Multiple security formations fail to curb crime rate
The recent persistent Boko Haram attacks in parts of the North-East, menace of killer herdsmen, the gruesome murder of innocent worshippers in a local church in Anambra State last Sunday, the discovery of a ritualists’ den off the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway on Wednesday and another one around Ikeja, Lagos on Thursday, the several reported cases of kidnap and missing persons, among several other crimes are pointing to the sad truth that the security forces in the country may be losing the war against crime and criminality.
These criminal activities are persisting in spite of several security formations that have been set up by government to fight crime and safeguard the lives and property of law-abiding citizens.
Recall that when the President Muhammadu Buhari administration was inaugurated on May 29, 2015, Nigeria’s most pressing security challenge was Boko Haram and the president vowed to tackle the insurgency headlong.
In his maiden address to Nigerians during his inauguration, the president had ordered the relocation of the Defence Headquarters from Abuja to Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, and had stressed that until the fight against Boko Haram is won, the military high command would remain in Maiduguri.
To make good the president’s pledge, Tukur Buratai, the then newly appointed Chief of Army Staff, in July 2015 launched Operation Lafiya Dole (Peace By All Means) aimed to rout Boko Haram insurgents in the North-East. In April 2016, Operation Crackdown was launched to clear terrorists from the sprawling Sambisa Forest and rescue hostages. Following this, Operation Gama Aiki, a joint operation between the Nigerian military and the regional Multinational Joint Task Force, was launched in June 2016 to clear Boko Haram stragglers from northern Borno State and the border regions with Chad and Niger Republic. Operation Gama Aiki primarily targets the terrorists fleeing from Operation Crackdown.
In June 2016, Operation Delta Safe was created to replace the existing Joint Task Force known as Operation Pulo Shield. Operation Delta Safe aims to secure the Niger Delta from militants, illegal oil bunkerers, and vandals. This was followed a month later by Operation Awatse set up to dismantle the operational bases of pipeline vandals and militants in the coastal areas of South-West Nigeria.
Operation Maximum Safety, comprising 510 anti-riot policemen backed by 40 patrol vehicles and Armoured Personnel Carriers, was launched on August 5, 2016 to target bandits and kidnappers along the Abuja-Kaduna highway that cuts across the FCT, Niger and Kaduna States, while Operation Accord was planned by the military to protect farmers and communities from banditry and violence by armed herdsmen.
There is also Operation Sharan Daji, set up to tackle cattle-rustling, kidnapping and armed banditry in the North-West; Operation MESA, a nationwide joint police-military security arrangement taking on different ‘nicknames’ in the various states. In Kaduna, for example, it is called Operation Yaki, while in Benue State it is called Operation Zenda.
Beyond these mostly federal security formations, virtually every state of the federation at several points has come up with similar outfits to ensure maximum security of lives and property, such as the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) in Lagos State backed by the mostly privately-funded State Security Trust Fund (LSSTF).
Meanwhile, a special unit of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) aimed at protecting farms and other agricultural investments across the country is in the works. This is in addition to the regular police and multifarious community-based vigilante groups.
Though the war against Boko Haram recorded some commendable successes, the recent resurgence of the terrorist group has put a question mark on the earlier successes and the government’s claim that the group had been “technically defeated”. This is even as the rising spate of other crimes in the country continues to question the existence of these numerous security formations.
Rising crime rate
Apart from the continued Boko Haram attacks in the North-East, killer herdsmen have been a thorn in the flesh. The killer herdsmen, who at a time were rated fourth deadliest known terrorist group on world terrorism index, have so far massacred several residents across Nigerian communities, with Benue, Enugu State and Southern Kaduna State being the worst hit. Edo and Delta States have also had their own share of herdsmen invasion and killing.
So far, thousands have been killed and many more have been expelled from their homes, while government is requesting for pieces of land from states in order to provide the rampaging herdsmen with permanent grazing field for their cattle. Sometimes the herdsmen are accused of stealing, raping, razing houses alongside killing of innocent members of the communities they pass through.
According to statistics provided by the Institute for Economics and Peace, 1,229 people were killed in 2014, up from 63 in 2013, and Benue State seems to be the hardest hit in recent times.
Barely five days to the end of Governor Gabriel Suswam’s administration in May 2015, over 100 farmers and their family members were reportedly massacred in villages and refugee camps located in the Agatu, Ukura, Per, Gafa and Tse-Gusa local government areas of the state.
According to reports, in July 2015, suspected herdsmen attacked Adeke, a community on the outskirts of the state capital, Makurdi. Last December, six persons were killed at Idele village in the Oju local government area. A reprisal attack by youths in the community saw three Fulani herdsmen killed and beheaded.
In February this year, as a result of a clash between herdsmen and farmers in Benue State, 40 more people were killed, about 2,000 were displaced and not less than 100 were seriously injured. Most recently, more than 92 Nigerians were massacred by suspected Fulani herdsmen in Benue and Niger States.
