The peaceful ambience of Owerri, the Imo State capital and tourism destination of the South East region, was violently disrupted on Easter Monday following the coordinated brazen attacks on the state’s police command headquarters and a correctional facility by yet to be identified gunmen. The audacious assault, which went on for hours without adequate challenge by security agents, had again underlined boldly the yawning gaps in the country’s wobbling security architecture` under President Muhammadu Buhari’s suzerainty, as well as the urgent need to overhaul it.
The heinous mayhem, which stands condemned in every sense of the word, has equally exposed the porosity of security in Imo State and by extension the entire country, where criminals are daily contesting powers with the government, which ought to have the monopoly of means of violence and coercion. The Owerri carnage has raised a number of questions and some issues, which an independent probe panel will unravel. These questions border on but not essentially limited to those behind the mindless destruction of government institutions, their motive and why the attack was not challenged by the security agencies in the state.
The answers to these questions should not in any way be limited to one direction or to some targets. All available clues must be investigated. Therefore, the conclusions must not be reached before the commencement of the probe itself. We say this considering accusations and counter accusations that have trailed the incident. We recall that the immediate former IGP, Mohammed Adamu, who visited the scene for an on the spot assessment pointed accusing finger on the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and its security outfit, the Eastern Security Network (ESN) as being behind the attacks, an allegation which IPOB swiftly denied.
IPOB said they are concerned with protecting South East forests against killer herdsmen. But the governor of Imo State, who is also the chief security officer of the state, Senator Hope Uzodinma, was quoted as saying that some aggrieved politicians were behind the recent attacks on police stations and a correctional facility in the state. Uzodinma also claimed that members of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) were not behind the attack.
According to the governor, “What happened in Imo last Monday is unbelievable. A group of hoodlums, of course sponsored by some known politicians in Imo state, decided to destroy public infrastructure and government facilities- and attacked correctional centre facility and also attacked police state headquarters.” He went on to say that “but what is important to take home is for Nigerians to know of the plot by a group of aggrieved politicians to destabilise the government of APC. I have done some thorough investigation and I have a credible lead as to those who are sponsoring the activities of these hoodlums.” The governor further stated “We are working hard to ensure that the sponsors of these dastardly acts must be brought to book.”
There is no doubt that what is playing out in Owerri, Imo State, and other parts of the South East cannot be divorced from the general lawlessness in the land. While the Boko Haram insurgents are holding many parts of the North East, bandits are controlling many parts of the North West and the North Central. It will be recalled that some killer herdsmen recently bared their fangs in some parts of the South West which led to the quit notice given to unregistered herders in the zone.
While the recent attack in Owerri and some parts of Imo State is condemnable, it will be premature for the government or its agents or in fact, anybody or group to rush to conclusions, especially on those behind it without adequate investigation by security experts. We say this because it is only through a thorough investigation of the incident that those involved can be identified, apprehended and prosecuted. The attack in Owerri is an affront on the government and good people of Imo State. It is equally an attack on the Federal Government of Nigeria. While it is good to get at those behind the attacks, prosecute and punish them, we should avoid at rushing at conclusions and roping some targeted people or group into the fracas.
Therefore, it is the duty of the government to set up a panel to investigate the Owerri mayhem and get to the root cause of the problem and those behind the attacks. It should also investigate others before it to avoid such attacks in future. The attacks in Owerri on Easter Monday, which went on for hours without being repelled showed clearly the absence of intelligence and security.
Unfortunately, the gruesome attacks led to the freeing of 1,884 inmates and razing of over 50 vehicles. A day after these attacks, some gunmen also attacked another police station in Ehime Mbano Local Government Area of Imo State and set three operational vehicles ablaze.
Before these brazen heinous incidents, some parts of the state had witnessed attacks on security operatives and burning of their vehicles and stations as well as carting of arms. The same pattern of violence had been repeated in Anambra, Abia, Ebonyi, Akwa Ibom and Delta states. And in each occasion, such attacks were never repelled and those involved were never arrested. We recall the attack on the former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Prof. Chukwuma Charles Soludo, who has declared interest to contest the forthcoming Anambra State gubernatorial election.
We also recall the attack on Ebonyi by killer herdsmen and wanton destruction of property. Before these attacks, the South East had always been peaceful and people go about their normal business without molestation. But now, the situation in Imo and other parts of the zone is scary because no one can say for sure when and where the next attack will occur.
Without preempting the outcome of the probe panel on the Imo mayhem, a Marxist reading of the deteriorating security situation in Nigeria will interpret it as a class struggle between the haves and the have-nots. It is a struggle for power by the neglected and the marginalized segments of the society. That is why some of them are occupying the forests and the highways.
However, other respected opinions are saying that Buhari’s lopsided appointments may be contributing to the rise in insecurity. Yet, others are of the view that unitary federalism the government is running is part of the problem hence they call for the restructuring of the country. The proliferation of arms in the country, put at six million, must have contributed to the general insecurity in the land. We want to add that the rising unemployment, poverty and struggle for political power are responsible for what we all are witnessing in the country. This is the right time to reconfigure the structure of Nigeria and save it from the looming anarchy.