Although there is an upsurge in the spate of insecurity in the country generally, the pattern that has emerged in the South East in recent times is particularly disturbing. It involves killing of security personnel, carting away their weapons and setting their stations ablaze. So far, gunmen have reportedly killed over 30 security operatives and burnt about seven police stations in the region in the last four months.
On February 6, 2021, some gunmen attacked a police station at Umulogho, Imo State, killing at least two police officers and carting away their weapons. On March 20, 2021, another group of gunmen attacked the Divisional Police Headquarters at Isiala Mbano, also in Imo. One Inspector sustained injuries and later died while receiving treatment. There were similar attacks on the Divisional Police Headquarters at Oromo in Obowo Local Government Area (LGA) and at Ihitte Uboma police station. Two policemen reportedly died while three others sustained injuries in the Obowo attack. Recently, at Aboh Mbaise, also in Imo State, some gunmen in four vehicles reportedly attacked the Divisional Police Headquarters in the area. A policewoman was said to have sustained injuries.
On March 21, 2021, gunmen moved to Abia State where they ambushed and killed three policemen at Abiriba in Ohafia LGA and took away two rifles. Earlier in February, the hoodlums had attacked a police station at Omoba in Isiala Ngwa South. They killed one officer and set the station on fire. At Abayi in Osisioma, there was another attack that claimed two lives. The police station and some cars parked on the premises were set ablaze. At Uratta junction in Aba, there was another attack that claimed the life of one cop. The attackers met their Waterloo when they tried to engage soldiers at Ariaria Junction on Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway in Aba, the commercial nerve centre of Abia State. Soldiers reportedly killed about 11 of them.
In Anambra State, the story is the same. Recently, a Nigerian Correctional Services officer and a woman were gunned down at Nanka. They were on their way to Aguata Custodial Centre with a suspect from court when the attackers struck.
Before this incident, there were attacks on police checkpoints at Nkpologwu in Aguata LGA and Omogho in Orumba North LGA. The attackers killed four policemen, took away their rifles and set their patrol vans ablaze. Soon after this, the hoodlums attacked a naval checkpoint at Awkuzu in Oyi LGA and a police checkpoint at Neni in Anaocha LGA. Three naval personnel and three police officers were reportedly killed in those incidents. There was another attack on Ekwulobia Police Station in Aguata LGA. The hoodlums tried to burn down the station, which was recently rebuilt after it was destroyed during the EndSARS protests of last year. Though the attack was repelled, a policeman reportedly lost his life. There have been similar attacks on some police formations in Ebonyi and Cross River states.
These incidents prompted the Anambra State governor, Willie Obiano, to make a state-wide broadcast directing all security agencies in the state, the vigilance services and every structure in the state security infrastructure to rise to the defence of the state. He also banned the use of tinted glasses by motorists in the state.
Besides, the EndSARS protests against police brutality effectively weakened the police as an institution. Over 60 policemen were killed in the protests and over 200 police stations burnt. Afterwards, some policemen reportedly started approaching their work with fear and caution.
Good enough, the police now appear to be rising to the occasion. Last Sunday, security operatives reportedly arrested some 16 suspected hoodlums involved in these attacks. According to the police, the arrest was the result of the hard work of police officers who collaborated with the army and air force to nab the hoodlums. The Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, was reported to have said that the force would no longer tolerate any further attack on their personnel or any citizen by any individual or group. He said the law enforcement agents had gathered enough intelligence on the attackers and would soon get all of them. All the suspects, the IGP said, would be charged to court as soon as the police concluded their investigations.
While we condemn the killings, we urge the South East governors to do something to check the rising insecurity in the region. The governors had mooted the idea of having a security network for the zone. But that has not come to fruition.
They should make every effort to facilitate the immediate take-off of that regional security outfit. The Federal Government should also assist to nip this disturbing trend in the bud as this is how the Boko Haram insurgency started in its early days.