Monday’s coordinated attacks on the Imo State Police Command headquarters and the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS) facility in Owerri by gunmen claimed its first major casualty on Tuesday with President Muhammadu Buhari firing the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu.
THISDAY checks showed that the president was so angry with the audacious assaults on two key security points in the state that he approved the immediate replacement of Adamu with a Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Alkali Baba, in an acting capacity.
Adamu, who was on the spot assessment of the scenes of the attack, was in Owerri when his tenure was peremptorily cut short.
Adamu was billed to retire on February 1 but Buhari on February 4 extended his tenure by three months and he had about 27 days to the end of the extended tenure when the president removed him from office.
The extension triggered national outrage with some citizens challenging the extension in court and describing it as illegal.
During the attacks on the police headquarters and the custodial facility, over 100 vehicles were destroyed and 1,844 inmates freed.
Outraged by the level of destruction, the outgoing IG on Tuesday charged the police not to allow IPOB and other attackers of security agents to exist.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who visited the scenes of the attacks on Tuesday in Owerri, said the federal government had intensified the search for masterminds of the jailbreak which he said led to the release of dangerous criminals.
The Minister of Interior, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, offered amnesty to the fleeing inmates if they voluntarily return.
But the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, raised the alarm that the attackers were bent on triggering anarchy and chaos nationwide.
THISDAY gathered that Buhari, who is in the UK for a medical checkup, held consultations virtually with top presidency officials before Adamu’s removal was announced.
Adamu had blamed the twin attack in Imo State on IPOB and its security arm, the Eastern Security Network (ESN).
THISDAY gathered that the federal government was embarrassed by what a senior presidency official called the “strange” attack on the security formations in Imo State.
The presidency source told THISDAY that the government was alarmed by the Imo attacks.
“His handling of the post-EndSARS reorganisation was not satisfactory. The abolition of SARS and its replacement, SWATT, was not satisfactorily carried out because the SARS offices were still operational in disguise.
“How can an entire state police command be destroyed and vehicles set ablaze without any resistance? To add to it, hoodlums set close to 2,000 prisoners free and burnt Owerri correctional facility. This is not acceptable,” the source said.
THISDAY also learnt that the escape of 55 suspects in police custody in Ebonyi State also counted against Adamu.
They were suspected to be mercenaries hired from Jukun in Taraba State and other northern states by communities fighting over land dispute in Ebonyi State.
“In Ebonyi State, 55 suspects escaped from police custody. There seemed to be a disconnect between the IG and the CPs in the states,” the source stated.
Minister of Police Affairs, Mr. Maigari Dingyadi, who announced Adamu’s removal said it was part of the moves to address the security challenges facing the nation.
He told State House reporters in Abuja that the change in the leadership of the police was in line with the resolve of Buhari to rejig the country’s security architecture.
He said: “These changes are in line with the determination of Mr. President to rejig the security architecture of the country to ensure that the security challenges bedevilling the nation are brought to an end.”
The minister stated that Buhari charged the new appointee to rise to the challenge by ensuring the implementation of the police reform policy of his administration to enable the police to perform most effectively for the security of lives and property.
He added that the president had earlier extended the tenure of Adamu to enable a detailed process of appointing a new IG, in line with section 15 (A) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
According to him, between February 1 and yesterday, eligible senior police officers of the rank of DIG and AIG were screened for appointment as IG.
He said in line with Section 7 (2) of the Nigeria Police Act (2020) and based on seniority, professionalism, record of service and competence, “Mr. President approved the appointment of an Acting IG, in the person of Usman Alkali Baba, with immediate effect.”
Dingyadi added that Buhari thanked Adamu for his professionalism and dedication to duty while his tenure lasted and wished him well in his future endeavours.
Asked why the president did not allow the outgoing IG to finish his extended tenure, the minister said Buhari was in charge of appointing or extending tenures.
“He has now decided to appoint a new person. So please allow him that responsibility and we cannot do anything about it,” he said.
Born on March 1, 1963, in Gaidam, Yobe State, the acting IG enlisted in the Nigeria Police on March 15, 1988.
He was until his appointment the DIG in charge of the Force Criminal Investigation Department, Force Headquarters, Abuja
On his vision for the police, the acting IG pledged in his curriculum vitae to give credible motivational leadership to the police force.
“To enhance police primacy in Nigeria through the provision of a motivational and credible leadership driven by professional knowledge, ethics, emotional intelligence tools, and strategic planning and operational models that are directed at stabilising internal security and modernising police operations, facilities and standards within the framework of citizens, consent, trust, and rule of law,” he said.
THISDAY gathered that the new IG is the most senior DIG with only one year left in service.
Section 7 (6) of the Police Act states that the person appointed to the office of Inspector-General of Police shall hold office for four years.
Baba has held various command and senior management positions in the police force.
