial 47 Boko Haram suspects dumped in Ekwulobia prison on the night of June 28, 2015, having been relocated to an undisclosed prison facility in the country.
Though there has not been any official confirmation of this development, dependable sources close to LEADERSHIP confirmed that the murderous Boko Harm suspects were eventually removed from Ekwulobia prison (generally considered as the only federal government facility in the South-East) last Tuesday night when all good men and women were fast asleep in the comfort of their rooms to an unknown destination.
Nevertheless, speculations were rife, that the deadly Boko Haram suspects were taken to Abakaliki Prison in Ebonyi State, but the state governor Dave Umahi, stoutly dismissed the rumour as the figment of the imagination of those who do not wish the state well. He said the Boko Haram elements were nowhere close to the state, and urged the citizens to go about their daily businesses without any atom of trepidation
He stated that he heard the rumour immediately after his arrival from a trip in Israel and that he swiftly made contacts with some authorities at the nation’s capital , Abuja, and that he was told that the rumour was not true. He therefore charged the people of the state to discard the rumour and remain calm while going about their lawful duties.
Sources in the state, however say that residents of the state, especially those living in Abakaliki have been thrown into fear since the rumour filtered in that the deadly sect members have been relocated from Ekwulobia to a prison in the state.
Meanwhile, even as the news of the eventual removal of the sect members from the Ekwulobia prison has remained within the realm of the rumour mill, the tight security at the prison since the suspects were brought to the town has already been relaxed. The snipers that sit atop a structure at the prison are no longer there.
Also, the member representing Aguata federal constituency in the House of Representatives, Hon. Eucharia Azodo, has expressed happiness that they (Boko Haram suspects), have been removed from Ekwulobia prison.
“I received information that the federal government has transferred the Boko Haram suspects out of Ekwulobia prison on Tuesday night and I am happy about the development because my constituents can now sleep with their two eyes closed”, said the federal lawmaker.
She stated that she was forced to move a motion in the floor of the Green Chamber of the National Assembly to compel the federal authorities to transfer the Boko Haram detainees out of her constituency, basically because the prison do not have the facilities necessary for keeping terrorists.
Besides, she stated that as at the time the Islamic terrorist prisoners were brought to the Ekwulobia prison, the prison which was built to accommodate only 85 inmates, already had about 143 inmates.
The lawmaker therefore commended the federal government for eventually harkening to the voice of superior argument by transferring the terrorists out of Ekwulobia prison.
She also thanked the state governor, Chief Willie Obiano, for his efforts in getting the federal authorities convinced to rescind the decision, and commended the people of Ekwulobia in particular for their patience throughout the period the terrorists were kept in their midst. Azodo assured them that the forthcoming Christmas and New Year would be huge celebration moments for them.
The relocation of the Boko Haram prisoners from the North to the Ekwulobia prison in the South-East had elicited mass protest in the zone, particularly Anambra State.
The people of Anambra State and indeed the Igbo nation, had viewed the decision as a subtle way of watering the ground for the Islamic fundamentalists to gain entry into the zone. There was a groundswell of opinion that detaining the captured Boko Haram members anywhere in the South-East, would attract other members of the sect who might want to free them from the prison and in the process start bombing the South East as they have been doing in North East where they have killed thousands of people, and rendered several others homeless.
It was indeed the state governor, Chief Willie Obiano who first raised the alarm over the relocation of the Boko Haram prisoners to the state. He condemned the federal government’s action, saying that it would endanger the security situation in the state.
The action was later to spark massive protests at Ekwulobia. Traders from all the markets in the state staged a peaceful protest on the streets of Ekwulobia urging the federal authorities to remove the terrorists from the area.
The leaders of the traders of all markets in the entire South East zone were later to join forces with their colleagues in Anambra State as they also held solidarity protest against the relocation of the 47 Boko Haram prisoners to the Ekwulobia prison. Also, religious leaders in the state, captains of industry and many other groups also joined in peacefully remonstrating against relocating the suspected insurgents to Ekwulobia.
Though none of the protesters contested the power of the federal government or its agency – the Nigeria Prisons Service – to maintain prisons in any part of the country, as well as their powers to keep any prisoner in any prison in the country, those who protested the Ekwulobia incident, essentially said that Boko Haram prisoners were not conventional prisoners meant to be kept in any prison.
Besides, they insisted that Ekwulobia prison was not ideal for keeping such high profile terrorists. They also, argued that the presence of the deadly Islamic fundamentalist sect members in Ekwulobia would attract their colleagues to the area as they might attempt to strike to free them and in the process shift their operational base to the South East.
Incidentally, the relocation of the Boko Harm prisoners to Ekwulobia came barely a month after the inauguration of the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, on May 29. 2015.
In fact, there was strong suspicion across the country, especially in the South -South and South East geo-political zones that the relocation of the Boko Harm detainees from the North to the Ekwulobia prison was President Buhari’s subtle plan to unleash Islamic war on the Igbo, more so that it was clear that he was not the popular choice of the people in the zone during the last presidential election, in which former President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lost.
The manner the Nigeria Prisons authorities became economical with information when the controversy over the relocation of the Boko Harm detainees to Ekwulobia raged even helped to heighten the strong suspicion among the people of the South East that the decision to bring the Boko Haram suspects to Ekwulobia, might have some sinister motives.
Nevertheless, former President Jonathan and the immediate past governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi, were also blamed over the relocation of the fundamentalist sect prisoners to Ekwulobia. This is because according to reliable sources, the decision to transfer the Boko Haram detainees to the area was taken during the Jonathan administration, in which Obi, though a member of the opposition All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), played a major role.
But now that the Boko Haram suspects have been removed from Ekwulobia prison, all the conjectures about the motives behind their transfer in the first place to that prison facility, have come to nothing.