IPOB Committed To Destruction Of Nigeria ~ Magnus Abe
As part of the ongoing police reforms, the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu recently withdrew police orderlies from very important personalities like you. Do you think that this is a good move by the IGP?
There are a few things I would like to point out, first of all, police orderlies and security are attached to individuals for different reasons. The reason the police decided to give me special security details is well known to a lot of Nigerians particularly those living in Rivers State. If you remember, my offices were burnt down, I was attacked at different times. Even in March this year when I was at a secondary school trying to give out computers to the school children, gunmen came and attacked the school while I was there. But for the timely intervention of the police themselves, the story probably would have been different. So there are different reasons why police security details were attached to people.
Having said that, let me say that the inspector general of police as the leader of the Nigeria Police Force in this country has the right to post his men wherever he thinks they will best serve the interest of Nigerian people. Maybe the police has looked at some of her own security needs and they feel that the general interest of the country is better served by redeploying their men in other places; that should not be an issue. What, however, I am not too pleased about, is the whole point of making the withdrawal of security from anybody public. When these men were posted to us, it was not public, so their withdrawal should have been done privately. When you now announce publicly that security details are being withdrawn from certain people, you are exposing those persons to unnecessary security risk in my opinion because security information is never public.
That being said, we also know that the 60 people listed there are not the only Nigerians to whom police security details are being attached. So the IG has a clear idea of why he took the decision that he has taken and how that is in the best interest of the Nigerian people and we should support the police because without the police, where do we go to. The IGP still has a responsibility to protect our lives, so even if he withdraws the police orderly, I’m sure they have other plans for making sure that Nigerians are secured and we should support them.
Do you think the withdrawal of police orderlies from top politicians has any political undertone as being speculated in some quarters?
To me, it is not an issue. When I was in the Senate, my security detail was withdrawn by the then PDP government for no reason other than the fact that I was opposing the government, but the same government restored that security when they saw that I was actually in real danger. So the police is not outside the political interference sometimes but I know that the police has that capacity to resist that inference when the lives of Nigerians are involved. I don’t believe that this action was merely political, I am a member of the All Progressives Congress, I am not just a member, I am a leader of the party; I am member of the board of NNPC, so I don’t see the IG going after me for just political purposes and I don’t think that will be tolerated by the system. But what I know is that the police deserves the support of all Nigerians including myself. If the police has come out with a better plan to secure all of us, then we should have that in an open conversation. My own take is that a lot of wealthy Nigerians actually have the resources to pay for security and if we create security companies that are certified by the police, and the people are allowed to bear arms… because having a security company that has no access to arm is basically useless to anybody in the kind of environment in which the criminals are properly armed. So, in most democracies, the system allows security companies that are sometimes manned by certified and well trained security personnel and those who have means to pay will have those that protect them and their children. There is nowhere in the world where very rich people stay without security because everybody knows that they are constantly in danger. For example, you can’t say Dangote should move around Nigeria without security. Even if he goes to Liberia, South Africa or Kenya, security will be provided for him either privately or publicly, that is how it goes. When Mark Zuckerberg came here, he came with his own personal security. So this will also offer jobs to thousands of ex-service men, who are today roaming the streets and cannot pay their children’s school fees. So, in discussing the security of this country moving forward, I believe that we should expand the conversation beyond the mundane and go into creative ideas that will not only help the economy but help the people and make life safer. If you have that option, a lot of wealthy people don’t have to go and start depleting the scarce manpower of the police, they can pay for security.
You just talked about private security that could bear arms. You will recall that when the Amotekun security outfit was being discussed nationally, there were all kinds of legal and legislative loopholes being pointed at. The police force said that IGP will have to issue each state a licence as long as they fall within the provision of the firearms act. What do you think will happen with this proposal of private firm in view of the fact that there is such hostility and distrust from the federal government with the suggestion to any kind of state police or any other arms bearing unit that could potentially be abused?
We are talking about two different things here, we can’t compare apples with oranges. The arguments about other tiers of government running their police forces is a different argument. The argument I am making here is about commercial private security companies. What we are talking about is reform and when you are talking about reform, you have to change the laws to allow what you want to happen. The most important in this conversation is for us to understand the benefits that these things offer to the country and then we can juxtapose that with the challenges that they present and then we try to work a way through to reduce the challenges and increase the benefits. One thing I believe in is that there is no human difficulty that has no solution, which is what knowledge is all about. As long as you are prepared to learn, whatever is a problem can be overcome. So if we are prepared to look for solutions to the security problems of this country, we have to be broad minded to be open to new ideas. We can’t just stay stuck in a place that is not working for us the way any of us want and pretend that that is okay or that changes are not needed. I think that in discussing whatever changes we want to talk about, we should be broad minded and open to new ideas and be able to review those ideas and see their merits and demerits. Let us not start by throwing anything away because that doesn’t fit with a particular mindset at the moment.
Let us look at the alleged incident of massacre in Oyigbo, Rivers State, the indiscriminate arrests by soldiers, some of which have been denied, but the fact is that soldiers were killed and their weapons were stolen, a curfew was imposed, those were the facts. What is your take on all of these?
