On September 4, four Police officers went to the house of elder statesman Chief Edwin Clark, 91, one of the most prominent influencers of the Niger Delta, a man who in recent years has been a voice of reason, wisdom and moderation in the volatile region. The Police officers spent two hours foraging through his possessions and after they were satisfied that they had ransacked the chief’s house, the officers having found nothing incriminating, left. The chief said the officers had shown him a search warrant. He had also called a senior Police officer known to him to inquire about the possible origins of the raid. The officer denied knowledge of any operational Police plan to raid his house. The chief later expressed surprise that the senior officer having declaimed knowledge of the search, did not order the officers to immediately end the search, which sowed doubts in his mind. Besides, the Policemen, it has transpired, came from the Special Tactical Squad of the Inspector General of Police’s (IGP) office.
The report of the raid hit Nigerians like a ton of bricks, coming so close to several recent controversial Police and Department of State Security (DSS) activities in Benue State, National Assembly and elsewhere. It was no surprise, therefore, that from all corners of the country the Police came under scathing criticisms. Calls for Police apologies to Chief Clark came from as varied a field as Afenifere, the Yoruba socio-cultural group, the Pan Niger Delta Forum in which Chief Clark is an eminent voice, the Ohaneze Ndigbo, the Igbo socio-cultural organization, The Northern Elders Forum, the voice of eminent Northern Nigerians, the Middle Belt Forum which represents the voice of the leaders of the North Central region.
The accused Policemen explained their conduct saying they were acting on a Police informant’s tip-off that Chief Clark was stockpiling weapons in his home. But the Police Force reacted sharply. Not only did it disown the operation and the searches, it also promptly arrested the four officers. The Inspector General of Police Ibrahim Idris then ordered the immediate dismissal of three of the officers – Inspectors Godwin Musa, Sada Abubakar and Yabo Paul. The fourth officer, Assistant Superintendent of Police David Dominic was placed on interdiction pending the determination of his fate by the Police Service Commission. The IGP also scrapped the Special Tactical Squad having found that senior officers attached to the unit played “conspiracy role” in the incident. The Police also paraded the informant, Ismail Yakubu, from Waru Village, Apo District, Abuja, who has since been charged to Upper Area Court, Mpape, Abuja, “for giving false information and telling falsehood that misled Police action,” as Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Jimoh Moshood, put it.
Although Police response seemed appropriate, Nigerians were shocked for two reasons. The PPRO was unequivocal that the raid was “unauthorized, illegal, and unprofessional.” If it were so, are the Police saying that non-commissioned officers and a deputy superintendent can on their own source and obtain search warrants and embark on operations of that consequence to search the home of a national figure as high up as Chief Clark? We doubt it. Even as Chief Clark gallantly accepted the apologies of the IGP’s delegation, he could not conceal the fact that he doubted the Police version of events. Indeed, many Nigerians think the four Policemen were mere pawns or easy scapegoats. Yet if the Police story is right, then the fragility of the nation’s security can be better imagined than described. It would amount to an admission that the system is worse than anarchic especially when it is added to the fact that masked DSS operatives took over the National Assembly a few weeks ago, locking out our parliamentarians.
The informant who set off this embarrassing misadventure told the Police he received the intelligence about Chief Clark’s purported arms stockpile in a taxi. If this is the typical source of information for Police informants, is it any wonder then that the insecurity in the country is due to the woeful performance of the Police in the area of intelligence? We urge the Federal Government to institute an independent enquiry into this incident. We understand that Chief Clark has petitioned the President to setup such an enquiry. Nothing short of such enquiry will remove the penumbra of deception and irrationality that has surrounded this shameful incident.