Anambra State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Garba Umar, has made good his promise to flush out criminal elements from all the nooks and crannies of the state, writes David-Chyddy Eleke
Anambra State since the coming of the incumbent governor, Chief Willie Obiano, prides itself as one of the safest states in Nigeria, but the coming of the state Police Commissioner, Mr. Garba Umar has given great bite to the claim. Though Umar admits that he inherited a state where crime rate was minimal, but upon his assumption of office in July, 2017, he vowed to fight crime with a new strategy using his men as tools for the job.
In July, Umar who announced his arrival in the state to journalists with the parading of about 100 criminals; the highest number of crime suspects to be paraded at once in the state said that he was in Anambra to build on the existing peace in the state. He warned criminal elements in the state to get ready for trouble if they will not turn a new leaf. The police boss told journalists that the parading of the large number of criminal suspects was evidence of what to expect in the near future as he and his men had already carried out a survey which had revealed to the command some of the areas that can be considered as flash points in the state, saying that strategies have been mapped out to tackle them.
Coming just four months before the just concluded Anambra governorship election may look ordinarily like a punitive transfer for CP Umar. This is because Anambra has made a name for itself as one state where policing is a very difficult task; especially during elections where billionaire and millionaire politicians and their godfathers are always ready to spend whatever it cost to gain power, and part of the strategy was to compromise the security apparatus of the state, while young men were used as thugs to overrun the state.
The commissioner in a recent interview with THISDAY however punctured the belief that policing Anambra and its large array of moneybags was very difficult. He rather said that all that was required to police Anambra effectively was thorough planning and religious execution of plans. He admitted that he always thought Anambra a difficult state to police until his posting. He added that the huge task of planning and analysing crime pattern in the state helped him.
“Policing here is easy. If someone tells you it is difficult, then it is not the truth. If you find it difficult, it means that you do not have the strategy, but when you have the strategy, it will be easy for you. The strategy is what I am adopting, like we have what we call patrol teams, these patrol teams, at times they have what they call sector commander, and there is no central body that commands, regularise or supervise and disseminate information. I formed that kind of habit, that is what is called checks and balances.”
The success of the Anambra governorship election which has been reverberating in the country has seen security agencies taking their own glory, but months before the governorship election, the commissioner had told journalists that he was aware of the risk posed by men of the Indigenous People of Biafra(IPOB) who were bent on scuttling the poll.
The police in Anambra State had first announced upon the proscription of the Indigenous People of Biafra that it would not tolerate any meeting of the group, saying that it would enforce the proscription order to the letter. The strict monitoring of the towns in the state culminated to the arrest of some members of the group and their printers who were printing posters and fliers in Onitsha, in the hope of sensitising the people to boycott the Anambra election. The fear instilled in the minds of members of the group helped to calm down their operations too.
What is more heartwarming to an average Anambra indigene is the reduction in crime rate in the state. Though Onitsha and environs remain big problems to crime fighting because of the cosmopolitan nature of the state, more so, as it habours residents of all strata. But, residents agree that there is a significant reduction in the rate of crime in the city, following operations of men of the Nigeria Police Force.
For example, in September and October, towards the build up to the Anambra governorship election, no fewer than 120 suspected robbers, cultists, child trafficking syndicates among others were arrested. Briefing journalists in one of the meetings to parade crime suspects, Umar said, “In order to further stem the tide of crime and criminality and make all Ndi-Anambra and other law abiding citizens in the state safe and secured, the Command has, during the period under review, sustained its crime prevention strategies relying on actionable intelligence and successfully cracked down on the following cases at various locations across the state.
“On the 8th of July 2017 at about 1100hrs, Police detectives attached to Nnewi Division arrested one Oluchi Emeobi, female aged 24 years of Nnewi Ichi of Nnewi LGA of Anambra State. Suspect conspired with her friend one Nchedochi Richard, female aged 26 years of the same address and sold her two months old baby to a woman popularly known as First Lady now at large. In order to conceal her dastardly act, the suspect reported at the Police Station under false pretense that she left her baby under the custody of a yet to be ascertained woman who absconded with the baby to unknown destination. Exhibits recovered from the principal suspect include; sum of two hundred and fifty thousand Naira (N250,000) cash and one motorcycle the suspect allegedly bought with part of the money realised from the sale of her baby. Case under investigation and effort is being intensified to arrest the fleeing suspect and recover the baby
“On the 28th of June 2017, following intelligence report, police operatives attached to the Command Monitoring Unit arrested four man syndicate as follows: Rev. Pastor Raymond Igboanusi, male, aged 60 years of Oba Idemili South L.G.A. Angela Igboanusi, female, aged 42 years of the same address Obinigwe Josephine, female, aged 56 years of Obu-Agu Village, Agulu in Aniocha L.G.A of Anambra State.
