OPC, AMOTEKUN, OTHER VIGILANTE GROUPS SET TO TAKE OVER AS POLICE REMAIN RELUCTANT TO RETURN TO DUTY POSTS

  • IGP charges officers to protect themselves against attacks
  • OPC, S’South vigilance groups vow to move in as police desert posts
  • We’ll deploy our men in streets next week –Amotekun, vigilance groups

Adelani Adepegba, Abuja

The Police Service Commission has frowned on the refusal of some policemen to return to their duty posts following the killing of about 22 cops during the violence that broke out in the aftermath of the #EndSARS protests across the country.

The PSC said Public Service Rules, which also applies to members of the Nigeria Police Force, prescribes dismissal for any officer that deserted his job, while admonishing them to put the killing of their colleagues behind them.

The PSC stressed that policemen did not deserve to be killed and should in fact be protected as fellow human beings, but it however noted that the attack on them by hoodlums should not be an excuse for them to stay away from work.

PSC spokesperson, Mr Ikechukwu Ani, said the attacks on the police were not good for the country “because when you make Nigeria lawless and ungovernable, there would be a situation nobody would be able to control.”

The  PUNCH had reported that policemen had stayed away from blackspots and their duty posts following the killing of their colleagues by suspected hoodlums who hijacked the #EndSARS protests.

Riot policemen had also failed to respond to incidents of looting and vandalism of public and private property by miscreants in defiance of a directive by the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, ordering them to reclaim the public space from hoodlums.

Senior officers had expressed fear for their lives, saying their security was not guaranteed hence their decision to stay away from work.

But Ani, in an interview with Saturday PUNCH on Friday, said while the loss of policemen was painful, it should not be an excuse for security operatives to abandon their job of protecting the nation.

He stated, “The Nigeria Police Force is part of the public service and the public service is guided by the Public Service Rules. If you don’t come to work without permission, the punishment is dismissal if it is proven.

“The police as public servants are guided by the rules; so, they cannot on their own say they won’t go to work. Although, the Police Service Commission is also working to make sure they are protected because they are human beings; their lives also matter.”

The PSC spokesperson cautioned against further attacks on law enforcement agents, describing such incidents as an ill-wind that could lead to anarchy.

He added, “It would be an ill-wind that blows nobody any good but it is not a reason for anybody to say he won’t go to work. If you don’t go to work, the Public Service Rules will take its course.”

When asked if the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, had formally informed the commission about the loss of his men, Ani said he had not been briefed on it.

Section 030402 of the Public Service Rules lists absence from duty without leave as serious misconduct, which can be investigated and if proved, may lead to dismissal.

Meanwhile, the Chairman of PSC, Musiliu Smith, has urged the police to rejig their anti-crime strategies, assuring officers and men of the Force of improved welfare.

He spoke on Thursday when he inspected some of the damaged police formations in the Lagos State Command alongside some retired senior officers.

A statement on Friday by the police spokesperson in Lagos State, SP Muyiwa Adejobi, said Smith called for “thorough investigation into all the cases recorded during the crisis. He emphasised that officers and men of the command should take the ugly incident as one of the challenges and hazards of police job in a developing country like ours.”

IG charges officers to protect themselves against attacks

Meanwhile, the IG has asked policemen to protect themselves against attacks, saying they have the right to defend themselves in case of physical danger.

The IG stated this on Friday during an assessment tour of the Federal Capital Territory Police Command, Abuja, where he also encouraged the operatives who had abandoned the streets for over five days to return to work

The PUNCH had reported that the IG on Friday commenced a tour of all commands across the country to boost the morale of officers and men of the Force. He also visited the National Youth Service Orientation Camp in Kubwa, which was vandalised and looted by some miscreants on Tuesday.

While addressing the policemen under the FCT command, Adamu alleged that the #EndSARS protesters were out to provoke and demoralise the police, noting that the Federal Government was fully behind the police and “will never accept for any police officer to lose his or her life.”

He added, “If the police are demoralised, criminals will take over the public space and we will not let that happen. No amount of insults and provocation will make us shy away from our responsibilities.”

He commended them for their professionalism and efforts to protect lives and property during the protests, noting that adequate compensation would be paid to the families of all policemen who lost their lives during the protests.

Adamu stated, “Inasmuch as we are aware that government is behind us; so, we would encourage you to keep performing your duties. We would encourage you to be professional, to be civic, but if anybody touches you, if anybody comes to assault you, you can also protect yourself.

“When we talk of human rights, the police are human beings; so, the rights of police officers would also be protected. We are sending the message that legally, we have the right to protect ourselves but while we are doing that, we make sure we do that when we are endangered.”

The IG assured the policemen that the government was committed to a holistic reform of the police, which according to him necessitated the establishment of the Police Trust Fund. He said henceforth, “everything a policeman needs to perform his duties will be provided.”

The FCT Police Commissioner, Bala Ciroma, said the command experienced 16 major incidents during the protests, after which miscreants looted and vandalised public and private property across the city. He noted that the series of events led to the loss of 10 lives while some others sustained various degrees of injuries.

Ciroma requested additional operational vehicles, manpower and riot equipment to boost the command’s operational capacity.

Adamu sets up committee to assess NPF’s losses

Adamu later inaugurated a committee to assess the loss of lives, damage to police properties and loss of equipment and weapons nationwide. The committee is to be headed by CP Abuto Yaro and is to report back with a detailed report in three weeks.

The IG also held a virtual meeting with Assistant Inspectors-General of Police and police commissioners on the security situation in the country.