While much of these have gone unchallenged, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo recently reordered Tukur Buratai and Sadique Abubakar, Chief of Air Staff, to relocate to Maiduguri with immediate effect as the spate of suicide bombings and hostage taking by the insurgents continues to rise.
Meanwhile, many parts of the country have witnessed rising cases of criminal activities. Last Sunday, a gunman went into St. Philip’s Catholic Church in Amakwa Ozubulu, Anambra State, and shot sporadically at worshippers, killing eight persons instantly and injuring several others, leaving a trail of blood in the sanctuary. The death toll had risen to 16 as at the time of this report, according to official figures.
While the police are still on the trail of the culprits of that bloody Sundayincident, residents of Ijaiye, Ahmadiyya and Abule-Egba areas of Lagos State on Wednesday discovered a suspected ritualists’ den at Obadeyi Ajala Street, off the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway. The discovery, according to the residents of the largely densely populated area, provided answers to the mystery of missing persons in the area.
The den was discovered by a female road sweeper who heard the agonizing cry of a female victim screaming for help. Before passersby entered the canal, the woman was dead, but her little baby was found. Eyewitnesses say that policemen who entered the tunnel found different body parts and many routes linking to the canal.
Debo Adeniran, chairman, Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL), whose office is close to the scene of the canal, told BDSUNDAY that there was another alarm two days after at a location just four bus-stops away.
“Several arrests have already been made concerning the incident at Obadeyi’s tunnel. I believe the police authority is investigating the matter by now, but there was another similar incident today (Thursday) when I was driving to the office. A lot of people gathered at a place and I was told it was another ritual den. The first discovery is making people in the area to be more security conscious,” he said.
Later reports confirmed the second discovery which happened around Ile Zik in the Ikeja area of Lagos. In this case, but the suspect was said to have been rescued by security operatives. Reports emerged that human parts concealed in some sachets were found at the hideout. The scene has since been cordoned off by the Lagos State Police Command.
In Ikorodu area of the state, a blood-thirsty ritual cult group called Badoo has turned the area into a killing field. The group traditionally sends notes of imminent attacks before showing at night to kill families and worshippers, leaving behind their symbol, a grinding stone. Whistles and machetes are now household necessities in Ikorodu, with police authority ordering residents to wear identity card. According to reports, Badoo is so far responsible for the deaths of no fewer than 26 residents of Ikorodu. It had recorded 15 attacks between June 5, 2016 and June 27, 2017. On May 4, 2017, the group rained fury on a family of six in Adamo, Imota, killing a couple and two of their four children.
Kidnapping is on the increase and there are several reported cases of people who left their homes but never returned. Recently, there have been several reported cases on social media of individuals who were kidnapped, killed, or had their bodies mutilated by ritualists. In March this year, the Oyo State Police Command arrested four suspects for allegedly killing one Akintoye Oyeyemi for ritual purposes, after the March 2014 Soka Forest episode, where over 20 decomposing bodies were discovered and 23 others rescued alive.
In Lagos, school children have recently become easy targets of kidnappers. Rape and human trafficking are at all-time high.
Back to Clifford Orji days?
Some Nigerians are apprehensive that the country may have returned to the Clifford Orji days. Recall that Clifford Orji, a notorious human eater, was arrested on February 3, 1999 under the bridge at Toyota bus-stop, along the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway.
Orji, who was found with roasted human flesh and bones, a cell phone which was an expensive commodity at the time, female underwear, and a cheque for N88,000, was charged before an Ebute-Meta Magistrate’s Court in Lagos on February 19, 1999, but he was never tried until he died at the age of 46 of an unknown ailment in Kirikiri Prisons in August 2012.
Nigerians familiar with the event are still intrigued that investigators who handled the Clifford Orji case could not furnish the public with information regarding who issued the cheque and the highly placed persons who were allegedly buying the human parts from the cannibal.
A wake-up call for security operatives
Reacting to the recent Ozubulu killing, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu described the day as a black Sunday, not only for Anambra State but also the entire nation, and called on security agencies to fish out the killers and bring them to justice. “This dastardly act brings to the fore, once again, the need to re-engineer our security system, especially our policing system to arrest the rising wave of violent crimes in the country,” he said through a statement by his Special Adviser, Media, Uche Anichukwu.
Earlier at another forum, Ekweremadu had decried the high rate of human trafficking in the country and called for concerted efforts to end the scourge.
Speaking in Abuja at an event organised by Devatop Centre for Africa Development (DCAD) to mark the 2017 World Day against Trafficking in Persons (WDATP), he noted that Nigeria was a source, transit as well as destination of persons, including women and children, trafficked for prostitution, forced labour, and other forms of dehumanising servitude and exploitation.
Dennis Amachree, head, Zoomlens Security Services, told BDSUNDAY that it is high time the Nigeria Police in particular became fully alive to its responsibility of securing lives and property, saying that kidnapping, ritual killing, armed robbery, rape and human trafficking are within its security purview.
