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EndSARS: Building new stations, hunting for hoodlums

Days after hoodlums under the disguise of #EndSARS protesters set ablaze four police stations in different locations in Ebonyi State, the process of rebuilding them has begun. That was followed with the hunting for the criminals and sacking of some appointees following the civil disturbances. UCHENNA INYA reports from Abakaliki

Ebonyi State, like every other parts of the country, had its fair share of the activities of hoodlums under the guise of #ENDSARS protesters. A total of four police stations were burnt in different parts of the state. Also vehicles were burnt and other public facilities including decorative lights destroyed.

The four police stations burnt included; Kpirikpiri and Ekeaba police stations located in Abakaliki, the capital city and Obiozara police station located in Uburu, Ohaozara Local Government Area, Governor Dave Umahi’s hometown and Okposi police station in Okposi also in Ohaozara Local Government Area of the state.

Hoodlums had overran the capital city and Ohaozara and destroyed the facilities, forcing Umahi to impose a curfew, which paid off as normalcy immediately returned following the reclaiming of the state by soldiers, policemen, other security agents, members of the state vigilante known as Neighbourhood Security Watch(NSW) and a youth group identified as Akubaraoha Youth Assembly, loyal to the state government.

The groups had been patrolling the every nooks and crannies of the state to ensure the hoodlums stopped further destruction of public properties in the state. Banks, schools, filling stations, many shops didn’t open for activities while markets were scanty with traders not seen fully as usual. Premium Motor Spirit(PMS), also known as Petrol was sold for N400 per litre in various black markets, especially in Ugwuachara and Ozibo/Echiaba outskirts of the city while motorists and other petroleum users struggled to buy in the community following a massive crowd that besieged the sellers when our correspondent monitored some parts of the city. Also, a litre of kerosene was sold between N300 and N320 in the black market where it was only available.

There were no vehicular and human movements at strategic roads in the metropolis including Ezza road, Afikpo Road, Ogoja road, old Enugu road, Abakaliki/ Enugu highway, Abakaliki/Afikpo/ Onueke highway, among others, following a 24-hour curfew imposed by Umahi on Wednesday night after hoodlums overran the city and burnt down two police stations; Kpirikpiri and Ekeaba police stations and destroyed other amenities in the city.

Umahi, who was sad on the activities of the group, while declaring the curfew, ordered security agents to close all the borders across the state as according to him, the hoodlums were shipped into the state from outside. “Let me first, pay my condolence to all those who lost their lives in the cause of this agitation tagged #EndSARS.

“We, leaders did not see anything wrong in the demands of our young children. However, it is very unfortunate that these wonderful young children have been infiltrated by hoodlums, who now started to burn properties of innocent citizens. “I therefore appeal to my colleagues to do everything possible to protect the lives of these peaceful protesters as they have been doing.

“In my state, Ebonyi, I have noticed with sadness, how peaceful protest in Ebonyi State has been hijacked by hoodlums and cultists who were shifted from outside the state into our very peaceful state.

“On Monday, I had addressed the peaceful protesters and went ahead and met all their demands in line with the directives of the Federal Government. “These hoodlums and cultists have burnt many police stations, moving to prison to set prisoners free and they are attacking security agencies, including shooting at them.

“These hoodlums and cultists are not Ebonyians but they came from outside because they do not wish us well. “Security agencies in our state have sustained injuries from the attacks of these hoodlums and the provocation.

These Security agencies have exercised great patience and wisdom in handling the issue at stake and I urge them to continue doing just that. “Government vehicles and infrastructure of government have come under severe destruction and this is regrettable.

“I will continue to say that the peaceful protesters have their legitimate demands and I offer my apologies for many areas we, leaders, have failed our young children. We believe that the success of the peaceful #ENDSARS protest will make leaders make amends where necessary. “I appeal to our people not to allow outsiders to destroy the modest improvements of our state, which may not have gone down well to some people outside our state, who do not wish us well and who imported these hoodlums to our state”, he said. The governor relaxed the curfew from 8pm to 8am following improvement of security situation in the state.