OPC, S’South, vigilance groups vow to move in as police desert posts

Given the absence of policemen on the streets and many flashpoints in states across the country, the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland and National Coordinator of the Oodua Peoples Congress, Iba Gani Adams, has expressed the readiness of the OPC to secure states in the South-West

He said, “We are ready to move in because the security of our people is paramount to us. We need to secure our people. We have about six million members and the OPC of today is different from the OPC of the past. We are more strategic now. When there are issues, we strategise more.

“Don’t judge us by the number you see out there. Our members are not fully part of Amotekun except some in Oyo State.

“However, we need the governors to give their approval. The governor is the Chief Security Officer of the state. There is nothing we can do without the approval of the governors. In the meantime, we are looking at partnering with local government chairmen to coordinate such activity. We are ready to move in to secure our people. We did it during the #EndSARS crisis after the shootings in Lekki.”

He said the day after the Lekki shooting, OPC members were deployed in Ogbomoso and Oke Ogun in Oyo State as well as Ijebu in Ogun State to ensure that there was peace.

Adams, however, stated that restructuring was the solution to the insecurity and other challenges facing the country.

Also, following the absence of policemen on the streets of towns in Ondo State, the state chapter of OPC and Amotekun have expressed their readiness to take up the security of the towns should the police’s absence persist.

The state coordinator of OPC, Mr Victor Olayemi, said, “We are always ready, our function is to provide security in Yorubaland and we will not be lacking in rendering that service to our people. If this situation persists, we will be available because the issue of security should not be left for the security agencies alone.”

Also, the Ekiti State coordinator of OPC, Mr Sola Ojo, said his members would be willing to assist if government made the request. “We will be ready to assist the government; of course we have the capacity and sufficient men to do that,” he added.

He called on the police to continue with their good jobs, saying people should not judge them because of a few eggs among them even as he canvassed for an improved welfare package for them.

In Oyo State, leaders of OPC, Agbekoya and Soludeto Hunters said their men were prepared to secure lives and property.

The leader of OPC (New Era), Mr Rasaq Arogundade, told Saturday PUNCH in an interview in Ibadan on Friday that even before the recent crisis, the group had been assisting the police and other security agencies.

He added, “We are partnering with other groups to secure the people. The police alone cannot secure the people and that is why we have been involved for a long time. This is the time the governors need to campaign for state police or for vigilantes to be given constitutional roles. We know the people in our areas and we can make arrests and hand them over to the police.”

The leader of Agbekoya in Ajibode, Ibadan, Waheed Adeniyi, popularly known as Baba Ijebu, told Saturday PUNCH in a separate interview that governors should ask Agbekoya and other groups to help in securing important places and communities. He noted that the group had been doing this but that an invitation by the governor would boost the morale of their members.

Also, Oyo State coordinator of the OPC loyal to Gani Adams, Mr Rotimi Olumo, told one of our correspondents that the Soun of Ogbomoso, Oba Oladunni Oyewumi, had told them to secure the town since the #EndSARS protests began, noting that “just this week, our members prevented Mokola Police Station from being burnt, even at Bere, Moniya and other places. The security the people are enjoying now despite the absence of police is because some people like our members are working day and night.”

The National President, Soludeto Hunters, Nureni Ajijolaanabi, also told Saturday PUNCH that his members had been carrying out security work in states in the South-West. “We have brought in more people to train them and they will start work by midnight today (Saturday). This is what we have been doing and the police recognise our activities,” he added.

In Ekiti State, Amotekun and the Vigilante Group of Nigeria promised to deploy their men in the streets to ensure the security of lives and property.

The Corps Commander of Amotekun, Brig.-Gen. Joe Komolafe, said, “We will deploy them in the streets as soon as possible. By next week, you will see them on the streets in the various local governments.”

Also, the state commander, VGN, Akin Olorunlonimi, said, “The vigilante and Amotekun corps will hit the streets soon to ensure security of lives and property. By next week, you will start seeing Vigilante and Amotekun men on the streets. We want to ensure there is no vacuum.” He said they had made some arrests already.

Also speaking, the Ekiti State Commander, Agbekoya Peace Movement of Nigeria, Mr Sunday Omoyajowo, said his members were working day and night to ensure the security of lives and property of the people.

“My advice to the police is that we should not because of what happened abdicate our responsibility of securing the society. The fact of the job is that struggle continues. The government should appeal to both the police and the youth to ensure restoration of peace, law and order,” the Agbekoya commander added.

In the same vein, the Ondo State Commander of the Amotekun Corps, Chief Adetunji Adeleye said his officers were already present in the 18 local government areas of the state to provide security.

“But we are still meeting with the security agencies in the state. Even today (Friday), we had a meeting with the security agencies to appeal to them to return to the streets,” he added.

The Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, in a statement on Friday by his Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr Donald Ojogo, expressed concern over what he described as the low level of policing in the state, noting however that all stakeholders should take maximum advantage of lessons learnt from recent events.

“The general observation across the state shows a very low level of policing which is risky to the society,” it added. The governor also issued a seven-day ultimatum to those in possession of illegal arms and ammunition to return them to Amotekun commandant in Akure.    ,,

We can stand in for police — S’South vigilance groups

Some vigilance groups in the South-South have also expressed readiness to secure their people and protect property.

One of the vigilance groups in Rivers State, Diobu Vigilante, said being community-based, it would be able to identify criminal elements before they strike.

The Chairman, Diobu vigilante, Amatari Bipelede, said, “We know most of the miscreants, so if somebody is coming after me I will definitely know the person,” adding that once logistics was provided, they would do better.

Also, the Delta State Commandant, Vigilante Group of Nigeria, Mr Nwachukwu Emmanuel, said his men had been ordered to take over the streets. “As I speak to you now, my men are on the ground working, but I told them not to wear uniform so that they can be able to send signals,” he added.

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