Boko Haram, insecurity and lily-livered police

Casmir Igbokwe

First published Sunday August 9, 2009

Reacting to my piece on David Mark’s seductive patriotism last week, a reader sent what I consider an interesting text message. He calls it tips for your survival.

It goes thus: “If you want to be angry, watch Obasanjo talk. If you want to be drowsy, listen to Yar’Adua’s speeches. If you want to be bored, watch David Mark’s Senate. If you want to waste a whole day, attend Bankole’s House probes. If you want comedy, tune to Akunyili’s rebranding. If you are allergic to lies, avoid Aondoakaa and Farida’s anti corruption crusade. If you’re disgruntled, join el-Rufai and Ribadu. If you’ve kids learning English, avoid Turai whenever she talks.”

This is called characterisation. And, to borrow from the above tips, if you are allergic to fear and poor performance, avoid the Nigerian Police. I’m not the originator of this particular tip. The Assistant Inspector-General of Police in charge of Zone 9, Mr. Olusegun Efuntayo, is.

Recall that at the meeting called by the immediate past Inspector-General of Police, Mike Okiro, to find solutions to armed robberies and kidnappings in the South-East, Efuntayo described his men as lily-livered. According to him, when they hear the bursting of a vehicle exhaust, they run away.

But are these policemen to blame? Are armed robbers, kidnappers and sundry criminals not getting more sophisticated by the day? Look at the Boko Haram incident, for instance. For days, these Islamic fundamentalists, who believe western education is sin, unleashed mayhem in different parts of the North. Close to 1000 people, if not more, perished in that crisis. Understandably, soldiers intervened to bring the situation under control.

Just as the Boko Haram members were harassing innocent citizens, armed robbers were having a field day in different parts of the country. These days, they are becoming more daring and conscienceless.

Last Wednesday, robbers who were up to 60 in number invaded Ogbomoso in Oyo State. They not only robbed three banks, they also killed and maimed. At the last count, seven people were confirmed dead.

Different gang of bandits waylaid fellow citizens who were on a night travel on Sagamu-Benin Expressway penultimate week. The robbers commanded them to lie on the road while they operated in the bus unhindered. The traumatised victims were obviously pondering over their fate when a truck sped along and crushed them to death. This did not stop the bandits who came back to complete their heinous act. 

In the Niger Delta, criminal elements have infiltrated the ranks of militants. Kidnapping for ransom, which is rampant in the country now, started from there. What started as a just struggle to emancipate the people of the region has turned into a lucrative source of income for some individuals.

The Federal Government has offered them amnesty. Some have taken it. Some have not. Some want N300, 000 paid for each AK-47 riffle they wish to surrender. Some want the government to rent comfortable flats for them. I’m optimistic that peace will eventually reign in that region. But whether this amnesty package will bring that enduring peace remains to be seen.

Generally, the state of insecurity in the country has not been this bad. Many sophisticated arms and ammunition are in wrong hands. This calls for eternal vigilance from every Nigerian.

The task before the new IGP, Ogbonna Onovo, is enormous. He has started well by ordering over 100, 000 policemen attached to private individuals to return to the police headquarters for redeployment or risk dismissal. It is ridiculous that a Force with a total strength of about 312, 223 had almost half that number guarding private individuals. One individual is even reported to have up to 21 police details attached to him. How many of these policemen are in the streets to do the real job they are paid to do?

In any case, employing a police escort does not totally guarantee the security of an individual. One or two policemen attached to a politician, for instance, may never prevent hardened criminals with sophisticated weapons from successfully carrying out their operations.

A friend of mine who is an oil magnate in Port Harcourt had cause to use police escort early this year. Robbers ambushed them on the way and killed the police escort. The police and the deceased family turned round to accuse the oil dealer of killing their man for ritual purposes. He went through a series of detentions and interrogations. Now, he is breathing an air of freedom because the police seem to have discovered that their allegations are baseless. Former Justice Minister, Bola Ige, also had police escort but that did not stop those who assassinated him in his home.

Surely, Onovo knows what to do with the over 100, 000 extra policemen coming back to the police headquarters. He knows that training and retraining of his men are essential ingredients of effective policing. He knows that good welfare packages will enhance their job. He knows that acquiring sophisticated weapons to match the firepower of criminals is desirable. He knows that they need to do more in the areas of crime detection and prevention. He knows that adequate funding is cardinal if the police must move forward.

What Onovo may not know yet is how and where such funding will come. The Federal Government is there no doubt, but with dwindling resources, the prospects of giving more to the police may be a mirage. State governments should help. Wealthy individuals should help. This is the time to say, if you want to hear big donations, attend a police equipment fund-raiser.

1 Comment »

  1. 1

    Cool site, love the info.

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