Policemen from the Inspector-General of Police’s (IG’s) Intelligence Response Team (IRT) on an arrest mission to Ogoja, Cross Rivers State, last Wednesday, were allegedly attacked by machete-wielding thugs at the instance of a suspect identified as Ikenga.
Inspectors Christian Ugwu, Julius Okundayo, Kingsley Harold and Ebel Oliha, who suffered severe injuries from the attack, were alleged to have been attacked after Ikenga raised the alarm in his Ogoja language.
They had arrested Ikenga, a suspected notorious receiver of stolen items, alleged to have purchased a vehicle belonging to a Lagos-based church, Master Chapel, which was stolen by armed robbers.
The acting Inspector-General of Police (IG), Mohammed Adamu, has ordered the arrest and prosecution of suspects in the unprovoked and gruesome attack that has left Okundayo battling for his life at a hospital in Makurdi, Benue State.
The team, which last November arrested four suspects- Peter, Ben, Ebuka and Johnson- in connection to the robbery, trailed the stolen Toyota Sienna to a buyer in Makurdi.
But on arriving Makurdi and arresting the suspect, he confessed to have resold the vehicle to Ikenga in Ogoja for N250,000, prompting the detectives to head for Cross River State.
One of the policemen, who spoke to The Nation, said from the way they were attacked, it seemed Ikenga had learnt of their mission and ambushed them.
“We arrived Ogoja and went to the local police station and the area command first to make our presence known. Then, we moved to Ikenga’s location. We had recovered the vehicle and arrested him when suddenly, he said something in his dialect and cutlass-wielding thugs emerged and attacked us,” he said.
The source said they never envisaged they would be attacked, adding that they narrowly escaped death.
“We went there peacefully and identified ourselves. We could not use our guns to avoid killing anyone and the case would turn against us,” he said.
A source at the IRT Lagos office said: “They could have killed some of the thugs attacking them with their firearms, but if that had happened, the story wouldn’t have been the same today. What you would have heard would have been different from what actually happened.
“Thankfully they escaped to Makurdi Police Division and were taken to the General Hospital. Three of them were later discharged, while Julius (Okundayo) is still on admission there.
“Unfortunately, Ikenga fled with the vehicle during the melee.”
Condemning the attack on the operatives, the IG in a statement by spokesman Frank Mba, a Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), said the Force would not tolerate criminal attacks and assault on its personnel or facilities.
Mba said: “Four police officers attached to IGP Intelligence Response Team (IRT) were seriously wounded, with deep machete cuts on their heads and other parts of their bodies.
“The detectives were investigating a case of a stolen Toyota Sienna bus earlier reported by the Master Chapel Church, a Pentecostal church based in Lagos. The detectives had, after a painstaking investigation, arrested four male suspects-Peter, Ben, Ebuka and Johnson…
“The IGP while condemning the attack in very strong terms, warned that the Police under his watch will not tolerate criminal attacks and assault on its personnel or facilities. He enjoined traditional rulers and community leaders not to allow such attacks to take place in their domains, as they may be called to account.
“The IGP has, therefore, ordered manhunt and arrest of Ikenga and other members of his gang. He urged the public to avail the police of credible and useful information that will lead to the arrest of persons involved in these unwholesome and illegal acts.”