The Imo Police Command headquarters and the Correctional Centre in Owerri, the state capital, came under heavy attacks yesterday by gunmen. They looted the armoury and burnt vehicles after freeing no fewer than 600 detainees at the police headquarters. A police source said the hoodlums took away sophisticated arms and set the rest ablaze. But the police said the armoury was not looted. Meanwhile, the Nigerian Correctional Service said the hoodlums freed at least 1,844 inmates.
Eyewitnesses said the attacks started around 1.30 am and ended two hours later.
They burnt two police vans and a motorbike at the roundabout and sang solidarity songs. They were said to have circled the roundabout, chanting various incantations for about 30 minutes before setting out to attack the police headquarters.
Heavy gunshots rang out as the assailants approached the command headquarters and launched the dynamites on the administrative building housing the state Criminal Investigative Department (CID).
They broke open the cells and freed almost every suspect in detention after overwhelming policemen on duty, who fled. After freeing the detainees, the hoodlums set off the explosives which exploded into the night skies.
Done with the police headquarters, they moved to the Correctional Centre. They forced the prison gates open with dynamites and freed the prisoners.
It was learnt that as the hoodlums left through Onitsha Road, they got to an Army checkpoint at Ukwu Orji and attacked the soldiers, who abandoned their operational vehicles and fled into the bush. The thugs set the military vans ablaze. Roads were littered with the debris of the shattered vehicles and buildings.
Soldiers later took over the Okigwe roundabout and road leading to the Correctional Centre, diverting traffic to other routes.
Gov. Uzodinma Condemns Attack, Sets Up Commission Of Inquiry;
Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodinma, has condemned in strong terms the attack by gunmen at the Police Command Headquarters and the Correctional Service Centre in Owerri in the early hours of Monday, describing it as “barbaric.”
Mr Uzodinma expressed his displeasure after the State Security Council meeting at the Government House, Owerri on Monday.
The governor, who had earlier visited the two facilities in the company of heads of security agencies in the state, said the attack was to instil fear and make the people more vulnerable.
He said that government and security agencies would definitely get to the root of the matter to fish out the perpetrators. Mr Uzodinma assured residents of the state of their safety, adding that government and security agencies would be more proactive to forestall a reoccurrence.
He disclosed that more than 1,800 inmates were at the correctional service before they were freed by the gunmen adding that some of them had started returning voluntarily while others had been rearrested.
“It has been an eventful day today being Easter Monday in Imo as yet to be ascertained gunmen attacked the correctional service center, setting some facilities ablaze and releasing some inmates,
“The gunmen were at the police headquarters where they destroyed 38 vehicles and also set the facilities ablaze.
“Efforts by the gunmen to penetrate into the Imo State Government House were not successful as they ended up shooting sporadically at the entrance gate,” he said.
According to the governor, a detailed investigation would be carried out and the perpetrators would be brought to justice.
However, normalcy has returned to the state while residents have been going about their normal businesses.
It will be recalled that in less than two months five divisional police headquarters have been attacked at various locations in Imo by yet to be identified gunmen.