Baba, who joined the Nigerian Police in 1988, holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration (MPA) and Bachelor of Science Degree in Political Science.
An alumnus of Bayero University, Kano, and the University of Maiduguri, (UNIMAID), he is also a fellow of the National Defence College.
The new IG is a member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police and was at various times the Assistant Inspector-General of Police in Charge of Zone 4, Makurdi; Zone 7, Abuja and Zone 5, Benin.
Baba was also the Commissioner of Police in charge of Delta State and the Federal Capital Territory.
He also served as Acting Deputy Inspector-General of Police in charge of Finance and Administration and Force Secretary.
Meanwhile Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Tuesday expressed the determination of the federal government to fish out masterminds of Monday’s attacks on security formations in Owerri, the Imo State capital, and bring them to justice.
Osinbajo, who inspected the facilities condemned the attacks on the federal prison and police command headquarters.
He also condemned the jailbreak which he said led to the release of “dangerous criminals”, adding that the search for the escaped inmates “has begun in earnest.”
He said: “An attack on the critical institutions of law enforcement, police stations and prisons is an attack on the safety, security and wellbeing of the citizens.
“It is not merely an attack on law and order. It is a mindless attack on the people and the way of life of the people. When you attack police stations and free dangerous criminals, you put women, men, children and their possessions and livelihoods at risk.”
Osinbajo, however, assured Imo residents that security presence has been enhanced to ensure that peace reigns in the state.
Meanwhile, For the second time in 24 hours, gunmen have attacked another police station in Imo State.
The gunmen invaded the police station located in Ehime Mbano Local Government Area on Tuesday and burnt it down.
A report Tuesday by TheCable said police officers fled when the station was attacked. The gunmen were also said to have freed detainees at the police station.
Spokesman of the Imo State Police Command, Mr. Orlando Ikeokwu, confirmed the attack to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
He, however, added that no death was recorded during the invasion.
“Yes, I can confirm to you that the police facility was attacked today by bandits. No casualty on the part of the police, no loss of arms, but three vehicles were burnt in the process,” he said.
The federal government Tuesday assured any of the 1,884 inmates of the custodial centre in Owerri, freed during Monday’s attack on the facility of a pardon if they voluntarily return to custody.
According to Minister of Interior, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, who was in Owerri for an inspection of the facility, although unlawful escape from custody is a crime, willing returnees will be exempted from prosecution.
The minister said he would ensure that those involved in the attack face justice.
Aregbesola expressed the federal government’s determination to fish out the attackers.
He said: “Unlawful escape from custody is a crime but the government in its magnanimity will grant amnesty to prisoners who willfully return.
“They will no longer be charged with an unlawful escape but only for the initial crimes that took them to prison. So we urge all escapees to return before they are caught on the run.”
The federal government also raised the alarm that those behind the attacks on the Imo State Police headquarters and the custodial centre in Owerri were bent on imposing anarchy on the country.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, at a press briefing Tuesday in Abuja described the attacks as the most unfortunate, dastardly, condemnable and unacceptable.
He said the attacks fitted into the growing pattern of inexplicable and anarchical acts by some malcontents, seeking to trigger chaos in the country.
He also urged all persons of goodwill, especially traditional, religious and political leaders to condemn the anarchists before they set the country on fire.
The minister also appealed to compatriots to expose those who are acting as ‘agent provocateur’ for reasons best known to them, by volunteering information that can lead to their arrest and prosecution.
He warned that those inflaming violence must not be allowed to win.
Meanwhile, the outgoing IG, Adamu, has directed officers and men of the Nigeria Police Force to use brute force against members of the IPOB and ESN who he described as outlaws.
Adamu, who was at the Imo State Police Command headquarters yesterday to assess the damage caused by the gunmen, directed that police personnel must not give insurgents and criminals free rein.
“The attackers will not go scot-free. You should deal ruthlessly with those that take delight in attacking security agencies. Don’t allow them to exist; they should be annihilated from society because they are criminals. And from now, henceforth you have to change your tactics in order to curtail their activities.
“The local authorities should feel concerned about the activities of these outlaws and there is the need for all of us to work together to fish out those criminals by providing the police with information about their activities, their sponsors so that we can effectively end their illegal operations.
“Those who were released from the Owerri correctional service centre are members of the indigenous people of IPOB/Eastern Security Network; don’t hide them because if you do you may also fall victim of the attack,” he stated.
He added that the police would soon commence the renovation of the Imo State Police Command Headquarters and the burnt operational vehicles replaced.
“We will commence the renovation of the damaged offices and the operational vehicles will also be replaced so that officers and men of Imo State command will continue with their duties. We will not be deterred by the attacks of criminals,” he said.
Deji Elumoye, Olawale Ajimotokan, Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja and Amby Uneze in Owerri