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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Anambra Grapples with New Wave of Petty Crime Amidst Decline in ‘Unknown Gunmen’ Activity

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AWKA, Nigeria – Anambra State, previously under the siege of feared “unknown gunmen,” is now facing a burgeoning wave of petty crime, marking a new challenge for Governor Chukwuma Soludo.

The state had been previously held hostage by the gunmen, who engaged in brutal activities ranging from kidnappings to beheadings and open shootouts.

Public facilities, including those belonging to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Nigeria Police, were not spared from their wrath, with many police stations attacked and several officers paying the ultimate price.

In an extreme instance of violence, Hon. Okey Okoye, a state lawmaker, and his aide, Cyril Chiegboka, were kidnapped and gruesomely beheaded.

Dr Chike Akunyili, husband of the late former Minister of Information, Prof. Dora Akunyili, was also brutally assassinated in broad daylight at Nkpor junction, Onitsha, after accepting a posthumous award on behalf of his deceased wife.

Governor Soludo, in collaboration with security agencies, launched a counter-offensive against the gunmen, gradually crippling their operations. However, as the state breathes a sigh of relief from the ruthless gunmen’s activities, a new wave of petty crime has emerged as a significant concern.

Most parts of Awka, the state capital, are now plagued by criminals operating on tricycles, terrorizing residents, especially during off-peak hours. These criminals, armed with locally made weapons and usually in groups of four or more, target unsuspecting individuals to steal their phones.

A source disclosed to an online news platform that the adoption of cashless economy has forced these criminals to change their tactics.

Some criminals now carry Point of Sale (POS) machines, attempting to access victims’ bank accounts through stolen SIM cards. Unlucky victims sometimes find themselves kidnapped and forced to pay ransoms through bank transfers.

A recent incident involved a journalist’s husband who was kidnapped right outside their home. The kidnappers released him in the early hours of the following day after forcing him to transfer a considerable sum from his account to theirs.

Another instance saw this reporter nearly falling victim to one of these robbers, narrowly escaping a life-threatening situation through quick thinking and a stroke of luck.

The crime wave has also extended to Onitsha, where robbers posing as commuters in mini-buses, known as ‘one chance’ robbers, are holding the town hostage. These criminals kidnap passengers, rob them of their belongings, and sometimes demand ransom for their release.

The Anambra State Police Command, however, has assured the public that it is working tirelessly to tackle this surge in petty crime.

DSP Tochukwu Ikenga, the Public Relations Officer, stated that the command has deployed officers to public places and identified flashpoints to ensure the safety of Anambra residents.

Despite the decline in the activities of the deadly gunmen, the rise in petty crime continues to pose a new security challenge for Governor Soludo and the Anambra State Police command. As the state continues its battle against crime, residents remain hopeful for a swift resolution.

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