Barely twenty-four hours after gunmen attacked Owerri Prisons and Imo State Police Command headquarters, setting on fire and freeing 1844 inmates, another police station was razed yesterday at Ehime Mbano by suspected hoodlums linked to Eastern Security Network, ESN.
Recall that in the last three months, no fewer than 25 police stations were burnt in the South-East and South-South regions of the country, while 67 security men were killed.
Vanguard gathered that the hoodlums also attacked suspected killer herdsmen along Umuihi road in Ihitte/Uboma Local Government Area at about 18:30 pm.
An eyewitness told Vanguard: "The hoodlums sang Biafra songs, they bombed Ehime Mbano police station, entered it and took way some ammunition.
"Thereafter, they drove towards Umuahia road. They also freed some of their members in the police custody. After the attack, they ran away, singing songs of victory, that they had got independence to have their own country."
Reacting to the attack, the Imo State Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, Orlando Ikeokwo, said: "Ehime Mbano Division has just been attacked, no casualty on the part of Police, no loss of arm, three vehicles burnt."
Also yesterday, Governor Hope Uzodinma, asked police officers in the state to use their arms to defend themselves against criminals.
Uzodimma gave the charge when the immediate past Inspector General of Police,IGP, Mohammed Adamu, visited the state yesterday to assess the damage caused by the attacks on the federal prison and state police command headquarters.
This is even as Vice President Yemi Osinbajo asked the people of the state to resist attempt by hoodlums to destabilise the state, describing the attackers as cowards.
Uzodimma, who described the attack on government institutions in the state, including the Prisons and Police command headquarters as an attack on the integrity of the government, said: "If you can't attack them, you can at least use your rifles to defend yourselves. Any attack on the police formation is an insult to us as a government. We must take charge, take control and ensure discipline.
"We must not condone attacks by criminals on government. Police must not be compromised so that the integrity of government will remain intact. This unfortunate tragedy can only be condemned by every reasonable mind. The intention was to put fear into our people and make them vulnerable."
The governor also said he had commissioned a detailed investigation into the attack in a bid to finding out the perpetrators and masterminds of the ugly incident.
"Luckily for us, no life was lost. I can assure you that my government working with security agencies, shall rise to the occasion to get to the end of the matter," the governor said.
ex-IGP orders use of maximum force on IPOB members
Reacting to the mayhem yesterday, the immediate past Inspector General of Police, IGP, Mohammed Adamu, vowed to clamp down on members of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, who he said carried out the attack on Imo Police command headquarters.
Speaking after inspecting the damage caused by the attack on Owerri Prisons and Police command headquarters, former IGP Adamu directed police officers to use maximum force against IPOB which, according to him, had been outlawed as a terrorist organisation.
The former IGP, who noted that there was no hiding place for IPOB members, said: "Those that were released by the attackers, I have been told, some of them belong to the proscribed IPOB group.
"We are sending this message to them that there will be no hiding place. They will be re-arrested and many more of the criminals within that group will be arrested.
"Whether in their homes and forests, we are determined to fish them out. I have instructed my men to use maximum force with the guns available to us. We have the authority to defend the country, which they don't have. We will not allow these criminals to succeed."
Adamu also asked Imo residents and leaders to join hands in fishing out criminals operating in the state.
Monday's attacks were the latest in the growing security incidents targeting security facilities in the South-East since IPOB launched its Eastern Security Network, ESN.
While the group has often been mentioned as suspects in the attacks, it has maintained its members are peaceful.
Emma Powerful, IPOB spokesman, had said that his group had no hand in Monday's attacks in Imo but the police disagreed with the claim.
Resist hoodlums, Osinbajo advises Imolites
Also speaking yesterday in Owerri,Vice President Yemi Osinbajo who visited Imo State to commission a newly constructed road project, Dick-Tiger-Methodist-Chukwuma Nwaoha road, used the opportunity to visit the bombed Owerri Correctional Center and Imo Police headquarters.
He said: "We know we are here in Imo State to commission roads but only on Monday morning, hoodlums attacked public institutions: the Owerri Correctional Centre and the Police headquarters. This is an attack on the well being of the people.
"I say this because, when you attack police stations and you release criminals, what you are doing is putting men and women in the society in danger. Our system is not perfect but we can continue to improve on it.
"There are many of us who are working tirelessly to improve our system but the agents of destruction and disintegration are taking advantage of the situation. I call on all of us, Imo people, to resist any of their attempts.
"When you attack institutions of law and order, it is evident that it is not just an attack on justice, it is an attack on the welfare and well-being of the people, especially when you free prisoners, persons who are dangerous to our people. This is definitely bad. This is, indeed, condemnable.
"Government has already taken steps to enhance security here at the correctional facility in the state and nationally and that is a continuing process."
