…we fear for their lives every day, govt should intervene
The constant attacks on police facilities particularly in the South-East and South-South regions of the country have put fears in the minds of relations and dependents of cops serving in the regions.
The family members of the police officers who spoke to Saturday PUNCH expressed worry over the development. While some of them spoke on condition of anonymity, others agreed to the use of their names without pictures because of fear of attacks.
They noted that they usually feared for the lives of their loved ones in the Police Force whenever they left for work every day.
One of them who is a petty trader at Aba and wife of a sergeant in Abia State, Eno Nsikaku, said fear over attacks on police facilities often made her to worry about the safety of her husband anytime he left for work.
Nsikaku said, “We now live by the day. If my husband who serve his fatherland comes back safely after leaving for work, I am usually happy. Otherwise, when he leaves for work, I am usually afraid of what would happen next. I am usually on my knees each time my husband leaves for work, especially on night duty. I don’t sleep but keeps vigil, praying that he returns alive. Without him, I am finished as he is the family breadwinner. I can’t afford to train my four kids with the petty business of selling fruits.’’
Four serving cops in Umuahia comprising three women and a man, who spoke on condition of anonymity with one of our correspondents, said the risked they faced was enormous despite poor pay.
One of them said, “We now work with fear as we face risks each time we are at work and yet, we are not appreciated.’’
Another woman whose husband is a mobile policeman said each time her husband left for work, she was often frightened.
The full housewife whose husband is a constable in Abia State, Chisom Eziyi, said her husband always asked her to pray for him each time he left for work, adding “each time he makes this request, I will be lost in thought thinking of what I will do as a newlywed if he becomes a victim. His work is now risky as hoodlums target police stations in the South-East.’’
Eziyi, who is from Item in the Bende Local Government Area of the state, prayed to God to take control, saying, “I don’t want to be a widow at this stage. I pray for his safety every day.’’
However, the Abia Police Command had noted that it was, “taking proactive measures over the issue and not resting on its laurels.’’
The state police spokesperson, SP Geoffrey Ogbonna said, “We are taking steps towards addressing the issue.”
Reports noted that over 25 police stations had been attacked in parts of the South-East and South-South in the past five months. They added that over 127 policemen and other security personnel have been killed during the attacks. The attacks which have occurred in Abia, Imo, Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi, Akwa Ibom and Rivers States, have spread fear among the populace.
The October 2020 #EndSARS protests in the southern part of the country hijacked by hoodlums, killer herdsmen menace on host communities, banditry including insurgency caused untold security challenges in the country.
The criminal herdsmen’s activities have increased with people being killed, abducted and maimed, farmlands destroyed, women raped and lately attacks on policemen and police facilities. Abia State has had its own share of such mayhem, with more police stations burnt since January till date. Women have abandoned their farmlands following increased attacks by herders while robberies and kidnappings soared.
However, the attacks on police facilities in the state by “unidentified gunmen,” have continued. On February 2, 2021, some gunmen attacked Omoba Police Station in the Isiala Ngwa South Local Government Area of Abia State, killing a policeman. The attack occurred in the early hours of Tuesday at the station located along the Umuene–Omoba Road and the assailants were said to have arrived there on motorcycles and opened fire on the station as policemen on guard repelled the attack.
Again, suspected hoodlums, on Tuesday, February 23, 2021 attacked and burnt the World Bank Housing Estate Police Station, Abayi in Aba, Abia State, killing about two police officers. It was learnt that during the attack, the hoodlums killed an Assistant Superintendent of Police and a police corporal. Again Nkporo Police Station was also burnt and on Monday, April 12, 2021, another set of unidentified gunmen in the early hours of the day, torched the Uzuakoli Police Station in Bende Local Government Area of Abia State. This development occurred a few days after Abia State Government raised the alarm over plot by hoodlums to attack some key locations in the state.
In his reaction to the issue, the state Commissioner of Police, John Kalu, stated that security agencies had been fully mobilised and placed on high alert to thwart the planned attack and bring those concerned to justice swiftly. Not long after that, gunmen attacked Ubani Police Station.
No human casualties or loss of weapons at the station were recorded during the attack because the station was deemed vulnerable to attacks based on intelligence and already vacated by cops three weeks earlier.
While dust had yet to settle on the incident, Ubakala Police Station in Umuahia South LGA was razed down even as two cops reportedly lost their lives. The incident occurred five days after the Bende Police Station was burnt and a few weeks after the attack on the Ubani Ibeku Police Station.
