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Why the police in S-South cannot confront men of the underworld killing their officers 

•Politicians send criminals to snatch weapons from policemen – Retired army officer

By Emma Amaize, Editor, South-South, Egufe Yafugborhi, Davies Iheamnachor (Port Harcourt),   Ike Uchechukwu (Calabar), Eme Idio (Yenagoa), Harris-Okon Emmanuel, Chioma Onuegbu, Perez Brisibe (Ughelli) and Alemma-Ozioruva Aliu (Benin-City )

A Divisional Police Officer, DPO, in a South-South state told Sunday Vanguard secretly: “In my station, we have only three AK 47 rifles and one patrol van allocated to us from the State Command. The Commissioner is aware that we do not have arms to fight men of the underworld.

“How I manage is that at night, I deploy some policemen to guard the station with two of the AK 47 rifles, because we cannot afford a situation where criminals overrun our station at night or suspects in the cell break loose with no weapon to challenge them, while I send a patrol team out with just one AK-47 rifle.

“In other words, only one policeman in the patrol team has weapon. So they must pray not to run into armed robbers, but if they meet ‘bad boys’, you know there is nothing they can do with one AK 47 rifle against people carrying more sophisticated weapons”.

He went on, “So when you hear that policemen are disarmed or they are scared to face armed robbers, this is part of the reasons. In the case of an under-attack resident within the neighbourhood calling our Division in the night, the patrol team has to weigh its options before moving in; otherwise, the heavily-armed gang will finish them”.

One of our reporters teased a policeman found catnapping at about 10.02 am at the security outpost of a bank in a state capital on Tuesday that his wife did not allow him to sleep at night.

And he replied: “No, that is not the situation. The truth is that I did night duty up till this morning and, because of shortage of personnel, I have to resume here (bank) at 7.00 am without resting.

“We are supposed to rest, at least take a day off after doing night duty. But in my Division, it is not like that and, honestly, this is not the way our colonial masters designed it. That is why you see me sleeping, nobody can cheat nature.”

A police officer heading the crime unit of a police division in the state told his own story: “We have a push-and-start patrol van quite alright, but the DPO does not give us money to repair the van or buy fuel. He said there is no provision for it and I and my boys have to pursue criminals. If the car is faulty, we have to raise money for repair and we buy fuel to patrol.

“I hope you know it is not water that we put in the van to chase criminals. So Mr. Journalist, tell me how we will raise the money.

“Some policemen do not have office. We construct makeshift structures to serve as our offices inside a police station and, sometimes, we stay under a tree to work; that is our office. Go to some police stations in Benin-City, Edo State capital and other states in the South-south and find out what I am saying”.

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Investigation by Sunday Vanguard shows that the law enforcement officers the public expect to protect them are not only dog-eared, but also unfit to secure themselves.

‘New police station without roof’     

Besides corruption, which is like a model in every police station, policemen in Edo operate under unpalatable environments. They lack logistics support, including the very uniform they wear and office accommodation. The command also lacks adequate personnel.

A private investigator and member, Police Community Relations Committee, PCRC, Mr. Alfred Darosha, in his assessment of the situation, said:   “Even up to their kits, I can count about 10 officers that I have had to sew uniform for because they were looking so dirty, weapons are not there, vehicles are not there. Uniforms that are supposed to be free, they buy in Cooperative. Every Officer-in-Charge, OC, Tailor knows me because I will always take one policeman or the other to him and say, ‘sew uniform for him, I will pay you’. It is as bad as that.

“They established a New Oba Market Police Station, no personnel, no logistics, there is no roof over the building. We had to contribute money to roof that place. If you go to Esigie Police Station, I renovated it. I have renovated with my money nothing less than 15 police stations in Edo State.

“If you go to inside Esigie Police Station where they used to call Family Unit; that is where they have Marine Police, you will see a plaque naming the people who contributed to renovate the police station. My name is on the wall”.

He added:   “Another thing is that the police in Edo cannot stop taking money for bail. Bail is supposed to be free, but bail is not free because they have to help themselves when logistics are not coming from anywhere. They have to use this odd money to provide the logistics like case files, biros, everything they have to buy.

.“The last vehicles that were given to the police in the state came during the first tenure of former Governor Adams Oshiomhole; the second tenure, nothing, and since the incumbent governor, Godwin Obaseki, came, nothing.

“But l do not blame the government because the police are not helping matters. The Inspector General, IG, is given money to buy vehicles. I went to Force Headquarters in Abuja recently and saw brand new vehicles there just lying fallow, brand new Toyota Hilux trucks. I counted up to 20; what were they doing there?

“The thing is that Edo is starved of personnel and logistics. That is why they cannot perform optimally, that is why they cannot stop taking bribe, they cannot stop taking money for bail”.

