In view of the recent communal clashes that have displaced over 12,500 persons in four villages in Nasarawa state last week, many displaced are still living in apprehension of possible reprisal attacks though the governor assured them of adequate security while urging them to return to their respective domains. Our correspondent in Lafia, ABEL DANIEL sought the view of the Commissioner of Police on how many people were arrested so far and the command’s readiness to provide security to those who are willing to return to their homes.
Can you tell us the role your Command played in the crises that bedeviled the state in recent times?
The role of the police so far is to be neutral and to allow the law to take its course. What we do is to investigate whoever may have committed or gotten involved in one crime or the other, and to make sure such a person or persons are brought before the court for the law. We don’t want to get involved in the political, religious or ethnic issues of the crisis.
That is why all those found with AK 47, locally made guns, those who used offensive weapons, those who attacked their fellow human beings during the crises have been arrested and some charged to court while some are still under investigation.
There is never a crisis in the state that the police did not make arrest of suspects. At Asakio, suspects were arrested and charged to court; in Agyaragu, 19 suspects were taken to court. Most of the suspects were even remanded in police custody for a very long time, but when the court and the DPP found some of them were not directly connected with the crisis and because we didn’t have sufficient evidence to link them to the cause of the crisis, their release was granted.
Those that were found guilty after investigations and linked with the offence of causing public disturbance were charged appropriately. I can boldly tell you that the police in Nasarawa state have been playing their role of investigating and arresting of suspects, but we don’t want to be involved any form of political, ethnic or religious colorations as some people are trying to drag us into .
In the Agbashi clash, how many suspects did you arrest?
The Agbashi crisis actually started at Agbashi but escalated to other villages. Though the root-cause is traced to Agbashi in Ekye development area, based on the allegation of a particular farmer who inflicted a machete cut on somebody’s arm, the people involved were all arrested by the police.
The crisis further spread as far as Bassa where people took it upon themselves to kill their fellow human beings. We made arrests and two herdsmen were apprehended and found with AK 47 riffle with 60 rounds of live ammunition we strongly believe must have been used in that particular locality.
In all, over 22 suspects were arrested and are still at the CID custody for further investigation. Some of the suspects arrested were in possession of guns, machete and locally made guns.
Some groups have alleged that the police are not proactive enough, and that was why the crisis spread easily; in view that, do you think your command has sufficient officers and all the logistics to be combat ready?
As Shakespeare said, there is no way that one can read a man’s heart on the face. No human can be so proactive as to act in advance to what has not happened.
We cannot read people mind, nobody told us that somebody was going to cut another man’s hand at Agbashi on that fateful day, so if people are saying that we are not proactive enough, it means they want to stretch us to go beyond our limits to act to what has not happened.
But I think from what has happened, we have acted well within our capacity. Don’t forget that in the course of the crises, the IG sent troops from Kogi, Benue and Niger to assist us. In some of the places where these crises happened early last year, our officers are still stationed there till now.
To say that the police is not proactive enough to stop the crises from escalating is not right. We have held peace meetings with people on several times and yet they still go ahead to do what they have in mind to do.
In many societies, you have people who are simply non conformists; no matter what you do or tell them not to do, they will still go ahead. Those are the kind of people we are after in the society. So what has not happened, we cannot measure it or prevent it until it happens. What has not happened, we cannot judge or use any barometer to measure or determine anything.
What is your message to warring parties, the injured, displaced, and communities affected?
My counsel and advice to such people as you have mentioned is in line with the appeal made by his Excellency, the Governor asking those who are displaced to return to their homes and settlements.
I want to also add that eight security base have been created by the government to provide adequate security to villages that are evacuated. The government has equally urged the people to resume their normal businesses.
My advice now is that the displaced people should go back to their places in line with the government policy as adequate security is being put in order for the safety of the people in those areas.
We will make sure that nobody or community is attacked. Nobody should exercise fear of reprisal attack; the police is out to protect lives and properties. The police is working hard to make sure fear is eradicated so that people can move around freely.
Further more, people should have the courage and confidence on the government to go back to their respective homes. Anybody who knows about any sect or persons threatening the existence of their community should not hesitate inform the police nearest to their domain. We are equiped to ensure adequate security for all these people.
For the warring parties, the governor while addressing the people who are involved said that they have lived together for years, and what is bad is bad. We should therefore not hide under any guise to cover what is bad by trying to trigger off communal clashes here and there.
We should fish them out of our society because they don’t mean well for you. If people have been living together for so long a time and all of a sudden they started to kill and destroy themselves, it suggests that some people are definitely behind that act. Nobody should allow himself to be used to cause confusion in the community.
Anybody who uses his head to break coconut may not live to eat that coconut. Don’t allow anyone to use your head to break coconut either.
Do not allow yourself under any circumstance to go and make trouble that can expose you to danger and you may not live to tell the story again. Life is precious.
Have any of your officers been affected so far in the crises?
Yes. At Agyaragu, one of our inspectors was shut on his arm but we have not lost any one yet.