Unhappy with the development, the state government lamented that attacks on security agents, particularly men of the Nigeria Police Force, constituted danger to everyone in society, calling on citizens and leaders to come together to immediately end the needless and mindless acts. The government said, “Those who feel aggrieved must find peaceful means of ventilating their grievances and agitating for redress as provided for in our constitution rather than take the laws into their own hands.’’
Panic in Anambra too
Attacks on cops and police facilities in Anambra State climaxed with the attack on the Zonal Police Headquarters, Ukpo, Anambra State, in April, 2021. The attack was the ninth of such onslaughts on police and other security agents in the state this year.
In February, criminals attacked policemen at Mkpologwu and Omogho communities in the Aguata and Orumba North Local Government Areas, respectively, killing four policemen and setting patrol vehicles ablaze. They also made away with victims’ rifles.
In March, gunmen killed three policemen on duty at a location in Neni community, in the Anaocha LGA of the state, and carted away their rifles. They also set their patrol vehicles ablaze.
The same day, three naval officers on duty at Awkuzu, Oyi LGA, were attacked and killed. Their guns and other military equipment were equally taken away by their killers.
The same month, the hoodlums attacked a vehicle belonging to the Nigeria Correctional Service on a court duty, killing one officer and a policewoman who boarded the vehicle from the court in Ekwulobia.
A former Governor of the Central Bank, Prof Chukwuma Soludo was attacked about the same period in his Isuofia home town in Aguata Local Government Area of the state during a meeting with youths in the area over his governorship ambition on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance. Three policemen were killed during the incident and their guns carted away. The ugly scenarios had sent jitters to cops in the state. A cop, who spoke with one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity, said, “Most of us wear plain clothes to work these days. Life has no duplicate.’’
The situation ostensibly is affecting relatives of cops in the state.
A wife of a policeman in the state, Ogendi Chinasa, said her friend’s husband was killed alongside others at Umunze in the Orumba North Local Government Area of the state about two months ago.
She said, “The hoodlums just attacked them without any provocation at a checkpoint and killed two of them and took away their rifles. My friend suddenly became a widow, with five young children to cater for. It’s painful and frightening. They have returned to their hometown in Kogi State because of the incident. I have told my husband to get ready to quit the police after December.
“He can’t continue with police work after December. No, he won’t. And he has seen a reason with me why he won’t continue with the job. Even if it’s ‘pure (sachet) water’ that we will be selling, I will be happier with that than for him to continue risking his life. I pray for his safety every day he leaves home for work.’’
It’s the same feeling with the daughter of a policeman, who gave her name only as Ujunwa. She said, “My father has been a sergeant since I have grown to know him as my father. He hasn’t been promoted despite his dedication to duty. I couldn’t attend higher institution because my father couldn’t afford it. We are six in my family. I’m the first. I left secondary school in 2019 and I now sell Zobo drinks to assist in the family. My five siblings struggle to get basic education. I don’t think my father should continue with police work with the insecurity in the country. We fear for his life daily as he goes to work. I think he should retire now and use his retirement benefits now that he is still agile to start a small business. My mum died of cancer last year and we don’t want to lose our dad to unidentified gunmen. The attackers kill policemen like fowls on daily basis.’’
But Daalu Nwanna, a husband to a police woman, said he had no reason to withdraw his wife from the force.
Nwanna said, “My wife, and generally women, in the force don’t carry guns, so they are not targets. The gunmen target those who carry guns because I think they are stockpiling arms and ammunition for reasons known only to them. My wife works at the state police command head office. She is like any other civil servant. So, she is not a target. People can decide what to do for themselves. They can resign if the so feel; but remember death is everywhere and not only in the police.’’
The police have however said they were on top of the security situation in the state including motivation packages for cops.
The state Police Public Relations Officer, Ikenga Tochukwu, told Saturday PUNCH that the Commissioner of Police, Chris Owolabi, was taking steps to boost the morale of cops in the command.
The PPRO said, “For us in Anambra State Police Command, it’s call for more work and our men are more dedicated and motivated to serve. The administration of the Commissioner of Police, Chris Owolabi, has every day revived strategy with the aim to earn the trust of the good people of Anambra and together we shall police effectively.”
Relatives of cops in Enugu worry
Some policewomen in Enugu State have lamented the security situation in the country, especially with the attacks on police facilities by unidentified gunmen.
