Gunmen in the early hours of Monday attacked the Nigeria Correctional Service, Owerri, the Imo State capital and the state police command headquarters.Also on Monday, gunmen killed two persons and burnt operational vehicles of the Nigerian Army when they attacked a military base at Umuorji on the Owerri- Onitsha expressway.The headquarters of the NCoS said 1,844 inmates fled the facility in Owerri during the attack.Amid increasing spate of attacks on security formations in the South-East, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), described the attacks in Imo State as terrorism and ordered security agencies to apprehend the culprits.On his part, the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, blamed the Indigenous People of Biafra and the Eastern Security Network for the attacks.But IPOB in its reaction denied involvement in the attack, saying its men were in the bush chasing herdsmen.
An officer of the NCoS, who spoke to one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity, said the gunmen arrived at the correctional centre at 1am and operated till 3am.The hoodlums engaged in a shooting spree and freed no fewer than 1,844 inmates of the correctional service before setting vehicles on fire.Our correspondents gathered that the hoodlums gained access into the centre with the aid of explosives and told the inmates to go home, saying “Jesus has risen, you have no reason to be here again.”They were said to have sung solidarity songs at the Government House roundabout for about 30 minutes before attacking the facility.It was gathered that the armed guards of the facility fled as the invaders stormed the facility. An officer said wardens sustained injuries as they fled.The officer, who confided in The PUNCH, said the hoodlums carted away arms and ammunition and destroyed the closed-circuit television of the centre during the attack.At the state police command, it was learnt that the gunmen burnt almost all the vehicles parked at the command and freed all the suspects in almost all the cells at the state Criminal Investigation Department.
It was observed that only the anti-kidnapping department of the state CID was spared by the attackers.The gunmen, who operated in over 10 vehicles, also attacked soldiers at Umuorji on the Owerri-Onitsha expressway.A villager told one of our correspondents that the hoodlums burnt the operational vehicles of the soldiers, as the military men fled the area.Two persons including a soldier died during the attack.When contacted, the police spokesperson in the state, Orlando Ikeokwu, confirmed the attacks.He, however, assured the people of the state that the security agencies were on top of the matter.Confirming the attack on the NCoS, the spokesman for the Owerri correctional service, James Madugba, in an interview with one of our correspondents, stated that the attackers also destroyed the prison records.
But while the correctional service headquarters said 1,844 inmates fled, Madugba stated 1,800 prisoners were at large.He stated only six inmates had been rearrested by the command. He said, “About 1,800 inmates are at large as we speak. We have been able to re-arrest six inmates. If you add the number to what we have at the centre, we are talking about 42 inmates in our custody.“The gunmen destroyed the CCTV of the centre and burnt the prison’s records but all hope is not lost. In the era of the ICT, we will be relying on the ICT to retrieve the information of the fleeing inmates and go after them.”
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