Fear over nationwide spike in robbery, kidnapping
• Expert faults dismantling of IRT, STS, says move may worsen crime
• ‘Why police management needs to refocus tactical operations
There are fears nationwide over surge in armed robbery and kidnapping incidents. Some observers have blamed the police high command for the development, following its dismantling of the dreaded Intelligence Response Team (IRT) and Special Tactical Squad (STS), a fallout of the alleged drug deal by former IRT commander, DCP Abba Kyari. Also, some security experts and officers kicked against the disbanding of IRT and STS satellite offices and bases.
Inspector General of Police (IGP) Usman Alkali Baba is not the first police boss to dismantle the two tactical units. In 2020, IGP Mohammed Adamu had ordered the disbanding of formations, as part of moves by Force Headquarters to reposition the security organisation for greater accountability. Adamu said then that integration of IRT and STS into Force Intelligence Bureau (FIB), headed by Ibrahim Lamorde, was meant to improve efficiency.
According to a signal sighted by newsmen then, the Deputy Commissioners of Police (DCPs) in charge of IRT (Abba Kyari) and (STS) Yusuf Kolo were directed to ensure that all bases and offices outside Abuja were shut down with immediate effect. Operatives in the units were ordered to report to Abuja.
Few months after the pronouncement, spike in violent crimes led to their reopening. The fears expressed by some policemen and Nigerians at the time is now obvious, especially after the bloody bank robberies at the commercial town of Uromi, Edo State.
Suspected daredevil armed robbers had attacked two new generation banks and two old generation banks, shooting sporadically and carting away an undisclosed amount of money.
Seven persons, including two police officers, were reportedly killed in the incident. Friends and families of Mubarak Sulayman, who was killed when armed robbers attacked a bullion van around the Idi-Ape area of Ibadan, are still mourning.
During the Ibadan attack, the robbers killed two police officers, two civilians, and made away with an unspecified amount of money.
Two members of a three-man armed robbery gang were lynched in Lagos few weeks ago. The suspects, eyewitnesses said, specialised in terrorising Okoko, Igbolerin, Iyana Isashi and environs. They were caught during a robbery operation at Mechanic Bus Stop along Badagry Expressway.
Commuters plying the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway are said to be currently in fear of being kidnapped, following reports of several abductions on the road.
It was learnt that the kidnappers on Saturday, January 8, 2022, abducted five passengers, while another person, Ibrahim Tiamiyu, was shot in the thigh.
Days after the last operation by kidnappers on the highway at Onigari axis, the bandits struck again on Saturday, January 15, 2022 and kidnapped three persons at Ishara-Remo axis in Ogun State.
Kaduna State Governor Nasir el-Rufai had said the state lost 1,192 residents to bandits’ attacks in 2021, while 3,348 citizens were kidnapped. The fatality figure represents an average of three residents daily in 2021.
Former Director of State Services, Mr. Dennis Amachree, opined that the brazen robbery in Uromi would have taken place, even if the IGP had not dismantled all IRT and Special Tactical Squads.
According to him, “The essential protective measure for banks in a town like Uromi and any other commercial-sized town should have been a Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team, always on standby to respond to situations like this. The police management needs to refocus the tactical operations of the police.
“For armed robbers to rob about five banks in broad daylight with even soldiers taking cover for safety shows that the policemen were not adequately armed and there was no effective response plan in place to prevent or deter such an attack.
“To avoid such situations, the Commissioners of Police in each state, with the full support of the IGP should, as a matter of urgency, train crack SWAT teams to be on standby to respond by helicopters, and armoured personnel carriers (APCs) to armed attacks, be it robbery, kidnapping or home invasions.
“The teams should be excused from other police duties and constantly engaged in daily training when not responding to armed incidents.”
Managing Director of Strict Guards Security, Dr. Bone Chinye, noted that dismantling the units was not a way to break free from bad eggs within the system, because they are still absorbed into the police force, which originally they were part of.
He said: “Instead, command and control structure of such formations should be reorganised for proper supervision of their activities. The dismantling will definitely mark another beginning of brazen daylight robberies and kidnapping, since it is currently the last recognised existing cohesive formation of the police that is still instilling fear in the minds of criminal elements in the society.
“The police high command can reorganise the dismantled formation, creating a new command and control structure that can guarantee responsible supervision of activities of the formation and members. This structure will take care of continuous orientation and reorientation.”
Security analyst, Christopher Oji, said the armed robbery attacks on commercial banks in Uromi, Edo State, is a pointer to the fact that criminals are studying the trend of crimes and the measures being taken by security agencies in Nigeria.
He said: “The police high command has so much weakened the power of personnel. Once anything happens, the police management will start panicking, so that the police chief will not be removed. You recall the EndSars protest. Immediately, the police management quickly banned the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS).
“The squad was to confront violent crimes, especially armed robbery. The police banned SARS without thinking of the implications of the ban. Immediately criminals read about the ban, armed robbery attacks escalated beyond imagination and the tactical squads, especially the IRT and STS came to the rescue and started intensive war against armed robbery, kidnapping and other violent crimes.
“Now, the police are at it again. Immediately the former head of IRT, DCP Abba Kyari, was linked to drugs, the police scrapped the squad and other tactical units without thinking of the implications. This approach is wrong. IRT, under Kyari, did very well in the war against crimes, especially kidnapping and armed robbery.
“Now that hoodlums know that IRT has been dismantled in states, they cash in on the crisis to rear their ugly faces again. What we saw in Edo State is a child’s play because more hoodlums are planning attacks and more kidnappers are going to unleash mayhem on people on the road and in their homes. That Kyari was linked to drugs does not rubbish the crime-fighting strategies of IRT.
“SWAT, which replaced SARS is a lame duck and is no more formidable as SARS for the fear of what critics will say. The way forward is that the IGP should not disband IRT, but do some reorganisations and make IRT more formidable, but always checkmate the leadership.
“The police high command should have a committee that should, from time to time, review the activities of tactical units, listen to public complaints on human rights violation and abuses by tactical units and make recommendations to the police management.
“The welfare of officers of the force should always be taken care of. How can the government pay a policeman N50,000, arm him with a gun, and ask him to live up to the professional standard of the Force?”