The acting Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba Alkali on Thursday lamented that last year’s #EndSARS protests weakened the capacity of the police to battle insecurity.
According to him, besides dampening the morale of officers and men, the scrapping of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), which was the original target of the protesters, “created a vacuum” in the operations of the police.
Speaking at the Presidential Villa after a weekly briefing organised by the Presidential Communications Team, the police boss said the police have been under attack from gunmen who target their men and assets.
Many policemen have been shot dead during attacks on their stations and at checkpoints.
Police vehicles and stations have been burnt by arsonists. Most of these attacks have been taking place in the Southeast and the South South.
Last year, there were massive protests in many parts of the country by mainly youths, calling for an end to the brutality of the SARS during its operations.
There was a virtual shut down of the country. The protesters failed to relent after their demands were granted by the government.
Following the hijack of the protests by hoodlums and other elements nursing different grudges, it snowballed into anarchy, arson and destruction of public and private properties.
The police scrapped SARS and replaced it with the Special Weapon Tactical Team (SWAT).
Speaking yesterday, the IG said: “The morale of our personnel has been a little bit dampened since the EndSARS came and went away. With the proscription of SARS and the establishment of SWAT, which has not been able to take off fully, we had a vacuum in tackling most of the violent crimes from a position of strength in terms of having a strike force that is dedicated for that, rather than having our conventional police doing the policing in conventional way.”
On the efforts being made to get things right, the IG explained that “we try to marshal back this courage of our personnel who have been involved in violent crime and they lecture them and posted them to the anti-robbery sections, for anti-robbery patrols and the investigation of violent related crimes, which involved, of course robbery, kidnapping, banditry, cultism and so forth.
“Secondly, we decided to launch an operation, which is tagged Operation Restore Peace, and we targeted the Southeast and South-South for the first phase of your operation. We involved reinforcing these two zones with total number of about 3,700 policemen drawn from our various units, which include police mobile force, the strike force, counterterrorism, the STS, IRT and these commands were imposed with these personnel with specific instructions, with an operation order that is targeted at stabilising the incessant attacks on police facilities, personnel, military and other violent crimes”, he said.
Baba said the new strategy launched by the Police in the Southern part of the country tagged: “Operation Restore Peace” is aimed at restoring law and order in the affected areas.
The IG also spoke on the demands for state police, saying most states already ran structures regarded as their own local police.
Besides the local police structures, like the various vigilante groups supported by state governments, Alkali said the police had supported states with crime prevention and fighting by training more than 70,000 citizens across the country.
He said: “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 on 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 government.
“We are ready to work with anybody, we are ready to collaborate and synergize with anybody to make sure that Nigerian citizens enjoy the best of protection simple.
“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 compliment the efforts of the Nigerian security agencies. The National Assembly can look into the agitation, which is their own responsibility”, he said.
He added: “For record purposes, following the launching 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 riffles, nine locally fabricate riffles, four locally fabricated pistols, 19 AK 47 magazines, 5419 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 bandits related suspects and 86 suspects involved in cases of kidnapping. 434 firearms of various descriptions were also recovered. These statistics are from 7th April till date.” he said.