By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South and Festus Ahon
COMMISSIONER of Police, Delta State, Mr. Zanna Ibrahim, spoke to Saturday Vanguard shortly after a town hall meeting with Fulani herdsmen at Asaba, the state capital, on his efforts to contain rampaging herdsmen, weeks before the latest saga with Hon Evance Ivwurie, the lawmaker representing Ethiope East Local Government Area in the Delta State House of Assembly, over alleged helicopter supplies to herdsmen in Ovre-Abraka.
How police are tackling herdsmen menace
We are doing a lot in terms of proactive approach to the situation in the sense of visibility policing in decoy patrol, response to distress in the flashpoints we have identified in the state. But most importantly, the community approach to it, community partnership, just like we did this afternoon, we believe that the carrot and stick approach will be more successful that outright use of force.
We have invited the herdsmen with a view to identifying their problems, the entry points into the state because the belief is that it is not the herdsmen resident in the state that create the problem, but the infiltrators from neighboring states. So when we identify the points of entry, the perpetrators will now be known and we will be able to track them, so that is exactly what we are trying to do.
The next step is the host communities of those flashpoints; we will go to those flashpoints and interact with the resident-herdsmen and the host communities so that we will be able to understand each other. We want to keep communication alive; it is not when there is problem that you do fire brigade approach. We want to keep the dialogue alive so that by the time the communities understand the herdsmen, you know the communication gap will not be there again and better understanding and peace will thrive in the state.
Herdsmen can’t overpower police
On the allegation that herdsmen appear to have overrun the police in the state, he laughed, saying: “I think that is an over statement, we do not believe that the situation is as overwhelming as it is being painted. Most of those we have arrested with arms were in possession of locally made weapons that are manufactured locally and purchased locally.”
“So the situation is not as overwhelming as it is being speculated. Some of them are armed quite alright, we just had an encounter with them where two of our men were missing, we found one dead, not as a result of shooting or whatever, but as a result of drowning. I think he got himself drowned in the stampede; quite alright they are armed, but not as sophisticated as being said. So the situation is not really overwhelming, we are on top of the situation.
He dismissed allegation that some security agents were providing weapons to the herdsmen, saying it was not true. His words: “It is not possible that myself for instance as a Commissioner of Police from the North, you do not expect me to relinquish my firearms, how do I account for them.”
They purchase arms locally
“These are things that you will sign for, you must account for it, and if I am on transfer from Delta to another place I have to handover the weapons that I have collected from Delta, so how do I account to it if I gave it to another person. That allegation is not tenable at all. These arms are purchased locally, and we have got some of these arms. So it is not true, they may be in possession of one or two arms that were forcefully taken away from security agents, that one I agree with you. But for you to say that those arms are willingly relinquished to them to perpetrate atrocities cannot be true,” he added.
Policemen drown with firearms
Mr. Ibrahim also told Saturday Vanguard that the insinuation that the police lost three rifles to herdsmen in an encounter in the state was not true. The commissioner asserted: “Oh no, that is not true, like I told you, two of our men were declared missing, we have just found one that got drowned and we believe too that he got drowned with his firearm, we have recruited the services of local divers to see if we can retrieve it from the depth of the river. The other person, who has not been seen, is also in possession of firearm. So we assume that we lost two rifles and not three, but we are still hopeful that the second person will be seen.
We have information about gun manufacturers
Asked how many suspects were in custody, he said 22, adding: “We have one gun manufacturer in our custody, but we have information about others not within the state, but somewhere outside the state.”
Saturday Vanguard also inquired from the commissioner why the police have not been able to track down the sponsors at least from the confessions of the 22 herdsmen, Ibrahim asserted: “Investigation is ongoing; these are some of the things that you may not need to divulge until you conclude your investigations. But I want to tell you that it is not herdsmen/community crisis per se, but this cuts across crimes generally, it is either kidnapping, armed robbery and the herdsmen themselves. They are being held for various crimes and not particularly herdsmen/community problems.”
No cause for alarm
He told Deltans not to panic on the alleged invasion by herdsmen, saying: “As I said earlier, we are on top of the situation; we will not rest on our oars until we ensure that peace thrives across the state. And this one in so many attempts we are making to reduce crimes and criminality in the state. I am not saying we will banish crime entirely, no it is not possible, and provided human beings exists, there will be pockets of crime. All we need to do is to reduce it to the minimum, which is what we are striving to do in Delta state.”
“So, I want to assure the good citizens of the state that they should have confidence in what we are doing, they should have trust in what we are doing, they should provide us with credible information which is very important because we are not magicians and we do not pretend to know everything. We do not have the capacity to fight crime without credible information from members of the public, so we are going to rely on good Deltans to give us information and the confidentiality is guaranteed.
We are not going to expose anybody, who gives us information,” he said.
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