Chuks Onuoha, Umuahia
Anthony Ogbizi, Commissioner of Police in Abia State, has served in several crises-prone areas of the country, including the Special Fraud Unit, Abuja, Railway Police Command Headquarters, Ebute-Meta, Lagos, where he effectively managed the whole railway tracks, stations and districts nationwide. He was redeployed to Abia State at the peak of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) crisis. He speaks on how the IPOB crisis was contained and other issues.
Deployment to Abia
Ogbizi was deployed to Abia State at the height of the agitation by IPOB and given the difficult task of restoring order to the then crisis-ridden state. It was a difficult task because then IPOB had declared the area “Republic of Biafra.” But Ogbizi said he took the posting with courage and determination to succeed.
“No, I was not afraid, but I found out that I underestimated the situation on ground. As a police officer, I know that my fundamental responsibility is the maintenance of law and order; I also knew that IPOB activities were going on in Abia, but I never knew the magnitude of the challenge. I did not waste time in hitting the ground running by confronting the situation. I took it headlong and, with the push of our sister agencies like the army, we were able to calm the situation within days. I was not terrified by their activities, I considered it as part of the hazards of the job, a challenge that I must overcome and, to the glory of God, we were able to overcome the challenge,” he said.
According to him, other forms of criminality had also started brewing under the cover of IPOB: “We discovered that hoodlums hid under the cover of IPOB activities and started harassing innocent citizens, stealing, vandalizing, burgling people’s shops, in fact, in an area called Afara-Ukwu, the home community of the IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, people deserted their homes.”
Confrontation with IPOB
He also said, “We had confrontations with IPOB, because they had already declared certain places Biafra Republic and people dared not go there, and the area happened to be the area where the AIG, the Commissioner of Police live, senior government officials and some respectable Abia citizens, including the governor of the state, also lived there. And to go there you had to confront them, which was what we did.
“We also extended this confrontation to Ariaria, Powerline, Cemetery, because their activities got to a point where they were collecting revenues from traders and residents, having declared the whole of South East Biafraland. We recovered petrol bombs, rifles, other offensive weapons, lots of emblems they were using, manuals with which they were teaching their members military tactics, so it is true that they had the military wings of IPOB.”
The commissioner of police further said their encounter with IPOB opened their eyes to new challenges of kidnapping, robbery, drug dealing, child trafficking, cultism and other crimes.
“We looked at the modus and designed the strategy to confront those heinous crimes. I redrew and redesigned the security architecture of the state, which included opening up nipping points all over the state, with nipping squad to man them. With the deployment of anti-kidnapping squad to isolated areas where kidnappers used to operate before and move freely, we were able to cage them and their activities. The DPOs that were not operationally up and doing were changed with bold, ready and committed officers, who were ready to work, and, within the spate of three weeks, the incidences of kidnapping reduced, lots of arrests were made, lots of interceptions of children that were being trafficked were made, while those that engaged in robbery activities were arrested and that reduced the incidences to the level that it is today,” he said.
On how he was able to gather intelligence, he said: “ I could from my office call somebody in Aba to get information, which I would relay to the DPO, telling him where to go and get results any time there was an incident. I would tell him, go to this or that hotel, robbers are lodging or operating there, giving apt description of their vehicle and they would get the robbers or kidnappers arrested. It assisted us to make lots of arrests and calm the cities down, because policing has to do with people, if you earn the confidence of the people, they will help you do your work.”