Tension had taken over the five states in the Southeast over yesterday’s in-door order by pro-Biafra agitators, proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), to mark this year’s Biafra Remembrance day in honour of millions of people who died in the war between 1967 and 1970.
The leading separatist group in remembering war victims over two days, with a candlelit march on Sunday evening and a strict order for people to remain indoors on Monday for their own safety.
The streets of Owerri, the Imo State capital, were empty yesterday until the strange calmness was broken with the frightful killing of Gulak. The former Presidential aide and Adamawa politician, who in 2019 served as the chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) committee that conducted the governorship primaries in Imo, was killed by six gunmen.
A statement issued by the police spokesperson in the state, Bala Elkana, disclosed that only Gulak was killed by the gunmen in a vehicle he was riding to the airport. Elkana said Gulak left his hotel room in Owerri on Sunday morning to catch a flight at Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport, Owerri, without informing the police despite the security situation in the state.
The statement disclosed that the state Commissioner of Police, Abutu Yaro, had ordered a discreet investigation into the murder incident. “On May 30, around 7:20 a.m. armed bandits intercepted and attacked a Toyota Camry cab carrying Ahmed Gulak and two others who were on their way to Sam Mbakwe Airport.
“Ahmed Gulak left his room at Protea Hotel without informing the police nor sister agencies in view of the fragile security situation in the Southeast and Imo in particular. He left without any security escorts and while the cab driver took the irregular route to the airport, six-armed bandits, who rode in a Toyota Sienna intercepted, identified and shot at Gulak around Umueze Obiangwu in Ngor-Okpala Local Government Area, close to the airport,” the statement read.
Two weeks ago, the Acting Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba, had suspended police personnel from escorting VIPs in the five states of the Southeast and Rivers. The directive was contained in a police wireless message following attacks on policemen by IPOB members and its paramilitary wing, the Eastern Security Network (ESN).
President of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari last night expressed anger and disgust over what he called “the heinous murder of Gulak.” Reacting to the development, the President said: “I am repulsed by such premeditated and gruesome murder of Gulak by evil people who are determined to undermine the peace, unity and territorial integrity of our country.
“Let me warn however that nobody or group of people who engages in such despicable acts should expect to go free. We will deploy all resources at our disposal to ensure that such callous and criminal elements are brought to justice.”
Ondo State Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, has described the news of Gulak’s death as shocking and disturbing. In a statement, he said: “This is unacceptable. This is one murder too many. It is senseless and wicked. The perpetrators of this heinous act are enemies of this country.
“We use this medium to express our solidarity with our brother, Governor of Imo, Hope Uzodimma. We admonish him and other governors in the Southeast to confront the current security challenge and end the bloodbath in the land. This cowardly act is calculated to instigate Nigerians against one another, particularly Northerners, against the Igbo living outside the Southeast.”
MEANWHILE, IPOB has said it was not responsible for the death of Gulak, stressing that his death was a “professional assassination”. Denying involvement in the attack, IPOB spokesman, Emma Powerful, insisted that members of the group did not carry out the attack.
He said: “This is political assassination; we are not in the same party with Gulak. Uzodimma and APC know about Gulak’s death; we do not know anything about his movement, talk more of him being in the state.”
The Northern Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN) has tasked Governor Uzodimma to identify Gulak’s killers. The youths threatened to declare Uzodimma persona non grata in the entire northern states.
NYCN National President, Isah Abubakar, in a statement in Maiduguri, said: “The state government must give an account of those who killed Gulak. The Federal Government should act appropriately to avoid the current situation from escalating into a civil war.”
The group, while threatening to take revenge, said: “The governor, who is the chief security officer of the state, must bring those involved in the assassination to justice.”