“Policemen are trying in Lagos, but in other states they are not doing too well. We have seen how they rescued some of the school pupils. But again, the police themselves have to up their game because the idea of being kidnapped or not protecting critical national infrastructures, which include schools, is not acceptable,” he said.
“Schools are not well protected. The police should also help to create security awareness for school staff as well as the students, and this they are not doing right now because most of them do think it will not happen. This is the time for the police authority to start engaging security consultants who are trained in line with the job. They also need to do a risk assessment of the schools to know how best they could be protected,” he added.
On the fight against Boko Haram insurgents, he said the FG must change its narrative of the group being ‘technically defeated’ and the timeline the regime set to defeat was also very faulty.
“You don’t set timeline in which to defeat Boko Haram or any type of terrorist group. In fact, right now, the military authority has also given soldiers 40 days to arrest the sect leader Abubakar Shekau. The timeline is unrealizable because now that he knows he is been pursued, he will run like hell. Maybe it is just to keep the troop on their toes,” he said.
He noted that the renewed bombings reveals the fact that because of all the international linkages the sect has, they have strengthened themselves, gone back to traditional method of guerrilla warfare, which is the basic methodology of terrorist groups.
“But the Nigerian military has done very well to dissuade or force them to drop the idea of building a caliphate. The caliphate idea is gone. And of course, we also praise the military for defending the territorial integrity of Nigeria,” Amachree said.
“But all the same, Boko Haram is still recruiting; the sect is still kidnapping people, which are their means of raising funds, and they are still doing suicide bombings. The Nigerian security forces now have to seriously hold meetings with their intelligence gathering agencies in order for them to know how to penetrate the group and to tackle them better,” he advised.
Gabriel Onosome, a Port Harcourt-based security consultant, laments that the Nigeria Police is not adequately prepared and positioned to confront headlong the current security challenges bedevillng the country.
According to him, security agencies should also engage more of highly trained sniffer dogs to combat crime, arguing that such dogs would have been able to foil suicide attacks at strategic locations like IDPs’ camps and the incidents like the Ozubulu church shooting.
“The police are also understaffed. Imagine where 150,000 policemen are guarding 3 million citizens! It is hugely inadequate. That is why I am saying sniffer dogs should be engaged to assist policemen. Our security alert has reached the point where man must work with animal for us to achieve the desired result,” he told BDSUNDAY.
Government must be decisive
Chigozie Ubani, a security consultant, said that although government has recorded marginal success in the fight against the Boko Haram insurgency, it was not enough to say that the insurgents have been defeated. According to Ubani, the Islamist sect is still waxing strong despite the fact that they are not controlling any known territories at the moment.
“We were told that the Boko Haram insurgents have been dislodged from the territories they were occupying, but today, they are everywhere, particularly in Borno to the extent that they have invaded the ivory tower,” he said.
The security expert does not think that the Federal Government is being decisive in the fight.
“All we have been doing is sending soldiers to troubled spots. Something is happening in the Niger Delta you dispatch soldiers;tomorrow something is happening in the north, you deploy the army; and the next day, it is happening in the south east, you move in an army. We have been busy creating Generals who have fought no wars but within themselves. It is not about moving soldiers and creating operation this and that. That will not help us,” he said.
Like the argument being canvassed by many other Nigerians, Ubani believes that the country needs to be renegotiated in order to address the reasons for the agitations from various parts of the country.
According to him, “We must find out why the Boko Haram came into existence; there must be a reason why the group began to take up arms against Nigeria. There must be a reason why the IPOB/MASSOB are agitating; there must be a reason why militants are raging in the Niger Delta. We must find out all these reasons and take some decisive steps to address such issues. If we continue to live in denial of the fact that all is not well with Nigeria, then we shall continue to wage unnecessary war against ourselves.”
An immigration officer who also is very influential in political circles told the BDSUNDAY on condition of anonymity that there’s the need for government to review its operations in the Niger Delta.
Honestly, I do not believe that the continued use of force in the Niger Delta has achieved the desired peace and economic gain for Nigeria. President Obasanjo invaded Odi in the name of fighting militants; a number of people were killed including innocent indigenes. The entire community was also vandalised. That trend has continued in other parts of the region,” the observer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.
According to him, “If I were President Buhari, I would pull out JTF and suspend the operations there for a moment to enable me assess the level of success recorded so far and what new approach to adopt. Or, I would be changing the soldiers posted there on a regular basis so that they would not stay so long and get too familiar with the people or with the militants, whose nefarious activities they are supposed to check.”
The Immigration officer further observed that “if you search the contact menu of the phones of members of the JTF in the Niger Delta you would likely find numbers of some big time militants stored in there. So, the JTF members have become allies with the militants and this undue relationship hampers their operations in the creeks and the entire place they are supposed to police. The same thing happens in Borno State between some soldiers and members of the Boko Haram. We hear about some soldiers acting as informants to Boko Haram because such soldiers have overstayed their welcome in Borno.”
(Additional reporting by CHUKS OLUIGBO)
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