Imo State Governor Hope Uzodinma on Tuesday defended the airstrike in Orlu, saying it was not meant to “crush” his people but to prevent a repeat of last October’s #EndSARS protests in the state.
Uzodimma explained that protests and the escalation of criminal activities that trailed the #EndSARS protests necessitated his invitation of the military.
He particularly said the situation within Orlu axis had gone beyond what could be handled locally.
The governor spoke with reporters after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja.
It was however unclear if the President summoned Uzodimma over his feud with the lawmaker representing Imo West Senatorial District, Owelle Rochas Okorocha as well as the military operation in Orlu or not.
Nigerian Air Force jets had last week raided parts of Orlu suspected to be hideouts of the Eastern Security Network (ESN), the security arm of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
Although IPOB denied the arrest of any of members in Orlu, The Nation gathered that nine ESN operatives were remanded last week at a correctional centre by Owerri Magistrate Court 16 for murder.
Uzodimma, who fielded questions from the State House reporters said: “Well, the issue of bringing the military to Imo state is simple. You recall, during the #EndSARS protests that a lot of properties were damaged in Imo State; police stations were burnt down, soldiers were killed and their rifles removed from them.
“And immediately after the #EndSARS, we thought it was over. Then, issues of kidnapping came. You know a Catholic bishop was kidnapped and killed. And these militants came out and began to shoot. We’ve lost lives, market women were killed, old women were raped in Orlu area and they visited this serious terror on the citizenry.
“I came here (Presidential Villa), pleaded with Mr. President for his support and he sent additional police support. The military also came in.
“It was on my invitation that the military came. And I did that because I know the situation was beyond the local arrangement. We needed help and it was given to us.
“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. And all those military riffles, AK 47 and so on were recovered by the people that came.
“As a government, it is our responsibility to protect lives. We had security challenges and we invited the military.”
The governor also rejected insinuations that he used the military to pound his people, unlike some of his colleagues negotiating with bandits to solve their security problem.
According to him, he did not use the military to ‘crush’ people in Orlu, but to restore normalcy.
He added: “It is not about crushing anybody and those that came didn’t do any crushing. Those that came through their intelligence identified 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.
Let nobody politicise it. I have a responsibility to protect the lives of my people.”
The governor said he informed “Mr. President that our government was already making progress.
“Some people may be negotiating with Boko Haram but God knows if I have the opportunity to see any man who is taking lives, I will confront the person head-on. That is why we are government.”