Owerri, the capital of lmo State, in the heart of the Eastern Region, was forcefully turned to a theatre of pandemonium and insecurity by gunmen yet to be identified either by their regional, ethnic or religious backgrounds.
More worrisome is the fact that they numbered over a hundred. Mark you, they were not masked neither did we hear of any Imo State citizen coming up boldly with snapshots of the activities of these armed hoodlums who turned Owerri upside down. Yet, the same citizens of Owerri could snap pictures of the removal of those undignifying statues erected in the same state capital. These so-called armed men stormed the correction centre, bombed open the facility and released over 1,000 hardened criminals. They also dared the police and set ablaze over 100 vehicles, shot sporadically in their faces and some even urinated there before scrampering into the streets and no one security agent could trace their whereabouts one week after. Surprisingly, the incident exposed the low professional quality of the heads of both the correctional facility and the Imo State police headquarters. Imagine, such high-class security buildings having no standby armed patrols like the Mobile Police squardron that is mandatorily attached to every police command headquarters across the country. More unbelievable is to hear that none of the armed hoodlums was gunned down. Also more surprising is the fact that no CCTV cameras were installed, as there is an instituted investigation, one would have expected that investigators would have entered all the tall buildings around the scene of operation, hotels and plazas to know if people were able to snap photographs of the activities of the rampaging armed gangs.
Frankly, the Owerri incident speaks volumes and exposes the major problems facing the police all over the country. First, the caliber of security heads of commands parading around with no experience in security operations. How could gangsters almost overrun a police headquarters and both the commissioner and his deputy in charge of operations could display such unprofessional traits and they were not relieved of their jobs and posted to the police college for better advanced training? The same measure for the comptroller of the correctional facility in Owerri. This has further exposed how the people of Owerri are far from being security-conscious, an assignment specifically under the auspices of government.
Even more unfortunate is the press statement that the DSS shared intelligence report with the police and the state governor and the report was not taken seriously. It is assumed that security institutions ought to share intelligence reports and also work together with the sole aim of providing security for the state and the citizens, including their properties.
The low morale pervading the police could be attributable to the inaction displayed by policemen attached to the Imo State Police Command. Many security observers are asking what could have happened to the Mobile squadron attached to the state command headquarters, how come none of the hoodlums was shot down? This same scenario of police incapability in the face of attacks and their inability to return fire for fire is discouraging. Sequel to these ugly developments, governors of the five eastern states have jointly formed a security outfit to be known as “Ebube Agu” (Detailed evaluation of this outfit would be in the next column).
However, the insights from members of ‘Total Security Platform’, being the second part of the column last week, would help in proffering solutions.
Former Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Valentine Tomchukwu, reinterated the deep concerns on the paucity of training when he said, “My take is the faulty police recruitment and training in recent times, especially the rank and file, totally lacking in courage, endurance and often poor in tactical operations due to insufficient exposure to real-life situations.
“ Sincerely, a lot has to be done in these areas to restore confidence in both the police officers and the citizens. This is urgent,”
In his response, security expert, Mr. Don Adeniji, concurred with those insisting that a fundamental problem of the police is poor training.
“Proper training and retraining of officers on the effects and use of arms are important. The new class of police officers are careless in handling arms and their proper care. We need a realignment of policing duties, the proper protocol involved in arms handling, personalisation of arms for officers and others need to be emphasized in future reorganisation. Regrettably, our policing management deals more on the police looking good in uniform and patrols than in proper positioning of our men towards operational discipline.
“The civilian regime of 1979 to 1984 witnessed the adoption of a more disciplined and professional crop of security officers in Nigeria. All security agencies were well trained and the issue of professionalism was being addressed in the NPF. The establishment of the Mobile Police Force saw to an elite intervention squad that was able to withstand the attacks on Government House, Lagos, for hours before they were overwhelmed by the army during the Buhari coup of 1984.
“Apparently, the army saw the need after the coup to reduce the police to a non-tactical force that would never be able to stand up against the army in the future. It dictated subsequent policies that gradually debased the security training and leadership potential in the force.
“Policing became more political and recruitment based on political patronage. The best crop of officers gradually left the force and, as new ones were not up to par, the force continued to surfer depression. Policing capabilities, which were at a peak in the early 1980s, reduced to a mere shadow in the 21st Century.”
Painfully, another versatile police spokesman, AIG Tunji Alapini, summed up on a depressing note, “I am happy at all the various valid intervention comments from seasoned retired officers and other security experts. It will just be repetition if I have to reiterate it again. However, my take on all these is, how do we get those at the helm of affairs to buy and listen to this wisdom being offered? Their response is always, ‘Oga don’t worry. We are on top of the situation.’ Whereas the situation is on top of them.”
Babandede and Nigerian borders (3)
The vast topography of Nigeria is bordered by Benin, Cameroon, Chad and Niger, as well as maritime borders with Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, and São Tomé and Príncipe. With an area of 923,768 km², these borders have continued to pose several challenges to the government and residents around the border areas.
Apart from their economic leverage, residents are faced with security problems as many are often attacked by bandits and other criminals. These criminals know the approved official border posts and meander off to create illegal routes to find passage for their prohibited items. Yet, the Comptroller-General of Immigration and his men continually fine-tune their strategies to track down and curb the activities of smugglers.
(To be continued)