Who murdered an army couple and why?

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Who murdered an army couple, Master Warrant Officer Audu Linus and Private Gloria Matthew, in Imo State, and why? They had travelled to the state for their traditional wedding rites, and were killed and beheaded by mysterious gunmen who made videos of the gruesome killing, which were circulated on social media.

The Director, Army Public Relations, Brig. Gen. Onyema Nwachukwu, in a statement, described the incident as “indisputably a brazen act of terrorism perpetrated by IPOB/ESN.”  The outlawed separatist group, Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), and its paramilitary organisation, the Eastern Security Network (ESN), have been blamed for escalating insecurity in the Southeast of the country, where Imo State is located.

Insecurity has worsened in that part of the country following the arrest and detention, last year, of IPOB’s leader, Nnamdi Kanu, who is facing trial for alleged treason and terrorism. IPOB is fighting for an independent state of Biafra made up of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo states in the Southeast, and parts of the South-south region of the country.

IPOB’s notoriety does not prove that it was responsible for the couple’s murder. The army’s spokesman said it had “commenced investigations to unmask and bring to book the criminals behind the murder.”  So blaming the killing on IPOB was hasty.

In its response, IPOB denied responsibility for the double murder, describing the army’s accusation as a “jaundiced conclusion.”  The group’s spokesperson, Emma Powerful, said in a statement:  ”IPOB has no hands in the said atrocity which is an abominable act in Igbo tradition. No true Igbo will hurt an in-law, how much more a married daughter (Ada) in Igbo land.”  Private Mathew hailed from Nkwerre Local Government Area of Imo State.

So who murdered the couple? The double murder further shows how badly law and order have broken down in the Southeast, which has continued to experience attacks on security agencies, government facilities and officials, and high-profile individuals. Many people have been killed, and properties worth millions have been destroyed in the attacks.

IPOB alleged that “armed gunmen or criminals recruited by evil politicians” operate in the region, adding, “We have on our own been battling these same criminals.” This is a serious allegation that should be investigated by law enforcement. Is it true that people working for politicians are responsible for the violence? What is their motive?

The situation is confusing. It is lamentable that the authorities allowed things to degenerate to this point where the situation appears uncontrollable. There is a frightening possibility that the situation could worsen to the point where the region becomes ungovernable.

With the approach of the 2023 general election, it is crucial to ensure that no section of the country is unsafe to warrant non-participation.  IPOB, for instance, is known to have threatened to prevent elections from holding in the region at different times in the past. The group failed to carry out the threats. But the level of insecurity in the region today is a potent threat that may affect the election.

Insecurity in the northern part of the country, mainly connected with the activities of kidnappers, bandits and terrorists, also poses a threat to the coming election.  It is lamentable that insecurity threatens Nigeria’s democracy.

It is unclear why the army couple was killed, particularly whether it had something to do with the fact that they were soldiers. Did their killers see them as symbolising the Federal Government and, therefore, deserved to be killed? The manner of the murder suggests rage. What enraged the murderers?

The army’s accusation against IPOB needs to be substantiated. A thorough investigation is necessary to establish the group’s alleged culpability. It is important to find the killers and prosecute them for deterrent effect.

This horrifying double murder is yet another strong reason the authorities must tackle insecurity with a sense of urgency.

THE NATION

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