Celebrating the Exploits of Nigeria’s Elite Police Unit

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Two years ago, the Nassau County Police Department was struggling to stop a burglary ring that had been on a three-month spree of robbing homes in North New Hyde Park when it was joined by a special four-person police Intelligence unit stationed in Massapequa Park.

The intelligence unit, under the command of Nassau County Police Detective Sergeant Patrick Ryder, gathered snapshots of 20,000 plates and vehicles taken by license-plate readers in police cars, and sorted them by colour, type and plate number. The time of day the plate numbers were recorded and cross-checked with the time of day the burglaries occurred. The 20,000 plate were then narrowed down to 200 plates.

Cross-checking those 200 numbers with cars of residents in the area yielded four plates. It led to the apprehension of the suspects who were using livery taxis to travel to their targets.
“A crime pattern that we couldn’t lock down for three months, we locked down in 30 days,” Ryder said.

The crime analysts unit, which was first organised in 2006, is currently comprised of one person, formerly from the National Security Agency specialising in anti-terrorism, and three analysts – one from the Central Intelligence Agency, who specialised in assessing trends in other crimes, according to Ryder, commanding officer of Asset Forfeiture and Intelligence.

The Intelligence unit develops maps that pinpoint high-crime hot spots in particular communities and direct the allocation of police forces accordingly.
“We map crime data and we map bad guys on parole in those areas,” Ryder said. “We map the dots and we put a cop on the dot.”

The cops put on the dots are members of a Crime Intelligence Rapid Response Team (CIRRT), a mobile team including five detectives, two narcotics detectives, six police officers from different precincts throughout the county, and one detective supervisor. The police officers in the unit are drawn from different precincts for their knowledge of disparate areas.

“CIRRT will bounce around the county directed by intelligence,” Ryder said.
Based on the data accumulated, Ryder said the analysts could predict trends in specific areas like meteorologists predict the weather.

“The state department and the U.N. bring visitors in to see what we do,” Ryder said, noting that representatives of Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan, South Korea, South Africa, Puerto Rico, Argentina and Italy had come to visit in the past 18 months.

It appears the hierarchy of the Nigeria Police had something close to the Nassau example in mind, when it decided to set up the Intelligence Response Team (IRT) as a highly mobile, elitist, technology-driven, fully equipped and well-motivated unit, comprising tested and dedicated officers and men drawn from different police units across the country.

President Muhammadu Buhari and former IGP, Solomon Arase, have received commendations for the formation of IRT, and the incumbent IGP, Ibrahim Idris for ensuring its continued operational effectiveness.
Rather than dismantling the key structures set up by his predecessor or replace key actors, IGP Idris sustained Arase’s legacies. He encouraged the IRT by strengthening its operational capabilities.

As for Arase, his singular act of conceiving the idea of the IRT and putting together the human and material resources required to set it up has cemented his place in the annals of the police and the nation at large. He has, without any doubt, distinguished himself as a forward-thinking and intelligent officer.

In the agenda paper that Arase presented upon assumption of office as IGP, he stated: “Similarly, due to non-engagement of intelligence led policing values, NPF lacks informed operational planning ability. This has resulted in the usual re-active policing practices associated with the Force, the perception by the citizens of police’s operational inefficiency and above all, the usually very huge but avoidable fatalities to police officers on operations. To address this, and in line with best international policing practices, the concepts of intelligence-led policing and community partnership will be adopted as the core policing principle and strategy of this administration.”

The IRT was designed to consume and utilise quality intelligence deployed for special operational intervention in support of State Commands in the management of high-profile and complex cases like kidnapping and armed robbery.
And in a move that clearly established the fact that the decision was not just another public relations stunt by a new police helmsman, who was desperate to justify his appointment, the police hierarchy was very deliberate in the choice of the person to lead the team.

The eventual appointment of Abba Kyari (a Chief Superintendent of Police at the time) as the commander of the IRT, by Arase, will go down as one of the most celebrated appointments not just in the police but the entire country.
Before his appointment as the head of the IRT, Kyari had already established himself as an outstanding and dedicated officer, with a record of cracking many high profile and difficult crimes, during his stint as the Officer-in-Charge of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) at the Lagos State Police Command.

