Governor Hope Uzodimma of State Imo has given reason for Saturday’s security raid at Eke-Ututu Market in Orsu Local Government Area.
Security agents burnt shops in the market after Improvised Explosive Devices materials were allegedly found in the place.
Addressing newsmen on the development at the Government House in Owerri on Wednesday, Uzodimma said that bandits operating in the area use the IEDs to fight security operatives.
He said a Major in the Nigerian Army on duty around Orsu Awo-idemmili died last month from an explosion from the device.
He said: “Last Saturday, a joint security force, which arrested a bandit, took him after his confession to guide them to where they operate from and manufacture the explosives.
“It turned out to be Eke-Ututu Market.
“They discovered four shops where fertilisers, ammonium sulphate and electrical gadgets used in manufacturing explosives were packed.”
The Governor said the Captain, who led the operation, and another officer, were currently lying critical at the Federal Medical Centre, Owerri.
He further said that the soldiers recovered all the weapons and fertilisers used by the bandits to manufacture IEDs.
Uzodinmma said: “In the process, they burnt down shops and this is consistent with our policy.
“However, they were so tactful that no innocent life was lost.
“They were able to destroy all the shops, where the items were stored.”
Uzodimma expressed concern that rather than visit the scene to ascertain the true situation of event, opposition candidates preferred to condemn the activities of security agencies.
He said that some were so brazen to blackmail the security agencies, questioning why they should go there at all.
He said that traders were not allowed into the market “without paying taxes to unknown gunmen, adding: “These are illegitimate taxes to enable people to open their shops.
“This is what we have been fighting all through.”
Uzodimma said that his administration would stop at nothing in the fight against terrorism, banditry and kidnapping in the state.
He said: “It is not politics.
“It is about the security of lives and property of our people.”
According to him, the state government will continue to support security agencies to work efficiently.
The governor, who expressed regrets over the “collateral damage” suffered during the raid, promised to replace and rebuild the market.
He said: “So, when Eke-Ututu Market is destroyed to give Imo peace, the Government will also rebuild it.
“If in the process, there are innocent traders who lost their items, government will work out a compensation for them.
“But government has a responsibility to fight crime.”
Uzodimma urged community leaders, residents and visitors with useful information on the bandits’ hideouts to volunteer it to help in their arrest.
The governor said that the operation was executed by a combined team of the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Navy, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps and Nigeria Police.
He said that contrary to speculation, “no local vigilante, called Ebubeagu, joined in the operation”.