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Zakari Biu, Hafiz Ringim, in the eye of the storm


By Jide Ajani
LAGOS — When  Abraham Lincoln stated that integrity is a moral force for persuasion, he was indeed relating to events that would happen in Nigeria almost a century and a half later.

In today’s Nigeria, the affairs of the country is being overseen in some quarters by people whose integrity even the government of the day has called and is calling to question.

Hafiz Ringim and Zakari Biu

That, perhaps, captures the story of Police Commissioner Zakari Biu, a police officer of long standing who could be described as a cat with nine lives but who loves the eye of the storm.  He has been suspended pending the outcome of an investigation into the escape of a Boko Haram suspect, Mr. Kabiru Sokoto.

For Nigerians who witnessed Nigeria’s version of a TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION, derisively described as the Oputa Panel home movie in 1999, the name Biu would again resonate.

Although there were many allegations woven around the man, that he remained in the Nigeria Police Force until last Tuesday’s suspension signposts one of two things.
First, is the suggestions, empathisingly so, that the allegations were mere tissues of lies.

Second – and which may bother on indictment – could be that the system decided to turn a blind eye to the allegations and, therefore, decided to let him remain in the force in spite of the confetti of abuses allegedly committed by Biu.

However, if a police officer has been so pummeled with a barrage of allegations, would it not have been more appropriate to saddle him less with assignments that are by their very nature hyper-sensitive?

But because the Nigerian system is one that runs on spirits that render even gods perplexed, Biu continued as a police officer with responsibilities weighty enough to create a disequilibrium in the activities of the force should anything go wrong.

Indeed, things have been going wrong!

Unconfirmed reports have it that just two weeks ago, four suspected members of Boko Haram, arrested with arms and ammunition and left in the care of Biu, escaped under mysterious circumstances.

Now, whether the suspects engaged the police officers watching over them in a shoot out or whether other means bothering on the supernatural were used is not yet known.  But they escaped.

As this incident was still being investigated, the most egregious was to happen:  A suspect alleged to be a member of Boko Haram and who is being touted as the mastermind of the Christmas Day bombing in Madalla, Suleja, Mr. Sokoto, escaped in transit – he was being transported from  Abuja, to Abaji where he has a house for a search when he escaped from the Police.

Even the point of initial arrest of Sokoto poses its own contradictions:  He was arrested in the Borno State Governor’s Lodge in Abuja, after being assisted by an Air Force officer to sneak in preparatory to fleeing the country – that is another matter altogether.  During the arrest of Sokoto, a truck load of policemen was sent in.

Curiously, however, during the movement to Abaji, only four policemen were sent to escort such a high profile suspect.  The team was again – and curiously so – ambushed and the suspect escaped.

But if the conduct or misconduct of Biu creates integrity discounts for the Police Force, the statement from the Minister of Police Affairs, Caleb Oluibolade, that the Inspector General of Police, IGP, Hafix Ringim has already been queried and that a possible sack awaits him in the face of this scandal is very late in coming; what with the bombing of the Force headquarters in Abuja last June.

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