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According to him, the policing of the police is also lacking in Edo despite the existence of the Commissioner of Police, CP, and IG Monitoring Units. Darosha said: “They (policemen) do anything they like because of the system. Recently, I got a hint that there will be rival cult killings and I gave the information to the police.

“They gave it to an officer for investigation but what did he do? Nothing! Two weeks after, I started hearing of killings, robbery in broad daylight, killings in broad daylight”.

The private investigator said the Edo CP is doing his best as he has genuine motive, but pointed out that there are sycophants around him, who, according to him, monetize every criminal investigation.

“Some people under him, you give them information, they monetize it.

“I have not been sleeping in my house for close to two years. I gave information to somebody. I wrote to Abuja and Abuja sent it down for investigation, and they gave the information out. Since then, they have been trying to kidnap and kill me. They have gone to my house several times to rob me, dispossess me of valuable items, but I thank God for this CP, he is trying but a tree cannot make a forest”.

Obaseki doesn’t believe in noise making – Ohonbamu

Meanwhile, Governor Godwin Obaseki has designed a new “security architecture” for the state to take care of criminal activities.

But it seems the administration does not want to make its intervention on security public.

The state Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Hon Paul Ohonbamu, told Sunday Vanguard: “There are certain things that you cannot see. Security issues are sensitive issues that you cannot always make public or see. For instance, few days ago, there was a security meeting in Government House. Now ask yourself, why is it that when people commit crime in Edo now, within hours, they are arrested?

“There are other ways things are being done on security. It cannot be vehicles alone; at a time, vehicles were also given to them, then communication gadgets given too. So he can just call the security agencies and do what he wants to do without announcing because he does not believe in noise making but he achieves results”.

Rivers police hampered by operational challenges – CP Ahmed

Harping on operational limitations, Rivers State Commissioner of Police, CP Zaki Ahmed, said: “The command is facing several challenges, including inadequate manpower, lack of training, poor crime fighting equipment, lack of office and residential accommodation and patrol vehicles. I appreciate the IG, who graciously drafted 20 patrol vehicles and those donated by the Dangote Foundation. That has helped the command in the fight against crime.”

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A police officer, who stressed lack of capacity building among the rank and file, said there was need for officers and men in the country to be updated regularly with new crime fighting skills to deal with the growing sophistry of criminals in the society.

Our police are partisan, extortion – minded – Security expert

On his part, a security expert, Shola Mese, noted that beyond the acknowledged limitation, one of the weaknesses of the police is the knack for extortion and struggle to be posted to political office holders and wealthy individuals.

“Recall that in the 2016 Rivers re-run election, a DSP, leading 12 officers of MOPOL 48, on election duty, was beheaded along with his orderly by suspected political thugs. Such unthinkable incidents happen these days during elections, you now have PDP police and a different police loyal to APC”, Mese said.

“And in spite of the assurances by the authorities in Abuja that the police no longer indulge in private guard duties, several officers and men are still found all over the place escorting, shining shoes, opening house gates and car doors for expatriates and private Nigerians with ready gratifications to offer.

“These extraneous duties police have arrogated to themselves make them more vulnerable to attacks. Elections are here again, if the police do not turn a new leaf, we could experience worse incidents.”

PH residents say police nonchalant   

In Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital, 18 out of 20 residents who spoke to Sunday Vanguard in separate interviews, in their amateur assessment, said the police were too complacent and unorganized to effectively check sustained kidnapping, armed robberies, killings, baby factories and sundry crimes in the state.

They highlighted that the perceived weaknesses account for the impunity with which armed men have killed policemen in the state. Within two months this year, the state police command lost over eight men to bandits’ attacks, with firearms of the victims carted away.

Media consultant, Alambo Fred, said that between Emuhua, Rivers State and Mbiama, Bayelsa, no less than 15 checkpoints line the East-West Road,   yet vehicles are shot at by bandits, drivers and passengers killed as others are kidnapped and ransom paid for their freedom with valuables and cash lost.

In C’River, no refresher training for 15-20 years

In Cross River State, a police officer narrated to Sunday Vanguard the rot in the system.

“In recent times, many policemen have indeed lost their rifles and sometimes service pistols to criminals even at check points and flash points owing to various factors, including proper implementation of protocols and Standard Operational Practice, SOP”, he said anonymously.

“Many policemen have not received refresher or further training since they left Police College (PC), our superiors and the authority expect us to still function effectively with the training we got 15 to 20 years ago. It does not work that way because, every second, criminals are improving on their attack and assault strategies.

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“A policeman is supposed to be equipped, not be reactive, but proactive because if he is proactive, he can stop the crime even before it happens. For instance at a check point, policemen are not supposed to be less than five and must be strategically positioned to counter any form of assault from hoodlums.

“But most times, you discover that a policeman is not at alert because he is trying to get tips from commuters and, oftentimes that is the only window a criminal needs to strike. So there must be consistent training to match these criminals and nip their plans in the bud.

