When he assumed office on April 7, as acting Inspector General of Police (IG), Usman Alkali Baba, announced a new mission, vision and operational agenda aimed at guiding policing services, reclaiming public space from criminal elements, protecting citizens with courage and serving the country with compassion.
As soothing as his words were, Nigerians wanted a miracle to save the country from unnerving security challenges characterised by wanton loss of lives and properties that had bedevilled the country and threatened its unity.
They demanded an end to the killings, kidnappings, tensions and general insecurity that made it practically impossible for people to commute from one part of the country to the other without being attacked by bloodthirsty kidnappers, armed robbers and terrorists.
Tales of students kidnapped from their schools, vulnerable women and children raped, abducted and farmers mindlessly murdered by criminal herdsmen, especially in the Northwest, Northcentral, parts of the Southwest and the Southeast further heightened tensions as gaps between the security forces and the people widened more, no thanks to trust deficit.
Cries for the mopping up of firearms in the hands of non-state actors became rife, just as there was a general atmosphere of hopelessness, frustration and anger leading to some groups opting for secession from the Nigerian state, which they felt, had failed to protect their interests.
In the northwest alone, there have been 48 kidnap cases with 1,201 victims in the last six months, according to Nextier SPD’s recently published violent database.
Despite these challenges, the police offensives against criminals in the region were yielding positive results as no fewer than 173 suspected bandits have been arrested since April and over 152 kidnapped victims rescued. The police also recovered 276 assorted firearms and 16,515 rounds of ammunition.
Across the country, statistics showed that over 770 suspects have also been arrested within the same period in connection with banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery, attacks on security and public facilities, among others, across the country.
Disturbed by the wave of violence in the Southeast and Southsouth, the IG, poised to restore public order, inaugurated Operation Restore Peace on May 18 and 19, respectively, which saw the deployment of police special forces alongside soldiers and operatives of the DSS to quell all insurrections, ensure public safety and the supremacy of constitutional authority.
Although the ongoing operations in both regions have been without complaints of certain infractions, there is, however, no doubt that the spate of attacks on security operatives, facilities and other public institutions have nose-dived with scores of suspects killed and several others apprehended by the agents.
Based on the successes recorded so far, police sources hinted that there were plans for similar operations to commence in other troubled parts of the country, just as the authorities were already conducting operational need assessment that would enable its rollout as a national approach to crime-fighting.
Another area the police under IG Baba seems to be getting it right is in collaboration with the military, communities, paramilitary and intelligence agencies which have led to the sustenance of intelligence-driven and tactical operations that were yielding positive results.
However, the police under IG Baba expected to do more, especially with regards to mopping up Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) from non-state actors reported to have topped six million as of today. Unless the proliferation of firearms was addressed and all lethal weapons retrieved from the wrong hands, the country will continue in this vicious circle of insecurity because perpetrators of the heinous crimes feel fortified with guns in their hands and could care less about peace talks.
Although, the police recently raided some factories where assault rifles and ammunition were being manufactured locally including the Jos, Plateau State syndicate; efforts should extend to having a database with breach numbers and manufacturers of all foreign firearms recovered to track the original buyers from the manufacturers and establish how such weapons entered the country or got to the person it was recovered from.
Reiterating his stance on professionalism and policing with patriotism, Baba, during his working visit to Lagos, stressed the need for discipline to be returned to the service.
He also acknowledged that the service needed improvement in the area of crowd control, handling riots and the use/protection of firearms.
He further admitted the police were challenged in terms of manpower, but quickly added that the government had put measures in place to address it.
“As for our equipment and working tools, we just started taking delivery of riot equipment and other fundamental tools from the Police Trust Fund…Those asking for more manpower, more riot equipment and logistics will get it. Though we do not have all the money to get everything at the central, there is going to be some interventions in training/retraining, logistics and welfare,” he said.