ASABA — Residents of Delta State have raised alarm over the repeated and audacious way gangsters seize weapons from police officers in the state and slay them.
Outgoing Commissioner of Police, CP, Delta State Command, Mr. Muhammadu Mustafa, who acknowledged the concern, however, said there has been no attack in the past few days, following measures put in place by the police to curb the irregularity.
Apprehensive residents of Ughelli metropolis in an open letter to the Inspector General of Police, noted that since August, the community has been under siege; that an estimate of two policemen have been killed at various police checkpoints in the town, with the hoodlums taking away the weapons of the slain police officers.
The group, in a letter by the president and secretary, Chief Albert Omokiniovo and Mr Odeme Akpinorku respectively, expressed anxiety over the fact that Commissioner Mustafa claimed to have made series of arrests in connection with the attacks, but yet to recover the weapons.
“Just last Thursday, a team of policemen attached to the Ughelli Area Command, were ambushed with one policeman shot dead, while others sustained various degrees of gunshot wounds.
“Two policemen were also killed within three days at separate locations in the month of September when some unidentified hoodlums ambushed them at their checkpoints and took away their rifles.
“With these weapons still in the hands of these hoodlums, we wonder where our fate lies during the Yuletide and the forthcoming general elections. It is on this premise that we are appealing to you to use your good office towards ensuring that peace and sanity is restored in Ughelli and environs,” the panic-stricken residents pleaded.
Findings by reporting sources indicate that three days after a team of policemen were ambushed at the Ogor axis of East/West road in Ughelli North Local Government Area, killing a police sergeant, another team was ambushed at nearby Otor-Owhe community in Isoko South council area of the state.
Two unidentified policemen were reported to have sustained life threatening gunshot wounds, while the hoodlums also took away two AK 47 rifles belonging to the policemen.
About 15 persons are currently in custody of the Criminal Investigation Department, CID, Asaba over attacks on policemen, but they have not led police to recover stolen weapons yet.
But, Mustafa disagreed that attacks on police officers were escalating, saying, “Attacks on policemen in Delta are reducing, almost four or five days now, there is no incident. There are internal and external measures we have taken, we are interfacing with the state government, and the citizens must be on the side of the police. If they attack police officers and take away weapons, then, the citizen should know that he is not safe and should be on the same page with us.
“In getting that support, we have to educate the people, most of them are sitting on the fence, and we need to get them on our side. I told the governor, and he said the police should go ahead; he is not against any reward he is going to give anybody for the successful recovery of weapons stolen from police officers and arrest of suspects.
“Most of our officers that have been killed have no body armor, nothing, government has not done enough. In the past, state government bought some body armors for the police, so I asked the governor; he said he was going to buy,” he added.
Commissioner Mustafa went on, “we have taken up to 30 internal measures to stem the tide; we are doing these on our own. By and large, it is happening to the police now, although other law enforcement agents in the country are affected, but here in Delta, we have not recorded cases of attacks on other law enforcement agents, it is the police, but other security agents can be attacked too.”
“We have taken so many measures; crime prevention measures and strategies, we are re-strategizing, warning our officers to be on alert, the minimum we leave now is five armed men at any checkpoint, and we are even collapsing less vulnerable areas, fortifying our stations and all that.
“You understand, so that if there is an attack, we will repel them. Last week, in Patani, they went, but they were repelled. If you have only two armed men, you know you are not ready, criminals coming from both sides of the road, police officers are standing on the road and the roadblock is not fortified, nothing built.
“In fact, the use of sand bags is one of our internal measures, even organizations where policemen are guarding need to provide sandbags. Therefore, it goes on and on, issues of intelligence and informant, police officers are now to double their efforts, working day and night. Intelligence branch has to do all it can to get information.
“In addition, the ones we arrested and yet to get the weapons, we need the judiciary to help get these people. As long as we do not get those taking these weapons, it is a waste of time, we must get them to retrieve weapons,” he said.
On November 28, Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, DSP Andrew Animaka, in a statement, said, “The Command in conjunction with the Delta State Government promised to give a handsome reward to any person or group of persons whose information will lead to the arrest of persons connected to any of the attacks on police officers and recovery of the stolen service weapons.”
“The above promise comes against the backdrop of the recent attacks on police officers while on their duty posts across the state, oftentimes, leading to loss of lives and injury to the officers and men involved and loss of arms and ammunition,” Aniamaka added.
On reports that herdsmen were raping and chasing women out of their farms in the state, Commissioner Mustafa said, “There have been many meetings on this matter, even women were protesting the other time. The Attorney General is from that area, there have been meetings with him, Area Commander, DPO, chairmen, herdsmen, traditional rulers, president generals, youth leaders, and herdsmen themselves.”
“Some of the allegations are empty, even the issue of the rape was found to be empty. There was this issue of few cows eating few crops and cassava where they paid compensation and all that.
“In the past, that place has been notorious, but for now, there have been meetings on these issues, minutes of the meetings are all there and the allegations are not correct the way the media is carrying it.
“Even two or three days ago, there was another, a bishop called the governor and he called me, I went into the matter and it was not true. Therefore, at the slightest incident, people amplify what has happened,” he said.