Something does not add up! Or perhaps fall in place in the early Easter Monday morning attack on Owerri Prisons and the neighbouring Police headquarters.
Something about the attack does not smell right. The attack appears so contrived, so convenient.
From my bed a little less than two kilometres from the scene I began to hear gun shots and bangs( explosions) from at about 2am. The sounds did not stop until about two hours later after which I fell asleep.
After I woke up and saw posts which informed me that it was the Prison and the Police Headquarters that had been attacked, I concluded that it must have been a blood bath.
One in which both sides sustained huge casualties given the amount of gunfire I heard the night before. It was indeed a big surprise to read a little later that the only casualty of all that firing was a policeman who was shot in the shoulder.
Even more surprising were the stories that the attackers were not challenged through out the operation and that they had time to muster and chant victory songs with the released prisoners after the attacks.
Anyone familiar with the location of both the prison and the police headquarters would be as surprised as I was. The prison shares a fence with the police headquarters. Beside ,the police headquarters is the former DSS headquarters which is still in use by DSS staff. Beside, the DSS office is Shell camp Police station and behind it is the biggest police barracks in the state where at least one hundred police men live with their families.
Across the road from the police headquarters is Government House where the state governor lives with a retinue of armed security men from various services.
Sharing a fence with Government House is the residence of the commander of the military formation at Obinze, the 322 Artillery brigade.
A few metres from his house is the residence of the state’s commissioner of police.
It is indeed difficult to understand how some people could operate in that area for three hours, shooting, blasting, burning and singing and no move was made to stop, or counter, their attack.
Also, some of the people who got to the scene early yesterday said they were prevented from taking photographs. They said they did not see bullet holes or pock marks on the walls of the buildings attacked or spent bullet shells littering the ground as should have been the case given the duration of the firing.
So what could have happened? Another big surprise is that no reinforcement came from the military base at Obinze all through the the attack.
Many residents of Owerri will recall that several years ago a similar attack took place.
A band of criminals attacked the then Standard Trust Bank’s branch on Wetheral road after midnight.
The shooting kept half of the town awake for hours, with everyone wondering what was happening.
Eventually, soldiers from Obinze barracks moved in to confront them.
The soldiers dislodged the criminals and chased them as they sought to escape.
The Billion Naira question is why didn’t the soldiers appear this time around?
This is not the first time we would be witnessing a dubious jail break in Imo state.
A few years ago a notorious kidnapper escaped from the High Court premises.
Shots were fired and it was alleged that many people died and many more were wounded.
At the end of the day it turned out that no one died and that the only people who sustained injuries did so while they were running away and not from the shots fired.
However, the haste to rope in IPOB and ESN is not a surprise.
That has been the pattern.
Anything that goes wrong in any part of the country, even in places far removed from the South East, IPOB and ESN are named as the culprits. Meanwhile, ESN have said they had no hand in this attack, while insisting that their area of focus is the forests where the herdsmen hide.
Most of the vehicles set ablaze in the police station did not belong to the Police force or police men. They were vehicles belonging to ordinary Imo people which had found their way to the police headquarters for one reason or the other.
They were probably impounded until their owners could “settle”.
Surely the attackers would have known this.
The question then would be why would a group that says it exists to protect the interests of the Igbo man, inflict so much hardship on some of those they say they are protecting?
For months now, some people have been going around attacking soldiers police men at checkpoints and burning stations in the South East.
The result is that the police men have retreated into their shells and criminals have taken over.
Again the question is why would IPOB/ ESN expose their people who interests are their priority, to such danger?
Attempts have been made to blame IPOB and ESN for the attacks and they continue to deny the allegations.
This weekend, a couple of days before the Owerri attack about seven Fulani men who were going about their business were attacked and killed.
Again it was blamed on IPOB/ ESN without any evidence or proof.
It would appear that some people somewhere are doing their best to give the IPOB/ ESN and by extension the Igbos a bad name.
We saw similar moves during the ENDSARS riots in Lagos.
It did not matter to the accusers that Igbo businesses and property in Abuja and Lagos bore the brunt of the looting and rioting.
When one recalls how efficiently a peaceful protest was infiltrated and turned on its head by hoodlums procured and dropped at various locations by people who appeared to be government officials, there is need for Igbos to keep their eyes open, come together and work to avoid the snares set by people who for reasons best known to them would want to set Igbo land ablaze. Clearly, it is not everyone who is pleased with the relative peace and calm which exists in the region.
Finally, not withstanding whatever the motives of those behind the attacks may be, the intelligence and security lapse which failed to nip this attack in the bud or counter it should be investigated thoroughly.
This is to ensure that this sort of thing doesn’t happen again.
It is not enough to conclude immediately, without any investigation or evidence, that a particular group was responsible.
Okafor Smart Writes From Owerri