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Bullet Proof Vans: CP Akpoyibo wields the big stick

..Arrests bank officials and policemen

By Ifeanyi Okolie

Lagos State Police Command seem to be ahead of all commands in the country in implementing, to the letter, all policy directions, criminal strategies and manoeuvrers mapped out by their authorities in Abuja.  When detectives from the command are not pursuing fleeing criminals who operated freely in other states, they are busy tracking and arresting dare-devil kidnappers.

It  is on record that many kidnap cases which took place in other states, were easily cracked by policemen from Lagos State Command when ever they were invited to take over such cases.

A similar scenario emerged last week when, a bizarre scene which appeared more like a movie, took place at the Third Mainland Bridge. The Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Marvel Akpoyibo, personally arrested officials of two banks and the escort personnel accompanying bank specie vehicles, which apparently flouted the directive of the Police High Command to embrace bullet proof vehicles in moving cash around.

This time around, they were not blaring sirens, but they were on top speed ferrying cash from one location in Lagos to the other with ordinary bullion vans in contravention of the directives of Police authorities in Abuja. It was apparent to the Police boss that the officials were doing this as a matter of routine.  Nemesis however, caught up with the defaulting officials of Eco Bank and Equatorial Trust Bank (ETB) as the Police Commissioner arrested them himself.

For also putting their lives in danger by disobeying a lawful order, the police officers were arrested for accompanying an “unprotected” bullion van conveying cash. They were deemed to have violated an instruction by the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ogbonna Onovo, that cash transfer must be done with bulletproof vans.

The police officers were arrested for endangering their own lives and those of civilians who could be harmed in case such a van is ambushed by gun-wielding armed robbers. The Police Commissioner, who confirmed their arrest, warned banks operating in the state against exposing the lives of policemen to danger.

“I love my policemen and I do not want them to be unnecessarily exposed to enemy fire while escorting insured cash. We have given this directive for a long time and the banks that have not complied must comply,” Akpoyibo told crime corres-pondents while parading the suspects.

He threatened to prosecute the erring officials, who have been flouting the legitimate authority of the Police high Command. He said the way the banks cherished their money was the same way he cherishes his officers and could not afford to lose any one of them.

It will be recalled that sometime ago, Alhaji Uba Ringim, Deputy Inspector-General of Police in-charge of administration sent out circulars to his colleagues in the high command and the 36 state Police Commands and the FCT, re-emphasizing the commitment of the force in using bullet-proof vans to halt bullion bank robbery incidents.

Titled: Re: Need to Re-emphasize the Force Commitment in Permanently Eliminating Bank Robbery Bullion Van Attacks among Others in the Banking Sector, the circular expressed dismay of the Inspector-General of the Police for non-compliance with his directive on the cancellation of Specie Escort for banks with sub-standard bullion vans by Commissioner of Police Commands/Formations in the country. Ringim’s circular stated that the directive to banks was contained in a letter No. CB: 2002/IGP.SEC/ABJ/Vol.25/215 of September 28, 2007 issued to the Bankers Forum setting out conditions for cash movement at the peak of bank robbery, bullion van attacks among others. Without equivocation, the directive warned banks to use bomb, fire and bullet proof bullion vans in cash movement and to also adequately kit policemen on escort duties.

Part of the circular to the Police Commands and Formations throughout the country reads: “Recent observation revealed that banks, with exception of few, still flout these directives with impunity thereby endangering the lives of our policemen on specie escort.

The non-compliance with the Inspector-General of Police directive is a danger signal bearing in mind the fact that these directives and strategies were responsible for the massive reduction of bank robberies and other related crimes. Experience has also shown that criminals would always utilize any loophole to perpetuate their nefarious activities, more so that the Force is taking giant and successful strides in containing the crime of kidnapping.

“This circular will serve as a reminder to all the Command Commissioners of Police/Formations that the conditions and strategies regarding the movement of cash are still in force. More so, that the safety of our officers and men should be paramount in such movements.

The Force cannot afford to continue to risk the lives of our Policemen and expose depositor’s money to criminal gangs when there is a solution to the problem.   The Inspector-General of Police therefore directs all Commissioners of Police and Police Mobile Force Commanders not to honour request for Specie Escort from any bank that failed to procure the ideal bullion van duly certified as meeting the ideal specification by experts.”

The circular further noted that the directive has now become necessary because banks have apparently become reluctant to acquire these ideal bullion vans as directed. However, although the DIG warned in his circular that disciplinary measures would be taken against breach of the circular, it has come to light that huge sums are still being moved without the approved bullet proof vehicles. This has been sorely responsible for the criminal gang’s effrontery in the latest rounds of attacks in which lives of innocent people have been lost.

Police sources said the Lagos State Police Commissioner has vowed to intensify efforts in trailing and arresting those that will flout this directive.  It was also gathered that he directed all Divisional Police Officers to watch out for such defaulters with a stern warning to punish any of them found to have overlooked such operators in their areas of jurisdiction.

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