The Inspector General of Police, Mr Mohammed Adamu, can beat his chest in self acclaim and say that the rate of crime has dropped within this second quarter of the year 2019. This is even as a curfew was imposed in Jalingo Taraba State Sunday evening and still holds, because bandits riding motorcycles invaded the nearby suburb of Kona and shot and killed many unsuspecting denizens, several of them caught while doing their menial chores in their homes. Where did the bandits come from? Nobody knows. What was their objective? Nobody knows. Was there a communal feud that triggered this? Everyone says not at all. The bandits rode motor cycles in threes and fours and just began shooting sporadically, without warning. This is the nature of the crime that we are fighting. Boko Haram has been degraded, it is said, but we see it killing more soldiers and civilians every time it attacks. Then there was insurgency only in three states of the North East, namely Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa. Today many more states in particularly Northern Nigeria suffer the Boko Haram type of mayhem - states like Zamfara, Kaduna, Katsina, Sokoto, Kebbi, Taraba, and Plateau.
Yesterday, the bandits showed up in Kona Taraba State. As always, the attention is going to be Kona and the suburbs on the outskirts of Jalingo, but of course next, we will hear that the bandits have moved over to another nearby community, even in another state, striking again unexpectedly, killing, maiming, and burning homes of innocent victims. Bandits are always one jump ahead of security agents - like rainbows that show up only after the storm is over.
We laughed when President Muhammadu Buhari humorously noted that IGP Mohammed was growing lean owing to his preoccupation with crime fighting, but we must applaud the results he is showing with Operation Puff Adder in massive arrests of hoodlums and criminal miscreants nationwide. It even feels good to have been the son of a policeman, a Native Authority Policeman at that, who in uniform, and with only a baton and notebook in hand, could quell a village riot, arrest murderers and reign them home to Numan to face justice. That was before independence when the uniform commanded respect and the voice of a dansanda had authority. Today, the Nigeria Police is mechanised and mobilised in open bodied pick up trucks and wielding assault rifles. One shudders to hear the statistics reeled out by the Inspector General of Police.
Within barely a month of a full launch of Operation Puff Adder by the Nigeria Police Force a record 424 kidnap and 276 armed robbery suspects and over 160 cultists across the country, were arrested. Recovered were up to about 80 vehicles, over 10,000 varieties of ammunition, over 300 different firearms which included rocket launchers, AK 47 rifles, pistols and locally made guns.
This apparent success story is owed obviously to an attitudinal and resolve change with an Inspector General of Police who has developed a new narrative for crime prevention and control in Nigeria. One can see the template. Every community has a fair knowledge of its criminals and miscreants. With community participation, the police is able to launch preemptive raids and arrest the suspects in their hundreds. IGP Mohammed Adamu himself noted, that the arrests were made possible with the cooperation of members of the public and the dedication of police commanders and other ranks involved in the operation. Said the IGP, "the police has now made operational, frameworks that will facilitate the strengthening of Operation Puff Adder and ensure the sustenance of its gains, with strategies that include the adoption and implementation of concepts aimed at changing the policing narratives of the country." The police would nationwide, ensure the effective integration of the citizens to the internal security framework - what IGP Mohammed described as "policing by public consent, building partnerships required to address peculiar communal threats".
It is obvious to me that the IGP has got his thumb right where the pulse is. All criminal activity, like politics, is local. I recall how effective it was in the UK when the laws permitted the police to arrest persons if there was enough suspicion that they were likely to commit crimes. Police watched from vintage positions if wanton citizens appeared to be casing up a community as if studying and developing ideas for criminal raids, a preemptive arrest of such suspects effectively threw their plans into confusion and more often than not, their nocturnal intentions were thwarted.
In 1983, then Inspector General of Police visualised today's crime scenario and got then President Shehu Shagari to approve and equip the Police with more sophisticated weapons mainly assault rifles (AR) the AK47, service pistols of different varieties, and military type ferret armoured vehicles. Regrettably the plan already in execution was jettisoned as soon as General Muhammadu Buhari seized power in a coup d'etat, and Adewusi was made to bear the brunt for equipping the police "enough for the paramilitary arm to have thwarted" a military coup. The police were left to feign with the archaic MarkIV rifles even as we saw to the proliferation of assault rifles and small arms in the country. Did we ever imagine that ordinary untrained village folk would acquire and learn to use AK47s in banditry, kidnapping and the other forms of terrorist operations that we notice today?
It is not yet uhuru for IGP Mohammed given the odds being faced. The challenge of poverty, unemployment, lack of empowerment, peer pressure, or even the intimidating display of affluence by money-miss-road opportunists in politicians and "business" men, will drive the crime rate upwards. Added are, the debilitating impact of societal deprivation, the unfair justice system that leaves the aggrieved dissatisfied, the factor of ethnic and religious intolerance, the unbearable lopsidedness in regional development, and the heightened abuse of drugs - all drivers of criminal activity that need to be addressed if IGP Muhammad is to succeed.
We must address the whole institution of the police, matching our population of nearly 200 million and vast land area, with uniformed men. We must go beyond salary increase to train the police in current combat techniques that equally match the sophistication of today's criminals. We must debate and put to rest the issue of State or Local Government Police now that we all note the deficiencies in our current policing.