He immediately commenced inspection of the police stations burnt and other facilities destroyed by the hoodlums. He was accompanied by all the security chiefs in the state. Two vast lands were mapped out by the governor for construction of two new police stations for the police in the capital city to replace ones burnt by the hoodlums.

He noted that he will only build two new police stations and will not rebuild the Obiozara and Okposi police division which he built and urged the people of the state to protect social amenities in the state against vandalism. “Four police stations; two in my local government, one in my community Uburu, the other one in Okpo were burnt by hoodlums. Then two in Abakaliki metropolis; Kpirikpiri police station and Ekeaba Police station were also burnt. The two in my local government will not be rebuilt.

My position is that any property that I have built and it is destroyed, I will not rebuild it in my tenure. “But the other two police stations are rented apartments. So, even though it is quite very tasking, we will do everything possible to build two new police stations in two different locations. I am not going to replace the decorative lights that were destroyed. It is the duty of the citizens of Ebonyi State to protect their infrastructure.

So, anyone they allowed hoodlums to destroy, it’s either they produce the hoodlums, who we are hunting for because IPOB already denied that their members destroyed anything; that those that destroyed things were criminals and should be dealt with accordingly. So, let us do that”, he stated. The State Police Command confirmed the activities of the hoodlums and said that the hoodlums, who attempted to attack and release inmates in Abakaliki Federal Prisons under the guise of EndSARS protest, wounded two policemen and set police stations ablaze.

In a statement signed by the Command’s Police Public Relations, DSP Loveth Odah, she said the joint forces of the Police and other sister security agencies could not allow the hoodlums access to the facility.

She said that the criminally-minded hoodlums matched with placards with inscriptions Endsars/End Nigeria/End the Zoo Country and suddenly entered and opened fire on Policemen at “A” Division (CPS) Abakaliki. “They proceeded to “B” Division Kpirikpiri/”C” Division Ekumenyi, where they set some parts of the divisions ablaze together with four Exhibits vehicles, broke into the cell and released eight suspects, and also destroyed other Police properties and exhibit vehicles seen within the Police stations”, it stated. The statement further stated that the hoodlums looted and carted away about thirty exhibit motorcycles/Plasma TVs/ Fans and other valuables.

The Public Relations Officer of Abakaliki Federal Prisons, Nneka Iyasei, explained that the hoodlums in their attempt to penetrate the facility, pulled down part of the outer fence of the Prisons. “Massive attack on Medium Security Custodial Centre, Abakaliki, Ebonyi State Command today at about 3.45 pm by ‘End SARS’ Protesters was subdued by the combined gallantry efforts of the Nigerian Correctional Service Armed Squad, Army, Police and Civil Defence after about an hour, thirty minutes gun battle with the protesters. “Protesters made efforts to pull down the gate while others broke the walls but were resisted and repelled by the combined force. They were resisted to the point of retreat.

Calm has been restored and all officers on red alert”, she said. Since that Wednesday, all the adjoining roads linking the state Correctional Centre and the state police headquarters have been blocked with heavy security presence. The Governor in his avowed determination of Ebonyi State Government to address prevailing security situation in the state, ordered the immediate removal from office of Amos Ogbonnaya, Coordinator of Anuagata Development Centre, Jerry Okorie Ude of Okposi Development Centre, Martha Nwankwo of Ohaozara East Development Centre.

The sacked Coordinators were replaced with Tochukwu Uzor, Anuagata Development Centre; Henry Ugochi Ovoke, Okposi Development Centre and Ernest Okorie, Ohaozara East Development Centre. Umahi also removed from office his Special Assistant on Internal Security and Utility (Urban), Saint Nchekwube Anakor, with immediate effect and appointed Chidiebere Egwu as his replacement.

“All the affected former officials are directed to hand over all government property in their possession to the Secretary to the State Government/Coordinating Commissioner before the close of work on Monday 26th of October 2020”, a statement from Secretary to the State Government, Ugbala Kenneth stated.

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