A dawn attack on Enugu state Government House reportedly took place on March 8. Security forces that managed to repel the invasion said 50 gunmen were involved. They drove in a convoy of seven buses, winding their way through the town and right up to the gate of the Government House, the official residence of Governor Sullivan Chime, without being stopped. It was only at the gate that the invaders encountered some resistance, offered by a sprinkling of soldiers, policemen and civil defence personnel. One of them who tried to shut the gate in the face of the attackers received machete cuts on the hand.
The governor’s media spokesman, Mr. Chukwudi Achife, confirmed an attempted attack by “men wearing the uniform and insignia of a cult group”. An earlier report that one gunman was killed was denied by the Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr. Abubakar Mohammed, who said the man believed to have been killed by security operatives did survive and was arrested along with three others whom the police were interrogating. He added that the suspects confessed they were members of the outlawed Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB). Two banners and the flag of the group were abandoned by the fleeing invaders after an exchange of gunfire lasting several hours.
“The suspects said they were sent to mount the MASSOB flag at the Government House”, Mohammed explained to journalists during a briefing two days after the attack. “Earlier reports that one of the suspects was dead are false. He was taken to the hospital for treatment because he was shot. The suspects said their intention was to take over the Government House. We have the names of their sponsors, but we are still investigating to track them down”, he added. The CP also revealed that the attackers were from Anambra state, where MASSOB is based, and that security around the compound had been beefed up.
If there is anything relieving about what happened it is that neither Governor Chime nor any other member of his immediate family was killed or hurt. However, the fact that an attempt was made at forcibly occupying the Government House is frightening. How a gang of 50 armed men was able to find their way to the facility without being stopped by the security forces is bewildering. And we shudder at the precarious security situation of our country generally. Not even government houses that we had thought were armed fortresses are anything but that. If our leaders who are supposed to protect the vulnerable are not themselves secure where they live, who is else is.
MASSOB that used to be a terror in the Igbo-speaking South-eastern states has since been outlawed. Why then are there still persons answering to that hideous name? Why are security forces reluctant to move against them? Are they afraid? Well, we shall know they are not if CP Mohammed can bring to book the group’s sponsors he said have been arrested.