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He stated this on Tuesday while speaking on Channels TV magazine programme, Sunrise Daily.
Nigeria’s South-East has been experiencing a string of attacks in recent months on public infrastructures, especially electoral institution and security formations.
The region is populated predominantly by people of Igbo extraction.
Members of the proscribed Indegenous People of Biafra (IPOB), a secessionist group, and its security arm, the Eastern Security Network (ESN), are allegedly responsible for recent attacks on the region.
The governor said: “From what is happening in Ebonyi State, where the youth go to attack the Army, the Police, burn down INEC offices when these people confront the security agencies, they kill the security agents; sometimes the security agents will kill.
“We profiled them and saw that they were not unknown gunmen. They are our brothers, mainly from the South-East, most of them from Ebonyi State. They are never outside the country.”
He frowned at labelling gun-wielding criminals in the state as ‘unknown gunmen.’
“In Ebonyi State, they are known; (they are) our youths,” he stated.
As part of efforts to address youth grievances in the state, Umahi said his administration came up with different programmes to engage the youth.
According to him, the state government will absorb three thousand youths into the state civil service.
He said his government would announce job vacancies in different sectors in the state.
Umahi, who recently defected from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC), lamented that many criminals such as cultists, armed robbers were joining aggrieved youths in the state to perpetrate crime.
“Let our people come out to speak out that the unknown gunmen are not unknown gunmen. They are our young men and women who will defend our land tomorrow. They should stop being killed. They should stop giving themselves to be killed.”
The governor noted that two factors were responsible for the ongoing assaults in the region. He said young people were being brainwashed, while some others consulted magicians and herbalists to seek charms to protect them against bullets of security agencies.
He lauded security agents in the state and dismissed possible human rights abuses when the officers engaged ‘criminals’.
He said the security agents had been targets of attacks even when they were not running after criminals.
“They have such courage to come to the police station, go to military check-point, and they will be killing them. They (security agents) have to return fire for fire…I am happy with security agents in my state,” he said.
The governor, however, gave assurance that there would be no more herders attack on the people of Ebonyi State.
He urged the people of Benue State and other states experiencing frequent attacks to defend themselves. “If you don’t defend yourselves, you will continue to blame the president. The killing will continue. Until you make up your mind with your people to defend yourself, the killing will continue. We’ve made up our minds to defend ourselves.”
The ICIR had reported in May this year how gunmen killed 15 officers and attacked 21 police stations in the South-East in seven months.
Media reports show there have been more attacks on the region since the report was published.
Governor’s residence, offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) have come under attacks in the region in recent weeks.
IPOB has vowed to ensure elections no longer hold in the region as part of its secession plans.
President Muhammadu Buhari signed the proclamation proscribing the group in 2017.