Owerri High Court premises on Friday morning witnessed stampede as unknown bandits stormed the court, situated along Orlu Road, Owerri, capital city of Imo State, setting free their alleged member and a notorious kidnap/armed robbery kingpin, Henry Chibueze, also known as, Vampire.
The suspect and others had been brought into the court premises for their suits on kidnapping and other heinous criminal charges to be heard, before the ugly incident took place.
Saturday PUNCH learnt that no such incident had happened in the state before now, even during the notorious case of ‘Otokoto’ saga between 90s and 2000s before the culprits were sentenced to death.
Our correspondent learnt that shortly after Chibueze, who had been in the prison custody in Owerri, and about 50 other inmates were taken in a Black Maria to the court premises, some bandits invaded the premises, shooting and exchanging shots with security operatives. Some people of those present were said to have sustained injuries.
As others were scampering for safety, it was gathered that they aided Vampire, who had been standing trial, to escape. As of the time of filing this report, our correspondent had not established the full details and the number of casualties.
In 2015, Governor Rochas Okorocha, at the Government House, Owerri, informed journalists about the alleged atrocities committed by the suspect.
While parading the suspects, the Director of State Services said that the suspect was in his 30s.
Meanwhile, the State Public Relations Officer of the Nigerian Prisons Service, Mr. Maduba James, disclosed that the suspect, Henry, was at large, confirming that over six people were critically injured while the bandits were exchanging gunshots with security operatives.
He explained that the security operatives were on top of the situation to ensure that there was no breakdown of law and order in the state.
James said, “We were in the office this morning when we got a distress call that some gunmen were in the court premises. We thought they were DSS officials because by then, we were conveying over 50 inmates to the court for hearing. However, the gunmen attacked some of our men and some of the inmates. They were critically injured and have been taken to a hospital for treatment.
“Nevertheless, one of the inmates, who we know as Vampire, is currently at large, but my comptroller and other security operatives in the state are on top of the situation.”
When contacted, the state Commissioner of Police, Taiwo Lakanu, said he was dressing up to go to work when he heard the sound of sporadic gunshots. He said, “As the court is adjacent to my residence, I quickly mobilised the policemen in my compound and we moved to place. The chase led to the arrest of some suspects.”