CITIZENS COMPASS — Residents of Okpoko community in Ogbaru Local Government, Anambra State, have trooped out enmasse to protest the alleged killing of five members of their community over invasion by the operatives of the state’s Anti-Tout Squad.
The protesters said they were presently living in fear over incessant midnight raids on their homes.
They claimed that the operatives, armed with guns and other dangerous weapons, had in the last two weeks been raiding their various homes in the middle of the night in a bid to forcefully enforce payment of revenues for the Anambra State Waste Management Authority and the Anambra State Environmental Protection Authority.
About five persons were reportedly killed last Thursday, along the Obodoukwu Junction, near Okpoko community, when stray bullets from the operatives of the Anambra State Anti-Touts Agency, allegedly hit them, while some youths were protesting the ‘imposition of illegal levies’ on the community by the operatives.
It was gathered that the anti-touts operatives opened fire on the protesting youths, and were shooting sporadically in an effort to scare the protesters.
The police confirmed the killings and evacuated and deposited the corpses in the morgue.
Speaking on the development on Wednesday, the Secretary, Okpoko Community Development Union, Chief Raphael Agu, said in the process, no fewer than five persons, including a young man, who had just completed his mandatory National Youths Service Corps, have been killed and several others injured in the fracas that always ensued whenever the anti-tout operators storm the area.
Agu, who spoke on behalf of the landlords and residents, and was flanked by other members of the community’s union executive, said as a result of the development, the community has submitted a petition, titled: ‘Re: Complaint of Commission of Criminal Offences to wit, Murder, Abduction/Kidnapping, Shooting/Killing of Innocent Residents by Anambra State Anti-Touts Group,’ to the state Commissioner of Police, on December 10, 2023.
He said the petition was written by the Concerned Residence Landlords/Association of Okpoko Property Owners and the chairmen of all the streets in Okpoko community, in collaboration with the state’s Human Rights Guide Association.
They informed that a similar petition had also been written and sent to the state police command on November 10, 2023, which the police had failed to act upon.
The group is therefore asking the police to investigate the current activities of the anti-touts agency, the killings they have perpetrated in the community and the whisking away of many landlords in the area every night
They also revealed that landlords who have fallen victims are those opposed to their illegal activities in the community.
Agu, also the Chairman of Anambra Human Rights Guide Association, however, fingered the state Commissioner for Environment, Felix Odimegwu, ANSEPA/ASWAMA contractor, Emeka Asoanya and some other community members, whose names were withheld, as as those behind the crisis.
Calling for the sacking of the government officials alleged to be involved in the ongoing development in the community, the landlords said trouble began when they refused to continue the payment of “numerous and incessant illegal levies” imposed on them by the ASWAMA contractor, particularly the 2020/2021 ASWAMA levy, which they said has been paid off by the precious administration of the state.
He said, “We are being forced to pay a lot of illegal levies by the ASWAMA/ANSEPA, particularly the 2020/2021 levy, which the previous administration has settled. There is also a pending suit at the court stopping them from collecting such levies, which they have continuously flouted and creating pandemonium in the community.
ASWAMA/ANSEPA have employed all ‘evil’ means of recovering the waste levy by using the anti-tout operatives who always storm our various houses at midnight. The anti-tout squad always target the house of any landlord who opposes their illegal activities. This is what brought about all these problems, where innocent residents have been killed and some of us taken away to unknown destinations.
“The anti-tout operatives, armed with guns and other dangerous weapons, have been going to the various homes of any landlord who opposes the collection of these illegal levies by ASWAMA/ANSEPA, beating them up, after which they whisked them away.
Whenever they are coming, they block all the entrances leading to the community so as to prevent anyone from escaping. They perfected their evil plans on my residence on December 7, when they came at exactly 12:30am. I suddenly heard a loud hit on the gate of my residence at Gbuhemobi Street, Okpoko, they damaged the iron rods of the gate. They were about eight and masked their faces, they break into my living room and were using their torchlights to search the whole place.
When they saw me, they asked me, ‘Are you Chief Raphael Agu?’ I said ‘yes’. They immediately dragged me out and started beating me and took me away; in front of my building, I saw about six Hummer Toyota buses, inscribed with ‘Anti-Tout, Anambra State.’ I also saw one Lexus 470 jeep driven by their General Commander.
“They took me in their vehicle as they were going from house to house to fetch other landlords. When they carried me into the particular bus they dumped me, I saw a man they tied his face with their apron jacket, whom I later discovered to be the Okpoko Youths Secretary, Mr Obum Ohiagu.
“The anti-touts drove us to the house of the chairman of the community at Ejirika Street, where they caught him half naked in his bedroom, like myself. They also went to many other places to pick other members. They were doing this with their group of pointers who were showing them the houses to go.
“We were finally taken to the Anambra State Anti-Touts office at Upper Iweka Triangle at about 7:30am, where they kept us in a black marina cage lorry. When one of their commanders arrived, he told us that the state government has given them the license to kill anyone who opposes revenue collections. They said we in Okpoko need to be taught lesson we cannot forget.