I think the coloration that is being given to some of these issues is not very fair. IPOB is an organisation that is committed to the destruction of Nigeria, there is no argument about that; that is what IPOB is. And we should relate to that as an organisation, it has members, it has people and they are the ones who are responsible for the arsons, murder and mayhem in Oyigbo area of Rivers State. But when you don’t deal with them as an organsation… sometimes when some people talk, they talk about the Igbos, it is not an Igbo problem and it is not an Igbo situation. There is an organisation that is clearly terrorist in orientation; that is determined to pull the Federal Republic of Nigeria apart just like Boko Haram, so I think that effective measures need to be taken to rein in these people. The response by the security agencies in Oyigbo as far as I know… there have been a lot of allegations and counter allegations and I believe that there are various enquiries that are going on into the situations that occurred during that period. I believe that such an enquiry will help to unmask some of the things that happened. But I personally know of a police officer, in fact, one of the police officers that was posted to me that has now been withdrawn, he lived in that area, his entire house and everything was burnt, his neighbour was burnt alive because he is a policeman. So when people behave with that kind of terrorist and murderous kind of intent, there is every need to react to that in a manner that is able to curtail and contain those particular excesses. But anything outside of that will be intolerable.
What is your take on the meeting between Governor Wike and some south eastern governors, which was some days ago as regards peace and security in Rivers State and the Oyigbo incident?
I think the meeting should be commended. There is no disputing the fact that what happens in the eastern states is directly affecting what is happening in Rivers State, particularly in the Oyigbo area. Oyigbo is part of Port-Harcourt and you can’t ignore whatever happens in Oyigbo. I think that the governor putting heads together as governors of Nigerian states to try to look for solutions to a common problem is commendable and should be encouraged. I believe that there are common measures that they can take to help to bring the situation under control. From what is happening now, it is clear that IPOB is losing the sympathy of a lot of rational and right thinking Igbos of the majority of the Igbo people. So you need to mobilise that opinion and strengthen it and let people see the destructive tendencies of this particular organisation. After all, everybody knows that substantially the Igbos are the economic backbone of this country, they are everywhere and they need the goodwill of their customers and clients to survive wherever they are. So an organisation that comes with an intent to break that bond between them and their businesses; between them and the communities in which they operate and survive, is clearly an organisation that is out to destroy the economic capacity of the Igbo nation. And I think all those with a vested interest in that need to come together and push a common conversation and I believe that is what that meeting is meant to achieve and I commend it and encourage it.
The #EndSARS protest somehow degenerated into attacks on homes of prominent persons and attacks on COVID-19 palliatives warehouses and despite the fact that the government acceded to the five demands of the protesters but the youth didn’t seem not to trust in the government and remained on the streets. What is your take on the whole incident?
Let me add my voice to those who have said it was most unfortunate that it had to come to that. A lot of complaints had been made against SARS and police brutality in the past and the police authorities have always made some efforts to deal with those challenges but apparently, people got tired basically because they felt that those attempts by the police to address some of those issues were not far reaching enough and I agree with those who feel that way. But moving forward, the #EndSARS protest was not just a #EndSARS protest, a lot of people brought in their own issues that have nothing to do with the #EndSARS.
That is why you see that immediately the #EndSARS protest came on, SARS was ended. The president agreed to everything that was demanded but that didn’t end the protest because there were now a lot of other issues that people had including people who wanted to destabilise the nation and destabilise the government and we can’t throw that away. You heard the video clip of the leader of IPOB calling on his people to burn and kill, that was not the aim of the #EndSARS protest.
But that said, I do believe that there are certain issues and undercurrent in the polity that need to be addressed and this protest has brought those things to the fore. Again, the whole issue and nature of our security architecture and the communication between the police and the public. You noticed that there were some communities that came out to protect their police stations and defend the police and stand with them.
But there were some communities where the people came out and joined the looters and hoodlums to attack the police stations. So I think the communication between the police and the public needs to be enhanced. The police is your friend, there is not one of us that can survive in an orderly society without the police. So a police force that works for the people is an important and imperative part of our democracy and we all need to understand and support the police to work towards that. Funding is a key challenge which nobody is talking about. Everything has a price, if you want to drive a Mercedes, there is an amount you need to have to pay for a Mercedes. If you want to drive a Beetle, there is an amount that you will have that will pay for a Beetle. You cannot pay for a Beetle and expect the Beetle to perform like a Mercedes, it is not going to do that. If you want a Mercedes, you really have to save money or work for money or raise money to buy a Mercedes. So, it is clear that the Beetle that we have now in terms of security architecture that is on ground now cannot perform to the expectations of the vast majority of our people. So what is the shortfall of what we have between what we need and what we have currently and how do we bridge that gap?
We need to bridge that gap in training; we need to bridge that gap in manpower; we need to bridge that gap in orientation; we need to also understand that policing doesn’t end with the police. What are the judicial challenges that the police face in trying to enforce law and order? What are the prosecutorial challenges and what are the prosecutors doing? I know of a police station where the police decided to start collecting money from armed robbers because every time they try to charge the people to court, when they get to the ministry of justice, the people write a report that there is no evidence to charge them to court and the robbers are released. So the police are pretty sure that these people were collecting money and releasing them, so they decided to collect the money themselves instead of passing the money to the prosecutorial authorities. So a comprehensive reform should not address just the police, we need to address the prosecutorial procedures we have in the country, we need to address the judiciary effectively and we need to get all these things working together; that is the judicial system of the country and the police is part of that system. But everything right now is being blamed on the police and the police alone. I don’t think that is fair and I don’t think that will achieve anything in the long run. If we want a system that works, we must pay for it.