COMMISSIONER of Police, Delta State, Mr. Hafiz Inuwa, did not plan to detonate a bombshell, but facing Saturday Vanguard on the hot seat, last Friday, he did when he disclosed that some royal fathers in the state were accumulating money from Fulani herdsmen and giving them sanctuaries to build camps.
In a no-holds-barred interview with this paper, the state police boss expressed disbelief that Deltans would rarher prefer to keep mute than interrogate the land deals, which from present-day happenings have put some communities at the mercy of rampaging Fulani herdsmen.
His words: “One of the traditional rulers at one time was so perplexed and ran to his counterpart with regard to the way and manner he was giving Fulanis sanctuaries with reckless abandon. Are they giving the land for free? We are aware they are collecting money from these Fulani herdsmen and people are not looking at all these things.”
Maintaining social distancing and compliantly wearing face masks, Saturday Vanguard’s three-man crew met Inuwa, incidentally a Mass Communication graduate, more than ready for the interview, especially with the manner he took the bullets (questions) fired at him. The state Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, DSP Onome Onovwakpoyeya, who sat quiet at a distance was the only other officer in the expansive office, as we drilled her boss.
We started – Suspected herdsmen have been on rampage in Delta, especially in Ibusa, Issele-Azagba, Okpanam, Azagba-Ogwashi-Uku and before now in Uwheru Kingdom. We want to know when as a Commissioner of Police, you will be able to stop hostage taking and kidnapping in Delta state?
Inuwa responded: “First of all, I want to tell you that as Police, it is our constitutional responsibility to protect lives and property. Crime and criminality thrive everywhere. What I am trying to say is that there is no society all over the world that is isolated from crime one hundred percent. However, our ability to bring criminality to tolerable level is what makes us as a security force.”
”So, people should stop seeing or looking for government to provide absolute security for them. If all the security agencies would come together they cannot give a hundred percent security without the tacit cooperation of members of the public, absolute security is impossible.
”Members of the public must know that they too have civic responsibilities to themselves, to their communities, to the state and the nation at large. Unfortunately, this is absent in our people generally and I’m not particular about any state or sector.
”The answer is yes, we have been making series of arrests and recoveries. We have arrested some kidnappers at Oghara, who are Fulani and we handed them to the Commissioner of Police, Kogi state. We also arrested some of them somewhere close to Edo state and handed over to Commissioner of Police, Edo state, who also handed them over to Commissioner of Police, Kogi state. We are trying to see if we can recover their arms based on the information we get.
“What people fail to understand is that the criminals know the law enforcement officers, but we do not know them. The people within those communities know the criminals. Let me be blunt, there are insider-connivers. There are locals that are conniving with these criminals. Tell me, I ask you, what role are the communities playing in giving us such information or exposing these people? When we get one of these criminals, definitely we will get the rest!
‘When you talk about Issele-Azagba, I realized that things were happening there and what we needed to do was try to make it a little bit independent place that will have its own police. I dispatched three police teams and made them permanent there. I even gave them a brand new patrol pick-up van for the security of the place.
Fulani herdsmen ‘ve infiltrated vigilante in Delta North
”Are the vigilante groups I am supposed to work with helping matters? The answer is no! What about the communities? No! In fact, I want to use this opportunity to commend the Chairman of Aniocha North local government area for providing a place for my men to stay in Issele-Azagba. Let me be blunt to tell you that as we are serious in this issue, there are some persons sabotaging our efforts. The question is, who are the people giving the Fulani herdsmen sanctuaries to establish camps? People have to look at all these.
”Recently, we did what we call “Operation Flush out Kidnappers” from Ibusa down to Okpanam. We were amazed at what we saw in all these bushes around and behind the Asaba Airport. One of the traditional rulers at one time was so perplexed and ran to his counterpart with regard to the way and manner he is giving Fulanis sanctuaries with reckless abandon. Are they giving the land for free? We are aware they are collecting money from these Fulani herdsmen and people are not looking at all these things.
”Well, even if you are born and brought up in Delta as a Fulani man and you are doing your business, yes, it is your country and you can move around. But, if there are bad eggs amongst you, will you pretend to tell me that you do not know them? If you know them and you did not inform us, you are also a criminal because you are aiding and abating.
”The police in the state are doing a lot. The only help we need from the communities is information on the way and manner crime and criminality are thriving in the communities. One thing I want people to understand is that crime knows no tribe, religion and borders.
”The way people, who are criminally-minded are partnering with some of these so-called suspected herdsmen in the state is alarming. The vigilante groups of Delta North need surgical operation in the sense that they have been infiltrated by criminals.
On whether policemen in Delta state were adequately armed with sophisticated weapons to tackle criminals, as information at our disposal suggests that policemen run away from armed herdsmen on grounds that they do not have superior weapons to tackle criminals?
Herdsmen collude with locals
He was direct: “Yes, we need more men, especially from the rank of inspector and rank and file because they are what we refer to as the foot soldiers; they aid us in tackling crime and criminality. On the other hand, if our policemen are running away from Fulani herdsmen, how come they get killed, maimed and what have you? Were they running away when they were killed? Were they running away when they sustained life-threatening injuries? No! We use to have encounters. These so-called Fulani herdsmen are conniving with locals to perpetrate crime.”
