For three hours on Monday morning, Owerri, the Imo State capital, came to a standstill as gunmen went for its jugular and turned the city to a war zone. The assailants attacked two key government facilities — the federal prison and police command headquarters in Owerri — as heavy echoes of gunfire reverberated across the city.
When the dusts settled a few hours after, the structures had become torn and beaming in aches. Several vehicles were torched and unconfirmed number of inmates set free.
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This is coming at a time when targeted killings in parts of the South-East have been on the increase. But the region is not the only part of the country haunted by myriads of killings, the South-West is battling with kidnappings, robbery, herders crisis and cult-related violence.
In the North-West, citizens are practically being kidnapped everyday on the road, farms, houses and schools as bandits roam about sniffing lives with no respite. In the North-East, Boko-Haram holds sway, decimating poor residents and soldiers.
But the most recent trend is the focused attack on members of security agencies. These are people empowered to protect the citizens from the “massive killing field” the country has become, as opined by Bishop Matthew Kukah of Sokoto Catholic diocese in his Easter message.
The killings have been attributed to members of the Eastern Security Network (ESN) operated by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). In some instances, herders were blamed. But one thing cannot be overlooked. Security forces are under attack! It has been reported that police officers now go to work in mufti in the South-East.
In February, a police station and four patrol vehicles were set ablaze when gunmen attacked Isu community, Onicha Local Government Area of Ebonyi state.
Within the same month, four police officers were killed by suspected cultists in Calabar, Cross River State.
In March, about 20 gunmen were reported to have attacked a police patrol team along the Nimo-Neni link road in Anaocha Local Government Area of Anambra state. In the gun duel that lasted for over 30 minutes, a police was shot dead and another sustained gunshot injuries.
Shortly after, Naval officers and Policemen were gunned down in Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra. A day after the incident, a prison warder was shot dead during an attack on a vehicle of the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCS) conveying some inmates to court, still in Aguata.
On March 9, aggrieved youths torched a police station and patrol vehicles at Ishinweke in Ihitte/Uboama Local Government Area of Imo State — just a few days after assailants carted away rifles and burnt down a police station in Aboh Mbaise Local Government Area of the state, after a gun battle with policemen on duty.
The same month, gunmen attacked another patrol team in Ohafia Local Government Area of Abia state, killing three police officers instantly and carting away their guns. Before then, the police headquarters, in February, said about 200 hoodlums armed with AK-47 rifles attacked Abayi police station, Osisioma Ngwa LGA of Abia and killed two officers.
A policewoman, Olawoye Bukola, was also shot dead during the Ekiti east constituency (I) bye-election in March. Last week, three policemen attached to Prof Chukwuma Soludo, former CBN governor and a gubernatorial aspirant of the November 6 Anambra election, were shot dead.
With the attack on security agencies and facilities assuming a dangerous trend, there are fears that this will dampen the moral of the officers and complicate the already overwhelming security challenges in the country. The question that seems to be in the mouth of every citizen now is: if security agencies are under attack, who will save the lives of ordinary Nigerians in these trying times?