By Jonathan Nda- Isaiah By Ejike Ejike, Adegwu John, Abuja, and Angela Nkwo-Akpolu, Owerri
President Muhammadu Buhari has condemned the deadly attack on the police command headquarters and the correctional facility in Owerri, Imo State, yesterday morning, calling on the security agencies to do their utmost to halt the pockets of anarchy in the country.
In his reaction to the incident yesterday, President Buhari, in a statement by his media aide, Garba Shehu, described the attack as an act of terrorism and praised the initial response by security forces for preventing greater losses of life and the destruction of public property.
The president directed security and intelligence agencies in the state and the geo-political zone to fully mobilise and go after the terrorists, apprehend them and get them punished under the full weight of the law.
He also called for the best efforts to be made to rearrest fleeing prison inmates, many of whom are believed to be deadly criminals.
President Buhari then appealed to members of the public to assist the law enforcement agencies with any relevant information that could lead to the apprehension of these criminals that perpetrated this despicable act.
He also urged members of the public to be vigilant “as all of us have a stake in preserving our way of life from disruption by terrorists and anarchists while the federal government will use every available tool at its disposal to confront and terminate this bare-faced anarchy.”
Fish Out Perpetrators of Imo attacks, IGP charges investigators
The inspector-general of police, IGP Mohammed Adamu, has ordered the immediate deployment of additional units of Police Mobile Force (PMF) and other Police Tactical Squads to Imo State and charged them to fish out perpetrators of attacks on security formations and any other critical national infrastructure in the state.
Force PRO, Frank Mba , a commissioner of police, said the IGP gave the directive following the attack on security operatives and formations, including the Imo State police command headquarters and the headquarters of the Nigerian Correctional Services (NCS) in Owerri yesterday morning.
He said, “Preliminary investigations have revealed that the attackers, who came in their numbers with sophisticated weapons such as General Purpose Machine Guns (GPMGs), Submachine Guns (SMGs), AK49 rifles, Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs), Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) are members of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB)/Eastern Security Network (ESN).”
Owerri Attack: 6 Inmates Return, 35 Others Refuse To Escape
The headquarters of the Nigeria Correctional Service (NCoS), Abuja, has disclosed that six inmates have so far voluntarily returned to the facility while 35 others did not escape from custody during the attack that occurred early yesterday in Owerri, Imo State capital.
In a statement issued by the public relations officer, Francis Enobore, the service confirmed that the attackers forcefully released a total of 1,844 inmates from custody during the attack.
He said that the attackers, who stormed the facility at about 2:15am yesterday, gained entrance into the yard by using explosives to blast the administrative block, adding that the attackers arrived at the centre in their large numbers in several Hilux pick-up vans and Sienna buses armed with sophisticated weapons and immediately engaged the security personnel on duty in a fierce gun battle. They eventually detonated the explosive to gain entrance.
IPOB, ESN not responsible for Police, Correctional Centre attacks in Imo
However, following the coordinated attacks into the Imo State Police headquarters and the Owerri Correctional Centre, a proscribed group, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), has denied responsibility for the attacks, saying it operates on the principle of peace.
The police have accused IPOB and its vigilante arm, Eastern Security Network, ESN, of masterminding the attacks,
But IPOB released a statement yesterday which was signed by its spokesman, Comrade Emma Powerful, in which it asserted that its mandate does not include attacking police and Correctional Centres.
According to the group’s secretary for media and publicity, “the IPOB and the Eastern Security Network (ESN) are known groups, not unknown gunmen.”
Powerful said: “ESN is in the bush chasing Fulani terrorists. Why link IPOB and ESN to this attack? IPOB and ESN were not involved in the attack in Owerri, Imo State, and the recent attack on Onitsha-Owerri road at Ukwuorji junction. It is not our mandate to attack security personnel or prison facilities.
“The Nigeria government and her compromised media outfits should stop linking IPOB and ESN to the multiple attacks going on in Nigeria now. IPOB was formed on the principle of peace and we are still in it. Unknown gunmen are a different people. We don’t know them and they are not IPOB or ESN security outfit”.