The policewomen, who spoke with our one of correspondent on condition of anonymity, added that the situation made them to stop wearing uniforms to work.
One of them said that they go to work with their clothes in bags and wear them in their offices.
Speaking with Saturday PUNCH, a cop identified only as Chimezie said, “After work, we will remove the uniforms and wear mufti for fear of being attacked by unidentified gunmen. Nobody is happy with the security situation in Enugu and the South- East in general.
“The truth of the matter is that no matter what is done, they have to take care of the police especially the officers, the rank and file; those who work round-the-clock trying to secure everybody including the poor and rich. A situation whereby, an officer dies in the course of duty and within two weeks, if he is living in the barracks, his family is thrown out of the barracks is not a good thing. Some of us who are alive and witnessing what is done to our dead colleagues’ families don’t feel motivated. We do what we can do to receive our salary and avoid anything that will lead to death.
A policewoman, who gave her name only as Ijeoma, told our one of our correspondents that the situation in the South-East was bad to the extent that they feared every day whenever any police facility was attacked.
She noted, “The situation doesn’t call for the show of power. The desperation and injustices bottled for so long has been let loose and everyone is suffering it. The solution to the crisis is for the political leaders to rework the country’s basis of unity. There’s no way force can unite the country.
“There is division along tribal, religious and ethnic lines. My children are young. I live in the barracks. Every day I leave house to work, my mind is with my children. I always pray that nothing bad should happen to them. That the situation we have found ourselves.”
Speaking on the measures to contain the rising insecurity, the state Commissioner of Police, Mohammed Aliyu, said that their operational modalities had changed.
Aliyu said, “We are not having it so good, it is not only in Enugu State. It’s the same in all the states of the federation. I assure residents that we are changing our operational strategies to counter the emerging security threats in the state. You also know that the acting Inspector-General of Police, on Tuesday launched new security operation, code-named ‘Operation RP – Restore Peace’, so that operation is part of the measures the police have taken to stem the tide of insecurity.”
The Divisional Police Station in Adani, Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area of the state was attacked on April 21, 2021. Emene Divisional Police Station and four other stations were attacked by hoodlums during the October #EndSARS protests in the southern part of the country. Amechi-Idodo Police Station, Akwatta Police Post under the Central Police Station, Maryland Police Post under Uwani Police Division and Phase 6 Police Post, under Trans-Ekulu Police Division, had also been torched by hoodlums.
Akwa Ibom not left out
Also, families of cops in Akwa Ibom State called for concerted efforts to end the persistent killing of security agents and attack on police facilities in the state.
About 22 security agents, mostly policemen have been killed and three police stations including personal and operational vehicles burnt since the onslaught against security agents started in March, this year.
Among the police stations burnt include the divisional police station in Essien Udim, Ini and Etim Ekpo local council areas in the state.
Speaking with one of our correspondents, a relative of a police officer in the state, Mr. Etim Etim said all hands must be on deck to nip the situation in the bud, adding that police officers were no longer safe.
According to him, the attacks on police facilities and killing of security agents if not checked can affect the morale of cops and lead to general insecurity in the state.
Etim said, “As a family member to a cop, I feel concerned for the life of my brother, because the way things are, no policeman is safe. I call on the government to curb the situation so that a policeman or woman can go to work freely and be safe.
“This is because the officers who are being killed have families, children and are breadwinners. My brother helps the family greatly. If anything happens to him, it will affect us economically and psychologically. We want the Federal Government to do something about it and secure the lives of policemen in the state.’’
In her comment, the wife of a policeman, Mrs Gift Bokime, said the killing of security agents had brought fear and anxiety, adding that her mind was not always at rest until her husband returned from work.
She said, “I want the government to do something about it and urgently because policing is now a risky profession. The killing of security operatives has further worsened the fears. I always pray and thank God each time my husband leaves and returns home after the day’s work.”
Also speaking, a student and a relative of policeman, Miss Godsgift Gaius, advised cops to be vigilant in addressing the situation.
She called on Divisional Police Officers to take adequate measures in tackling security challenges in their respective stations, adding the police authorities shouldn’t sit back and watch their stations burnt down without taking precautionary measures.
Gaius stated, “The killing of security operatives is a bad development in our society. It’s a tragedy so to speak. Security is a two-way thing. While I will call on the government to take serious steps to stop the killing, I also call on the DPOs to secure the police stations. Something cannot be happening to a police station and the DPO will not take proactive measures about it. The police have to be proactive to secure the stations.’’- Source: PUNCH.