One of his most celebrated exploits and, perhaps, one that shot him to national prominence, was the arrest, in August 2013, of dare-devil armed robbery kingpin, Abiodun Ogunjobi (popularly called Abbey Godogodo), who was notorious for the ruthlessness of his gang. He is reputed to have killed no fewer than 300 people, including scores of policemen, before his reign of terror was terminated through Kyari’s ingenuity.

And to say that the IRT, like its American counterpart, CIRRT, has justified its establishment would be a clear understatement.
One unique attribute the IRT shares with CIRRT is the capacity it has developed to foil most crimes before they are committed, through the application of superior intelligence.

Cases of successes recorded by the IRT abound.
The most recent exploits, and perhaps of profound significance, is the foiling of a grand design by suspected terrorists to bomb the Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, last Boxing Day.

The suspect, 43-year-old Abiodun Amos, also known as Senti, was caught with two cartons of explosive devices, 125 detonators and two AK 47 rifles.
Amos, who is a member of a Niger Delta militant group, operating in the creeks of Ikorodu and Arepo areas of Lagos and Ogun States, was also described as an explosives expert, who could assemble and modify large scale Improvised Explosives Devices (IED) for terrorist act.

Judging by the quantity of dynamite recovered from the suspect, there is no doubt about the extent of the carnage, as well as human and economic loss that the attack would have caused. It would have bigger than anything the nation had ever witnessed and would have taken decades for the nation to recover fully from its devastating impact.

But the nation was spared the horror of an unimaginable proportion, all thanks to the novelty and ingenuity the IRT has brought into policing in Nigeria.

It was no surprise then that as soon as this feat was achieved, the Police Service Commission (PSC) hurriedly announced the approval of the pending recommendation by the IGP, Ibrahim Idris, for the accelerated promotion of Kyari to the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP).

Another equally significant feat achieved by the IRT within a very short period included, the arrest of Zakari Isyaka (aka Zakari Yau), a former associate of Niger Delta militant leader, Ateke Tom, who led a crime syndicate that terrorised the entire north-central region for many years. Until his arrest, he was regarded as the most wanted outlaw in that region of the country.

His gang engaged in armed robbery, assassination and kidnapping, while he also hired out his gang members as political thugs in the region.

A special operation by the IRT led to the eventual arrest of Isyaka, who had already built several mansions in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, where he lives with his nine wives and 15 children and had opened an automobile shop, which he used as a cover for his criminal activities.
Items recovered from him included 15 automatic rifles, one AK47, several AK47 magazines and different calibres of ammunition.

Other successes of the IRT included, the foiled attempt to kidnap Nigerian oil billionaire, Femi Otedola, and the arrest of three members of the kidnap gang, including a serving officer of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps who was personal assistant to Corps Commandant in Oyo State and a dismissed army private, in June, last year; the foiled attempt to rob the Rumuolumeni, Rivers State branch of Access Bank and arrest of two suspects, including a serving police Sergeant and an employee of the bank in connection with the crime, in December, last year.

There was also the arrest of 10 members of the gang that kidnapped the Central Bank of Nigeria governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele’s wife, Margret, on September 29, as well as the arrest of the three members of the gang that killed the Chief Security Officer of Dangote Group, Mr. Bello Gurama, after taking the N5.6 million ransom he brought for them to secure the release of five kidnapped expatriates working for billionaire Industrialist, Alhaji Aliko Dangote.

Another three members of the gang were killed during a shootout with detectives, while Gurama’s body was recovered from Apoje River, where it was dumped by his killers. Three AK47 rifles, six AK47 magazines and 160 rounds of ammunition were also recovered from the gang.

The IRT also achieved a number of other feats. The hallmark of all these achievements, however, is the squad’s proactive nature.
And like the CIRRT, it may not be long before other countries in the sub-region and beyond will be seeking to learn from the IRT model.

Adepuji writes from Lagos