The refusal of the police to redeploy the commander of the Federal Anti-Robbery Squad in Rivers State, Mr Akin Fakorede, despite objections raised by the state government and his indictment in a report of the Independent National Electoral Commission, is a clear case of bias, writes Davidson Iriekpen
The decision of the police authorities to remove the Imo State Commissioner of Police while ignoring similar complaint against the Federal Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), Mr. Akin Fakorede, has shown that it is one police, different rules.
Penultimate week, the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, ordered the removal of the Imo State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Chris Ezike, from office. Investigation revealed that Ezike was removed following the outcome of the ward congresses of the All Progressives Congress (APC) held in the state on May 5.
At the end of the exercise in Imo, Governor Rochas Okorocha lost to his opponents, spearheaded by his estranged deputy, Eze Madumere, and some political gladiators in the APC who are opposed to moves by the governor to install his son-in-law as his successor in 2019.
An enraged Okorocha had ordered Ezike to arrest and prosecute all members of the APC committee that conducted the ward congress in the state for their alleged role in the theft of materials intended for the election, a move the police boss refused to carry out. Sources added that the governor had demanded that the former police chief address the press and state that no congress was held but the police chief was advised against it because he was not a member of the party. Okorocha, who visited President Muhammadu Buhari in Daura, Katsina State, immediately after the ward congress, had vowed to deal with those behind his loss. It was gathered that when he bitterly complained to the IG, he immediately ordered Ezike to be redeployed. He later replaced him with Dasuki Galandachi.
Despite the removal of the former Imo State, the APC Appeal Committee last week upheld the congresses. The committee dismissed Okorocha and aggrieved stakeholdersâ€™ petition on grounds that it lacked merit. In the report submitted by the committee and signed by its Chairman, Senator Abubakar Tutare, the panel held that the congress committee mandated to conduct the exercise had confirmed that the exercise actually took place in the state. The appeal committee further said those who wrote the petition against the congress were unqualified persons.
While the police high command was quick in removing Ezike despite the affirmation of the congresses by the leadership of the APC, the same attention has not been given to the several petitions written by the Rivers State government against the Commander of the state’s Federal Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), Mr. Akin Fakorede, an Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) and calling for his removal from the state.
The state government had alleged that Fakorede was recently promoted to the rank of ACP and transferred to Yobe State as an Area Commander of Nguri on March 29, 2018. On April 4, 2018, he was returned to the state as the Commander of F-SARS with the influence of members of the APC in the state who are determined to use him to prosecute the 2019 elections in their favour.
Before now, the state government had seriously and severally complained of the ignoble role the SARS commander played in the rerun elections in the state in 2016 for which he was indicted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in its report.
The report of the administrative panel of inquiry set up by INEC on the lapses in the rerun elections had ripped open how the police, especially the SARS, led by Fakorede compromised their integrity during the polls. The damning report blamed the force as substantially responsible for the crises that rocked the elections. According to the five-man panel led by the commissionâ€™s National Commissioner, Professor Okechukwu Ibeanu, the obstructive involvement of security agencies was one of the factors that led to the failure of the electoral process in some local government areas. It said the police compromised the integrity of the election, and that many security operatives were partisan and willfully obstructed the process.
Though, the report partially blamed some officials of the commission for some lapses during the polls, it cited police’s activities as one of the major reasons the rerun election in some part of the state failed. It said most police senior officers around during the election behaved in disturbing manners and tried to lure INEC officials away from their posts.
The panel said the massive deployment of security by the federal government was a major complaint raised by the staff of the commission and ad hoc staff as one of the major impediments to the conduct of the election. It also said the security agents deployed were mostly partisan, with many even engaged in ballot snatching, stuffing, intimidation of votes and all other vices associated with elections.
The report read: â€œOne of the low points of the Rivers rerun elections of December 10, 2016 was the flagrant intervention of security operatives in the process. This was widely identified by staff of the commission and independent observers alike as one of the major factors that led to the failure of the process in some local government areas.
