By Godwin-Maria Utuedoye
A major challenge faced by security agencies in Nigeria is the interference by politicians and corrupt personnel among the security apparatus which compromise the statutory commitment of security operatives to fight crimes, protect lives and property across the country.
We hear of situations where crimes are committed, suspects known to the public, yet allowed to walk the streets freely because he is being backed by a political godfather.
Criminals are no longer afraid of the long arm of the law. They believe the law is not meant for them, but others. They abuse, violate the law with impunity, confident they will always go away with it.
Findings revealed that politicians who have engaged touts, thugs and urchins for selfish purposes, most time, intervened once their boys are arrested. In most cases, when dealing with critical criminal cases, the police are compelled to yield to their political pressures, either in form of intimidation or inducements. Many times, money are paid to compromise justice.
Security experts and former service personnel have attributed such interferences to what emboldened cultists to murder a Divisional Police Officer (DPO) in Rivers State recently.
Consequently, armed robbery, ritual killing, breaking and entry, kidnapping, drug peddling, human trafficking, prostitution, cultism, extortion on residents by miscreants, rape, cyber fraud and other acts of criminality have been on the increase.
With increasing crimes in the society, citizens who bear the brunt are compelled to compliment efforts of the Nigeria Police, Army, NSCDC and sundry security agencies with emergence of Community, Clan, Kingdom, Local Government and State Vigilantes groups in tackling the rising crimes.
Aside the regular vigilante groups, others have evolved as special local security outfits such as Anti-Cult Volunteer Group, Hunters and Forest Guard Association and some others arrogating names and authority to selves.
For the local vigilante group, it is more of assisting the Police on intelligence gathering, maintaining peace in their neighborhood with deep knowledge of the environment, living among residents within their sphere of operations.
In same vein, the anti-cult group frontally checkmate cultism among different gangs while their Hunters and Forest Guard counterparts as the name implies, was established in the wake of incessant kidnapping by herdsmen who kill, rape and demand huge ransoms from victims relatives.
It was hoped and believed that when the locals who claimed to be hunters and familiar with the nooks and crannies of the forest are engaged in policing such areas, it will reduced the excesses of criminal Fulani herdsmen, ritualists and kidnappers.
The irony today is, instead of helping to curb the menace, literarily speaking, these set of security groups have rather aggravated the woes and fears of the people as they have deviated from the core expectation of assisting crime fighting and now enriched selves through extortion, intimidation and humiliation of innocents citizens.
Now the case of absolute power that corrupt absolutely, it no longer matters if the neighborhood is secured, life and property safe. It is now total display of power in a commando style, crime on steady increase in areas they claim to be policing. Their attitudes and modus-operandi drips corruption, dishonesty and self interest in the line of duty.
In interactions with SouthernVoicenews, opinion community leaders in Ughelli and environs, Ughelli North Local Government Area, Delta State, concurred that the multiplicity of security groups has done more harm than good.
Security experts who spoke to this medium also maintained that the killing of policemen attached to Ofuoma Division at Ekrejebor in first quarter of 2023, murder of a member of the Dragon Tactical Unit of the Police in an attack along Evwreni axis of the East-West road, abduction of a police officer from Aro Road, Ughelli later murdered at Evwreni bush and many more unreported crime, are as a result of breakdown of the security intelligence framework and their ineffectiveness.
Ughelli and environs experience recurring cases of snatching of motorcycles and gruesome killing of okada riders, car theft, kidnapping for ransom, cultism, vandalization of shops and stores, drug peddling, robbery of PoS operators, ritual killing and many others. In all, discrete investigations are not being done.
In some cases, victims of such heinous crimes are frustrated either by financial demands or cheer nonchalance by the security apparatus. In other cases, suspects are let of the hook after arrest or not even gone after. Not peculiar to Ughelli, incidents abound nationwide, where robbers, cultists, kidnappers and other criminal elements have easily committed high profile crimes but let off the hook, unchallenged.
On daily basis in Ughelli, one sees different patrol vans (Sienna mini buses), of the different security groups either mounting check points on major roads or combing the landscape what they term “routine patrol”.
It’s hard to determine the common good in the display of show of force in the armed routine patrols without strategy for gathering intelligence and noting black spots around the neighborhood.
Aside their vigilance role, the groups also arrogate to selves the duties of either the VIO or the FRSC. They go to any road, set a barricade and begin to embarrass road users. They demand vehicle licenses/particulars and bribe. Refusal to yield to these excesses results in intimidation, humiliation or delay.
Some police officers have been known to aid and abet the misconducts among vigilante. The police collaborators are co-opted, their jobs, to be the ones collecting the bribe and extortion on the public. They are partners in extorting the public.
Under normal circumstances, Hunters and Forest Guards have no business barricading roads to extort, beating motorcyclists and tricyclist. They have abandoned their core duties and chosen to wielding guns about daily to extort road users. All they do is laying siege, this time not for criminals, but for road users in different routes in an open extortion.
These incidents highlight a disturbing reality in our society, suggesting that the intelligence system, which should detect and prevent attacks on citizens, the police and other security installations, may have been severely compromised or collapsed altogether.
No wonder Dennis Amachree, a former Director of Nigeria’s Secret Police, recently lamented the rise of non-state actors like bandits, terrorists, and cultists who operate with apparent impunity, often due to their illicit ties with the authorities.
There are critical references to cases in Zamfara and Niger states where documented evidence showed leaders of bandits appearing in photos with top government officials and attending their events without fear of arrest.
Impunity has become the order of the say as on July 4, 2022, Assistant Commissioner of Police Aminu Umar Dayi, in charge of Dutsinma Area Command in Katsina, was ambushed and killed by bandits. Nothing has being done.
It is high time the government authorities made it clear to the different security apparatus, especially vigilantes and the hunters group that their duty is not among others to patrol just within the town, collect security levies from residents, shop owners and banks, but to also, ensure that lives and properties are secured.
It is annoying that in the midst of multiple security agents, crimes remain prevalent in Ughelli. It is appalling to see innocent citizens being harassed while known criminals walk the streets freely because they are either connected to the authority or perhaps, have paid their way through to evade justice and punishment.
– Godwin-Maria Utuedoye, An Investigative Journalist and Social Critic writes from Asaba, Delta State.