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Experts canvass retooling of police to stall arson, killings

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IGP Usman Alkali Baba. Photo/TWITTER/POLICENG

It is no longer news that the Southeast and parts of South-South have come under heavy attacks in the last two months. Kidnapping, ritual killings, herdsmen’s attack on farmers, attacks on police stations and government have become regular, with members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) agitators and unknown gunmen ravaging communities.

The consequences of these are grievous on law-abiding citizens of the regions. Now, the effect is collateral, resulting in loss of revenues and capital flight as embassies and high commissions, who have their citizens in the affected areas, have raised the red flag.

Commissioners of Police (CPs) of states with constant attacks like Imo, Enugu, Abia, Ebonyi, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Anambra and Rivers States have largely been blamed for making their areas porous for such onslaught. Security experts have urged CP’s of those states to review their strategies and be more assertive in their actions. The calls have become necessary given that the current state of things is seen as capable of demoralising officers and men of the force.

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A top police officer who confided in The Guardian said hundreds of policemen may have tendered their resignations and relocated abroad after the #EndSARS saga. Following the crisis emanating from the #EndSARS protest and the carnage across the country, which culminated in attacks and burning of police stations and government properties, it was expected that normalcy would have returned, but recent events have shown that the attacks have remained unabated.

Unknown gunmen attacked B Division of the police divisional headquarters and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Awka, Anambra State. It was gathered that the fully armed attackers came in three Hilux trucks at about 8:00p.m. on Sunday, May 23.

Unknown gunmen also attacked two police stations and checkpoints in Port Harcourt on Friday, May 7 and killed seven police officers in the process. In a statement issued in Port Harcourt on Saturday, May 8, police spokesman in Rivers, SP Nnamdi Omoni, described the attacks as unprovoked and mindless. Police and Customs officers manning various security checkpoints at Ikwerre Local Government Area of the state were killed during the attacks.

Also, unknown gunmen Wednesday, May 26, 2021 attacked policemen on duty along Otulu-Akwukwu Igbo road, Oshimili North Council in Delta State, killing a policeman and burning a patrol vehicle. Detectives have reportedly arrested the kingpin in the brutal attack.

The state police boss, Ari Mohammed Ali, was said to be so furious over the killing of one of its operatives that he ordered his officers to fish out all the attackers.

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Not done with blood-letting, unidentified gunmen, on Saturday, May 29, killed Mr. Okiemute Mrere, the Chief Provost of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) in Imo State. Mrere, who was until his assassination, a Deputy Superintendent of Immigration (DSI), was reportedly shot at close range. Sources said he was in a Hilux vehicle on motion, on Saturday night along the Owerri-Port Harcourt Road, when the assailants closed in on him and shot him.

Still in Imo State, gunmen set the office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) ablaze in Okwudor, Njaba Council on May 29. The attack came less than 24 hours after a High Court, Magistrate Court and a police station were set ablaze by unknown gunmen in the same area.

Ahmed Gulak, a former aide to former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, was killed on the night of Saturday, May 29, in Owerri, Imo State capital city. Imo State police command spokesman, Bala Elkana, said Gulak was on his way to Sam Mbakwe Airport to catch a flight when armed bandits intercepted and attacked a Toyota Camry in which he and two others were travelling.

In Abia State, also in South East, unknown gunmen on Thursday May 13, 2021, attacked a police station in Bende Local Government Area (LGA) of the state, freed detainees and burnt the station. It was gathered that a policeman on duty was shot in the leg as the hoodlums made their way out of the scene. Investigation at Bende headquarters revealed that the gunmen, on arrival, shot into the air to scare officers away and the operation lasted for about 40 minutes without resistance.

According to sources, apart from freeing suspects in the cell and setting ablaze the station, the hoodlums also burnt two operational vehicles, three motorcycles and a power generating set. In reaction, soldiers and policemen from the state headquarters reportedly took over the area after the criminals had gone, prompting apprehension among the citizens. That attack was the third time a government facility in Abia State was attacked within one week. On Sunday, May 9, 2021, the Ubani Market, Umuahia, on the Umuahia-Uzoakoli highway, was vandalised. On Monday, May 10, 2021, both offices of the INEC and the National Drug Law and Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) at Ohafia Local Government Area, were also burnt.

