The Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, has described the incessant cases of kidnapping in the country as a complex task for the police to tackle.
Idris identified shortage of police manpower and the building of schools and houses in isolated areas as some of the factors that made kidnapping a difficult crime to tackle by the police.
The IG spoke during a courtesy visit to The PUNCH Place, headquarters of Punch Nigeria Limited on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway on Thursday.
Responding to a question about kidnapping and killings by a notorious cult called Badoo, Idris said the police were working on improving security in the coastal areas between Lagos and Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, by acquiring more gunboats for patrol.
He, however, added that their job had been made more difficult because of the choice of some people to build houses and schools in desolate areas, especially in the bush.
He said, “We are trying to improve and enhance how we deal with criminality in the coastal areas, not only Lagos, but from here to Port Harcourt and one of our strategic plans is to better equip our marine police.
“We are trying to acquire more gunboats so that we can be very effective and visible in these coastal areas – somebody will build a school in an isolated bush. That is why we said when you are looking at criminality, you have to also look at some factors and try to address those factors as a whole and not always point at the police.
“There is a limit to what we can do; if you go and build your house in the bush, we are talking of personnel, you cannot put policemen in every school. If we do that, we are going to have a problem in addressing other issues.
“There are some basic utilities that a school requires – closed-circuit television cameras. Put some things there to fortify the school. If the location is bad, make sure you fortify the school. You can have a security department; hire more security men on the ground. But nobody looks at some of these factors.”
The IG also noted that more attention should be paid to dealing with delay in criminal trials in courts and factors that push youths into crime.
Speaking on the continued detention of an alleged kidnap kingpin, Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike, a.k.a. Evans, who had yet to be charged to court, Idris said the police deserved “credit” for the arrest, while promising that the suspected kidnapper would be given a fair trial.
Idris’ visit to The PUNCH Place was with a large retinue of armed policemen and in his response to a question about that and the continued attachment of policemen to politicians vis-à-vis the inadequate provision of security for the public, the IG said it was necessary to protect people in leadership positions.
He said, “On the issue of personnel; in reality, the Nigeria Police Force has about 298,000 policemen and women and I agree with you. You know, it is (like that) all over the world, you have to protect the leadership of the country.
“Even in the US, up till date, when President Donald Trump is going anywhere, some roads have to be blocked and you need policemen to do that, you have to deploy the assets you have to protect the leadership because you know they are the symbols of the country. So, it is not only in Nigeria that if a president is going somewhere, you just (don’t) allow him to go like that. You know we had a bitter experience in the past, when (former military ruler) Murtala Muhammed was assassinated. He stopped at a traffic light and was killed.
“It is natural for any country to accord the leadership that level of maximum protection because whether we like it or not, I am not in your position, I have so many enemies and not made by me, but through my people.”
Idris, who lamented the shortage of police personnel, said it was worsened because the country did not employ any rank and file member of the Force between 2010 and 2016.
He, however, added that a bill that would guarantee improved funding for the police was before the National Assembly and awaiting the legislature’s assent.
After initially expressing surprise to a question insinuating that Badoo was still operating in Lagos and Ogun states, he said, “It has not been dealt with, I’m surprised.”
Idris, therefore, deflected the question to the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni, who said the group had been dealt with.
Owoseni said, “Badoo has been dealt with. Before this last one (killing by a suspected members of Badoo), for the past six weeks, we didn’t have anything and such a crime is not what you can just stop because of the nature of the environment.
“All the places where the incidents happened were right inside the bush, so if you put one million policemen in that place, it will be difficult. These were people that just went to the middle of nowhere, put a house (there) with no window, no door, nothing and nobody has seen Badoo face-to-face.
“So, we are dealing with that and we are improving. “And that is why we have built partnership with members of the community to get to the grassroots so that when they see (something suspicious), they can tell us.”