The Interim Management Committee Chairman of Njaba Local Government Area of Imo State, Mr Emeka Iheanacho, has accused the Police in Imo State of negligence of duty especially in the recent dastardly attack at the council headquarters which resulted in the murder of two traditional rulers.
Iheanacho, in a statement endorsed and made available to the media in Owerri on Saturday, said that the council had scheduled three major programmes on that particular day October 19, 2021, at the council headquarters, Nnenasa.
The programmes included the distribution of 20,000 exercise books to heads of primary and secondary schools in Njaba LGA, Njaba LGA stakeholders meeting for submission of community project needs for Imo State 2022 budget, and a monthly meeting with Njaba LGA council of traditional rulers
The council boss said that to ensure security of lives and property during the meeting, he had invited ASP Nwankwo, the leader of Njaba LGA Police Operation Search and Flush Team, to the council on 18 October 2021 and requested their presence at the council headquarters the next day for the above programme.
Iheanacho said that the ASP agreed to come with his team and on the said date 19th, October 2021, the police team actually came to the council headquarters.
He regretted that shortly before the commencement of the programme, the leader of the police team, ASP Nwankwo came to his office and informed him that their commander instructed them to return to Owerri.
He said he refused to allow them to go in order to avoid jeopardising the security of lives and properties in the environment, but they insisted ongoing.
However, according to the council chairman, the security team finally left and told him that they would be back before the next two hours.
He said that both the HOD Works of the Council, Mr Emeka Uneanya, and a vigilante security officer of the council, Mr Ernest Okorochukwu, were witnesses to the argument between him and the police team leader in his office.
Mr Iheanacho said that the meetings and programme eventually commenced with the hope that the police team would return as they promised.
He said that three hours after the commencement of the meeting, the Police did not return and because of that, he called the team leader to know why they had not come back, but he was told that their commander had not yet released them.
The council boss said that their usual monthly meeting with the traditional rulers, which happened to be the last programme for the day, was about to be concluded when they saw some armed men approaching the council hall venue of the meeting.
He said that the gunmen on reaching the door to the hall, opened fire on the people as many scampered away for safety.
Iheanacho said that the incident, which took place around a few minutes to 3pm, resulted in the killing of two traditional rulers, Eze Anayo Durueburuo of Okwudor Autonomous Community and Eze Samson Osunwa of Ihebinowere autonomous community who died on the spot.
He said that three traditional rulers also sustained gunshot injuries which include HRH A. N Onyeka of Nkume Autonomous Community, HRH P. C Ukonu of Ugbele Aka Autonomous Community and HRH Uche Nwaka of Umunnam Autonomous Community.
The chairman appealed to Governor Hope Uzodimma to prevail on the DSS Operation Search and Flush Team, and NSCDC Operation Search and Flush Team posted to Njaba LGA to report and commence work in the LGA with immediate effect to beef up security in the area.
In reaction, the Commissioner of Police, Imo State Command, CP Rabiu Husseini, has declared that the Command was neither aware nor notified of a programme of such magnitude being held in the Local Government Headquarters of Njaba in Imo State by the Transition Committee chairman Mr Emeka Iheanacho.
In a statement issued in Owerri on Saturday by the Command’s Public Relations Officer, CSP Michael Abatham in reaction to the claims by the Council chairman, the Commissioner said that the Chairman never deemed it necessary, knowing full well the security situation in the state, to call or formally write to the Police Command or the Area Commander, who is the closest to him, to inform him of such a sensitive event realising the calibre of dignitaries he had invited to grace the occasion.
The CP said that the chairman is the chief security officer of the local government, which makes it mandatory and binding on him to work in synergy with security agencies.
He said: “it is a common knowledge that, if there is need to hold a function that will involve large crowd or very important personalities, it is mandatory that security agencies must be informed in writing to provide security to cover such occasion”.
The CP insisted that “it is on record that the Transitional Chairman of Njaba Local Government never wrote formally to inform the Commissioner of Police or the Area Commander of such a significant programme scheduled in three phases”.
He said that if he did as he claimed in the media, “he is at liberty to show the approval letter to the public”.
According to the Commissioner, the Chairman was aware of the security situation in his local government, where the Divisional Police Station was recently attacked by hoodlums and it is yet to be rebuilt, adding that he was aware that the Command was doing everything humanly possible to police his area, hence the posting of Policemen to the area on random patrols to checkmate crimes and criminalities.
The CP described it as comical for a transitional chairman of a local government to come on the pages of newspapers to say that “he begged the police not to leave the venue.”
He said: “Who is the police? Does he have to beg? It is unconventional to see police patrol team on assignment and beg them to assist you to cover an occasion.”
According to him, the action of the chairman not formally informing the police or other security agencies in writing, “is not only unethical, but it is at variance with the standard rules of the provisions of government organisations in conducting functions that border on the state.”
The Commissioner of Police, while consoling the families of the traditional rulers who lost their lives, commended the good people of the state for their support to the Command and enjoined them to disregard false news, believing it could cause palpable tension as well as instilling fears.