Deaths suffered by the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) this July alone have led to a reawakening in the force. On July 2, suspected armed bandits shot dead 7 officers at a checkpoint in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city. Almost two weeks after, exactly July 14, four policemen on a patrol were killed in an ambush in Edo state. And just last Monday, July 16, two officers died in an ambush by highway robbers in Birnin Gwari, Kaduna state. Reacting to the death of his men at the hands of armed robbers, the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, has ordered raids on the hideouts of criminals nationwide. Before then, he raised a team to investigate the killing of the 7 officers in Abuja, followed by a N5 million bounty on the heads of the suspected killers. In Kaduna, policemen protesting the killing of colleagues, shot dead a widow in a case of “accidental discharge”.
IGP Idris’ retroactive order was conveyed in a statement put out Monday, July 16, by Force Headquarters spokesman Jimoh Moshood. The order directs commissioners of police and their Supervising assistant inspectors general of police to “beef up security in their areas of responsibilities (AORs) and embark on massive raids of criminal hideouts and flashpoints across the country.” It puts “all police personnel on a red alert” for 24 hours. During this time, they will undertake “crime prevention and police visibility patrol of flash and vulnerable points in their jurisdictions.” The commissioners of police have also been instructed “to re-gird their crime prevention and control strategies and work with community/religious leaders, other stakeholders and public spirited individuals to nip in the bud crimes and criminality in their AORs.”
Regarding the killings in Edo state, the IGP has asked for “a thorough and discreet investigation”. The statement said, however, an investigation “conducted so far has not established any link between the two attacks (Abuja and Edo), but public spirited individuals and other good Nigerians have been giving useful information to the police in the progressive investigation into the two unfortunate incidents. In order to arrest the other suspects still at large in the first incident (Abuja), the Force is desirous of more credible information from the public, and hereby pledges a reward of Five Million Naira to any member of the public that provides useful information that leads to the arrest of the remaining perpetrators of the ambush attack.”
Ordinarily, we should commend the police authority for a prompt reaction to the killing of its officers on duty in Abuja, Edo and Kaduna. After all, it is its men that are affected, and treating those deaths like any others will dampen morale in the force. It also shows that the police leadership knows how to handle emergencies such as those in which its personnel now are involved. What we do not understand, however, is why such a very comprehensive policing strategy as has been announced, did not follow previous killings that did not affect police officers. We have in mind killings by suspected herders across the country, particularly in Adamawa, Benue, Taraba and Zamfara states.
In those states, and even further afield, hundreds of people are losing their lives because the security forces have not been able to halt the attacks that happen on a daily basis. The complaint we often get is the police does not have the number to adequately police the country and it lacks the fire power to confront the criminals. However, it was able to raise 30,000 battle ready officers to police the July 14 governorship election – just one election – in the small state of Ekiti!
Much as we sympathize with the police authority over the fatalities it has suffered in recent time, we dare say the dead officers were first Nigerians before they became policemen. In this respect, the killing of an officer is as serious a case as that of any other Nigerian. Therefore, we demand that the way and manner in which it shows and demonstrates concern for the protection of its officers be extended to other citizens of this nation. The NPF is for all Nigerians, after all.