“Jacob Onwuegbu, male, aged 62 years of Obu-Agulu Village all in Anambra State. Suspects allegedly conspired and trafficked one Ifeanyi Odili, male, aged 10 years at the sum of three hundred thousand Naira (N300,00.00) only.”
In one of its parade of criminals, the Anambra State Police Command has paraded 30 persons suspected to be members of criminal gangs including kidnappers, armed robbers and secret cultists who specialise in terrorising people around communities in the state. In another group paraded was a 26-year-old Army deserter, Ebeje Nnamdi who went on AWOL from 20 Mechanised Battalion, Taraba State who specialises in training armed robbers.
Two of Ebeje’s trainees; Peter Ali and Ugwuokpe Nnaemeka who are members of a six-man gang that specialise in operating on motorcycles, robbing fuel stations and killing policemen were also arrested. Umar also announced the arrest of another set of armed robbers; Sunday Chigbo and Onyebuchi Eweani in Ogidi community who were arrested with arms and a bag consisting of properties stolen from a victim.
Three kidnap suspects; Chukwudi Nwabundo, Obiora Madubueze and Chinaza Udeezue, members of a kidnap gang were also arrested, and their victim, John Ifediora of Umuganagu Village in Oyi was rescued. The command also paraded 22 youths suspected to be cultists, ranging from 16 to 30 years who were rounded up at their meeting ground in Nnewi, where they converged for initiation. They include members of Black Axe confraternity, Junior Vikings Confraternity, Ayees, Aro, Baggar and 2-2 cult groups.
Speaking to THISDAY on how his command achieved the feat, Umar said, “The secret of these transformation as you have seen is as a result of hard work, dedication and the zeal of the personnel in the command to give the best. Much earlier when I took over, when you are dealing with your officers, you must be plain, and you must be seen as being above board in terms of discipline and ability to lead. So many other things, so no matter how little you have, show them that they are part of you and that you appreciate them and that you have the same calling, when you do that, you will see their cooperation.”
The commissioner stated that his men were very highly efficient in fighting crime, but all that was needed was to associate with them and give them a sense of belonging and see them give all their best. He said, “What I am saying is that, when you discipline yourself, others will follow. I am a disciplined officer, and I believe in doing the right thing. I like my subordinates to learn from me. You know, a leader makes his subordinates, not the subordinates making the leader. When you say you are a leader, it is what they see you do that they do. You are like a mirror to them, and they do what you do. The officers here have seen me as a man of courage, honesty, sincerity, and a man that is not corrupt, and they follow it. If I were a corrupt officer, and I move from one house to the other, extorting from people and all that, they will also be looking, but they have seen that I am a contented person.
“I told them that you do not need to have money to be contented. Contentment of the heart is what you need, no matter what you have, you must thank God for it. That is how I have changed the psyche of the officers and men of the Nigeria Police in this command. By making them to see right as right and wrong as wrong, and clearly they have seen that right is right and wrong is wrong. When it comes to work, I also make them to understand the need to work hard.
I come to work at 7;30 a.m, and by 8a.m. I have started work and we close late and I’m with them all the time, sometimes at 11 p.m. or 12a.m, and even at that, I also join them on patrol, and I ginger them, talk to them on the walkie talkie and tell them I am in so, so place, and so, so person is not there and these is what is called checks and balances, and as a leader if you do that you do not have problem. That is what we are doing in Anambra State.”
Umar who recently resumed duties just after the Anambra governorship election when he was removed to ensure fairness has again reinstated his resolve to ensure that crime rate was contained. When reminded that after elections, arms in the hands of youths who were empowered by politicians for election usually jacks up crime rate, and that it is even bad this time that after the election comes Christmas, and the strategy the command intends to employ to continue to secure the state, Umar said, “We usually make ember months plans, which also include Christmas. Look, tell Anambra people wherever they may be that this will be one of the most enjoyable Christmas in Anambra State in terms of security, and they should not waste time in coming back for the festive period to enjoy themselves. We intend to give them the best and they will get the best this year.”