The police said they have arrested 16 people for “complicity in a series of violent and unprovoked attacks on security operatives and facilities” around Nigeria, especially in the South-east region.
Several police officers have been killed lately in a string of attacks by gunmen, mostly around Nigeria’s South-east and South-south regions.
Police stations are often the target of the attacks, which appeared coordinated. The gunmen would raid the armoury, cart away police rifles, and then set the stations on fire, during the attacks. Police vehicles on patrol have also been targeted by gunmen.
The spokesperson at the police headquarters, Frank Mba, announced the arrest of the suspects in a statement issued on Sunday in Abuja.
Mr Mba, a commissioner of police, said the arrest was “an outcome of painstaking, deliberate and tireless” collaborative effort between the police, the Nigerian Army, and the Nigerian Airforce.
The police named the suspects to include Ugochukwu Samuel, otherwise known as Biggy, 28, from Arochukwu Local Government Area, Abia State; Raphael Idang, 31, from Odukpani Local Government Area, Cross River State; Cletus Egole, otherwise known as Alewa, 60, from Orlu in Imo State; and Michael Uba, 33, from Imo State.
“Twelve others, in the course of investigation, were implicated in multiple felonies committed across several states in the South-Eastern part of the Federation.
“The suspects were arrested in various parts of the country following sustained, and intelligence-driven sting operations.
“Police investigations clearly established and linked the suspects to several incidents of attacks and murder of security personnel as well as stealing, unlawful possession of firearms, arson and malicious damage to operational assets of military and law enforcement agents,” Mr Mba said in the statement.
Continuing, Mr Mba said, “Specifically, investigations revealed that the duo of Ugochukwu Samuel, aka Biggy, and Raphael Idang were among the criminal elements that attacked policemen on duty at a checkpoint on 24th December, 2020 along Orlu-Ihiala Road in Imo State where two police 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 13th January, 2021 killing one police officer. Ugochukwu Samuel a.k.a 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 IPOB and ESN.”
The police said two of the suspects, said to be a pastor and a prophet, were the masterminds behind some of the attacks.
“Cletus Nwachukwu Egole, aka 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.
“Cletus Nwachukwu 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,” the statement said.
Police said they recovered nine AK47 rifles, five other sophisticated firearms, 17 AK47 magazines, 549 AK47 live ammunition, 10 Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), camouflage bullet proof vests, walkie talkies and other incriminating items from the suspects.
The statement quoted the inspector general of police as saying that law enforcement agents “have gathered sufficient intelligence on the attackers and are closing up on scores of suspects already implicated in the attacks either directly or indirectly for financing, aiding and abetting the criminals.”
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