The Inspector-General of Police, Mr Mohammed Adamu, will on Friday begin visits to the police commands across the country to boost the morale of officers and men of the Nigeria Police Force.
The PUNCH on Thursday gathered that the morale of members of the force was low following the killing of no fewer than 28 policemen by hoodlums, who hijacked the #EndSARS protests that started in the country on October 8 and lasted for two weeks.
Findings showed that the police authorities were disturbed by the high level of dejection among policemen, hence the need for the IG to encourage them and boost their morale.
It was also learnt during the tour, the IG would assess the level of damage done by the hoodlums, who burnt police stations and looted government and private property.
These came to the fore on Thursday as many policemen, in separate interviews with The PUNCH, said they would not resume until government addressed the killing of their colleagues during the #EndSARS protests.
Following the shooting of peaceful #EndSARS protesters at Lekki, Lagos on October 20, hoodlums in states such as Lagos, Edo, Abia and Rivers looted and burnt police stations.
On Thursday, a top police officer, who confided in The PUNCH, said the police authorities were concerned about the low morale in the force following attacks on police stations and killing of policemen.
“The tour by the IG, which is starting in Abuja, is aimed at raising the morale of officers and men of the force many of whom are not happy that the police were blamed for almost all the problems of the country during the protests despite the fact that all sectors have their bad eggs.
“We are not happy with the atrocities of SARS and other bad eggs in the force, but we are sad about the violent dimension the protest took. Many of those people killed were not hoodlums. Also, we lost fine officers and men, who were not found wanting on their duties. Our policemen are not happy that Nigerians are not concerned about the killing of policemen.”
The Deputy Force spokesman, Adeniran Aremu, told The PUNCH that the IG would on Friday (today) embark on an assessment of the security situation in Abuja.
Aremu disclosed in an SMS on Thursday that the IG would carry out an on-the-spot assessment of facilities and property destroyed by the hoodlums in Abuja, the nation’s capital.
“You’re invited to cover the on-the-spot assessment of security situation and some critical facilities in Abuja by the IGP,” he said in an invitation sent to one of our correspondents.
Over 600 hooligans said to have participated in the looting of COVID-19 palliatives at various warehouses at Jabi-Daki-biu, Idu Industrial Estate and Karimo, Abuja, and in other states have been arrested and arraigned.
During the tour, Adamu is expected to address men and officers of the Federal Capital Territory Police Command and encourage them against despondency.
But some members of the Nigeria Police have threatened not to respond to distress calls or enforce law and order across the country until the murder of their colleagues by suspected hoodlums was addressed by the authorities.
Some of the cops, who had been away from their duty posts for the last five days, accused the Federal Government and the police authorities of not caring about their safety and well being.
Senior officers, who spoke in separate interviews with one of our correspondents on Thursday, complained about the high number of their colleagues that were killed during the #EndSARS protests and the failure of the government and Nigerians to condemn the incident.
Findings by The PUNCH indicate that no fewer than 28 policemen were confirmed killed within one week in Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Anambra, Ebonyi, Ondo, Delta, Abia and Rivers states.
Over 30 police stations and posts were also razed during the attack on the men of the force by thugs who hijacked the #EndSARS protests.
Investigations revealed that policemen had been absent from the roads, street junctions, black spots and other strategic points for the past five days despite a directive by the IG.
Following widespread looting and arson by suspected hoodlums, the IG on Saturday ordered police commanders to immediately stop the anarchy across the country.
Adamu directed the immediate mobilisation of all police operational assets and resources to bring an end to the wanton violence, killings, looting and destruction of public and private property, and reclaim the public space from criminal elements.
According to a statement by the Force spokesman, Frank Mba, the IG gave the order to all assistant inspectors-general of police, commissioners of police, heads of police operational units, squadron and base commanders in charge of zonal/state/FCT commands, the Police Mobile Force, Counter-Terrorism Unit and the Special Protection Unit, on October 24, 2020.
But almost one week after the order, most police officers and men have failed to resume for duty while only a few were seen on the roads.
Riot policemen, who were ordered to stop the looting by hoodlums, also did not show up during several incidents across the country. The military authorities had deployed soldiers to bridge the security gap following the refusal of the Mobile Police Force squadrons to respond to the attacks on private and public property.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, an Assistant Superintendent of Police, said they had been advised to go about their duty “with discretion because our safety and security is not guaranteed.”
The officer noted that rank and file cadres were disappointed in the police authorities for keeping mute over the killing of policemen across the country, noting that they had not demonstrated good leadership.
He said, “An officer was beheaded in Anambra State and his body roasted and the video shared on social media. Nobody is talking about this. So, we don’t feel safe and would not obey any directive until the issue of our security is addressed by the police authorities and the government.”
Another senior officer stated, “People were allowed to break the law and they also killed security operatives. How can the IG ask us to reclaim the public space when our safety is not guaranteed? We have families too and our children are telling us not to risk our lives for nothing. Our family loves us.
