At least 10 police officers were killed and six police stations razed in two regions of Nigeria within a two-week period, a PREMIUM TIMES review of newspaper and police reports shows.
The attacks occurred in the South-east and South-south regions between February 23 and March 9.
The separate attacks, which are yet to be proven to be related, occurred in seven states with Cross River and Imo witnessing the largest number of incidents.
The most recent incident occurred on March 9 when gunmen attacked a police station and burnt vehicles in Imo State.
The motive behind the attacks is unclear, for now. Also, there is no evidence that the attacks are related although some suspects were arrested after a few of the attacks.
Police spokesperson Frank Mba did not respond to several calls and messages seeking comment on the attacks.
The police on its Twitter page, however, tagged the perpetrators of one of the “unprovoked” attacks as “hoodlums,” saying they were about 200 people armed with AK47 rifles and machetes.
“Dire consequences await any person or group of persons who, under whatever guise, engages in an unwarranted attack on any public property and directs all Command CPs to employ all legally permissible measures to protect lives and property,” the police said while announcing the arrest of some suspects.
Also, Irene Ugbo, police spokesperson in Cross River told PREMIUM TIMES that “the information we got was that during the operation (attack by the gunmen), the bad boys would shout one particular thing – IPOB and all that.”
When asked if she thought these were coordinated attacks on the police in Cross River State, she said, “We wouldn’t know what these people want because some days ago some of our men were killed in Calabar, and now this one is happening. I think it’s a planned thing, they are up to something which we need to tackle quickly.”
If the deadly attacks on the Nigerian police continue, security experts believe, it could complicate the already deteriorating security situation in the country.
“There’s a lack of trust between the police and the general public before now,” said a security expert, Timothy Avele. “These new attacks will only widen the gap and lack of trust even more and that will not be good especially for the public in terms of police swift response to criminals activities and how cases are handled.”
He also believes that if the police allow this to dampen their operational spirit, they will lose the ability to source intelligence from the public.
“The solution rests with the police to restore and rebuild the trust between them and the public. After all, they’re working and being paid by the public in the real sense,” Mr Avele said.
Meanwhile, Yakubu Uwaidem, a resident of Akwa Ibom, expressed worry over the attacks, saying security should be every person’s business.
“Regardless of what some of them are doing that is relatively abnormal; (it) doesn’t warrant citizens to go far destroying police facilities,” Mr Uwaidem said.
He added that the police risk their lives to protect Nigerians.
“However you look at this act, (it) is condemnable and the consequences are enormous.”
The attacks on police personnel and facilities occur despite Nigeria grappling with several security crises, including a decade-long Boko Haram insurgency in the North-east, banditry in many northern states, as well as kidnappings and perennial clashes between herders and farmers in several parts of the country.
Below is the timeline of the recent attacks on police personnel and facilities.
February 23 – Two police officers reportedly lost their lives when some unknown gunmen attacked a police station in Aba, Abia State.
February 24 – Hoodlums killed a police officer and razed down a patrol vehicle in Ekwulobia in Anambra State.
February 25 – Four police officers were killed at MCC in Calabar, Cross River state by gunmen.
February 26 – Gunmen razed a police station in Imo State, Nigeria’s South-east, the station that was just renovated after being razed down by hoodlums during the #ENDSARS protests.
March 1 – Some gunmen attacked a police station in Essien Udim Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State and by daylight another attack reportedly occurred at the Iboko Divisional Police Station in Izzi Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, Nigeria’s South-east.
March 9 – Gunmen attacked a police station in Imo State and burnt several vehicles.