When the rest of the world was still basking in the euphoria of Easter celebration which is a yearly commemoration of the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, Imo State, particularly Owerri residents were rudely aroused from their deep sleep as gunshots and explosives boomed and rented the air in the early hours of Monday, April 5, 2021.
There was virtually no part of Owerri metropolis that didn’t notice the unusual staccato of noise from small arms and light weapons deployed by gunmen yet to be identified.
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When dawn finally set, the petrified residents crawled out from under their beds literally speaking only to find out that the gunmen attacked Imo State Correctional Centre (formally called Prisons) forcefully releasing about 1,844 prisoners some of whom were hardened criminals into the society.
After the havoc the gunmen wrecked on the Correctional Centre, they proceeded to the headquarters of Owerri Police Command, set ablaze over 50 vehicles, and attempted to burn down the entire buildings at the police command.
It was reported that the gunmen operated for over two hours unchallenged. What baffles this writer is that both facilities of the Correctional Centre and the police command are situated in the supposedly most fortified vicinity of Owerri.
Just a stone throw or a shouting distance is the Imo State Government House where the residences of the governor, the deputy governor and some other top security personnel are. Does it mean that the security personnel guarding all these high places didn’t hear the gunshots whereas common masses living in far away distances heard it?
When the police personnel on guard at the police command probably took to their heels having been overpowered by the superior firepower of the gunmen, why didn’t reinforcement come from other security agencies? The army command at Obinze should be less than 10 minutes drive at that time of the day; where were military personnel when the gunmen held sway for over two hours? What about the Department of State Services (DSS)? What if the governor who is apparently the chief security officer of the state was being attacked? If the gunmen could operate the way they did, does it mean that they can equally attack the military command, and get away with it?
What happened on Monday portends grave danger because even the so- called big men who are assigned with less than 10 security personnel as their guards are not safe.
The immediate past Inspector-General of Police, had hurriedly alleged that Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the group’s informal security outfit Eastern Security Network (ESN) were the perpetrators or masterminds of the dastardly attacks. Inasmuch as the former police helmsman may be right in his allegation, he was very hasty in concluding that IPOB/ESN carried out the attacks.
This writer is one of the few Igbo people who regularly condemn the activities of the Nnamdi Kanu – led IPOB/ESN, but since the group has denied the attacks, other possible clues or tentacles of investigation should be explored. It would be a gross act of cowardice for IPOB/ESN to have carried out such attacks and turned around to deny them. Boko Haram terrorists don’t deny their attacks. Though there should be no comparison with Boko Haram terrorists with IPOB because the latter is a self-acclaimed peaceful group agitating for independence.
Against this background, the pronouncement by Governor Hope Uzodinma on channels television programme (politics today) on Wednesday evening that aggrieved political opponents could be responsible for the attacks should not be ignored or discountenanced. The governor actually echoed my personal thought.
There are a lot of aggrieved and displaced politicians in Imo State at the moment who wants to see the state in perpetual turmoil. Some of them recently boasted that they are richer than the state as a result of their unprecedented looting of the commonwealth of the state while they held sway.
What happened last Monday was unprecedented in the history of the state and such attacks could not be carried out by financially poor gunmen. The magnitude and number of vehicles and human resources allegedly deployed in those attacks could have been sponsored by those richer than the state. The attacks could also be a revenge on the police command and Correctional Centre against a recent disrespect on them and their supporters. Governor Uzodinma could be right.
Ifeanyi Maduako, writes from Owerri.