“SOP must be followed at all times and every piece of intelligence must not be treated with levity because you never can tell which one will save life or save your job because the rifle, in most cases, is even valued more than the man carrying it. So training and retraining must be emphasized and it must be regular”.

Gun for gun, voodoo for voodoo

A policeman, who claimed to have enlisted eight years ago, opened up: “To be frank with you, I never lost my guard and my nozzle will never point to the ground until I leave my duty post because I know that I am a target. Many people leave things to chance, but these criminals do not, they device every means necessary, including voodoo.

Police

“What they carry oftentimes makes them untouchable even with an assault rifle like AK 47. So if you are not well prepared, you will just die for nothing.

“Government ought to make it in such a way that we too can prepare ourselves spiritually to match them (criminals) gun for gun, voodoo for voodoo. The big men up there know these things, they are real and this is why criminals are dreaded because they improvise, use all crude methods and even, nowadays, you find out that you are dealing with ex-service men.

“So your training is nothing to them because they have also been trained and experienced on the job; as they carry out operations (criminal activities) regularly, they get used to it and adapt to any environment they are in and they can easily cause havoc”.

‘Homeland Security to complement police’

Chief Press Secretary to Governor Ben Ayade, Mr. Christian Ita, said government was doing its best to ensure the state is safe.

“We created an office of the State Security Adviser to coordinate security operations in the state. As you would have noticed during the launching of Operation Crocodile Smile III, Prof Ayade was commended for his avowed support to the security agencies in the state”, Ita said.

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‘’Cross River does not have oil. We are a tourist destination and tourists come here a lot. So we try to create a symbiotic relationship with the police and create other programmes that can motivate them to give their best, especially as the Calabar Carnival draws near.

“It can never be enough and we keep being proactive too, which is why we created the Homeland Security to support the police through the provision of operational vehicles and other logistics. We believe there is always room for improvement but so far they are doing their best”.

Police taking counter actions – PPRO

Police Public Relations Officer in Cross River State, DSP Irene Ugbo, said although it was true that they lacked adequate manpower, policemen in the state were giving their all for the state to be peaceful.

Irene said:” Anyone alleging that we are not well trained is being economical with the truth. As we speak, there is a refresher training going on. And if there are people, who lobby to be posted to lucrative areas or beats, I am not aware of such.

“You can never go to where you have not been posted. But let it be known that human beings are not infallible. Sometimes some of them sleep off, they lose their guard and it creates a window for criminals to strike. But we are taking measures to address such occurrences”.

Out-of-date weapons in Bayelsa

Lack of incentives, motivation and poor equipping of the officers top the reasons for the poor performance of policemen in Bayelsa State, according to some policemen who spoke to Sunday Vanguard.

A policeman (names withheld) serving at a police station in Ogbia local government area but residing in Yenagoa, the state capital, from where he goes to work three days every week, said he could not risk his life because the outpost station is not fortified.

He said the community was prone to attack and because the policemen manning the station are not well equipped, he would not endanger his life for nothing.

Until his recent posting to the semi-urban locality, the policeman was with the state government security outfit codenamed Operation Doo Akpor. According to him, serving in the security outfit and providing security for top politicians were among the most lucrative beats.

“Here, we are constantly under threats by criminal gangs who have sophisticated arms and ammunition. We have families and loved ones and no one in his right frame of mind will risk his life by confronting criminals wielding such superior weapons”, he added.

‘Frequent transfer of Police Commissioners unhelpful’

Coordinator of Bayelsa Advance Movement, BAM, Mr Fynface Suotimi, blamed security lapses in the state on frequent transfer and posting of Commissioners of Police to the state.

Recall that the state has had about seven Commissioners of Police in the last one year. A new CP resumed duty about a fortnight ago, a development Suotimi said was not healthy.

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His words: “The frequent transfer and posting of Commissioners of Police is affecting the coordination of security in the state. A situation where a Commissioner of Police doesn’t last more than three months and in some cases just one month is not healthy for a state because there is bound to be a distortion in security arrangement.”

Worried about the insecurity in Bayelsa and frequent transfer of Police Commissioners, the state House of Assembly, penultimate Saturday, held a special session on the matter during which it accused the All Progressives Congress (APC) of alleged complicity in the transfers and possible disbandment of the state security outfit by the federal authorities.

Reacting, the spokesman for the Bayelsa State Police Command, DSP Asinim Butswat, dismissed the allegations, saying: “We have a structure with senior officers holding command positions. So the change of CPs has nothing to do with whatever challenges the command is facing. It is not low morale either. Crime at times is a galloping phenomenon; it will go up and down.

“Once we notice that there is an increase in crime, we change strategy, we redeploy our men which we have done and we are sure that we will be able to combat these reported cases”.

