Insight

Murdered in the line of duty

Recent attacks and killings of policemen and officers across the country are giving stakeholders the jitters, according to New Telegraph investigations

These are certainly not the best of times for personnel of the Nigerian Police as many of them continued to come under violent attacks in different parts of the country. These attacks and killings came on the heels of #EndSARS protests, which occurred last year. The #EndSARS protest was against police extra-judicial killings, brutality, extortion, harassment and intimidation.

The protests witnessed not just the burning of police stations nationwide, but also killing of policemen. Just as the personnel were beginning to heave a sigh of relief that the mayhem was over, then began another round of attacks on policemen. Between January and February this year, at least 43 policemen were killed in seven states.

However, according to the New Telegraph investigations, the highest number of policemen killed occurred in the South-East. The Inspector-General of Police (IG), Mohammed Adamu, on Friday, through the Assistant-Inspector General (AIG), Mobile Police Force, Force Headquarters, Abuja, sent a wireless message, redeploying mobile units to different axis for re-enforcement. The message was sent to MOPOL 3, Enugu, MOPOL 18, Owerri, MOPOL 29 Awka, MOPOL 32, Abakaliki, MOPOL 55, Aba and MOPOL 64, Ideato.

The message reads in part: “In view of the escalating security situation in the South-East geo-political zone of the country, the IGP has directed that they withdraw with immediate effect.” The message further instructed that all personnel deployed to commands and locations indicated against their squadron were to stabilise security in their commands.

The message maintained that compliance should not be later than March 1, 2021. On February 26, about 9.21pm, at Nsaka village, on Ikot-Ekpene, Aba Road, Ikot- Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State, members of the Joint Border Patrol Team (JBPT), led by P. O. Chukwu, on routine patrol, were attacked by 12 hoodlums.

The hoodlums were armed with AK47 rifles and on four motorcycles. During the attack, one JBPT policeman, Inspector Daniel Inah, was shot and killed and his rifle was taken. The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) operational Hilux, marked NCS111HQ, was set on fire.

The reason for the present threats against policemen personnel is not known yet. But some stakeholders believe these policemen were just victims of circumstances. According to them, the murdered policemen were at the wrong place, at the wrong time.

The New Telegraph looked at the attacks on policemen in some states between January and February. In Abia State, officially, four policemen had been killed. According to the command, the policemen were killed, following incessant attacks on police stations by hoodlums.

The state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), SP Geoffrey Ogbonna, told the New Telegraph that out of the four officers killed, three were murdered in Aba. Ogbonna added that the last one occurred at Omoba in Isiala-Ngwa South Local Government Area of the state. He said: “Hoodlums laid an ambush for a police patrol team at Uratta-Junction, Aba and killed an officer.

The killing at Omoba occurred when hoodlums, earlier this month, attacked Omoba Police Station. The killing at Abayi happened when hoodlums in their numbers attacked the station, exchanged fire with officers and ended up killing two officers.” Sergeant Okezie Obioma was killed in January at Uratta-Junction, Aba, while Inspector William Willy was murdered at Omoba in early February. Just a few days ago, an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), Vincent Gonze, and Sergeant Emmanuel Okoronkwo were killed.

Reports from Ekiti State are reassuring as the PPRO, ASP Sunday Abutu, said that no policeman had been killed in the state since the beginning of the year. According to him, the state is peaceful compared to most states, which have witnessed attacks on policemen. He added: “The attacks as mentioned in some other states are not happening here.

There has not been an attack on any of our personnel. Attacks on policemen happened in the states that are more prone to crime. Ekiti is peaceful. Crime rates in those states are higher compared to Ekiti, which is relatively peaceful. Security challenges in the state, which we have been able to control, are relatively low.”

The Ogun State PPRO, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Abimbola Oyeyemi, noted that the command is on red alert and has placed policemen at strategic positions to prevent any form of attacks on any police formation in the state. Oyeyemi described attacks on police stations and personnel in some parts of the country as a dangerous trend which must be condemned by all well-meaning Nigerians.

The PPRO said the command has fortified all police stations across the state. He added: “We’ll not allow such a thing to happen to us here. And aside from that, we are having a series of community engagements with people, because no police officer can succeed without the inhabitants of the area. We’re in constant contact with members of the public and we’re having security meetings with all the critical stakeholders in every divisional headquarter that we have across the state.

“If any attack is going to happen, it has to be with the connivance of the people who are domicile in that environment, and once you are carrying the people along in policing the area, I don’t think any of such things will happen here in Ogun State.

