The new Acting Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Usman Alkali Baba, will now have to contend with investigating the bombing and attacks on the Imo Police Command headquarters and Imo Prison, after the sack of his predecessor, Mohammed Adamu, who was priming to get to the root of the attacks.
Minister of Police Affairs, Alhaji Maigari Dingyadi, announced the appointment of Baba with immediate effect.
The new appointment comes as Governor Hope Uzodinma said government had set up an enquiry panel into the incident with a view to finding out the circumstances surrounding the attack.
Adamu was on official trip to Imo state for the on-the-spot assessment of the attacks on the Police Headquarters and Correctional Services building in Owerri by unidentified persons on Monday, when his replacement was announced.
Meanwhile, President Buhari described the Monday attacks as an act of terrorism and insurgent attacks on the facilities in the Imo State capital on Monday.
A total of 1,844 inmates were released during the early-morning attacks on the custodial centre and police headquarters.
President Buhari has directed the security and intelligence agencies in the state and in the South East to fully mobilise and go after the assailants, apprehend them, and get them punished under the full weight of the law.
He also called for the best efforts to be made to rearrest fleeing prison detainees, many of whom were said to be deadly criminals.
Before the attacks on the correctional service and police facilities, the assailants were said to have chanted solidarity songs at the Government House Roundabout in Owerri for about 30 minutes.
Amid accusing fingers pointed in its direction, the Indigenes Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) and its security outfit, the Eastern Security Network (ESN) has denied any involvement, even though a tweet by its exiled leader, Mr. Nmamdi Kanu, appears to put a lie to their claim of innocence.
Said Kanu, in his tweet on Monday “If Miyetti Allah terror herdsmen & other murderous #Fulani groups, including Boko Haram insurgents, can be arrested, freed and rehabilitated by this neo-colonial Fulanised @NGRPresident, then no single soul deserves to be in any prison in Nigeria. If you know you know! #UGM
There also appeared to be strenuous effort to tag the attack a terrorist one by many security sources.
PRNigeria, a public relations outfit with close affinity to the security services claimed to have a report which said: “At about 0100hrs of date, armed men suspected to be members of IPOB/ESN criminal gang in their numbers invaded Owerri Prisons mine using dynamites and other heavy explosives, gained entrance and released some inmates in the prison
“The hoodlums also attacked the Police State Headquarters Owerri while firing consistently with AK 47 rifles and explosives, released some suspects detained in the SCID cell and put fire on so many vehicles parked at the Headquarter premises including the SCID office building.
“The onslaught/operation lasted close to three(3) hours.”
But IPOB Media and Publicity Secretary, Emma Powerful, took exception to some media reports linking IPOB to the attack.
He said: “The attention of IPOB has been drawn again to the fallacious and fabricated news that IPOB and ESN are involved in the attack of prison and police headquarters in Owerri Imo State.
“IPOB and ESN are known groups, not unknown gunmen. ESN is in the bush chasing Fulani terrorists, why linking IPOB and ESN to this attack. IPOB and ESN were not involved in the attack in Owerri Imo State and the recent attack on Onitsha Owerri road at Ukwuorji junction. It is not our mandate to attack security personnel or prison facilities.
“The Nigeria Government and her compromised media outfits should stop linking IPOB and ESN to the multiple attacks going on in Nigeria now. IPOB was formed on the principle of peace and we are still in it. Unknown gunmen is different people which we don’t know them and they are not IPOB or ESN security outfit.”
Not less than 10 vehicles with occupants were said to have overpowered the security guards at the police command.
“They also burnt some vehicles parked at the entrance of the command headquarters,” a source said.
Before he was relieved of his headship of the Police, Adamu had ordered the immediate deployment of additional units of Police Mobile Force (PMF) and other Police Tactical Squads to Imo State to strengthen security in the State and prevent further attacks on security formations or any other critical national infrastructure in the State.
In a statement issued by Force PRO CP, Frank Mbah, the Police said “preliminary investigations have revealed that the attackers, who came in their numbers with sophisticated weapons such as General Purpose Machine Guns (GPMGs), Sub-Machine Guns (SMGs), AK49 rifles, Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs), Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), are members of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB)/Eastern Security Network (ESN).
“The attempt by the attackers to gain access to the Police armoury at the Headquarters was totally and appropriately resisted by Police operatives on duty who repelled the attackers and prevented them from breaking-in and looting the armoury.
“The armoury is thus intact! Similarly, the police suffered no human casualty, apart from a police Constable who sustained a minor bullet wound on his shoulder.
“Meanwhile, one of the operational vehicles of the attackers has been recovered by the Police and is currently being subjected to forensic scrutiny and investigations.
“The IGP, who condemned the attack on the security outfits, has further directed the Commissioner of Police, Imo State Command and a new Special Investigation Team (specifically set up to deal with cases of incessant attacks on security formation/operatives in the region), to carry out holistic investigations into the incident with a view to fishing-out the perpetrators and bringing them to justice.
“The CP is to harness the security reinforcement squads and other operational assets at his disposal to take the battle to the door-steps of the attackers and prevent any further attack anywhere within the State and its environs.
“The IGP, who described the deliberate and criminal attack on security operatives as an attack on the soul of our nation, has enjoined leaders in Imo State, the South-East and other parts of the country to speak out against the unfolding violence and criminality.
“The IGP calls on citizens to avail the Police and other security agencies with useful information that can assist in identifying and arresting the criminals.
“He vowed that the perpetrators will be brought to book, noting that the Force is doing all within its powers to curb the activities of unscrupulous elements hell-bent on threatening the unity, safety, security and socio-ecomomic wellbeing of Nigerians.”