From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The acting Inspector General of Police, Alkali Baba, has disclosed that over 5,000 weapons and live ammunition have been recovered from secessionists and armed bandits across the country.
This is even as he said that the police has recorded successes against secessionists and criminals in the southeast but they cannot not be prosecuted and brought to justice because of the ongoing strike by judiciary workers.
This is even as he disclosed that 1,166 high-profile suspect have arrested nationwide between April and May 2021.
He further disclosed that a total of 3,700 policemen drawn from various police units were deployed to south East and south south to halt the incessant attacks on police facilities, personnel, military and other violent crimes.
He also said the Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) squad established in October 2020 to “fill the gaps” left by the notorious police unit Federal Special Anti-robbery squad (FSARS), was yet to take off.
He made these disclosures at the presidential briefing organized by the Presidential Communications Team at the presidential villa, Abuja on Thursday.
Speaking on the recoveries made since the launch of Operation Restore Peace, Baba said: “For record purpose, I can briefly mention our recoveries and the successes. They go as follows: in terms of recovery after the lunching of this operation, we’ve been able to recover the following weapons and arms from secessionist and the armed insurgents: One general purpose machine gun, 10 AK47 rifles, nine locally made fabricated rifles, four locally fabricated pistols and 19 AK47 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. So these are some of the things we are doing.”
The Ag. IGP also said the suspects that attacked Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State on his farm on March 20, 2021, have been arrested and have been in custody for the past one month.
This is even as he said that the narration of the incident on the attempt on his life was inaccurate.
Recall that the governor had alleged that he was attacked on his farm at Tyo-mu on the Makurdi-Gboko Road by about 15 gun carrying men.
However, the acting IGP in the State House briefing organized by the Presidential Communication team , said all suspects in the attack have been arrested.
He said: “On the case of Governor Ortom attack, we’ve been able to uncover the assailants. And we’ve been able to established what actually happened contrary to what he said, and we’ve been able to get these people and know where they came from, how they came but the case is still under investigation and that is why…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 organise the crime, they are with us, they’ve been arrested.”
The Ag. IGP also disclosed that the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) created a vacuum in Nigeria’s Police effort at fighting insecurity.
He also disclosed that the morale of the personnel of the force had remained dampened aftermath of the #EndSARS protest and with the recent attacks in the Southeast.
He said the regular policemen and women have not been able to immediately slot into the vacuum created by the SARS disbandment even though efforts are ongoing to train them for the new role.
Speaking on the effort to check insecurity in zones, 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 one, rejig the morale of our personnel, which has been a little bit dumpen 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 for that, rather than having our conventional police doing the policing in conventional way.
“So therefore, we try to marshal back this courage of our personnel who have been involved in violent crimes and they lecture them and posted them to the anti robbery sections, for anti robbery patrols and the investigation of violent related 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.”
Speaking more on the operation restore peace, the Ag. IGP explained: “We involved reinforcing these two zones with total number of about 3,700 policemen drawn from our various units which include, police mobile force, the strike force, counterterrorism, the STS, IRT and these commands were imposed with these personnel with specific instructions, with an operation order that is targeted at stabilising the incessant attacks on police facilities, personnel, military and other violent crimes.
“The first operation in the South East was done on the 18th of this month (May) in Enugu and we clearly stated our mission, we clearly stated our vision and the six states in the South East geopolitical zone came to Enugu.
“All the governors were represented by their deputy governors except that of Enugu, who personally participated. And we launched the operation.”
Baba also explained reasons why policemen have not been withdrawn from VIPs in the country. He said “but the issue is that they are those that needed to be escorted, there are those needed to be guided, because of the nature of job they are doing, or nature of responsibility they are carrying.
“The state is supposed to provide security, the state is supposed to protect the citizens, particularly citizens that are vulnerable to attacks or assault or whatever kind attacks of because of the nature of duty they do.
“Two, you have political leaders, who by virtue of the political offices they find themselves they are entitled to be escorted. Even businessmen because of their position in the society, and they need to protected, they need to be guided.
The acting IGP affirmed that the security situations have been stabilized but they still record pockets of problems around the country.
On state police, Baba said many states are already running police structures. He explained that state policing being demanded by different interests across the country already exists in many states of the federation.
He was reacting to the demand for state police at the ongoing regional public hearings on the review of the 1999 Constitution. He wondered what the demand was all about again, when most states already run structures regarded as their own local police. He said besides, the local police structures, like the various vigilante groups supported by state governments, have the backing of the Police force with over 70,000 citizens equipped with crime prevention and fighting skills across the country.
While being careful not to outrightly write off the demand, Baba noted that such demands would best be addressed by the National Assembly.
“State policing is an issue. I remember, as far back as 1998, I think I had a project in one of our courses, writing on desirability of state policing and the issue has been reoccurring, but now I think it is more.
“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 on 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 are ready to work with anybody, we are ready to collaborate and synergize with anybody to make sure that Nigerian citizens enjoy the best of protection simple.
“If you look at it, the community policing aspect, we have trained over 70,000 Nigerians from all states of the federation, to assist in crime prevention and control. In fact, we have even gone to the extent of using the Police Act to kit them with police uniform that will give them an identification as spy.
“That is to say all those who are trained are to go back and assist in policing within their own locality. You are policing capability and powers ends within your community and it is the community that we suggest who and who will be involved in such a business and we are working with them.
“State governments or state governors are chief security officers of their states. As far as I’m concerned, they are and remain one and my commissioners of police are ready to take all local instructions from them.
“As for agitation, it is there but everybody is already involved in creating one agency or the other to compliment the efforts of the Nigerian security agencies. The National Assembly can look into the agitation which is their own responsibility”, he said.