|The 'evil forest.' Inset, Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha. Photo: Gibson Achonu.|
The state government has also ordered it to be cleared.
The ‘evil forest’ was said to have been identified following a series of letters written by the Avu people to the state government and security agencies.
The forest covers about 50 hectares of land and stradles the Owerri–Port Harcourt road before the popular Avu junction when coming from Owerri.
PUNCH Metro gathered that the land belongs to Agam and Obokwu kindred in Avu.
A community leader, who pleaded anonymity for fear of being attacked, alleged that recently, kidnap victims walked out of the forest after their relations had paid outrageous sums of money as ransom.
He added that those who participated in the clearing of the forest reported seeing clothes, wraps of sausage rolls, table water sachets, empty water bottles and used takeaway packs.
He said about 35 years ago, the forest was ceded to the Federal Government to site a fire services post there, but the project was abandoned.
“We the owners of the land decided not to farm on it because we handed it over to the Federal Government to attract federal presence in our area.
“Since it was not then used for the project, it has also grown into a forest and taken over by bandits as a place for them to perfect their unwholesome acts,” the source said.
PUNCH Metro further gathered that the forest also served as illegal cemetery, rape and drug zones, among others.
A former information commissioner who also craved anonymity said the forest was being cleared to dislodge bandits and curb the high crime rate being experienced in the state.
He said, “With the clearing, the bandits cannot have such a good hideout again.
“There is every assurance that they (bandits) could be apprehended, since their hideout nearer to Owerri, the state capital, has been demolished.
“It is in the interest of the incumbent administration to stop crime in the state.”
He also said the government would decide what to do with the forest after its clearing.
When contacted, the state Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Andrew Enwerem, confirmed that the forest was a hiding place for bandits.
“While thanking the state government for thinking it wise to clear the forest, I would suggest that it be used for enduring projects,” Enwerem said.
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