The Nigeria Police Force on Monday revealed that they have arrested 16 persons suspected to be behind ‘unprovoked killings’ of security operatives in some states of the federation, particularly in the Southeastern part of Nigeria.
The Police in a statement released on their official Twitter page said they also recovered arms, ammunition, and explosives that were previously carted away by the assailants.
A total of nine AK47 rifles, five other sophisticated firearms, 17 AK47 magazines, 549 AK47 live ammunition, 10 Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), camouflage bulletproof vests, walkie talkies and other incriminating items were recovered from the suspects.
At least 10 police officers were killed and six police stations razed across seven states in Southeast and South-South Nigeria within a two-week period, a PREMIUM TIMES review shows.
The attacks occurred between Feb. 23 and March 9, 2021, with Cross River and Imo states having the largest number of incidents.
The arrest, which the police described as an outcome of painstaking, deliberate, and tireless efforts by operatives working in collaboration with their counterparts from the Nigerian Army, and the Nigerian Airforce, was aimed at bringing to justice, persons responsible for the attacks on security personnel and wanton destruction of security facilities and operational assets.
The Police further named the suspects as Ugochukwu Samuel a.k.a Biggy, a 28-year-old native of Arochukwu Local Government Area in Abia State, Raphael Idang, a 31-year-old native of Odukpani Local Government Area of Cross River State, Cletus Nwachukwu Egole a.k.a ‘Alewa’, a 60-year-old native of Orlu in Imo State.
Michael Uba, 33, from Imo State, and 12 others, were in the course of the investigation, implicated in multiple felonies committed across several states in the Southeastern part of the federation.
According to the Police, investigations have clearly established and linked the suspects to several incidents of attacks, murder of security personnel, stealing, unlawful possession of firearms, arson and malicious damage to operational assets of military and law enforcement agents.
Specifically, the duo of Ugochukwu Samuel a.k.a Biggy, and Raphael Idang were alleged to have attacked Police officers on duty at a checkpoint on Thursday, Dec. 24, 2020, along Orlu-Ihiala road in Imo state, where two officers were killed and a police Hilux patrol van set ablaze.
In addition, both were part of a larger group that attacked a Police reconnaissance team on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, killing one police officer.
Biggy, who sustained a bullet wound during an attack by his gang on a military convoy in which some soldiers were killed and weapons carted away, was subsequently arrested while receiving treatment in a hospital.
Both suspects confessed to being active members of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and Eastern Security Network (ESN).
Cletus Nwachukwu Egole a.k.a Alewa, a pastor with the Holy Blessed Trinity Sabbath Church, Orlu, Imo State, and Michael Uba, a prophet with the Association of Jewish Faith, who were also arrested, are two of the masterminds of the various attacks on security personnel.
In addition to providing spiritual cover for the gang, Egole’s house was used by the gang members to plan their nefarious operations. He also donated his late brother’s farmland for use as a hideout and training camp for the gang.
Meanwhile, Mohammed Adamu, Nigeria’s Inspector General of Police, has reiterated that the police would not tolerate any further attack on its personnel or any citizen by any individual or group under any guise whatsoever.
He assured that law enforcement agents had gathered sufficient intelligence on the attackers and were closing up on scores of suspects already implicated in the attacks either directly or indirectly financing, aiding and abetting the criminals, and would be charged to court on conclusion of investigations.
Adamu stressed that no murderer would go unpunished just as he enjoined parents/guardians and traditional/opinion leaders to weigh in and prevail on their children to desist from toeing the destructive paths of crime.
Confessions by suspects
Ugochukwu Samuel a.k.a Biggy, who confessed to being second in Command of the ESN said he has been a member of the gang since 2017.
In a video shared by the police, Biggy could be seen smoking and dancing. He explained how he and his men had attacked security operatives, gunning down four soldiers and a policeman. He sustained injuries which led to his arrest in a hospital in Akwa, Anambra State, Southeast Nigeria.
“My name is Ugochukwu Samuel, alias Biggy, I am a member of ESN, I joined in 2017. I am the second in command. I participated in the confrontation, when we were attacked in our camp, we killed one policeman, another one is when we had open fire with soldiers, they were four, that is where I got these injuries, they arrested me in a hospital in Akwa,” Samuel said in the video.
Another of the arrested suspects, Raphael Idang, said he had participated in a series of raids on police officers and checkpoints carried out by members of his gang between 2020 and March 2021.
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