As if the state is under a siege, Imo has suffered uncountable security lapses in the recent past. CHIDIEBERE IWUOHA recounts some of those experiences in the last two months.
Before the security challenges in Imo state, there was peaceful atmosphere especially in Owerri, the state capital.
It was during last year’s #EndSARS protests that unruly behaviours were noticed among youths. The protests which spread throughout the whole nation and beyond caught up with Imo youths and they became uncontrollable. During this period, a lot of structures were destroyed, especially police stations like Nwaorieubi Police Station, Orlu Police Station and the council secretariat.
Also, Ngor Okpala Police Station and a Customary Court in the area were burnt. So also was the Orji Police Station in Owerri North. Three police stations: Aboh Mbaise, Ahiazu Mbaise and Ezinihitte local government area were also burnt. The Commissioner of Police, Isaac Akinmode confirmed the development and promised to deal with the culprits. Governor Hope Uzodinma who never liked the way the youth were going about things condemned it, saying tax payers money was being destroyed. Apart from the destruction of police stations, some policemen and soldiers were killed while the number of civilians killed was not known.
Uzodinma’s youth empowerment scheme
In practical response to the #EndSARS protests, the governor announced a N6 billion youth empowerment initiative with a release of N2 billion for a start, but was not welcomed with enthusiasm because there were empowerment programmes which the governor had embarked upon which up till now had not yielded any dividend. Post #End SARS
In this era, the disillusionment of youths led to another round of arson. This time around, Ihitte Uboma was burnt. The police PRO, Orlando Ikokwu told newsmen that it was when a suspect was escorted to her house to pick her medicine that some people laid ambush for the policemen leading to the burning of the police station and that of Mbieri, Isiala Mbano, Ehime Mbano and Njaba.
While the police stations were being razed, the story of how some people suspected to be members of the Eastern Security Network (ESN) driving Fulani herders from their locations in Orlu came up. It was also alleged that ESN attacked and killed some law enforcement agents in the area which made the governor to declare curfew and invited the military. It was while Imo people were still pondering on the economic and social life of Orlu people which affected almost all the local government areas in the zone that the uncoordinated attacks on the police command and the correctional centre occurred.
The coordinated attacks of the Imo Police Command Headquarters and the Correctional Centre in Owerri situated few metres from the Imo Government House came to Imolites as a surprise.
Hours after the mayhem, Governor Uzodinma condemned in strong terms the attacks on the facilities, expressing regrets and calling for investigation into the dastardly act. He said the attacks were both cowardly and politically motivated as he blamed the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) for the attacks, saying the intention was to create fears and at the same time strive to secure the release of their fellow criminals. “Government is on top of the situation knowing full well that the primary reason governments exists is the protection of lives and property of the citizenry.”He said he had met with the heads of security agencies in the state to evaluate the incident and was confident the situation had been brought under control. “We are on top of the situation and there is no need for undue anxiety,” the governor said.
When Osibanjo, Aregbesola, others inspected burnt facilities.
The vice president, Yemi Osibanjo who was in the state said, “When you attack institutions of law and order, it is evidence it is not an attack on justice as usual. It is an attack on the welfare and well being of the people, especially when you free prisoners, some of whom may be dangerous to the people. It is particularly atrocious and condemnable. Government has already taken steps to enhance security of the police headquarters, correctional facilitates and the state generally and that is a continuing process.
Attack, the worst ever – Aregbesola
Minister of interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola had described the perpetrators of the attacks as criminals, adding that he received the news with sadness. He further described the incident as the worst on police and correctional facilities in the history of the country, saying it was a declaration of war against the Nigerian state to stop her from defending the people.While disclosing that security would be beefed up in all correctional centres, he assured that inmates who voluntarily returned to the centre would be granted amnesty, while others would be looked for and fetched back to the centre.
Uzodinma blames opposition, OkorochaAs Imolites reflect on the act, Governor Uzodinma came up by blaming the opposition for the attacks and also former governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha.
The main opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) wondered why the governor preferred playing games instead of tackling the insecurity issue headlong. Its state chairman, Engr Charles Ugwuh could not understand why the governor would blame IPOB and ESN today and tomorrow blame the opposition and detractors within his own party.
On his own part, the former governor through his special adviser on media, Sam Onwuemeodo faulted Uzodinma’s claims that Okorocha brought those he granted amnesty to perpetrate the act and also northern youths to carry it out.
“The truth is that each time the governor wants to take a fresh loan, he would raise an issue against Okorocha to divert the attention of Imo people and the general public. The domestic debt of Imo now is N150 billion. And poverty level has gone up to 65% as against 19% in January 2019. Imo Government should lower the antenna of war and raise that of peace in the overall interest of the state and its people concluded.
The formation of Ebubeagu
Amidst the security challenges in the South-east, the long awaited joint security outfit emerged to tackle those challenges.Chairman of the South East Governors Forum, Dave Umahi said Ebubeagu would take care of the security challenges in the zone and would work with vigilantes already in place all over the region to achieve the expected results.
Killing of IPOB Commander
On April 24, security forces entered IPOB/ESN operational headquarters and neutralized IPOB’s No 2 man, Ikonso. According to Brigadier General Mohammed Yerima director, Army Public Relations, “A combined team of security officers led by troops of the Nigeria Army have raided the operational headquarters of IPOB/ESN terrorists in Awomama in Oru East LGA of Imo state.”Yerima said that the security forces recovered 3 AK- 47 rifles, a Toyoto Siena and several other items which included drugs suspected to be psychtropic substances.
Burning of Uzodimma’s house
The same day April 24, Gov Uzodimma’s country home was burnt. In a swift reaction, the commissioner for information and strategy, Declan Mbadiwe Emelumba said the attack was repelled, “Gallant security operatives this morning repelled an attack on the Omuma country home of the governor of Imo state, Senator Hope Uzodimma by hoodlums numbering about 15, driving on a motorcade of three vehicles accompanied by tipper loaded with used tyres. Vigilant security operatives repelled the attack and consequently minimized the damage. In the crossfire that ensued, a few casualties were recorded.Preliminary investigations suggest that the foiled attack may have been politically sponsored. The government has directed the relevant security agencies to expedite investigation on the incident and promptly apprehend the sponsors and their agents and bring them to Justice”.