Traditional rulers in Imo did not get permission to hold the meeting where two of them were killed by gunmen on Tuesday, the state police command said in a statement.
Imo police commissioner Rabiu Hussaini said “since hoodlums razed Njaba Police Division and killed two officers, only policemen on vehicular patrol were posted to the area to help check crime.
“When the command got wind of the attack, the commissioner of police mobilised the command’s tactical unit to the meeting venue to foil the attack.
“At about 3 p.m., information was received that hoodlums, suspected to be members of the proscribed Independent People of Biafra/Eastern Security Network (IPOB/ESN) were attacking the venue.
“It was at where the Transitional Chairman of Njaba Local Government Council, Mr Emeka Ihenacho, was holding meeting with some transitional rulers.
“The commissioner of police immediately dispatched the command’s tactical teams to the scene and on their arrival they were informed that the hoodlums had fled into the bush on sighting the police.
“At the scene, it was revealed that the council’s transitional chairman had invited and was having meeting with 15 traditional rulers of Njaba communities without informing the police or other security agencies.
“While the meeting was in progress, bandits suspected to be IPOB/ESN members came and started shooting at them indiscriminately, after which they ran back into the bush.’’
Mr Hussaini commiserated with the bereaved families and that the fleeing bandits would be arrested and prosecuted,’’ the statement read.
Alongside other federal agencies, the police have faced frequent attacks linked to unidentified gunmen operating across the South-East in recent months. The police have repeated said they have capacity to secure the region, but the crisis has nonetheless continued to fester.
Last month, Chike Akunyili was killed between Onitsha and Enugu while returning from an award event in honour of his late wife Dora. The suspects are still at large.
Although the police have insisted that they should be informed ahead of gatherings, there’s no law mandating civilians in Nigeria to provide information about their legitimate events to the police in advance.