The Nigeria Police Force detained 16 suspects, including two priests, in Imo state for suspected involvement with agents of the Eastern Security Network, or ESN.
According to the police, among the suspects arrested were Pastor Cletus Nwachukwu Egole, aka Alewa, a pastor with the Holy Blessed Trinity Sabbath Church in Orlu, Imo State, and Prophet Michael Uba, a cleric with the Association of Jewish Faith, for allegedly being the masterminds of the various attacks on security personnel, as well as providing spiritual cover for the gang, SaharaReporters said.
According to a police release issued on Sunday, the ESN used Egole’s house as an operating base, and he even donated his late brother’s farmland to the gang for use as a hideout and training camp.
The Force Public Relations, CP Frank Mba, said, “The arrest, which is an outcome of painstaking, deliberate and tireless efforts by operatives of the Nigeria Police working in collaboration with their counterparts from the Nigerian Army and the Nigerian Air Force is aimed at bringing to justice persons responsible for the emerging trend of attacks on security personnel and wanton destruction of security facilities and operational assets.
“The suspects – Ugochukwu Samuel a.k.a Biggy, 28-year-old native of Arochukwu LGA in Abia State; Raphael Idang, 31-year-old native of Odukpani LGA of Cross River state; Cletus Nwachukwu Egole aka ‘Alewa’, 60-years-old native of Orlu in Imo State; Michael Uba, 33yrs from Imo State; and twelve (12) others in the course of investigation, were implicated in multiple felonies committed across several states in the South-Eastern part of the Federation. 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.
“Specifically, investigations revealed that the duo of Ugochukwu Samuel, aka Biggy and Raphael Idang were among the criminal elements that attacked policemen on duty at a checkpoint on 24th December, 2020 along Orlu-Ihiala Road in Imo state where two police officers were killed and a police Hilux patrol van set ablaze.”
According to the police, some of the suspects confessed to being active members of IPOB (Indigenous People of Biafra) and ESN (Eastern Security Network).
“A total of nine AK-47 rifles, five other sophisticated firearms, 17 AK-47 magazines, 549 AK-47 live ammunition, 10 Improvised Explosive Devices, camouflage bullet proof vests, walkie talkies and other incriminating items were recovered from the suspects,” Mba said.
“All the suspects will be charged to court on conclusion of investigations,” he added.