Whoever was behind the attack on the Police headquarters and the Correctional facility both in the Imo State capital, Owerri, is daring indeed. The bravado that made it a success is something to hail were it not for the tragedy of it all and the dent it caused on the already damaged image of Nigeria as a country that attaches no value to life and property. The two institutions are within shouting distance of the Government House and the official residence of the Governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma. If I were in the Governor’s position, happening so close and after an earlier attack last year, I would not find it funny.
Some weeks ago, an attempt was made on the life of the Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom. Varied meanings were read into the incident while interpretations were made of it especially the political. But the point being stressed in this editorial is that the chicken is gradually coming home to roost. That a State Police headquarters that shares a fence with the state headquarters of a Correctional facility, both high security areas, being within the vicinity of a seat of government, were simultaneously successfully attacked by supposed hoodlums, must give everyone real cause for concern.
According to reports, the gangsters confronted soldiers on their way to their destination and seemingly over-powered them. Before launching the attack, they were said to have raised their moral by chanting war songs at the Government House round-about and yet eyebrows were not raised because, being the main access to the Government House, there is always heavy security presence, may be for decoration, as no security antenna was activated all through.
The report also claimed that the hoodlums drove through the Government House access road to the Police Headquarters and while inside, they were alleged to have burnt vehicles parked in the compound. They did the same thing inside the premises of the Correctional facility, detonated explosive devices, gained entrance into the facility, had time to destroy records, CCTV installations before setting the prisoners free. All this time, the security apparatus in and around Owerri were not alerted and there was no intervention until the hoodlums made good their escape.
This newspaper is convinced, beyond any shadow of doubt, that there was a failure of intelligence or, the truth be told, abject lack of it. Furthermore, it is becoming obvious that the security operatives have gone so soft that they are afraid to die. In that situation then, they are willing to swallow any insult. We have consistently argued on this page that there is an unacceptable level of laxity within the various arms of the nation’s security apparatchik. Or even worse, inter-service rivalry that is jeopardising and endangering the nation’s security.
Analysts have often dismissed the pervasive worrisome situation as lethargy borne out of over-stretched resources. We sympathise with the security agencies assuming this is plausible. What the citizens are asking for is pretension on the part of the security officers that they are providing security. Even that is far-fetched. When hoodlums can easily penetrate a Police and Correctional facility headquarters in a state capital, commit mayhem and get away with it, then the citizens do not know what to expect.
Even more disturbing, in our view, is that as at the time of going to press, the security agencies are still guessing as to who actually carried out the attack. Let us not talk about arresting the culprits yet. As much as this unfortunate incident is an affront to the police, it will be too simplistic to dismiss it as an all Police affair because it is not.
The questions to ask is how did the urchins gain access so easily to the high security area? Could there have been an insider who aided and abetted the attack? Or, as bizarre and outlandish as it may sound, the security operatives may have deliberately allowed it to happen as a way of drawing attention to the insufficiencies they suffer in terms of resources, men and logistics. Whatever is playing out, the citizens are beginning to lose faith in the ability of the security agencies to give them reasons to sleep with their two eyes firmly closed.
Owerri, the Imo State capital, until recently, was a haven of peace and quiet. From that perspective, it is easy to conjecture that the unbridled excesses of politicians who for their own selfish reasons act in a manner that exacerbate disquiet and escalate same to levels such as was displayed in the attack under review is responsible for the decline in values that has become so common place.
However, we urge the federal government to do the needful in order to get to the root of this dare the devil attack in Owerri. It will be utterly dangerous for those who will carry out the investigation to commence with pre-conceived notions. That will be missing the point.