Lack of enough arms, corruption in Delta

In Delta State, you do not need anyone to tell you from the manner bandits attack, disarm and kill policemen that the policemen lack up- to- the- minute proficiency for their job and are inadequately armed.

Otherwise, it is inexplicable how criminals can boldly snatch arms from a trained police officer. Sunday Vanguard sighted many police detectives working under trees and makeshift structures in the state.

The Commissioner of Police, Muhammad Mustafa, who appears to be doing his best to address the situation he met in the oil-rich state, where large numbers of policemen are posted to lucrative beats, leaving out the core area of crime fighting, attributed the upsurge in attacks on policemen in the state, and the loss of police rifles to hoodlums, to the closeness of the 2019 general elections and the countdown to Christmas.

“You know the political time and Yuletide are here. So, hoodlums need weapons for their nefarious activities,” he said.

On recovery of stolen weapons, Mustafa said: “We have made some arrests and are interrogating the suspects in our custody. We are also looking for the weapons as we are yet to recover them but, when we do, we will know the motives for their actions.

“We are working on credible intelligence. On the incidents in Asaba area, we have also made arrests but the weapons (stolen) have also not been seen. We rounded up almost all of those who took our men’s weapons and killed some of them, so we are on top of it.”

Why policemen are susceptible – Retired army officer

A retired military officer, Dennis Des-Dokubo, analysing the police situation but not limiting his assessment to the South-South, accused the police of being blindfolded in their quest for extortion from road users.

“Our policemen are well trained, but they have the intent to extort and forget themselves in the process, making them vulnerable to attacks by criminals”, Des-Dokubo said.

“We are heading towards election period. So a lot of politicians, who use violent means to get whatever they want, are the ones who have sent out their thugs to get weapons by all means and that is what informs the recent snatching of weapons and killing of policemen.

“They (men of the underworld) need more weapons to rob people of cash for Christmas and perpetrate their evil deeds during the 2019 general elections. So the easiest targets are policemen who are usually carefree about their duties”.

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On the way out, the retired officer said: “We have to keep on talking and educating them because the police as an institution have not stopped talking to their men to stop taking bribe. Even if you increase their salary, they are sure to take bribe as their intent to extort and forget themselves in the process has made them vulnerable to attacks by criminals.

“And in talking to them, their attention should be drawn to the fact that for you to lose your weapon, you have to lose your life first because criminals will kill you to get the weapon, so why toy with your life?”

‘Okowa should raise serious posers and demand answers’

A security source noted that while the state government was readily assisting the police with vehicles and logistics knowing the complexity of Delta, it was not effectively monitoring the performance of the command and directing the actions of the police.

“I can tell you that the command has lost more than 15 men and 30 rifles in 2018 alone. Governor Okowa should be able to ask critical questions and his failure to raise eyebrows on certain matters has undermined security in many ways”, the source said.

“The major factor counting against the government in this regard is its unrepentant penchant for appointing the run-of-the-mill persons as Special Assistants on Security, ADC, CSO, etc based on party proclivity and tribal cleavages as against meritocracy that would have stabilized the state security wise.

“The state government seems not to realize that the avalanche of recorded incidents of violent organized crimes in the state within the last two years and the failure of the police in the command to arrest the ugly and unceasing situation is scaring would-be investors, as no sane man will invest his capital in unsafe environment”.

A’Ibom safe

At the moment in the South-South, Akwa Ibom appears to be the safest state and ranks the lowest in terms of crime index in the country with the state government providing over 70 per cent of patrol vehicles and other logistics.

The   General Officer Commanding (GOC) 6 Division of the Nigerian Army, Major General Jamil Sarham, alluded to this when he paid a visit to Governor Udom Emmanuel ahead of the staging of the ‘’Operations Crocodile Smile”.

Sunday Vanguard checks revealed that most of the vehicles being used by the police in the state were given to them in 2013 by the administration of Godswill Akpabio.

4-point strategy

A senior police officer in Akwa Ibom, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the command adopted four basic principles to combat crime namely: preventive techniques, response rate, detective rate and clearance rate.

But a senior government official told Sunday Vanguard that the current government does not want to comment on the assistance to the police in the state to avoid being used against it as a campaign strategy.

Govt assisting police with logistics – PPRO

The state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Odiko Macdon, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), said there was collaboration between the police and the state government and commended the Emmanuel administration for assisting the police with logistics to fight crime.

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He, however, said: ‘’When it comes to policing, it should not be left for the government alone. Policing has gone beyond government. It is a partnership between the people, the police and government. It has a triangular nature. The three of them need to synergize with a single goal to provide security to all.

‘’The financial support should not be left for government alone. Good spirited individuals should be willing to join hands with government and the police to provide logistics especially vehicles and also ensure that there is a service mechanism especially of maintenance and fuelling”.


Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.