• Two policemen killed, buildings, vehicles razed
• Gunmen used dynamites, rocket launchers, says Abia PPRO
• IPOB denies involvement
• Minister condemns attack on zonal headquarters
• Nigeria under siege by non-state actors, Senate laments
• 70% of 500m illegal weapons in W’Africa found in Nigeria
Two weeks after Imo State security facilities were attacked four times in five days, leading to the unveiling last week of a security outfit in Southeast codenamed Ebube Agu, two police divisions in Abia and Anambra states were yesterday set ablaze by armed groups in what looked like another set of coordinated attacks.
A divisional police station in Uzuakoli, Bende Local Government Area of Abia State, was razed in the early hours of Monday. It was gathered that the armed group attacked the police station around 2:00a.m. and freed suspects in police cells before setting the station ablaze.
The attack happened about the same time as the attack on Zonal Police Headquarters, Zone 13 in Ukpo, Dunukofia Local Government Area of Anambra State, also in the Southeast region.
Spokesman of the Abia State Police Command, Geoffrey Ogbonna, said an investigation has commenced to unravel the perpetrators of the attack, adding that no group has claimed responsibility yet. He disclosed that the gunmen who razed the Uzuakoli Police station used dynamite and rocket launchers, which frustrated the efforts of the policemen guarding the station to repel them. The gunmen also freed detainees at the station while no life was lost.
Ogbonna further explained that no arm was lost in the attack, while the gunmen destroyed the building, patrol vans, exhibit vehicles and cars parked at the station. “The gunmen attacked the station a few minutes before 3:00a.m. Policemen on duty attempted to repel the attack but the use of high calibre weapons by the gunmen thwarted their efforts.”
The PPRO disclosed that the investigation is ongoing and urged the public not to hesitate to volunteer useful information that will lead to the arrest of the gunmen.
Due to the incessant attacks on security agencies and their facilities, the state government had imposed curfew on four volatile towns, which are Aba, Umuahia, Ohafia and Arochukwu. Despite the curfew, the gunmen still continued their onslaughts on police stations by sacking the Uzuakoli Police Station.
The police in Anambra State confirmed that two police officers were killed in the state. Some vehicles parked at the station’s premises were also razed. The slain officers have been identified as Ishaku Aura, an inspector, and Uzoma Uwaebuka, a police constable.
The Anambra attack is coming a few days after governors and heads of security agencies in the five states in the Southeast had a regional summit on security, where they agreed to establish a joint security outfit to check insecurity in the region. The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), a pro-Biafra group, has been accused of being responsible for some of the attacks against the police in the Southeast, but the group has denied any involvement.
IPOB, while describing the attack of Police Zone 13 as unfortunate, said it does not engage in any violent activity and therefore should not be associated with any violence in Nigeria, let alone in Southeast. It added that they are working tirelessly to protect the region from terrorists and killer herdsmen.
A statement by IPOB’s Media and Publicity Secretary, Emma Powerful, said: “We have repeatedly told all media houses in Nigeria that we are not aware of all these attacks on security agencies and their formations across Eastern region. IPOB and ESN are not involved in any attack on police and security agencies in the country. We are not responsible and cannot be responsible for the attacks because we abhor violence in any form or shape.”
It was gathered that most policemen in the state now choose to work in mufti except when they are in the stations. It was learnt that the option to use mufti in public was ratified by the police authorities as a means of reducing the heavy human casualties in the Southeast commands.
It was also gathered that of the 1884 inmates who escaped during a jailbreak in Imo on April 5, only 122 have found their way back to the correctional centre, while 1762 have yet to return. Prison sources told newsmen that inmates involved in murder, kidnap and armed robbery cases were still at large.
“Only few with light cases have returned. You know anybody with a bad case such as armed robbery or kidnapping will find it difficult to return. Inmates jailed whose sentences had gone far are among those who have returned so far,” the source said.
MEANWHILE, the Minister of Police Affairs, Muhammad Dingyadi, yesterday condemned the twin attacks in Abia and Anambra. Press Secretary to the Minister, Mr Osaigbovo Ehisienmen, in a statement, commended the police for repelling the attack, leading to the recovery of one general-purpose machine gun used by the hoodlums.
He described the incident as an act of terrorism and pledged to ensure intelligence-led kinetic operations in the Southeast. Dingyadi said the idea was to flush out illicit weapons and neutralise persons with penchant for terrorism and violent crime, threatening peace and stability in the region.
This is coming just as the Senate declared that the nation is under siege from murderous non-state actors whose activities are threatening the existence of the country. The position of the upper legislative chamber is further corroborated by the United Nations, which revealed that 70% of illegal arms in West Africa are domiciled in Nigeria.
Quoting from the report of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC), Senator Sani lamented that out of 500 million illegal weapons circulating in West Africa, 350 million, which represents 70%, are in the hands of criminally-minded people in Nigeria.
Making the frightening submissions at the public hearing organised by the Senate Joint Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Senator Uba Sani, representing Kaduna Central Senatorial district, said the country needs to urgently address the worrisome situation.
The public hearing was on the proposed amendment of the Navy and Marine Transport on Firearms Act 2004 and the amendment of the 2021 and Exclusive Economic Zones Act 2010 (Repeal and Re-Enactment) Bill 2021.
Uba Sani, who is the sponsor of the Firearms (Amendment) Bill lamented that the proliferation of illegal arms and ammunition in the country, with little or no control by relevant authorities, has posed complications for the collective survival of Nigerians and Nigeria.
He said: “We are under siege from murderous non-state actors. They have been acquiring arms illegally, maiming our people and threatening the continued existence of our dear nation. We either take measures to deny them of the oxygen that sustains their nefarious activities, or we watch helplessly as they overrun us and our country.”
The lawmaker said one of the five major objectives of the amendment bill is to include imposition of stiffer penalties for offences under the Act. One of such penalties proposed is increase of fine from N1,000 to N1 million.
But representative of the Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshall Oladayo Amao, in his submission, objected to the N1 million proposed fine on illegal possession of firearms. He argued for its increase to N2 million.
Earlier in his opening remarks, the Chairman of the Joint Committee, Senator Micheal Opeyemi Bamidele, said the purpose of the two bills was to further strengthen extant laws against illegal firearms possession and proliferation as well as making provisions of the Act on Exclusive Economic Zone to be in line with global practices as far as protection of the nation’s territorial sea or waters is concerned.
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