Multiple ailments: Police battle attacks on cops, stations amid rising insecurity

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DENNIS NAKU and EDWARD NNACHI write on the unending attacks on police stations and security operatives in the South-East and South-South regions and how the menace can come to an
end

CLEARLY, no one knew or imagined that a time would come in the country when youths would come together to protest and resist the cruel treatment meted out to innocent citizens by the Nigeria Police, especially operatives of the now disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad. So, October 2020 will continue to be a sad reminder for the police in Rivers State and other parts of the South-South geo-political zone.

There is no gainsaying the fact that the police were caught off guard during the #EndSARS protest, which was hijacked by hoodlums, who laid siege to the Oyigbo Local Government Area of River State. From the South-South and the South-East regions, the #EndSARS protests that spread across the country marked the beginning of the hitherto strange onslaught on the police in the two geo-political zones.

No one envisaged that after the #EndSARS protests, the barefaced attacks on police stations and cops would continue. While the hurdle of the #EndSARS protests has been crossed, that of vicious attacks on the police by hoodlums has remained unresolved.

While accusing fingers were pointed at the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra as parading as #EndSARS protesters, not much has been done to pin the dastardly act on the pro-secession group. Four police stations in Oyigbo, River State were razed, while four policemen were killed in one fell swoop, even as many police rifles were stolen.

The then Commissioner of Police in Rivers State, Joseph Mukan, in a statement through the command’s spokesman, Nnamdi Omoni, confirmed that over 50 vehicles were set ablaze by members of the outlawed group.

The statement read in part, “In the course of the attacks, over 50 vehicles were burnt, including one Armoured Personnel Carrier, two policemen hacked to death and police stations set ablaze.” The police later revealed that two other policemen were killed with one of them having his hand and leg cut off before he was burnt beyond recognition.

The policeman killed by the suspected IPOB members in the siege was Inspector Sunday Dubon, an APC driver attached to the Anti-Kidnapping Unit, according to the state police image maker.

Other victims were Swawale Ornan, who was attached to the 19 Police Mobile Force on special duty in Oyigbo, who was burnt to ashes, as well as Sergeant Umunna Uchechukwu serving in the Afam Police Station, whose legs and hands were cut off, and was burnt to ashes, while an operative identified as Onan was also burnt to ashes.

Also in Delta State, a policeman was killed during a clash between operatives of the state police command and some youths and commercial motorcyclists, otherwise known as okada riders, in Ughelli. The youth claimed that they were protesting against intimidation, harassment and extortion by SARS operatives and other police personnel in the area.

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The Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, said in a statement that Corporal Etaga Stanley was killed and his rifle and ammunition stolen.

In Edo State, a protest calling for an end to SARS rented the city centre, especially Ring Road and other adjoining areas, with some youths carrying placards with various inscriptions such as: ‘EndSARS before SARS end us’. While no policeman was killed in the state, several stations were set ablaze.

In Akwa Ibom State, a policeman was reportedly murdered, while in Cross Rivers State, the Atakpa Police Station in Calabar was vandalised by hoodlums. Bayelsa, however, did not record any violence against the police.

In Rivers State, Governor Nyesom Wike released the sum of N20m to widows of four policemen mowed down in Oyigbo. The governor’s hand of fellowship was in fulfilment of a promise he made to the police, while the same gesture was extended to the Nigerian Army, which lost six soldiers in Oyigbo, no thanks to suspected IPOB members that turned the area into a living hell.

Ebonyi State and the entire South-East region have recorded cases of destruction of public property, including facilities belonging to the Nigeria Police Force. Aside from the burning down of police facilities in the region, there have also been cases of police personnel being killed and their rifles stolen.

Between October 21 and 30, 2020, no fewer than 11 policemen were murdered in the South-East zone by yet-to-be identified persons. Though there is suspicion that some members of the Indigenous People of Biafra are behind the dastardly act, there is no evidence so far to prove such allegation. Also, within the period, over 14 police stations were burnt by hoodlums in the zone.

On October 30, 2020, two policemen, Inspector Egu Omini and PC Akpu Paul, were killed, while four others were injured. The perpetrators also burnt down five police stations and allegedly took away two AK-47 rifles. The attackers reportedly cut off the private parts of Inspector Omini and were said to have carried out the heinous acts allegedly as #EndSARS protesters.

The four injured policemen are ASP Akili Benson, Inspector Okewu Sunday, Inspector Egun Omini, and PC Ali Samson, while the five police stations burnt are the ‘B’ Division, Kpirikpiri; ‘C’ Division, Ekumenyi; Central Police Station, Ohaozara Division; Okposi Police Station; and the Ezza North Divisional Headquarters.