Imo State Police Commissioner, Nasiru Mohammed, who said he had taken stock of losses to the police, pointed out that 36 vehicles were burnt, while 68 suspects escaped from detention.
"A part of the Criminal Investigation Department, CID, was set ablaze and there was one casualty who is currently receiving treatment.
"One inmate lost his life from stampede at the correctional centre. Out of 1,844 inmates who escaped from prisons, 16 have returned,'" he said.
The CP, however, said the visit of the immediate past IGP has boosted the morale of the officers to continue to defend the state.
MASSOB accuses FG of being sponsor of attacks in S-East
In another development, the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) has accused the federal government of being the sponsor of frequent attacks in parts of the South East.
MASSOB leader, Comrade Uchenna Madu, in a statement yesterday, said acts of criminal terrorism by the so called unknown gunmen being perpetrated in Igbo land against government facilities, security agents and some prominent individuals were being sponsored by enemies of the Igbo..
Madu said: "MASSOB condemns the terrorist attack against Professor Chukwuma Soludo at Isuofia. We equally condemn the unwarranted killings of Ebonyi State indigenes by Fulani herdsmen.
"MASSOB also condemns in totality, the breaking of Owerri prison by the so -called unknown gunmen.
"Through MASSOB intelligence agency, we found out that all these attacks are being sponsored and executed by the federal government of Nigeria through their protected militia men called bandits and unknown gunmen.
"Their primary aim is to discredit non violent pro Biafra freedom fighters like MASSOB and IPOB.
"They want to create an erroneous impression that pro Biafra agitators have turned violent and militant.
"How can untrained people with no military training overpower the entire security apparatus of Nigeria in the South East? Why is it that there was no security resistance during the break - up of Owerri Prisons and Imo State police headquarters in an operation that lasted more than one hour?"
According to him, the Nigeria military cantonment at Obinze, Owerri is seven minutes drive to the scenes of the crime, while the Imo State MOPOL base is three minutes drive to the scenes of the crime and wondered why there was no resistance from security agencies.
Owerri attack, plot to destabilize S-East --HURIWA
Meanwhile, rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, yesterday linked Monday's attack on a correctional facility and Police Command in Owerri as a plot to destabilize the South-East geo-political zone.
The group queried the methodology deployed by the immediate past Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, in arriving at the conclusion that the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, was the mastermind of the violent attacks.
According to HURIWA, the speed with which the police "investigated and unmasked" perpetrators of the heinous acts, "lacks forensic evidence," and should as a result, be taken with a pinch of salt.
Addressing the press yesterday, Emmanuel Onwubiko, Executive Director of HURIWA, also faulted the terrorism tag associated with the tragedy and accused President Muhammadu Buhari of playing ethnic cards with matters of security.
He said: "Where were the solid evidences and when were forensic investigations by police carried out or do they work by beer parlour rumours?
"Where were the police, army, Department of State Security, DSS and Civil Defence when these attackers struck in Owerri and reportedly operated for three hours to an extent that even 'akara' sellers videoed the incidents but no one counter attack was launched?
"Is it not these police, soldiers, DSS that usually get wind of IPOB meetings and Eastern Security Network, ESN, camps and usually launch massive counter operations to nip their activities in the bud with many of the alleged IPOB members killed extra-judicially?
" But gunmen struck and destroyed strategic national security assets in Owerri and rather than for IGP, Director General of DSS, Army Chief and Comptroller General of Prisons to resign for dereliction of duty or be queried by the Commander-in-Chief, the president is quoted to have bought into the propaganda by the former IGP that IPOB was involved?
"Why the haste to deploy the military to the South East if there is no agenda already packaged long ago, only waiting for the trigger to now launch the planned attack?
"Is the government rewarding failures of all the relevant heads of security institutions who went to bed and were deep asleep or pretended to be asleep when these violent criminals hit the prisons and destroyed the entire facility belonging to the police and yet the military has a base only a few minutes' walk from where these gunmen attacked in Obinze?"
FG to pardon escaped inmates who return voluntarily --Aregbesola
However, the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, said yesterday that fugitives who escaped from the custodial centre in Owerri, Imo State, will be granted amnesty if they return voluntarily.
He said this during the inspection of the centre yesterday after it was attacked by unknown gunmen.
During the attack, over 1,880 inmates were said to have escaped while 36 stayed back.
According to the minister, escape from custody is unlawful and a crime.
He explained that if those who escaped return willingly, they will be pardoned from a trial for unlawful escape.
However, they will still be made to face a trial for their actual offence and serve their jail term, if convicted.
He said: "Unlawful escape from custody is a crime but the government in its magnanimity will grant amnesty to prisoners who willfully return."
Vanguard News Nigeria