Why we are finding it difficult to battle bandits —Police commissioner
Mr Adamu Usman is the Niger State Commissioner of Police. He speaks with ADELOWO OLADIPO on issues affecting the state and the nation.
THERE have been recurring armed banditry attacks in Rafi and Shiroro local government areas of the state. What do you think is responsible and what is the state police command doing about it?
Well, the issue of the armed bandits’ attack in the two local government areas of the state has been going on for quite some time now. However, Shiroro is a unique local government area in Niger State. And it is very unique in the sense that the location or the terrain is the number one challenge. Also, the type of attacks, reports of which we are receiving, most often come along the axis of the neighbouring states of Kaduna and Zamfara. The criminal elements would come, strike and go back. And because of the terrains, it would be difficult for us sometimes to adequately respond to the attacks. Sometimes, we got the information after they had committed crimes and fled. You would find out that the bandits know the terrains and all the deployments may be too late after the criminals might have struck in the affected communities. Even, sometime last week, the Inspector General of Police (IGP) raised and sent three units of Operation Puff Adder to the state and we deployed them to the affected areas to check the menace. However, some of these places are not motorable and we made use of motorcycles, while some areas are nearly inaccessible, even with motorcycles.
Nevertheless, we keep restrategising to respond to the challenge. So, you can see the problems that we are facing as far as the issue of armed bandits’ attacks on some communities in Niger State is concerned. The latest bandits’ attack was recorded in Kawure village under Shiroro Local Government Area. The village is about three lilometres away from Kaduna State. This tells you how far it is away from Niger. If you want to go there from Minna, the Niger State capital, you will have to go through Sarkin Pawa in Munyan Local Government Area of the state through Erena in Shiroro Local Government Area and the journey will take you not less than six hours before you can get there, because of difficult terrain and this is by motorcycle. But if you will have to go by vehicle, you have to go through Pandogari in Rafi Local Government Area of the state and from there to Birnin Gwari in Kaduna State and then, you will start coming back to Niger State again. Then, you can imagine the kind of challenges we face in the fight against armed banditry.
But the victims of the bandits’ attacks have been accusing the police and other sister security agencies of not doing anything to protect their lives and properties from the hoodlums. How do you react to that?
That is not true. It is not that we have not been doing anything. The issue is the nature of the terrains, coupled with the fact that in these affected areas, there is no communication and some of the victims are residents in remote areas with few huts you can hardly describe as a community, but rather a settlement. It is only when you go there that you will understand what I mean. The huts I earlier mentioned in the affected communities/settlements are so scattered that you will get two on this side and two on the other side with inhabitants as peasant farmers mixed with some Fulani herdsmen.
Similarly, in Rafi Local Government Area of the state, they are also confronted with the same problems. And as I am talking to you, in the Alawa community in Shiroro Local Government Area of the state that the people are talking about, there is presence of military and police. To combat the menace, as you know, we are working together to achieve the same goal. Likewise, the communities are quite helpful. Some community members who are members of vigilance groups usually volunteer to work with us. And in most cases, we go with them because they are familiar with the terrains. Therefore, I will like affected communities to have confidence and trust in the police and other security agencies and collaborate in other combat the menace rather than seeing the security agencies in a different light.
What else do you want to tell the victims of the armed bandits attacks?
We have always been collaborating with them especially in the communities in Shiroro Local Government Area of the state and we have discussed with the community leaders on how we can synergize, so that we will work together and also we tried to see that they too should form a group like the local vigilante in order to guide and assist us about how we can get to the difficult terrains in parts of the local government because the bottomline is the terrains and the issues of areas where the bandits are hiding after they must have launched attacks on the people because the people sometimes know some things about the people . Sometimes it was said that when the people were following the bandits that they launched the attacks. At the end of the day before the information could reach us here at the state capital, by the time we started mobilizing , the bandits might have escaped into where they came from.
What can we say is responsible for the series of robbery attacks on private residence of some top government officials ranging from the Provost, Niger State College of Education, Minna, the Deputy Speaker, Niger State House of Assembly and the Acting Managing Director, Niger State Development Company, among others, since the commencement of the Yuletide period in Minna and its environs?
Well, I can assure you that the burglary attacks on the residences of these aforementioned government officials were not as a result of their personalities or positions but as a result of the isolated areas where their houses are located in Minna and its environs . I can assure you that it was not because they are very important personalities. There has been breakthrough in the police investigation about the robbery attacks on the people, but we don’t want to expose it yet in order not to jeopardise our investigation on the matters.
What are the challenges confronting your administration as the Commissioner of Police, Niger State Command since your assumption of office and what are your achievements so far?
What we can call one of our major challenges especially in Minna, the state capital and its environs, is youths restiveness, especially the issue of youths that are creating problems. Then the issue of banditry and youths unemployment .Those are some of the major challenges that we are facing in the state police command. But on the issue of the recent local government election, we have not recorded any major incidents. We however thanked God because there were some proactive measures taken by us before the election and we held series of meetings with virtually all the stakeholders and other security agencies before the election. I personally went round the state to almost all the emirate councils before the recent local government election in the state. We talked to the people on the need to conduct themselves peacefully during the election in the 25 local government areas of the state. And we made them realise that whatever happened during the election is within them as the people living in the grassroots and we are happy that most of them agreed and took to our advice.
Recently, the IGP gave a marching order to Assistant Inspectors General and Commissioners of Police to beef up security across the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory before, during and after the Yuletide period. How is the security situation in Niger State?
Well, the Inspector General of Police did not just give the marching order because of the Yuletide period, rather he gave order since the commencement of the ‘Ember’ months and that is exactly what we have done to prepare our operational order throughout the ‘Ember’ months starting from September, to prepare for the end of the year activities. As far as the police are concerned, we are always ready for these activities. We are adequately ready for the end of the year’s celebrations and every personnel of the command would be deployed for security during the period. So, we pray that everything will be successful.
Apart from the recent arrest and parade of the kidnappers of the district head of Daura in Katsina State and his accomplice in crime before newsmen, what other breakthoughs did your command record in the outgoing year?
Well, we have recorded so many other ones in that direction because right now as I am talking to you, we have a suspect in our custody presently that was arrested recently with one AK 47 rifle, with about some 12 rounds of live ammunitions and he is under investigation. The issue is that there are certain things that we do and that we have to do a thorough investigation before we release the matter to the media. Also we arrested some people that were in the habits of threatening their victims to send money to them, failure which the which the people could be kidnapped and we are ready to parade them before the end of this year. We have also arrested some people who go to banks premises to monitor customers. And there are people that came all the way from the south eastern part of the country to perpetrate crimes and they are still here with us, undergoing discreet investigation. So, actually there are a lot of achievements recorded by the command, but some of these things we felt it should be done quietly so that we will be able to get to the roots. Even though it is good for you also as Journalists to know about them, we do it at the appropriate time after the investigations must have been concluded so as not to jeopardize our investigations.