…Says some suspected IPOB/ESN’s sponsors in custody
…Adds: We’ve arrested 1,166 high-profile persons, attackers of Ortom
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
Acting Inspector-General of Police, IGP, Alkali Usman Baba, yesterday, said the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, has created a vacuum in the efforts of the Nigeria Police to tackle insecurity in the country.
Lamenting that the aftermath of the #EndSARS protest has dampened the morale of personnel, he said the regular policemen and women have not been able to immediately fill the vacuum created by the disbanded SARS, even though he said efforts are ongoing to train them for the new role.
Financiers of IPoB, ESN, nabbed — IGP
Speaking at the briefing organized by the Presidential Communications Team at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, the Police boss also said some alleged sponsors/financiers of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB and the Eastern Security Network, ESN, had been arrested.
Besides, the IGP said no fewer than 1,166 high-profile suspects were arrested nationwide between April and May 2021, as well as those who attacked Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, recently.
The IGP said the police are looking at the involvement of suspected IPOB/ESN sponsors in their custody and those outside the country, adding that after a thorough investigation, they would be arraigned in court.
He also said the police had recorded successes against secessionists and suspected criminals in the South-East, adding that suspects in the police custody couldn’t be prosecuted because of the ongoing strike by judiciary workers.
Recruitment of new cops going on
On the plan to recruit 10,000 new police personnel, he revealed that the process had reached 70 per cent, assuring that the exercise would be in line with the Federal Character principle. The Police boss said that parading of suspects was a way of updating the public on their efforts to curb criminality.
Speaking on why the police were going after the financiers of IPOB/ESN and not only the boys, he said: “In any kind of coordinated, targeted and organised crime such as this, you will get leaders behind it, it can be done within or outside the country. “We in the enforcement of law and order and those in the intelligence community — that is DMI (Department of Military Intelligence), the DSS (Department of State Service) are all collaborating to make sure that this issue is nipped in the bud.
“Some of them are known, but they’re not within reach to bring them to book. Some are here. We have many in our custody and we are looking into their level of involvement with a view to arraigning them before competent law courts. And the issue of looking for others will continue.”
Fielding question on the alleged request of Police officers in South-East seeking redeployment to other zones as a result of incessant attacks on them, he said the police was still studying the narratives.
He said: “ There are two narratives to that. One of the narratives is that there are complaints that the police in the South-East particularly those from that geopolitical zone, is by way of either intimidation from the secessionists, whether they are afraid to work or they have soft spot for what is happening there.
“These are allegations. And if we have a reasonable belief that there are those who need to be relocated we will do that. But like I told you, if we had removed 10, we must have reinforced with more than 100.
“So the issue of redeploying them from that place, normally what we do, if place A or B is very hot, and we have D, E and F that are cool, we will take some officers from the cool place and post them to the hot place. That is what we are doing in the South-East and South-South. That is why if you look at a place like Maiduguri, we have two sets of officers.
There are those that are fighting along with the military, and there are those that are taken there to maintain civil authority in conditioned or liberated areas.
“So transfer, postings are normal things in the police but sometimes you will see enmass and sometimes in tranches, there are reasons for it. If you don’t ask, we don’t need to explain it to you.”
‘Secessionists, a major challenge in S-East’
Speaking on the security situation in the various parts of the country, the Acting IGP said in the South-East, the major challenges are activities of secessionist groups, the IPOB and the militant group of the IPOB, ESN coordinating violent attacks on security personnel, formations, critical national infrastructures such as INEC facilities and offices.
“The herders/farmers problem is also in the South-East.
Then the proliferation of weapons and other related violent crimes such as cultism, armed robbery and so on. “When you talk about the South-West, we have the same problem of kidnapping, bank robbery, farmers/herders clashes, activities of secessionist groups and cultism.
“In the North-East, we are facing the problem of banditry, attacks on schools, and abduction of students. It has been kidnapping, highway robbery activities of Boko Haram and ISWAP. While in the North-West it is also almost the same banditry, activities of Boko Haram, kidnapping and proliferation of arms.
