In what seemed like a horror movie scene, gunmen on Monday and Tuesday attacked policemen on duty in different locations in Imo State, Southeast Nigeria, and stole their rifles, witnesses said.
HumAngle learnt that in the Monday incident on Owerre Nkworji in Nkwerre Local Government Area of the state, the attackers robbed the policemen, gave a sergeant machete cuts and snatched his rifle.
They also set ablaze the operational vehicles of the policemen, HumAngle further learnt.
The wounded sergeant, who was rushed to a hospital in Orlu with multiple machete cuts, allegedly died on Tuesday.
“The Siena vehicle the policemen were in was set ablaze,” a source said.
Similarly on Tuesday at Egbu, a suburb of Owerri, the state capital, gunmen attacked policemen on patrol duty and snatched a riffle from one of them, witnesses said.
The Commissioner of Police.in the state Isaac Akinmoyede, confirmed that his men were attacked and their riffles stolen but that no policeman was killed.
The police and members of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), the groups in the Southeast agitating for a separate state for the Igbo race, have regularly clashed over their campaigns.
The Igbo fought a 30-month civil war with Nigeria from 1967 to 1970 and ever since have complained of marginalisation and exclusion by the Nigerian state.
Following such complaints in which the race accuses successive Nigerian governments of excluding them politically and economically, MASSOB and IPOB emerged to seek a breakaway from Nigeria.
While MASSOB, constituted by older people, has moderated its position to ask for equity within Nigeria, IPOB which is hawkish and made up mostly of younger elements born after the war insists on a cessation of relationship with the rest of the country.
Led by the vitrioric Nnamdi Kanu, the group proscribed by the Nigerian government, has engaged in fights with security agents.
The latest of such confrontations was in Enugu, on Sunday, August 23, 2020, during which two officers of the Department of State Services were killed and an IPOB member also died, according to the security agency.
However, IPOB claimed 21 of its members were killed and following the attack, the police arrested a leader of IPOB, Mazi Ofornedu Okoafor.
Previously in July, the police in Imo State clashed with the members of IPOB in Orji, Owerri, while they where they gathered to receive the corpse of one of their members, Onyekachukwu Uzoma, from Enugu.
The Orji clash occurred after a similar incident between the police and MASSOB members in another part of Owerri within the month.
In 2017, IPOB had confrontations with the Nigerian Army in Umuahia when it launched Operation Python Dance in the Southeast to rid the zone of kidnappers, who had taken over the region.
On that occasion, IPOB engaged the military in a gunfight which led the army to attack Kanu’s residence and his escape from the country on self exile.
Meanwhile, IPOB, has warned security agents against the continued detention of Okoafor.
It warned that the Enugu State Police Commissioner and other security agents would “pay heavy price” should anything happen to Okoafor.
In a statement signed by its spokesman, Emma Powerful, IPOB alleged that men of the Enugu State Police Command and soldiers picked up Okoafor alongside his grandfather on August 23, 2020, while he was receiving treatment at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu.
The group called on the Enugu State commissioner of Police to release Okoafor from custody before it would be too late.
Isaac Akinmoyede, Commissioner of Police, Imo State
Additional Report by Eustace Okere