“The government of Imo state sealed a property (belonging to Okorocha) and I think that if there is anything anybody consider that is not right, the person should go to court to address the issue”
Imo Gov. Hope Uzodinma has broken his silence on the face-off between him and ex-Gov. Rochas Okorocha, describing Okorocha’s breaking into his sealed property as a lawless self-help.
“The government of Imo state sealed a property (belonging to Okorocha) and I think that if there is anything anybody consider that is not right, the person should go to court to address the issue.
“But not to take the laws into his hands and take to self help,” Uzodinma told State House correspondents at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari.
Reacting to allegation by Okorocha that Sunday’s attack on him was an attempt to assassinate him, Uzodinma said: “Who will assassinate him? I don’t know about any attempt to assassinated Okorocha. Rather, what I know is that I have no personal issues with Okorocha.
“You will recall that before I became the governor, the Ihedioha administration set up a judicial panel of inquiry to look into acquisitions and allegations of lands, converting government lands to personal property, and then removing private lands from individuals and giving to other individuals.
“The judicial panel of inquiry chaired by a judge met and they concluded our job and a white paper has since been raised. You know institutions and agencies that are involved with implementation are doing their job.
“And the only thing I know is that few days ago, one of the properties sealed by government, the former governor, went with his thugs.
“You people saw it, it was live. He went there with thugs himself physically, wounded the policemen there, wounded the Civil Defence Civil people. In fact, a Civil Defence officer is currently in the hospital and then broke in and entered.
“Of course, you must have heard him say that he is richer than government and that he is above the law. I am not directly involved. It is a position taken by government. There is a difference between governor and government.
“I remember that under Ihedioha, there was a recovery committee, chaired by one Jasper Ndubaku. When they tried to visit Okorocha’s house, they were beaten to a stupor. And the same man who did that is now also doing the same thing and almost killed the man who did it during his time.
“I don’t want to go into that matter, because government is serious a business, and I’m very serious. I don’t have enough time to run the affairs of the state.
“But people should know the difference between being a governor and the government decisions and policies. You know, we took oath to protect the rule of law, to protect our laws, and we shouldn’t be part of any arrangement to violate our laws.”
On the invitation of soldiers to Orlu to quell banditry and violence, Uzodimma said contrary to insinuations in some quarters that he invited to them to kill his own people, it was intended to “weed out criminal elements who have murdered some people including security personnel, raping old women and kidnapping a Bishop.
He said the special military operation was necessitated by the activities of some militants in the area who had continued to kidnap and kill people apart from raping old women.
“I requested for help because those on ground were repelled by the criminal elements; the primary responsibility of government was to protect lives and properties.”
The governor said there has been “progress” and normalcy after the joint police/military operations in Orlu.
On why he preferred military action to negotiating with the criminals as his counterparts in the North are doing, Uzodinma said: “Well, the issue of bringing the military to Imo state, you will recall that during the EndSARS protests, a lot of properties were damaged in Imo state, police stations were burnt down, soldiers were killed, their rifles removed from them.
“And immediately after the EndSARS, we thought it was over. Then, issues of kidnapping come in. A Catholic bishop was kidnapped. And these militants come out and begin to shoot.
“We have lost lives, market women were killed, old women were raped in Orlu area of Imo state and they visited this serious terror on the citizenry.
“Then I came here, pleaded with Mr. President for his support and he sent additional support by sending in police and the military who also came in. And that is where we are.
” It was on my invitation that the military came and l did that because I know the situation was beyond the local arrangement, we needed help. And the help was given to us.
“As I speak to you, the situation has come down to normal, people are now going about their businesses. And those caught will soon be charged to court while all those military riffles from the army, the police, AK 47, and so on, were recovered by the people that came.
“We as a government have the responsibility to protect lives. And while we have the Nigerian Army, Nigerian police, and security challenges, we invite them to go to walk.”
The governor added: Our initial intelligence and the efforts to control the sporadic shootings in Orlu that led to many dead, innocent women in the market, people selling food foodstuffs dead by a group of people that we were not able to identify, preliminary intelligence revealed where they were in a bush, our local police and local military went there and confronted them and they were repealed.
“We discovered that the people had serious firing power. And that, of course, Nigeria is a federation, Imo state is a federating unit, and all over the world, you have Provincial Police, you have federal police.
“There was a need for me to report situation and that I did and we were supported to deal with the situation.
“It is not about crushing anybody and those that came didn’t do any crushing.
“Those that came through their intelligence identify where these people were and I can tell you, all the people arrested, all the rifles recovered are intact, the people are under interrogation, not even one, not even one soldier, or one of those militants died in the process.
“I must commend DCP Abba Kyari for a brilliant job he did. So, let anybody politicize it. But I have a responsibility to protect the lives of my people.
“The federal government maybe negotiating with the Boko Haram, but God knows if I have the opportunity to see any man who is taking lives, I will confront the person ahead on. That is why we are government.”