Lawyers, litigants and judges in Owerri, Imo State capital will not forget Friday, January 27, 2017 in a hurry. It is a day to remember after dare devil hoodlums stormed the High Court premises in the town and rescued one of their own, Henry Chibueze, alias Vampire! Moreso Governor Rochas Okorocha had offered N5 million bounty to anybody that could give credible information capable of leading to the re-arrest of the fleeing Vampire. ‘Vampire’ and other inmates Vampire, described as a native of Nwangele local council area of Imo State, had been on the wanted list of the police and the Department of State Security, DSS, before he was apprehended. He was wanted for crimes, including armed robbery and kidnapping. The state heaved a sigh of relief when the DSS announced his capture in far away Ohafia, Abia State and paraded him before journalists.
After concluding their investigation, the police arraigned him in court and he was remanded in prison custody. Last Friday was therefore scheduled for the continuation of the hearing of the case and it was the responsibility of Imo State Command of the Nigeria Prison Service, NPS, to produce the suspect in court. For the law abiding citizens at the High Court premises, it was business as usual. Meanwhile, a Sports Utility Vehicle, SUV, drove into the premises while armed occupants waited patiently for their target. Sunday Vanguard gathered that the scenario changed when the NPS Black Maria conveying over 50 inmates from Owerri prisons arrived. The hoodlums attacked the Black Maria as soon as it parked in the court premises. Six persons, including prison officials and inmates, were critically wounded, even as two were feared dead. A lawyer at the scene as the hoodlums attacked, said the gangsters were fully prepared for the onslaught. “The gangsters were fully prepared for the mission to rescue their man, Vampire. Continuing, the legal practitioner said that there was total confusion in the court premises as the hoodlums fired sporadically from virtually all corners. “People scampered into safety. Some of the accused persons equally ran for their dear lives. I ran into the female toilet in the Bar Centre”, the lawyer said. One of the litigants present at the scene, whose entire body shook as he spoke with Sunday Vanguard, described the scenario as “akin to what we see in movies”. “The attack brought activities in the court premises to abrupt end. The armed men’s mission was to rescue one of their own”, the litigant stated. “The sorry thing is that the armoured vehicle which was stationed at the entrance of the court remained silent and unmoved throughout the operation”. Similarly, a judiciary staff, who also spoke on the condition of confidentiality, lamented that the hoodlums gained entrance into the premises and operated without inhibition. “There is no way I can explain the commando-like incident to the outside world. The booming sound of guns and their operational finesse proved that they were not amateurs in the game”, the judicial staff said. Meanwhile, some of the suspects being conveyed in the ill-fated Black Maria, who felt that they had good cases, ended their search for safety in nearby Government House, and were later handed over to prison authorities. When contacted, the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Taiwo Lakanu, confirmed the incident but explained that it was the headache of the state Prison Command. The Public Relations Officer, PRO, of the Imo State Command of the NPS, Mr. James Maduba, equally confirmed the attack. Maduba also confirmed that Vampire “has escaped from lawful custody”, while six people were critically wounded during the ugly operation”. The PRO said the Command had received a call earlier in the day that some armed men were seen in the High Court premises. “We thought that they were operatives of the DSS. As we were conveying over 50 inmates to the court, the gunmen attacked our men and some of the inmates”, Maduba said. The prisons image maker also disclosed that the critically wounded officials and inmates had been taken to hospital for treatment. “My Comptroller and other security chiefs in the state are on top of the situation”, Maduba assured.