By Evelyn Usman
Task before security agencies
Nigerians were greeted with another orgy of killing in the South -East region of the country last Sunday, following the cold -blooded murder of Alhaji Ahmed Gulak, former Special Adviser on Political Affairs to former President, Goodluck Jonathan.
The deceased alongside one of his friends identified simply as Bernard, were in Owerri, the Imo State capital, for the constitution review sitting.
At the conclusion of the sitting, they left their hotel and headed for Sam Mbakwe International cargo airport, to catch a flight to Abuja, unaware of the danger that loomed ahead.
At Obiangwu junction in Ngor okpala Local Government Area of Imo state, their vehicle was intercepted by some gunmen . Gulak was shot in the forehead and died on the spot.
Fresh fact that can help the Police in their investigations into the murder and unrest in the South East region has emerged following revelation that Gulak’s assailants spoke Ogoni dialect that fateful day. This was revealed by Bernard who was seated with late Gulak at the back of the Toyota Camry car that was conveying them to the airport.
In his statement to the Police, he gave a blow-by- blow account of how the assailants struck. He also identified the assailants among the suspects that were killed the same day by the Police.
According to Bernard, “ We booked a flight to go to Abuja. The aircraft was United Nigeria Airline, an 8.30am flight. We requested the hotel people to get us a taxi that would take us to the airport. We joined the taxi arranged by the hotel exactly five minutes to 6am.
”As we were going along Aba road, we discovered that the road was blocked. I requested to remove the barricade, but they said five Air Force personnel were killed a day before for attempting to remove the barricade and that it would be dangerous to try to remove the barricade because nobody knows who is who.
“ The driver asked if he could take an alternative route and we… When I said we, I meant myself and my late colleague. We asked him(driver) how long it would take to get to the airport, he said about 20 to 30 minutes since the road was virtually free .
“ About 15 minutes later , we asked him if we were close to the airport, he said yes, that we had passed through Mbaise . About two minutes to the airport, we got to a place called obianu… obianuju or something,( Obiangwu ) at one sharp bend , we saw three vehicles; two men lying down , eight boys jumping up and down, one Lexus 360, one Toyota Camry and one other van.
“They were just jumping and came to our vehicle and asked the driver to come down, the driver obeyed. Before they took the key from the driver they checked the fuel gauge and said ‘oh.., there is fuel here’.
“They ordered the driver to lie down and asked why he was moving around when there was supposed to be a lockdown order by their people.
We were all shivering. At that time, my colleague and I were at the back . Then, two of them opened the door, one opened the side where I was seated and the other opened the side where my friend was seated. They said, ‘you people should come down , who are you? Lie down, lie down, lie down ‘. At the same time they were jumping up and down.
“One of them engaged the driver, another was questioning me while the third was questioning Gulak .
They spoke in Ogoni dialect and I made a comment. I could speak the language. That’s probably what saved me. The next thing I heard was, ‘oh my God!’ The second one had shot Gulak in the forehead! At that time, I was traumatized. I thought I was already dead. I didn’t know what was happening again. The next thing they did was to drive away. That is all I can remember”.
Bernard further stated in his report to the Police that the gunmen whose bullet snuffed life out of Gulak, also attacked a truck loaded with onions.
In his additional account, Bernard, who was still dazed by the tragedy, stated that “ After the Police killed some of the suspects the same day, I identified the one that engaged me among them. I also recognized the burnt suspect as the one who shot at my friend, Gulak. Pictures of the suspects killed by Police which went viral on Youtube were the people “.
Police accuse IPOB
The Police have accused the Eastern Security Network, ESN, which is the paramilitary organization of the IPOB of being responsible for the Gulak’s murder. This is also the perception of some Nigerians, as the murder happened on the eve of the sit-at home order given by leader of the group, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, to mark the Biafra Day, to mourn those who were killed during the civil war.
Explaining Police encounter with the suspects, spokesman for the Imo State Police Command, SP Bala Elkana, said when the command received the distress call on the attack on Gulak, “Police Special Forces made up of Intelligence Response Team (IRT), Police Mobile Force (PMF) and Tactical Units from the command were deployed to the scene at Obiangwu Junction at Ngorokpala LGA of Imo state. The teams were given a clear instruction to identify and apprehend the perpetrators of the act with a view of bringing them to justice.
“ Eye witnesses account, especially the driver of the vehicle that was conveying Ahmed Gulak to the Airport before the attack, he gave a vivid description of the assailants and the vehicles they used in carrying out the attack. The assailants were said to have used a Toyota Camry 2005 model with silver color; Toyota Sienna 1998 Model with golden color; Toyota Hilux with white color; and a Lexus RX 330 with golden Color. (Registration numbers are withheld for security reasons).
“Having established the identities of the assailants and the description of the vehicles used in carrying out the attack, the teams further got details of the direction the hoodlums took. With further leads, the team was able to establish the location of suspects. The suspects were rounded up at Afor Enyiogugu junction in Aboh-Mbaise Local Government Area. The hoodlums were met distributing onions to locals from a trailer they confiscated. The trailer was loaded with onions from the Northern region of Nigeria.
“On sighting the Police, the hoodlums providing security coverage to those sharing the onions, had already taken positions waiting for the arrival of any of the security agencies. They opened fire on the Police teams. The Gallant and battle ready Police officers swiftly returned the fire. The six hoodlums who carried out the killing and four other members of their gang were fatally injured..
”Three out of the four vehicles used in attacking Gulak were recovered .Three AK 47 Rifles, one pistol, five AK 47 magazines with 92 rounds of live ammunition and criminal charms were recovered. The assailants were identified as members of the proscribed IPOB and ESN.
“The driver who drove late Ahmed Gulak and a co- victim who survived have identified the dead body of the IPOB/ESM members positively as their attackers and also identified the three vehicles recovered as those used by the attackers.
During the encounter, two of the police armored personnel carriers (APC) were riddled with bullets but survived the gun battle”
IPOB insisted it had no hand in Gulak’s murder, stressing that assassination of politicians was not part of the group’s agenda . IPOB’s spokesman, Emma Powerful in a statement issued to that effect, said, ”We hereby state without equivocations that IPOB knows nothing about the said assassination. In the first place, what threat did the late Gulak constitute to our cause to warrant his elimination? We had nothing in common with him and could not have in any way killed him.
“Did IPOB have the itinerary of the late Gulak to have waylaid him at the airport? We are only after the restoration of Biafra. Assassination of politicians is not part of our agenda otherwise we would have killed the Efulefu politicians in the Eastern region sabotaging our struggle”.
“Pointing accusing fingers at IPOB for this barbaric act is only meant to divert attention from the real masterminds. This is the same way terrorists in security uniform commit various atrocities in South East and turn around to blame IPOB for their crimes just to tarnish our global reputation. This is purely a smokescreen to justify their long awaited plan to declare another special military operation in the Eastern region to kill more innocent Biafrans.
Task before security agents
IPOB had also stated at a time that some criminals had cashed-in on the accusation to commit crimes in the South East region. With the additional information from Bernard’s revelation that some of those who attacked them spoke Ogoni dialect, it is high time security agents started thinking outside the box , in their bid to clip the wings of perpetrators of the attacks in the troubled South-East region, as they keep close watch on IPOB.