“Do we still have human rights activists in this country? People were beheading policemen, roasting their bodies and putting it on social media, yet nobody is saying anything about it. If anyone calls me for distress calls, I would just stand on the road, I won’t go there (scene). After all, my salary would be paid.”
28 policemen killed in nine states in one week
Checks by The PUNCH on Thursday indicated that 28 policemen were killed in nine states during the violence that rocked the nation.
The Lagos State Police Command said six police officers were lynched while 36 were critically injured by suspected thugs. The command disclosed that 29 Divisional Police Stations and 17 police posts were razed by hoodlums disguising as protesters.
In Anambra State Police Command, four officers were killed, while 11 police stations and over 20 vehicles including patrol and exhibit vehicles and an Armoured Personnel Carrier were set ablaze on October 23.
According to the State Commissioner of Police, Mr John Abang, the deceased officers include the Divisional Police Officer, Osumenyi Division, CSP Akpan Joseph, ASP Agu Michael, the station officer, PC Udegbunam Celestine and Inspector John Oche, who was beheaded and his body set ablaze. He added that two other officers were also injured.
The Oyo State Commissioner of Police, Nwachukwu Enwonwu stated that six police officers were killed while five police stations were burnt on October 22.
In Ogun State, the Divisional Crime Officer, Atan-Ota police station, Augustine Ogbeche, was murdered by hoodlums while the station was razed. The Police Command Public Relations Officer, Abimbola Oyeyemi, disclosed that a civilian was also killed during the incident.
In Delta State, police Corporal, simply identified as Stanley, attached to the Ughelli Police Area Command, Ughelli, Delta State, was shot dead on October 8 while two policemen were killed in Ebonyi State on October 21.
Spokesperson for the police in the state, Loveth Odah blamed the Indigenous People of Biafra for the attack.
The Ondo State Police Command similarly confirmed the death of two policemen and a civilian in the aftermath of the #EndSARS protest. The state Commissioner of Police, Mr Bolaji Salami, explained that the two policemen were killed in Ore, Odigbo Local Government Area and Ondo town, in Ondo East LGA, respectively.
According to him, the victim in Ore was mobbed, while the policeman in Ondo was killed and burnt inside his car.
In Rivers State, three policemen were also said to have been slain by IPOB members who hid under the #EndSARS protests.
The state commissioner of police, Joseph Mukan, revealed that the victims include Insp. Sunday Dubon attached to the anti-kidnapping unit, whose corpse was said to have been burnt; Sgt. Swawale Ornan, attached to 19 Police Mobile Force on Special Duty at Oyigbo, whose corpse was also burnt; and Sgt. Umunna Uchechukwu, of the Afam police station, whose legs and hands were cut reportedly off before he was burnt to ashes.
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In response to the tragedy, the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, had proscribed IPOB in the state and also announced N20 million compensation to the families of each of the soldiers and policemen killed by the group.
On its part, the Lagos State Government awarded scholarship to the children of the six police officers who died during the crisis in the state.
The state Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, disclosed during a visit to the state police command headquarters that the scholarship is up to the university level.
In Abia State, the police spokesman, Geoffrey Ogbonna, said three policemen were killed by hoodlums during the crisis.
Blame your superiors for your problems, #EndSARS protesters tell policemen
A leading member of the #EndSARS protests, Dayo Ariyo-Atoye, said the police authorities should be blamed for the security threat the policemen were facing, noting that they (personnel) also colluded with their superiors to give thugs a free hand during the protests.
Noting that it was unfortunate that the operatives were facing threats to their lives, the activist said they were also complicit in the situation.
Ariyo-Atoye stated, “With specific reference to Lagos, it is the authorities that gave thugs a foothold and same authorities, either directly or indirectly told the police to stand down.
“Now that the situation has gone awry, the police are at the receiving end of what they created by allowing thugs to infiltrate the public in an attempt to dislodge the #EndSARS protests.
“It is unfortunate that policemen’s lives are being threatened. The situation the policemen have found themselves was the creation of their superiors, the police authorities and the government of the day who told them to stand down so that the thugs can go on rampage. The buck stops on the table of the IG who has created the situation the police have found themselves.”
Another activist, Kaka George expressed sadness over the high number of slain policemen, noting that the police need to speak out about what happened to their men.
The lawyer said, “What led to the death of their colleagues? They should come out and talk about it and seek justice as well. Everybody needs justice, the right thing should be done.”
Police leadership should rebuild confidence, mutual trust – Security expert
On his part, a security consultant, Mike Ejiofor, in an interview with The PUNCH, warned that there might be anarchy if the police officers failed to return to their duty posts, noting that they were needed despite their deficiency.
The former director, Department of State Services admonished the police leadership to embark on confidence-building measures, noting that the police needed to regain public confidence.
The lawyer also asked the Federal Government to emulate the Rivers and Lagos State governments which announced financial assistance and scholarship awards to families of slain police officers.
He noted, “Our police are bad but it is not every policeman that is bad, some are good. Now they have killed some of them in spontaneous reaction because of aggravated, accumulated grievances of the people to the actions of the police. What we need to do is to reassure the police that they belonged to us.”