Since December 2020, no fewer than seven police stations have been set ablaze while 34 security personnel were killed by gunmen in the wave of attacks on security men in the South-East, an investigation by Sunday Vanguard revealed.
The trend which spreads across states in the zone including Cross River State in the South-South is gaining traction daily.
At the moment, security agents in the area are living in palpable fear, as they are prone to attack at police stations, checkpoints and other duty posts.
The attacks on police formations and the killing of security personnel were reminiscent of the #EndSARS crisis, which saw the burning of over 205 police stations and the killing of over 60 policemen in 2020.
The Indigenous People of Biafra, IPoB, and hoodlums are suspected to be behind the attacks that have left police, navy and army personnel dead.
A clash between IPoB members and security agencies in Anambra State last year, which resulted in casualties on both sides, was gathered to be the remote cause of the latest killings.
According to a police source, the raiding of Eastern Nigeria Security Network, ESN, enclave in Orlu and a subsequent one in Ihiala this year, could be described as what may have aggravated the assaults on police formations in the region.
“Recall that there was a clash between IPoB members and the army last year, leading to casualties. That was followed by the raiding of their enclave in Orlu in 2021, which drove them out of the bush in Imo State. A police special team also went to Ihiala to take out some of their henchmen.
“This is why they are after security agents. They have resorted to the model Boko Haram used in its early days. Recall that Boko Haram started with the burning of police stations and the killing of security men. That is what we are beginning to see in the South-East.
“What they do is to kill policemen and other security agents and collect their weapons. Ever since we destroyed their camps in the bushes, they have started guerrilla warfare” the source said.
Of the five states in the South-East, Sunday Vanguard found Imo, Anambra and Abia as the flashpoints of what has become growing calculated attacks on security agents. Findings showed that none of such attacks has happened in Enugu within the time under review.
7 personnel, 2 stations, vehicles in 4 attacks
No fewer than seven policemen have been killed in Abia State since February 2021.
Besides personnel, two police stations have been razed in four separate attacks against police formations in the state.
Police Public Relations Officer PPRO in Abia, Mr. Geoffrey Ogbonna, in an interview with our Correspondent said one cop was killed when hoodlums attacked a police station at Omoba in Isialangwa South in February.
The station was also set on fire by the assailants.
Another attack on another police station at Abayi, Osisioma claimed two lives while the station and some cars at the premises were set ablaze.
According to the PPRO a police patrol team was attacked by unknown gunmen at Uratta junction Aba, resulting in the death of a cop while the patrol van was set on fire.
He further said that three policemen were attacked and killed at Abriba March 21 thus bringing the casualty figure to seven so far since this year.
On whether the police have affected any arrest in connection with the attacks, or are suspecting any group as perpetrators of attacks, the PPRO said investigations were still ongoing.
He described the situation as very bad and appealed to members of the public to volunteer any useful information that could help unmask the masterminds of the attacks.
On the impact of the attacks on their officers and men, the PPRO said despite the emotional effect on their personnel, the police would not abandon their duty post because of the incidents.
“ Police officers and men are human beings, they could be demoralised at the sight of their colleagues being killed but we can’t give up. It’ is not good to be hunted by the people you are being paid to protect.
“ But we keep encouraging our men not to lose morale,” he added.
Three policemen were killed on March 21, 2021, by suspected bandits in Abriba community, Ohafia LGA.
Two rifles were carted away. The officers who were identified as Inspector Austins Ugwu, Inspector Longinus Ugochukwu and Constable Ema Ifeanyi, were serving at Abriba Police Division. They were ambushed at Amaogudu Area, Abribe at 8.30am.
ANAMBRA: 10 security operatives dead, stations attacked
There is tension among security operatives in Anambra following the recent attacks, which left no fewer than 10 of them dead.
After the #EndSARS protests during which five police stations were burnt in parts of the state, normalcy returned and the security operatives resumed work at their duty posts.
But surprisingly, unknown gunmen attacked a checkpoint at Nkpologwu in Aguata Local Government Area,LGA, and Omogho in Orumba North LGA, killing four policemen. They took away their rifles and set their patrol van ablaze. The gunmen drove in a salon car and a black Mercedes Benz 4Matic SUV.
Anambra State Commissioner of Police, Monday Kuryas, ordered an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident.
A senior police officer in the local government who confirmed the killing said: “Honestly, it was a black Wednesday in Anambra. I don’t know what those boys want to gain from this act
The next place the gunmen attacked was a police checkpoint at Neni in Anaocha local government area where they killed three policemen.
On the same day, they attacked a naval checkpoint at Awkuzu in Oyi LGA. Three naval ratings lost their lives.
Gunmen again attacked Ekwulobia Police Station in Aguata LGA and killed another policeman and two officials of Nigeria Correctional Service, NCS.
They also attempted to burn down the police but were stopped by policemen at the station.
Later, they attacked a bus conveying prison inmates to the court and killed two officials of NCS.