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By Ononye VC
Anarchy appears to have worsened in Imo State,Nigeria as the Divisional Police Headquarters in Ehime Mbano local Government Area in Imo State was bombed and sacked by gunmen.
This is coming on the heels of an attack on Owerri Correctional Centre and the Imo State Police Command Headquarters, freeing 1,884 inmates and razing over 50 vehicles.
The fresh attack came shortly after top government functionaries visited the state thus making mockery of the assurances of safety in the state.
While the situation has promptly led to the immediate sack of the immediate past Inspector General of Police,Muhammed Adamu and appointment of a new I G P Usman Baba.
There is palpable fear therefore that with the grave situation of insecurity in Imo State,there is every likelihood of a state of emergency or a serious crackdown on citizens seen as threat to the society.
Meanwhile, the neighbouring Abia State has imposed all night curfew in the state.
This is to forestall a spill over of the Imo scenario in Abia State.The Governor has activated all security apparatus to defend his state and ward off undesirable elements.
Meanwhile,Vanguard linked the attacks to failure of the authorities to free members of pro-Biafra groups in the correctional facility.
A source claimed there were several warnings, calls, and ultimatum that were ignored by officers of the centre to release them.
An eyewitness who spoke to Vanguard said the operation started at about 1a.m. and ended at 3a.m. “These men are heavily sophisticated. They came in their security vehicles and we thought they were army and police. They were shooting everywhere and went straight to the prison,” the source said.
Another source told Vanguard: “Some days back, we heard of warnings from the Eastern Security Network, ESN, that their members should be freed from that prison or it will be done by force.
“They even gave them 14 days to do that. What you are seeing can be the result of not doing that. However, you can see that the freed inmates are not only members of ESN. Non-members also benefited from it.”
A security officer who didn’t want his name in print, said the attackers used dynamite and sophisticated guns during the attacks.
“Heavy gunshots and explosions could be heard in the area when they arrived with sophisticated weapons, including dynamite and guns. While some of the inmates in the correctional facility refused to go, others have voluntarily returned,” the security officer said.
How attack happened
Explaining how the attack happened, an official said: “At about 0100hrs on Monday (yesterday), armed men suspected to be members of IPOB/ESN in their numbers invaded Owerri Prisons using dynamites and other heavy explosives, gained entrance and released hundreds of the inmates in the prison.
“The hoodlums also attacked the Police Station, Owerri, while firing consistently with AK-47 rifles and explosives, released some suspects detained in the SCID cells and set ablaze many vehicles parked at the headquarters premises, including the SCID office building. The operation lasted close to three hours.”
Vanguard visited the Owerri Correctional Centre located along Okigwe Road and saw different sizes of bags and even religious books as well as writing materials.
Clothes of both male and female inmates were seen on the road sides and at the front of the correctional centre.
Luggages of fleeing inmates were also seen at Wetheral and Assumpta roads and in front of Imo Government House.
An eyewitness who spoke to Vanguard, said: “The inmates decided to abandon their belongings because they think escaping with their bags can give them out easily and some of the bags were heavy for them to carry and run at the same time, so they abandoned them.”
‘Attackers numbered more than 200’
Vanguard gathered that the hoodlums used explosives on Imo State Police headquarters, which shares a common perimetre fence with the prisons, destroying some parts of the buildings. Many vehicles parked in the premises were also burnt.
A police officer who said he would not want his name mentioned, said: “They were over two hundred boys in their cars singing a song of victory and when they reached the gate of our Police headquarters, they threw dynamite at us and the thing exploded and the vehicles caught fire.
“I jumped over the fence because they were many. When they started shooting, a bullet hit one of my colleagues and he fell.”
When Vanguard moved towards Government House Roundabout, two vehicles set ablaze by the hoodlums were senn burning.
It was learned that Njaba Local Government Area secretariat was also attacked, with the doors, windows and vehicles parked in the premises damaged.
The attacks were linked to the hoodlums who broke into the Owerri Correctional Center. The hoodlums were also said to have set ablaze military checkpoints along Onitsha Road and the one around Ugwu Orji in Owerri North Local Government Area.
Vanguard also learned that military men on sighting the hoodlums, took to their heels and abandoned their duty post.