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The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) of the Abia State Command, Mr. Geoffrey Ogbonna, confirmed the incidents. He said there was no suspect in the cell as of the time the attack occurred.

Continuing on the wave of violence, unknown gunmen on May 8, 2021, also attacked a third police station in Imo State, less than 72 hours after the headquarters in Owerri was attacked. The attack occurred in the early hours at the Mbiere Divisional Police Headquarters in Mbaitoli Local Government Area of the state. Two similar attacks, including the one at the police headquarters and the prisons headquarters in the state, had taken place earlier.

The second attack was carried out a few hours after the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, accompanied by the then Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, visited the state to assess the damage done to the police headquarters.

It is the same narrative in Anambra, as two policemen were feared dead when unknown gunmen attacked Obosi Police Station in Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra State in the early hours of Thursday, May 6, 2021. The Anambra incident happened barely a few hours after the newly deployed Commissioner of Police, Mr. Chris Owolabi, assumed duty in the state.

The gunmen, who stormed the station in large numbers, burnt down the station, killed two policemen, and freed all detainees in the cell. Zonal police headquarters was also attacked in Ukpo, Anambra State in April.

Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) Taiwo Lakanu (Rtd) has urged the Commissioners of Police of these states to be more assertive in their actions. According to Lakanu, who left impressive records in police operations, CPS should review their strategies and be more assertive in their actions. “It is pertinent and instructive that they are on the same page with traditional rulers, youth leaders and vigilante groups. Collaboration with such groups making use of credible intelligence and synergy with other security agencies will expose the evil doers,” he said.

Wall Street veteran, Chief Ken Iwelumo, said the country needs a total overhaul with the civil service and the security apparatus totally restructured. According to the former American investment banker, the current system of governance is decayed and rotten. Those, he said, are caused by wide spread corruption, mismanagement, nepotism and blatant acts of injustice.

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“Nigeria needs a total overhaul with the civil service and the security apparatus totally restructured and reoriented. A major cause of the current wave of insecurity in the South and banditry in the North are systemic and endemic corruption in the security services whether it is the Police, Army, Civil Defence, Customs, Immigration and Road Safety etc. Those vices render them weak and inept. One arm is supporting and aiding, while the other is doing the battle.”

Security consultant and columnist, Ben Okezie, also said Commissioners of Police of the states under attack should be held responsible for their ineptitude.

His words: “One would have expected that Commissioners of Police in every state would be proactive enough to know that this wind can blow to their own state. One would have expected them to fortify the security, not only on INEC offices, but every federal government structure in their states.

“There is no police state command that does not have enough policemen. Even some of them are just loitering about in their offices. They could have mobilised all these men and used them to put enough security to safeguard all these structures and give them a 24-hour security protection, but they all sat down in their offices waiting for it to come.

“This same thing is applicable to all the police stations. Every police station has security men on guard, mostly the mobile policemen. How come all these mobile policemen were suddenly overwhelmed, they have guns and they are better trained than these hoodlums that come to dislodge them. I am just shocked.”

Okezie wondered why police stations and other security facilities do not have CCTV. “Why would Immigration Command, INEC and Prisons not have CCTV in this modern day? After all, CCTV was not manufactured just yesterday; this has been in existence for more than two to three decades now. So how come that our security agencies are not flowing with modernisation of technology? How come they are waiting and behaving as if they are still singing old time religion? It is just unfortunate and these are the things we are talking about,” he lamented.

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According to him, the type of training security men receive is not in consonance with what their counterparts received many years back. The difference, he stated, is showing in their performance.

He explained that in the past, police officers were more gallant and faced gunmen, but regretted that today’s officers run at the sound of gunshot.

“Today our policemen are so scared that none of them is ready to die for the country again and that is the unfortunate aspect of it. That is why one is still saying that there should be a lot of re-training of our policemen. Many things have gone wrong. Police are overwhelmed and they have not even attained the United Nations stipulated standard. Those sent on foreign missions are performing woefully, unlike our policemen of years back who came back with laurels, medals and better credit.

“That is the unfortunate situation that is facing our police today. Many things have gone wrong and our police need to be restructured. We should embrace state police so that state government’s can take better account of their training and equipment. The governors will also take better care of them in terms of welfare and logistics,” Okezie suggested.

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