The hoodlums, The PUNCH investigations revealed, also burnt patrol vehicles, exhibit cars and motorcycles, exhibit documents and other valuable property in the separate attacks.

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The Ebonyi State Police Command had in a statement signed by its Public Relations Officer, Mrs Loveth Odah, said the attacks were carried out by suspected members of the proscribed IPOB. The statement read in part, “On Wednesday, October 21, 2020, the protest was hijacked by criminal minded miscreants suspected to be members of the proscribed IPOB, who invaded the Central Police Station, Abakaliki, shooting sporadically at policemen. In the process, two policemen, PC Akpu Paul and PC Ali Samson, sustained bullet injuries and two days later, one of the victims, PC Paul Akpu, died while on admission at the Alex Ekwueme Federal University Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki.

“The hoodlums proceeded to the ‘B’ Division, Kprikpri, and the ‘C’ Division, Ekumenyi (Eke-Abe Police Station), and set the two stations on fire after looting exhibits such as motorcycles, plasma TVs, fans and other valuables from the exhibit rooms. The hoodlums resurfaced on October 22, 2020, and set ablaze the Ohaozara Divisional Headquarters and the Okposi Police Station together with two patrol vehicles, three exhibit vehicles and the DPO’s car. They looted the two police formations’ exhibit rooms and vandalised the newly-built Okposi Divisional Headquarters, which had yet to be inaugurated.”

The heartrending story was not different in Enugu State, as the police command said it lost two of its officers, who were allegedly murdered by hoodlums during the violence that trailed the peaceful #EndSARS protest in the state. The state Commissioner of Police, Mr Ahmad Abdurrahman, disclosed this during a briefing on October 29, 2020, confirming that nine police stations were burnt down by the suspects.

This trend, our correspondent learnt, had sent jitters among critical stakeholders, who were worried that even after the #EndSARS protests, the development was not abating. It is equally unsettling that no culprit has been found and prosecuted.

Just recently, three police officers were shot dead, while two others sustained bullet wounds at the Onueke Police Station in the Ezza South Local Government Area of Ebonyi State.

Our correspondent gathered that the policemen were attacked by gunmen, who stormed the station on a Saturday afternoon. Investigation showed that the slain personnel were two male inspectors and one policewoman, who was relaxing in a room when the gunmen struck. It was also gathered that the attackers took away two AK-47 rifles kept at the station.

The Iboko Police Station in the Izzi Local Government Area of the state was torched by another set of gunmen in military uniform penultimate Monday. It was gathered that the attackers were said to have set the police station ablaze, using fire bombs and grenades. Also, in February, the Police Division at Isu in the Onicha Local Government Area of Ebonyi State was burnt by hoodlums. The Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr Aliyu Garba, confirmed the incident.

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The Imo State Police Command equally had its share of attacks by hoodlums. In February, gunmen attacked and razed a police station in the state. This brought the number of police facilities attacked in the region to three in less than a month. Similarly, two police officers were killed in separate incidents in Anambra State on Wednesday, February 24, 2021, when some gunmen attacked a police patrol team at a checkpoint in the state.

Speaking on the development, a Senior Advocate of France, Francis Ogbonnaya, said, “Ongoing attacks on police stations and killings of police personnel, among others, are a result of heightened anger among some jobless youths, who are no longer comfortable with the system.

“Some of these young men are graduates with good certificates. There is no job for them. They are not relaxed. They are hungry; they have lost faith in the system. Tell me why they won’t be angry.”

Also, the Chairman, Civil Society Organisations in Rivers State, Enefaa Georgewill, said it was wrong for anyone to attack the police, pointing out that no society could survive without responsible policing.

Gerorgewill added, “In any case, these police officers are equally suffering the same fate that other Nigerians are suffering from bad leadership. So, to single them out for attack is wrong. However, it equally shows that some citizens are expressing displeasure over the way and manner some police officers are conducting themselves.

“While it is true that we cannot do without responsible policing, it is equally true that policemen should act according to their terms of engagement. They should act in line with the Police Act that created them and the Constitution. That way, there will be mutual respect and society can move forward.”

On his part, the Chairman, Civil Liberties Organisation, South-South, Karl Ucheagbu, expressed sadness over the inability of the police to change for the better in order to restore public confidence; though he condemned incessant attacks on policemen and police stations.

“In as much as such attacks are condemnable, it is also a reminder that they should start showing the citizens that they are ready to change their mindset and also reform the police as an institution,” Ucheagbu added.

Copyright PUNCH.

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Contact: theeditor@punchng.com

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