The police divisions are the heartbeat of police operations in the state. Most DPOs do not have imprests to run their police stations. They do not have money to buy fuel to run police vans, repair vans, etc., how can they operate in such condition? Saturday Vanguard probed further
DPOs get funds monthly from IGP to run police stations
Inuwa retorted: “Well, they should make use of what comes to them directly from the Inspector General of Police. The IGP in his own wisdom sends money directly to DPOs on monthly basis. In fact, as Commissioner of Police I do not even know what goes to them. I only see it on paper, but how much I do not know. They have no reason whatever to revert to Commissioner of Police.
Delta govt cares for all security agencies
Regarding support from the state government, he asserted, “The governor is trying his best. He is doing his best to make sure that not only the police force, but all other security agencies in the state are supported and carried along. As a demonstration of that, not quite long, he rolled out over 30 vehicles to all the security agencies, including the military and the DSS. He demonstrated how proactive he is and his government in the lockdown of the state in making sure COVID-19 is adequately managed.”
Delta vigilante best in the country despite challenges
What is the synergy between the police in the state, vigilante groups and other stakeholders in terms of policing the state? The Commissioner said: ”As far as other stakeholders are concerned, I do not know, but I want to state that irrespective of the problems we are having with vigilante groups, I am telling you there is no geographical zone I have not served in this country and I have never come across a wonderful vigilante group that works harmoniously with the police than the Delta State Vigilante group.”
According to him: “We are aspiring to get the best set of vigilante and that is why there is need for the traditional rulers, stakeholders and local government chairmen, who are part of the stakeholders to put eyes on these vigilante. I am telling you that the vigilante groups are assisting the police in the state.
”As far as we are concerned, apart from other formerly established security agencies, the next best you can hear from us shall be the vigilante groups in the state. As a testimony to that, I have already started moving to Area Commands, meeting with stakeholders sensitizing them that these people need assistance. Is it in terms of providing them with uniforms, boots, batteries, torchlights and what have you? Most of them are married and they need support. It will not be out of place if they are recognized and given allowances at the end of the month.
I never told Ughelli DPO not to accept exhumed corpses of villagers killed by herdsmen
Why did you ask the Ughelli Division ‘A’ DPO not to accept the exhumed corpse of the Uwheru farmers when they were brought to the police station?Commissioner Inuwa, who never wanted to be boxed to a corner throughout the interview replied: “How sure are you that was my directive? Telling person to find out where those corpses were exhumed is different from not accepting them, you understand! It is our duty to know the circumstances that led to their deaths. You cannot bring anything for me to accept.”
”Our people lack patience. You come to the police with a beautiful case, we investigate it, confirm it, take it to court, but you do not have the patience to pursue it in court,” he added, shedding light on one of the biggest difficulties of the police in crime protection.
What have the police done with the herdsmen arrested during in the Uwheru attack? He quickly retorted: “There is nobody arrested that is spared; we have charged them to court.”
He reechoed again: “Our people lack patience. You come to the police with a beautiful case, we investigate it, confirm it, take it to court but you do not have the patience to pursue it in court.”
Imam, who threatened police arrested, convicted
So, what is the update in the case involving the Ekakpamre Imam that incited his followers against the police? He snapped: “When that incident happened I really felt bad because I was away in Abuja on official duty. However, I called the DPO and gave him the directive that he must arrest the Imam. But, he gave me the reasons for not arresting him at that scene.”
”I gave same instruction to the Area Commander that on no account should the man escape justice because if my command will arrest pastors and prosecute them, why will he not be given same treatment? This is because justice is one. This Imam was arrested last week Saturday or Friday and we prosecuted him on Monday. As I speak with you, he is an ex-convict because he was convicted,” he said.
We questioned Commissioner Inuwa further – Burutu Area Command has 22 police officers with three rifles and one pistol. Mr Commissioner, how do you expect these policemen to police over 74 communities? He simply answered:”You see, we make use of what we have to provide service.”
We were made to understand that part of plans to protect Fulani herdsmen, Northerners are being brought in to head police divisions in Delta state. How true is this, sir? He was obviously waiting for it and replied: “I challenge anybody, please, out of 53 police divisions, how many northerners are heading divisions? Posting and transfers of officers are management decisions at the Force Headquarters in which they do not need to consult me and nobody can question the authority of the Inspector General of Police on how to run his administration,”
The encounter, Inuwa’s first time on the hot seat with a national newspaper ended on spectacular note. “There is a very sad discovery we made at Abor Police Division, which is that the division raided in 2018 by suspected militants/pirates, who took away five AK 47 rifles and some rifles belonging to a vigilante group, has no firearms to operate until now, are you aware of this situation? Saturday Vanguard fired
Question Delta Compol couldn’t answer
Inuwa, who apparently never expected such a closely-guarded secret to be to the knowledge of journalists, rejoined: “I am not, as far as I am concerned. I am not aware, I am yet to be briefed on this.”
It was the only question he could not answer in the 30-minute encounter. In all, it was a far engaging interview than we thought. We look forward to another frank encounter with the blunt Commissioner.