The Acting Inspector-General of Police (IG), Mr. Usman Alkali Baba, Thursday described the clamour for state police, which topped demands at zonal public hearings on constitution review held by the Senate on Tuesday as unnecessary.
Baba, who featured at the weekly media briefing organised by the Presidential Communications Team at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, said state police, as being canvassed by different interest groups nationwide, already existed in different forms in many states of the federation.
He also said the police commands in both the South-east and the South-south had been reinforced with the posting of additional 3,700 officers and men there since the establishment of Operation Restore Peace in the area in April. He added that the new security strategy has resulted in the arrest of 1,166 high-profile suspects.
Baba wondered what the demand was all about again when most states already run structures regarded as their own local police.
Apart from the local police structures, like the various vigilante groups supported by state governments, he stated that the police supported states in preventing and fighting crimes by training more than 70,000 citizens nationwide.
He, however, said the National Assembly was in a better position to look into the demand for state police.
He said: “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 the 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 in 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 the government.
“We are ready to work with anybody. We are ready to collaborate and synergise 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 identification as a spy. That is to say, all those who are trained are to go back and assist in policing within their own locality. You have policing capability and powers ends within your community and it is the community that we 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 complement the efforts of the Nigerian security agencies. The National Assembly can look into the agitation which is their own responsibility.”
Baba also said the new strategy launched by the police in the South, tagged “Operation Restore Peace” was aimed at restoring law and order in the affected areas.
He added: “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 the operation. We reinforced these two zones with a total of 3, 700 policemen drawn from our various units, including the Police Mobile Force, the Strike Force, Counter-Terrorism, Special Protection Unit, etc. These commands were reinforced with this personnel with specific instructions with an operation order targeted at stabilising the incessant attacks on police facilities.
“The first operation in the South-east was launched on 18th May in Enugu and we clearly stated our mission and vision. All the states in that zone were in Enugu. We also had meetings with stakeholders to look at the non-kinetic way of addressing the issue. We also advised them that whatever agitation they have, could be done peacefully without targeting the police or other security agents.
“We did the same thing in the South-south and all the states in the zone actively participated. I assured them that since the time we launched these operations, we have had a recipe of policemen coming to defend themselves and repel most of these attacks. We had successful repels and arrests as well as recoveries in great numbers.”
According to him, a total of 1,166 high-profile suspects have been arrested and weapons and arms recovered in the two zones in less than two months
He said: “For record purposes, following the launch of Operation Restore Peace, we have so far recovered the following weapons and arms from secessionists and insurgents: one general-purpose machine gun, 10 AK-47 rifles, nine locally fabricated rifles, four locally fabricated pistols, 19 AK-47 magazines, 5,419 live ammunition with 10 improvised explosive devices.
“In terms of arrests, we have 398 armed robbery suspects, 258 cult-related offenders, 222 murder suspects, 202 bandit-related suspects and 86 suspects involved in cases of kidnapping. Four hundred and thirty-four firearms of various descriptions were also recovered. These statistics are from April 7 till date.”
The IG stated that after analysing the security situation in the six geo-political zones of the country, he realised that the morale of police personnel was dampened due to the EndSARS protests, which led to the scrapping of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) last year.
He said he had to move fast to boost their morale upon assumption of office last month.
“The security situation in the country has been significantly stabilised from time to time, but you see occasional disruptions coming from these zones, in the form of either attack on police personnel or facilities or even all law enforcement agencies, including the military.
“Therefore, we decided to rejig the morale of our personnel, which had been a little bit dampened since the EndSARS came and went away. With the proscription of SARS, we have been able to marshal up the courage of our personnel who have been involved in handling violent crimes and post them for anti-robbery patrols and the investigation of violent crimes, which include robbery, kidnapping, cultism and banditry among others,” he said.
Responding to a question on the recent attack on Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, the IG said those involved had been arrested.
“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 and that is why…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 organised the crime, they are with us; they have been arrested,” he added.