THE Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr Ibrahim Idris, recently ordered the immediate redeployment of Area Commanders, Divisional Police Officers, all other officers, Inspectors and the rank and file serving in the police divisions, police stations and outposts situated on the Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria highways. The order affected the Zuba Division in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja and all divisions, police stations and posts in Niger State located along the highway to Kaduna, and those other police divisions, stations and outposts throughout the highways to Kaduna and Zaria city in Kaduna State. According to the office of the IGP, the move was in order to ensure total success of the Operation Absolute Sanity, a code name for the force’s current resolve to oust gangs of kidnappers and armed robbers who terrorise people, especially commuters, on the Abuja-Kaduna highway. New Area Commanders, Divisional Police Officers, other superior police officers, Inspectors and junior personnel were reported to have been posted to the route to take over from the outgoing ones.
The reason for the redeployment, said the police top hierarchy, was to infuse men with “new experience and fresh impetus” into the war against kidnapping, armed robbery and other violent crimes on the highway. According to the police command, this would also ensure full execution of Operation Absolute Sanity’s strategies, so that it could achieve the mandate given by the police command.
This move is a very commendable one, going by the number of casualties recorded in recent times, from the high to the lowly. If statistics are anything to go by, the road has become one of the most notorious highways in Nigeria, as gory crime stories emanate therefrom periodically. With this decision, the IGP aims at ensuring a total departure from the horror of criminal activities on that road.
As good as the decision appears to be, however, there are structural defects in it which could mar the IGP’s resolve. The major defect in the decision is the refusal to look at the causes of crime on the road in totality. The possible reasons for the high incidence of crimes on the road range from incompetence of police personnel, collusion with criminals or the nature of the road itself which makes criminal activities in it to flourish. Did the IGP take his time to look at the context in its totality?
The redeployment of police personnel is apparently not the one-off solution to the problem. The IGP is certainly not bringing the new set of policemen who would man the area, from Saturn or Uranus. The new officers are personnel of the same force that is regarded as brimming with men who do not share the vision of a relatively crime-free Nigerian state. Are the new personnel incorruptible and will they effectively see the task of ridding the road of criminals as the battle of their lives? The grim prospect of the newly redeployed policemen being sucked into the rot that enabled criminal activities on the road will remain high until the rot is tackled holistically.
One indication that the fecundity of crimes on that road is more systemic than ordinary is the intractable nature of bribery that is alleged to afflict the force like a pestilence. Thus, while there are so many checkpoints on various Nigerian roads mounted by policemen, robberies and kidnappings are yet ongoing on the roads.
What we are saying in essence is that the hope of a stoppage of the resurgence of criminal activities on the Abuja-Kaduna highway may not necessarily be in the swap of officers and men on the axis of the road. In any case, if the swap assumed the culpability or incompetence of the erstwhile crop of men who manned the area before now, where are they then being taken if not to further inflict them on a new set of Nigerians?
The swap of the officers, if the procedure is faulty, will not deter those who have been posted to the affected areas from effectively compromisiing their stand when confronted with the same factors that encourage crime. Thus, a systemic purge or a holistic examination of the reasons for the festering of crimes on the highway would have been more effective.
We are convinced that intelligence reports that will provide clues to the problem of crimes on that road will be more effective than the swap of personnel. The Evans narrative which became public knowledge recently has revealed that, sometimes, officers of the Nigeria Police and even soldiers are complicit in the crime triangle as they effectively aid and abet criminals in their nefarious activities.
There is therefore a need to take a holistic look at the procedures put in place to checkmate criminal elements on the route in question. Failure to take these into reckoning will inevitably make the problem to relapse, causing the force to begin the search for a new remedy all over again.
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