He had embarked on a six-hour journey from Delta State in a happy mood. He was heading back to Abuja with his driver and had arrived Okene, Kogi State, where they were trying to overcome the tortious potholes that have become the disgraceful anthem on all roads in the southern part of Nigeria, especially. Then, suddenly, from nowhere, out of the blues, the sound of sporadic gunshots echoed in the air around them and, before they could plan for their escape, they were enveloped by the presence of over 24 dangerously armed Fulani men. I can hear you say “Fulanis again!!!”
The gangsters’ strike in this instance began the tale of woes of the vocal, retired director of the Department of State Security (DSS), Mr Mich Ejiofor. Mr. Ejiofor ended up spending four days in the den of Fulani kidnappers inside the thick forest of Okene. This is not the first time a senior security personnel would be taken off guard and subjected to obeying orders from common criminals. This is one costly assault on the nation that must stop.
Few days after Ejiofor’s release, the lnspector-General of police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, raised his voice, passing the buck back to civilians, by insisting that members of the public have more to do, as criminals live among them. The IGP may have his reasons for what he said but I beg to differ with him on this matter. The citizens may have their role to play in security but the greater bulk of the duty rests on the shoulders of the police. That is why they are trained. That is why the police are catered for with our common wealth and the Constitution further empowers them, so why would the IGP task innocent, ordinary Nigerians to do the job for which he and the police personnel under him are being paid? We were yet to recover from that incident only to hear of the death of Dr. Adinoyi Ojo Onukaba along Ilesha-Akure road last Monday. He was on his way back from a birthday ceremony organised for former President Olusegun Obasanjo when highway robbers accosted them; he ran out of the car, only to still die in the robbery operation.
The menace of so-called Fulani herdsmen kidnappers and highway robbers has got to a height that the Presidency should intervene decisively, in the interest of Nigerian road users. When l had a chat with Mr. Ejiofor, he described his abductors as “young Fulani men, who are armed to the teeth and displayed rare military formations and strategies.” Mr. Ejiofor, being a top secret service operative, should have been invited by the IGP to face a panel where information would have been extracted from him, as a working tool for the police to re-strategise. But that was not done.The police l used to know is fast receding in operational strategies and even members of the public no longer have confidence in their police.
Time was when the police, on noticing an increase of a particular crime, would go head-on to smash the gang, round up the criminals and then receive the applause of the citizenry. It is still fresh in my mind, when armed robbers almost overran the city of Lagos, Mike Okiro, then the Lagos State police commissioner, did not fold his arms but restrategised and went after them by selecting a crack team headed by retired officer, Mr. Simeon Mindenda. The anti-robbery team, known as Scorpion, was unleashed on the visiting robbery gang, headed by a notorious kingpin from the Republic of Benin, Shina Rambo. In no time, fresh air returned to the city of Lagos and Lagosians were joyous and commended the police. Those were the days when, if a particular crime became like a bone in the throat of the police, it would x-ray and carry out a forensic analysis of the crime. No one doctor carries out an operation but in conjunction with other doctors and nurses. It is unfortunate that the public rating of the police today has depreciated to an abysmal level. No wonder many now resort to individual means to seek redress on security issues. It is also for lack of confidence in the police that thieves caught in the act are roasted alive instead of being taken to the police. People believe these days that a criminal taken to the police has a high chance of getting back to his house before the person who reported him. Such a trend must be addressed, as it doesn’t speak well of the country.
The proposed security summit by the IGP, does not sound logical, as nothing has been done with the report of previous summits, including the one initiated and organised by The Sun newspaper. That summit was held at the beginning of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. Top calibre security experts, retired IGPs and high-class traditional rulers from all the geo-political zones in the country, as well as President Buhari, were at the summit and thoroughly deliberated on the issue of insecurity, including kidnapping, yet the police swept the report under the carpet and wants to embark on a repeat of the same exercise.
This is not what the country needs at this time, a submit that would not achieve anything. What prevents the IGP from picking up the last security summit’s report for implementation? Or does it mean that every idea of the predecessor of a public officer in Nigeria must be thrown away? A good leader is known by his modus operandi. Take the Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Tukur Buratai, for instance. He came on board and introduced better and effective strategies in tackling the Boko Haram insurgents. He had studied the plans of his predecessors and, where he deemed them incapable to upstage the terrorist group, he introduced his own plans. Today, we are all shouting hallelujah, because the sect has been clearly subdued. The same can be said of the Immigration boss, Mr. Mohammed Babandede, who, on assumption of office, noticed that some policies and programmes of his predecessor in the issuance of passports were flawed. He went ahead to introduce the decentralisation of the issuance of passports in every local government council in the country. Today, Babandede is working very hard in ensuring that our borders are technologically manned. Leadership is about having vision and an articulate mind.
When Solomon Arase was the IGP, he knew that, to effectively combat the menace of kidnapping, the police must be intelligence-driven. He set up a unit and fished out a police officer, Assistant Commissioner of Police Abba Kyari, who was commended by this column for his yeoman’s job in tracking down kidnappers and armed robbers around the country. One had expected that more Kyaris would have been fished out by the current IGP to effectively handle the menace of kidnappers and robbers around the country.
The IGP needs to move fast and reassure Nigerians that the police force under his watch is up to the task of securing them. He cannot just tell citizens that security is everybody’s business and then go to sleep.
(To be continued)