Bandits invaded Niger State from Kaduna, Zamfara but we repelled them —Commissioner of Police
Alhaji Ibrahim Sabo Umar is the Commissioner of Police, Niger State Police Command. In this interview with Adelowo Oladipo, he speaks on the conduct of 2019 elections in the state; the successes achieved in the security of the state as it affects some border communities in the state recently among other issues. Excerpts:
Recently, after the declaration of war on armed bandits in Zamfara State by the Federal Government and the Armed Forces, there was the influx of some criminal elements into parts of the state that shared border with Kaduna State like Shiroro, Munya and Rafi local government areas. This led to a situation whereby the people of the state, especially those in the border communities raised the alarm over armed attacks. How were you able to curtail the activities of these criminal elements and stem the tide of the attacks? How many arrests were made by the police on the incident?
The three local governments you have just mentioned are indeed very close to Zamfara and Kaduna states. So, most of these bandits infiltrated Niger State from those areas and they found their way into the state. When they came into Niger State, they continued with their nefarious activities and that gave us sleepless nights and we have to plan. One of the things we did was that we met the people in the three affected local governments, especially the traditional rulers, to give us useful information because the people live very close to them. So the people cooperated and gave us information regarding their hideouts and modus operandi. That made us to storm their hideouts. Another method which we used is that, if you look at these areas that you have mentioned, you will find out that they are mountainous and are very difficult for motorised patrol. So, they used motorcycles and came in large numbers, riding motorcycles and terrorised the villages and went back to where they came from. So, we too had to adopt similar tactics and operated in similar fashion. We sometimes had to map out strategies to take them headlong if they ventured coming back to launch an attack on us. Whenever we saw people in groups on motorbikes we had to scrutinise them very well in order to prevent attack of innocent citizens. And going by our operational tactics, the armed bandits too were confused. So, they were seriously overwhelmed and the remnants of the armed bandits fled in different directions. That was how we were able to curtail their activities and saved the people from attacks.
We have got to thank the Inspector General of Police for his intellectual sagacity and support in curbing the activities of the armed bandits in parts of the state and the state has been calm security wise since our onslaught on the criminal elements.
How effective is the recent ban on operation of commercial motorcycles in the state and the use of motorcycles in the late hours by owners? Also, how many arrests have been made and what about convictions?
The order has been very, very effective. Although it is not a new order by the state Police Command, its implementation by police was already in place by the state government. So it is not a new law at all. The only thing is that when this issue of armed banditry came up in the state, we found that the only way we can reduce it is to first of all look at the laws guiding the use of motorcycles in the state, because the people value the operation of their motorcycles; we have influx of motorcycles here in the state and we felt the need to reduce it and have a law in place. So, we think it is very easy to implement the law in order to curb the excesses of those among the motorcycle operators who use it for illegal or criminal purposes. That’s what we did in conjunction with the state government. Since the commencement of the implementation of the law guiding the use of motorcycles in the state, we have arrested about 295 motorcyclists and we have impounded all the arrested motorcycles and majority of them were charged to court. About 20 of them were convicted because they were not able to pay the imposed fines. So they have to go to court, while several others are still awaiting trial. In fact the arrests of the motorcyclists are also adding revenues to the coffers of the state government.
Sir, what measures did you put in place, in collaboration with other security agencies, that ensured peace in the state before, during and after the recently-concluded elections in Niger State?
The secret of the success of the 2019 general elections in Niger State is because the Police, the Military and other sister agencies were disciplined and alive to their constitutional responsibilities. We were dedicated to our duties because the issue of elections is always very engaging and full of rigorous activities by the political actors and their supporters. So, if you want to succeed, you have to plan and strategise on how to achieve a very good result. One of the things we did was to have sensitised the people on the need not to regard the elections as a do or die affair, but to see them as contests among compatriots, friends and contemporaries. We also took our time to educate members of the public on the need to give peace a chance and we also assured them that we would be impartial to all concerned. This doctrine of impartiality was preached on our parts as security agencies and we asked that the people should trust us that were going to fulfill our promise to them as far as the security of life and property is concerned. We also assured that we would not allow anybody to do otherwise. They gave us that trust and that was the reason the elections were conducted free and fair. Apart from that, we synergised with the sister security agencies and this synergy assisted us greatly because, all the security agencies were involved in the maintenance of law and order in the state, before, during and after the elections because security is everybody’s business. We also received a lot of logistics support from the government so that we can carry out our duties adequately as expected of us just as we also received the goodwill of the people of Niger State. So, generally speaking, we had a level playing ground on each of sides and I can say that was why we had a peaceful conduct of the elections in the state.
Since your assumption of office as the Commissioner of Police, Niger State Command, how have you been able to properly settle down to implement the IGP Muhammad Adamu’s roadmap in conjunction with your own operational strategies?
I must thank the Inspector General of Police for providing us with intellectual sagacity with which to go about our duties. He has given us a lead in the policy formulation that usually assists us to carry out our duties. He recently lunched Operation Puff Adder at Kaduna – Abuja road and we in this Command followed suit. In this command, we also have three camps in Serkin Pawa in Munya Local Government Area; we also have other camps in Bangi in Mahegu Local Government Area and in Pandogar in Rafi Local Government Area. Also if you look at Bangi, it is also very close to Zamfara State; and Serkin Pawa and Pandogari which are very close to Kaduna State; and Shiroro Local Government which is also very close to Zamnfara State, there are camps that are meant to keep us ahead of the operations of the bandits. So when these operations started, it has almost brought to an end or has reduced to the barest minimum the problems of the armed banditry in Niger State.
What is the greatest challenge facing the Niger State Police Command?
One of the usual challenges is the issue of manpower which is the greatest challenge so far. But we make things up by synergising with other security agencies so that we can fight crimes together. As a matter of fact, they are assisting us very well. Another challenge we are trying to tackle is obtaining information from members of the public and traditional rulers, especially the district and village heads at the grassroots. When the criminal elements come into the state, they don’t come into the cities, they usually stay in the rural areas and the villagers see them. So, we are trying to sensitise them that if they see these strangers, that they should not harbour them and that they should please inform us and other security agencies. Some people are cooperating with us while some others are not because these criminals usually come to the grassroots with money to induce them. These are the challenges we are facing, but we are trying to tell them to be patriotic citizens.
What is your vision for the officers and men of the Niger State Police Command?
My vision for the command and indeed the entire personnel of the Nigeria Police Force is to have an efficient police force that is disciplined; that is friendly with the people and very responsive to the wishes and yearning of the people of Niger State.