Our Police Community Relations Committee (PCRC), the hunters, the vigilantes and others are well on ground and the police are carrying them along. For instance, during the #ENDSARS protest, despite our closeness with Lagos State, the epicentre of the whole protest, we recorded a few attacks on police formations.” Oyeyemi, however, warned anyone with the intention of attacking police officers in the state to have a rethink or meet his waterloo. In Adamawa State, the report says there have been no attacks or killing of any policeman.

The state Commissioner of Police, Aliyu Adamu Alhaji, said it is a good beginning and hoped that God would continue to protect his men. The commissioner said that in view of the previous experiences, the command has inaugurated a Community Policing Sensitisation Awareness campaign aimed at enlightening the citizens on any eventuality. Community policing, he said, requires the police involving the community in deciding policing priorities, promoting transparency and to respect the rights of citizens. Similarly, Enugu State has been relatively calm and peaceful since the beginning of 2021.

The state PPRO, Daniel Ekea, noted that the command has been on red alert to confront any untoward incident. Although there were attacks on some police stations during the #EndSARS nationwide protests, resulting in the death of no less than three personnel in the state, that was then, said Ekea.

He said: “All I can tell you is that Enugu State has been relatively calm and peaceful. Or did you see any police station or personnel attacked? Even in those states where policemen were attacked, it’s still under investigation to determine who is carrying out the attacks. So only our personnel in those states can answer as to who was responsible for the attacks. However, based on the operational guide of the Force, we are always at alert for any eventuality.”

In Rivers State, the unthinkable offence of murdering policemen by criminal elements is a somewhat rare occurrence. Most police officers on active duties are mostly killed during gunfights with armed robbers or kidnappers. But the #EndSARS protest late last year changed that as four policemen were killed at Obigbo in Oyigbo Local Government Area. During those attacks, a few police stations were burnt, including operational vehicles while guns were snatched. The killing was reportedly carried out by members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). Since then, there has not been any incident relating to the murder of policemen.

Efforts to reach the PPRO, Superintendent of Police (SP) Nnamdi Omoni, to shed more lights on the security of policemen in the state were unsuccessful as he didn’t pick his calls and did not respond to a text message sent to him. At least, eight policemen have been killed in Delta State in the last two months.

The slain policemen were mostly in the ranks of Inspectors. The new Commissioner of Police, Ari Mohammed Ali, who took over from Hafiz Muhammed, beefed up security at the police headquarters in Asaba, the state capital, two weeks ago. Two of the policemen were killed and their AK47 rifles taken by hoodlums who ambushed a patrol team at the popular ‘Mile 5’ area of Ugbolu and Illah communities, near Asaba.

Two other policemen sustained life-threatening injuries during the attack and their rifles were also snatched. In the same vein, a mobile policeman was shot dead along the popular Airport Road in Effurun, by fleeing gunmen. In another development, two policemen were killed in the Sapele axis of the state by hoodlums.

A police Inspector, simply identified as Sunny, was killed by dare-devil armed robbers, who hijacked a bullion van on Ubulu- Okiti-Ubulu-Uku Road, Benin-Agbor-Asaba- Onitsha Expressway last week. Also, two policemen, who are victims of the attack, are battling to stay alive at an undisclosed hospital.

A senior police source said: “As a result of the attacks, the CP has ordered that all patrol teams must be in pairs and motorised, rather than being static in order for them not to be taken unawares. The CP had an emergency security meeting with all Area Commanders, Divisional Police Officers (DPOs) and Unit Commanders in the state to brainstorm on how to tackle the rise in criminalities in the state.”

The state PPRO, DSP Edafe Bright, declined comments on the killings when contacted. But a signal, with order number CB: 4001/ DTS/DOPS/VOL39/485, reads: “In view of the recent security threats and attacks on policemen and formations in the command, it has become necessary to further fortify security at the state headquarters.

With effect from today till further notice, you’re to deploy one patrol team each with not less than six armed men on a 24-hour basis at the state headquarters’ gate.” In Imo State, no fewer than six policemen have been killed since January. All the policemen were killed on active duty and most had their weapons taken away by their killers.

On January 2, gunmen attacked and killed one of the policemen on duty somewhere in Orlu, Imo State. The following day, two policemen, who were on escort duty, were shot and killed around one of the boundary communities between Imo and Anambra states.

Everyone in the Hilux van, including the Very Important Personality (VIP) being escorted, was shot dead on the spot. On January 14, a policeman was killed in the Umutanze area of Orlu Local Government Area, when gunmen suspected to be members of the Eastern Security Network (ESN) attacked a police detachment, investigating certain violent activities in the area. A policeman died in the attack, while a number of others escaped with various degrees of injury.

