SARS disbandment hindering fight against crime-IGP Baba

Acting IGP Alkali Baba

says Police have recovered over 5,000 weapons from bandits, secessionists

…Investigation suggests Ortom’s narration on his attack inaccurate 

By Abdullahi Mohammed, Abuja
The acting Inspector General of Police (IGP) Usman Alkali Baba said Thursday that over 5,000 weapons and ammunitions have been recovered by the police from secessionists and armed bandits across the country.

The IGP said this while briefing State House correspondents at a weekly briefing organized by the Presidential Communications Team in Abuja.

He said most of the recoveries were made after the launch of Operation Restore Peace, a couple of weeks back.“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 secessionists 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 86 suspects involved in cases 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,” he said.

He said the police have arrested secessionists and criminals in the southeast but could not be charged due to the ongoing strike by judiciary workers.

He said the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) as a result of the #ENDSARS protest by Nigerian youth has created a vacuum in the fight against insecurity in the country.

He said the morale of the police remains dampened after the protest, especially with the recent attacks of personnel in the south-east.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.

According to him, the Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) squad established in October 2020 to fill the gaps after the disbandment of SARS is yet to take off.

“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. “Therefore, we decided to one, rejig the morale of our personnel, which has been a little bit dampened 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, we try to marshal back this courage of our personnel who have been involved in violent crimes and then 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,” he said.

The IGP also disclosed that the suspects who allegedly attacked Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue state at his farm on March 20, 2021, have been in custody for the past one month. He said the narration of attempt on the life of the governor was inaccurate.
“On the case of Governor Ortom attack, we’ve been able to uncover the assailants. And we’ve been able to establish 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.

“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,” he said.

On the perennial agitations for state police, the IGP said many states of the federation are already running independent police structures.He said besides the local police structures such as vigilante groups being supported by state governments, the police authorities have trained over 70,000 citizens and equipped them with crime prevention and fighting skills across the country.

“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.

“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.  That is to say all those who are trained are to go back and assist in policing within their own locality. Your policing capability and powers end within your community and it is the community that will 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.