In the North-Central it’s almost the same thing.
On what the police are doing to check these, he said: “The security situation of the country has been significantly stabilized from time to time, but you see, if it is stabilised for a week, then there are isolated disturbances coming from this zone in terms of either attack on police facilities or police personnel or even all law enforcement agencies including the military.
“And therefore, we decided to rejig the morale of our personnel, which has been a little bit dampened since the EndSARS came and went away.
With the proscription of SARS and the establishment of SWAT which has not been able to take off fully, we had a vacuum in tackling most of the violent crimes from a position of strength in terms of having a strike force that is dedicated to that, rather than having our conventional police doing the policing in a conventional way.
“So, we try to marshal back this courage of our personnel who have been involved in violent crime and then lectured them and posted them to the anti-robbery sections, for anti-robbery patrols and the investigation of violent crimes which involved of course robbery, kidnapping, banditry, cultism and so forth.
“Secondly, we decided to launch an operation which is tagged Operation Restore Peace and we targeted the South-East and South-South for the first phase of our operation. We are reinforcing these two zones with about 3,700 policemen drawn from our various units which include, police mobile force, the strike force, counter-terrorism, the STS, IRT.
The first operation in the South-East was done on the 18th of this month (May) in Enugu. In the South-South, the operation was launched on the 19th, in Port Harcourt ‘’He said since the launch of the operations, ‘’we had a respite of policemen defending themselves and also repelling most of these attacks in the South-East and South-South. “We have had successful repels of attacks, we have had a successful arrest, we have had successful recoveries.’’
“For record purpose, I can briefly mention our recoveries and the successes after the lunching of this operation, we have been able to recover the following weapons and arms from secessionist and armed insurgents. “One general-purpose machine gun, 10 AK 47 rifles, nine locally made fabricated rifles, four locally fabricated pistols in 19 AK 49 magazines.
We have recovered over 5,419 live ammunition with 10 improvised explosive devices.
“ In terms of arrest, we have 398 armed robbery suspects in our custody, 258 cult-related offenders, 222 murder suspects, 202 bandits related matters and the 86 suspects involved in case of kidnapping. “This statistic I’m giving you is from 7th of April to date. 434 firearms of various descriptions were also recovered.
On state Police
Asked when state police will start, he said: “If you look at it technically, I doubt if there is any state that does not have state police even now. What do I mean?
There are creations that are done by state governments to assist law enforcement agencies in trying to maintain law and order or enforce regulations or laws that are created by state governments. We have vigilante everywhere in this country. We have various types of organisations that have been created by state governments to assist in policing.
“Some of them had even House of Assembly laws that guide their operations.
The space is open to everybody. We even always say, policing is not a matter of the Nigerian police or the Nigerian law enforcement agents, everybody can be involved in policing.
“But I want to know, the shape that the advocates of state police want it to take and it is an issue that is left for lawmakers and government.
We’ve arrested Ortom’s attackers
Fielding questions on the position of the attack on Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue states, the IGP said that some arrests have been made, adding that the situation wasn’t as the governor presented it.
“We have been able to uncover the assailants and establish what actually happened contrary to what he said, and we have been able to get these people and know where they came from, how they came but the case is still under investigation. There are some vital things that we have not been able to complete but as for those who would pull the trigger and those who organised the crime, they are with us, they have been arrested.”
Withdrawing policemen from politicians
The IGP said that since he assumed office, he has not ordered the withdrawal of police officers from political office holders or individuals that have police officers attached to them.
He said because of the nature of job or responsibility some people carry out, the state is supposed to provide security for them; and the state is supposed to protect citizens, particularly citizens that are vulnerable to attacks or assault because of the nature of their duty.
Why we parade suspects
When asked why police would arrest and parade suspects before trial, he said,” You see, we do this media trial because we have to blow our trumpet. If we don’t blow it, nobody will blow it for us.”