On the night of February 5, two policemen were shot and killed when gunmen attacked Obowo Divisional Police Headquarters, located at Umulowe autonomous community in Obowo Local Government Area of Imo State. The hoodlums also injured three other cops who resisted their attempt to gain entry into the Division. When contacted for comment on the development, the state PPRO, Mr. Orlando Ikeokwu, said that the issue is a security matter, which the command would rather not speak about.

Just like its Ogun State counterpart, Ondo State Police Command said it is on red alert and wouldn’t wait for its personnel and facilities to be attacked before taking action. With no death of any police personnel recorded in the state since the beginning of the year, the surveillance across the state, particularly within Divisional Police Areas has been heightened to forestall such attacks. The PPRO, Tee-Leo Ikoro, said it will not happen in Ondo State because the Commissioner of Police doesn’t play with the security of the state and that of his men.

He added: “When something like that happened in other states, what the police command does is to analyze what the consequences will look like if it does happen in Ondo State. So, what we do is to put preventive measures in place. What that means is that in all the entry points into Ondo State, we have our men both in uniform and off uniform, to monitor every movement into Ondo State because it could happen if we don’t take it up. The most important thing we do is that when something happens somewhere, we look at it critically, analyze what the consequences will look like and we know that if it does happen it will affect us so much. “The Commissioner of Police has held a meeting with the DPOs and Tactical Team Commanders, to ensure that all entry points into Ondo State are fully manned.

We do not think it will happen. We hear some stories like that in other places, but here, it will not happen!” In Akwa Ibom State, suspected hoodlums had on February 22, 2021 attacked a police checkpoint at Ikpe Annang junction in Essien Udim Local Government Area and killed a police Inspector.

A witness, Nsibiet Idiong, said the attack could be reprisal as hoodlums on motorcycles fired gunshots randomly at the policemen. He said: “We believe the attack on the policemen was a reprisal because the policemen had been terrorising hoodlums, armed robbers and other categories of criminals in the neighbouring local government areas of Essien Udim, Ikot Ekpene and Obot Akara.

When the other policemen escaped, the gunmen set the Hilux van on fire with the Inspector inside. He must have been sleeping when the attack started.” The PPRO, SP Odiko Macdon, said the Police Commissioner, Mr. Amiengheme Andrew, swiftly ordered a comprehensive investigation into the matter.

He said: “While the CP is saddened by this development and condoles with the deceased family, he has ordered a discreet investigation and vowed to bring perpetrators to book.” In Ebonyi State three policemen were killed in Onueke Police Station when hoodlums invaded the station. At least two AK47 rifles were carted away by the hoodlums who also set the station and vehicles ablaze. In Ezza North Police Station, a policeman was also killed, while his AK47 rifle was taken by hoodlums who invaded the station.

The hoodlums also set the station ablaze. In Niger State, the number of policemen attacked and those killed could not be ascertained as the Commissioner of Police, Adamu Usman, and his men were busy with the rescue process of kidnapped people, especially the recent release of the abducted students and staff of the Government Science College, Kagara, but independent investigations proved that two policemen had been killed.

A top officer said most police officers were attacked and killed by bandits. He added: “More policemen were attacked and killed last year, but this year, I don’t think we have up to 10 or 15 cases.” When our correspondent met with the CP, he said: “For now, as you can see, we are engrossed and focusing on the just released students and staff of the Government Science College, Kagara, and so, I cannot give you any detail even though I know we have lost a few of our men this year.”

On Tuesday, bandits killed a police Inspector and injured three other policemen on the Minna-Suleja Road, precisely at Kaffinkoro junction about 6.30pm The injured policemen were taken to the IBB Specialist Hospital where they were receiving treatment.

Earlier, in January this year, a policeman was killed in an attack in Shiroro Local Government Area of Niger State. All efforts to reach the PPRO, Wasiu Abiodun, proved abortive as he neither picked nor returned our correspondent’s calls. He also did not reply to the text message sent to him. In Oyo State, there has not been any incident of police killing between January and February.

It is, however, on record that since the end of the #EndSARS protests the police in Oyo State have not been cooperating with the media in terms of responding to issues of criminal activities sought from the PPRO, Gbenga Fadeyi. Several attempts made to get reactions from Fadeyi failed, as he neither picked calls nor replied to messages sent to his known phone number. In Anambra State, eight policemen were killed by gunmen in the last two months while 16 others were injured.

The PPRO, Mohammed Haruna, declined comment. He said reactions to this development fall within the purview of the Force Public Relations Officer (FPRO), Frank Mba. A police officer, who resides in Umunze town close to Mkpologwu and Omogho communities in Orumba North and South local government area, said taking away guns after the killings indicates that a new gang of bandits are enriching their armoury for a planned heavy onslaught. In Cross River State, four policemen were killed in the last two months.

