By Johnbosco Agbakwuru – Abuja
Chairman Northern Governors Forum and Governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong, has said that most governors from the region were not in support of the recent disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, a unit of the Nigeria police, saying that it has been useful in the fight against insecurity in the region.
Governor Lalong also alleged that some of the protesters in some states were hired from outside to embark on the exercise, and that what was needed was the reformation of the unit to enable it to discharge its functions optimally and not wholesale disbandment.
The Governor, who stated this in Abuja in a chat with State House correspondents after meeting behind closed-doors with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, conceded that there were divisions in the country concerning the continued existence of the unit.
He noted that even though the president has already approved the scrapping of SARS, the northern states do not believe that the baby should be thrown away with the bathwater, adding, that SARS was not made up of bad elements alone as it also included personnel who were doing their work diligently.
He also threatened to arrest any traditional rulers in the state shielding criminals in his domain.
According to him, “We had a meeting yesterday (Wednesday), the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF). I’m sure my chairman addressed the press.
“When we see issues like this …the complaints vary from one state to the other. In one aspect, some people said they don’t want SARS, some said they want SARS but a reformed SARS.
“They want a reformed SARS because as far as they are concern, some of these SARS operatives help them in addressing insecurity.
“If there are bad ones under, holistically, bring them together and reform them. Then, you work for them. So, our opinion and conclusion at that stage was that let us not just say that we are throwing away the baby with bathwater.
“If there are good ones, you don’t chase them away. So, as SARS is banned, we are now looking forward to…because most of the States in the north said no.
“They want SARS because SARS helps them. Borno (state governor) said without SARS, he would not have been surviving today. Niger also wants SARS.
“So, if you are addressing this issue of SARS, you need to know what is wrong in some places. Is it the process of recruitment? Is it the character of the people?
“You can’t say because somebody is wrong, everybody is wrong in the country. These are some of the issues we concluded yesterday.
“And it’s for the Chairman to go and meet Mr President to still look at this issue holistically and critically so that we understand where we are going. On a whole, we all agreed that there must be general reform within the police. But you can’t do general reform without proper funding.
“You must address the issue of proper funding so that they don’t say government is responsible for lack of funding and we attack them for non-performance of their duties. I’m sure our Chairman will meet Mr President.
“We all went back that everybody should go back and address the issue in his State. Because in some of the States, you find that people moving people to do protest are people from other States.
“But in real sense, some of the things are not even happening in our State or they are very minimal. If there are complaints that people are coming outside, let’s not begin to generalize it or we will miss the point. Let address it and find out if in those environment, things are happening like this, we must go back. It’s just like we are addressing Coronavirus. When we say Coronavirus is everywhere. At the end of the day, we said no. In some places, Coronavirus is not there. We generalize.”
Asked when killing in the state will abate especially with killing of prominent traditional ruler in Barkinlade Local Government Area, he said, “You made reference to what happened in Barkinlade.
“Sometimes, when you say you are looking for peace, it’s not that there will be absolute peace. In one place or the other, you will even have a quarrel between husband and wife.
“If you look at the magnitude of what we had in the past, today, shuttle flight to Jos from Abuja is always full.
“They are even asking me to increase the number of shuttle from Jos to Abuja. As it is today, Wednesday, if you go to the Airport, if you need a flight to Jos, they will tell that the flight is full. That means a lot of people are trooping into Jos.
“A village head was killed. In the other side, a vigilante was killed. For your information, if you go to Jos now, almost all of them have been arrested. Out of five, four of them have been arrested. We are looking for one. We have enough information on ground. We call on people to give information.
“That is why I have a passion about this community policing. My State is one of the pilot States for community policing. As I talk now, about 80 per cent of my people are already in Makurdi doing training. Just yesterday (Wednesday), I confirm the appointment of…to be in charge of Operation Rainbow in terms of security handling or community policing.
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“If I have all these people in my State, I think insecurity will be a thing of the past in Plateau. I believe in information. I believe in using community leaders.
“I have charged the traditional rulers and said: “If you see miscreants or insecurity within your domain and you cover them, there is no way government can address it.”
“But if you are able to come out, we will chase those people. A few weeks ago, an SSS officer was killed. We arrested the person within two days. We chased the person, a gun runner. He is now in cell for prosecution. So, whatever happens in Plateau, people now come out to say this is what is happening.
“I told them that if a traditional ruler or a community is shielding criminals in his domain, I will arrest him. Last year or early this year, I arrested them and did investigation. Today, everybody is at alert.
“The issue of security is not for government alone. It’s everybody’s affairs. If you don’t have security, you will not sleep and enjoy your family.”
Governor Lalong said he met with President Buhari to update him on the happenings in Plateau, adding, “For instance when we had the challenge of insecurity all over the north, we called for community policing in.
“So when you see things being done, it’s good to also to update him, as things are going our way now because we have seen training of community police going on at various zones particularly for me in Plateau State.
“About 70 per cent of those we recruited for community policing are now in Makurdi having training. Just yesterday in my state I appointed a new coordinator, an AIG, to take care of it. That is to tell you that things about security should be taken seriously if we have to keep the nation.
“Secondly, we are also aware that so many issues are now happening; people are making suggestions which Mr President has gladly accepted, some of the recommendations in disbandment of the SARS and also in reform and funding of the police.
“These are issues we also require that as leaders we put our contributions out to Mr President so that we can have a way forward, in addressing the national security of the state and above all I also intimated him about arrangements because my state is hosting NAFEST.
“I have been opportune to be given the opportunity to host NAFEST which would have happened last June but because of Coronavirus it was postponed till November and still given the opportunity to host and I just addressed them yesterday and tell them there is no more Corona in my state, not that there is no Coronavirus but the ability and testing capacity we have done has been reduced drastically in the state.
“So we are happy to invite people to move to Plateau to see the home of peace and tourism and this was some of the issues that I also had discussions with Mr President.”