The Nigerian Police Force says it has arrested a 60-year-old pastor from Imo State, Cletus Nwachukwu Egole, amongst others, for allegedly masterminding the killing of security operatives in the South East and other areas.
At least 15 suspects, including two members of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), were said to have been arrested in connection to the alleged killing of security operatives in the region.
The police force said this in a series of tweets on Monday, noting that Egole was arrested alongside 15 others.
Until his arrest, Egole also known As Alewa, pastored the Holy Blessed Trinity Sabbath Church in Orlu, Imo State, where he provided spiritual cover for the culprits allegedly responsible for the killing of security operatives.
Also, Egole allegedly provided his house to the culprits to plan their “nefarious operations” and his brother’s farmland, as a “hideout and training camp for the gang”.
The police said they also arrested one Michael Uba, a prophet with the Association of Jewish Faith, for also partaking in the operations.
In recent times, the South East has recorded growing attacks on security personnel and vicious destruction of security facilities and operational assets in police stations.
Many had fingered IPOB members as being responsible for the attacks, but there had been no evidence until the recent arrest of the suspects who allegedly claimed responsibility for the attacks.
In the statement, the Police said Ugochukwu Samuel, and Raphael Idang, members of the IPOB and that of the Eastern Security Network (ESN) — a wing of the former had confessed to attacking policemen on duty at a checkpoint, in December last year along Orlu-Ihiala Road in Imo.
The duo also admitted that the attack led to the deaths of two police officers and a police Hilux patrol van set ablaze.
The police said the duo were part of a larger group that attacked a police reconnaissance team on January 13, killing one police officer.
Samuel, a.k.a Biggy, who had also sustained a bullet wound when his gang allegedly attacked a military convoy and killed some soldiers, was subsequently arrested while receiving treatment in a hospital.
The Police disclosed that the arrest followed, “painstaking and deliberate” efforts by the Force in partnership with the Nigerian Army and Airforce to ensure that justice is served on the culprits.
“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,” the tweet said.
The police said the 16 suspects, “in the course of investigation, were implicated in multiple felonies committed across several states in the South-Eastern part of the Federation”.
Items recovered from the suspects include nine AK47 rifles, five sophisticated firearms, 17 AK47 Magazines, 549 AK47 live ammunition, 10 Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), camouflage bulletproof vests, walkie talkies and other incriminating items.
Reacting to the situation, the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Muhammed Adamu, said the Police would not tolerate any further attacks on its personnel or any citizen by any individual or group.
“All the suspects will be charged to court on conclusion of investigations,” he said.