The four policemen, two inspectors and two sergeants, were killed last week. The PPRO, DSP Irene Ugbo, said the command has done everything to ensure its men are on alert. She said: “That’s why we asked them not to sleep on duty, and that is also why they are on shift because they are human beings.”

A security expert, Ambassador Darlington Onuoha Kalu, Abia State Chairman of Police Campaign against Cultism and Other Vices (POCACOV), said the situation is gradually scaring residents and visitors, especially in Aba. Kalu, who is also the president general of the African Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (AASME), said that if nothing is done about the situation, customers would be too scared to come to Aba. He said: “In Abia State, there’s a lack of organisational structure on the people living and doing business in the state. It’s difficult to say this is the person living and doing business here.

That has led to Abia shifting from a secured state to a state that is moving towards huge insecurity. In the streets of Aba, you’ll see different kinds of people, and during the #EndSARS protests and after, hoodlums took over the streets and started attacking police. They started with the tactical squad on Omoba Road.”

A security expert in Adamawa State, Mr. Philemon Leha, said the tremendous strides of Governor Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri in maintaining security balance have checked the killings of police personnel. Leha, a retired Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG), while applauding the State Police Command for inaugurating the Community Policing, called on citizens to support the government and security agencies in tackling the menace of insecurity. A security consultant and a forensic expert, Mr. Iyke Ehirim, described the situation as precarious. According to him, it is no longer the usual armed robbery and kidnapping incidents, which have been prevalent in the area. He said: “This adds a level of uncertainty to the already tensed security situation in the state.

These are typical activities of non-state actors seeking to destabilise security networks in the state, inflicting fear and dampening the morale of officers and men of the Nigerian Police. Their modus operandi points to a premeditated, coordinated ambush-styled assault on security operatives – hard and soft targets – unfortunately our security operatives are often caught napping.

There is therefore, need for the security agencies to wake up and rise to the occasion.” A former Commissioner of Police in Borno State, Mr. Damian Chukwu, and a former State Director of the Department of State Services (DSS), Mr. Mike Ejiofor, have urged police authorities to adopt immediate and long term measures aimed at protecting both personnel and assets against possible invasion. Specifically, Chukwu recommended the mounting of at least an Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) in each of the stations across the country, as deterrence against possible attacks. He said: “You know the police deal directly with the public.

That is the only security agency that has daily contact with the public. It is the police that go looking for these people. It depends on the kind of crimes prevalent in other parts of the country. Maybe, in an attempt to free their cohorts, in police custody, something would have led to it. Maybe it’s the case of high-handedness on the part of officers in that area.

“If an Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) is provided for each police station, it will be difficult for hoodlums to come and attack the stations. Police should do more to protect their facilities.” On his part, Ejiofor expressed worries, saying that the development may be connected to the seeming obsession by non-state actors to acquire illegal arms. According to him, the firearms stolen during such attacks are either used for self-protection, or to further the course of violence.

He said: “It is the state of lawlessness in our country, and these (attacks) are parts or signs of insurgency. You know, people are looking for arms to either arm themselves, or attack government institutions, like police and others. So, it’s a very dangerous sign.

Police stations must be fortified, to avoid further attacks.” Also a former DSS Deputy Director, Mr. Dennis Amachree, said this is the time for the IG, Adamu, to build a police-friendly image among Nigerians. Amachree said many policemen have lost their lives while fighting bandits, some during the #EndSARS and some when they were protecting their stations from being looted or burnt. According to him, the dent on the police image and the trust deficit are too deep to turn positive overnight. He said: “The police organisation should embark on extensive town hall meetings and publicity campaigns across the country to show that they are working for the public and not just people in government and some high net worth individuals.

The IGP should project people’s police before he retires and with that, the general public would know that police are working for them not the big men in the society.” Similarly, the publisher of the Chief Detective magazine, Mr. Dipo Kehinde, said police have to increase their level of intelligence and alertness.

He said: “It is not good for their image, for someone to just come and loot their stations.” Kehinde said after the EndSARS attacks in Lagos State, some police stations he visited have taken more precautionary measures by creating a buffer zone.

He added: “Why it was easy for the hoodlums to access police stations in the eastern part of the country, was because of their agitation for Biafra State, and they need arms to work with, but the police themselves must make their intelligence level strong and alertness be active. The police hierarchy at the Force Headquarters, Abuja needs to do more to protect their officers and rank and files. The way some police stations are built, makes it easy to be attacked.”

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