â€œThere were too many security agencies involved in the process outside the framework of the Interagency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES). It was not clear whether many of them were acting as part of their various organisations or as groups and individuals serving political interests.
â€œMost importantly, many of them showed profound political partisanship. Ironically then, security operatives, who were expected to protect the process, turned on it. There were reported cases of willful obstruction of the process by security operatives, including snatching of materials and intimidating voters. In other cases, they refused to accompany and protect men and materials for the elections.
â€œBut the most mind-boggling were cases of hostage-taking, hijack of materials and physical attacks on INEC officials perpetrated by security operatives. Of singular note was a certain policeman named Fakorede, who ostensibly is a commander of SARS in Rivers State. Fakorede first tried to lure INEC staff to travel with him from Port Harcourt to Emohua Local Government Area under the pretext of enabling them to collate results. But for the intervention of national commissioners, we suspect that he would have put our staff in harmâ€™s way. When he failed in his initial bid, he stalked the INEC official to the collation centre in Port Harcourt and physically assaulted Dr. C. Odekpe and Mrs Mary Tunkayo. In fact, Dr. Odekpe ended up with a gash on his head and both spent days at the Air Force hospital in Port Harcourt.â€
Following the indictment of the police in security breaches and electoral malpractices, the state governor, Nyesom Wike, election observers and civil society organisations, appealed to the IG to transfer Fakorede and some of his men out of the state. But the appeal was ignored.
THISDAY investigation revealed that Fakorede has been in the state since 2009. Before then, he had served in Cross River State where the state government on several occasions complained about his activities and mounted pressure for him to be transferred out of the state. Before he became SARS commander, it was learnt that he was the Divisional Police Officer of Rumueprikom and OC Legal at the state police command.
It was alleged that hoping that the Supreme Court would nullify Wikeâ€™s election and rerun election conducted, the APC quickly engineered Fakorede to be drafted to head SARS in September 2015. With the dream not realised, the SARS commander is believed to be on the loose, doing the bidding of members of the APC.
However, his presence in the state took another dimension when Wike accused him of being behind the series of kidnappings and armed robbery incidents in the state. He alleged that Fakorede and his operatives had been indicted by an official police signal which indicated that they were responsible for the series of kidnappings and deadly robbery incidents across the state.
The governor stated that the SARS commander was planted in the state to sabotage the security architecture of Rivers and create an atmosphere of fear. He specifically said the criminal activities of Fakorede were uncovered by the IG X Squad, Abuja, deployed in the state after the team busted the attempted kidnap of one Mr. Azumana Ifeanyi on September 11, 2017 at the GRA, Port Harcourt.
It is believed that it is not only in the Fakoredeâ€™s case that the police high command has displayed bias against the state government. After the rerun elections in December 2016, the police authorities dismissed six of its officials attached to Wike, for allegedly accompanying the governor to the Rivers East senatorial district collation which had been invaded by the Fakorede-led SARS. The governor was in Government House when he heard that Fakorede has stormed the centre, snatched the result sheet, assaulted the INEC officials and abducted the then Commissioner for Urban Development, Mr. Chinyere Igwe. On his way to the venue, Fakorede sighted the governor and sped of. The officers were dismissed in spite of the fact that the elections had taken place two days earlier and only collation of result was remaining.
While the force carried out the punitive actions against the officers, it did not say anything about the garrison of officers attached to APC leaders, including Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, who supervised and monitored the elections with a garrison of police personnel, soldiers and DSS officials.
But rather than the police, a group, Rivers Concerned Citizens, has risen in strong defence of Fakorede. In an advertorial published in THISDAY on May 15, 2018 and signed by its Head, Legal Advocacy Unit, Callistus Wobo, the group said there was no amount of blackmail that would make Wike to succeed in his campaign to have the SARS commander removed from the state. In the advertorial titled: â€˜Why Wike is Afraid of Akinâ€™, the group said the governor is after him because of the role he played in exposing the governorâ€™s and INECâ€™s wrongdoings.
â€œIn trying the impeach Fakoredeâ€™s character, they refer to a kangaroo report supposedly commissioned by INEC that passed a verdict without hearing from the SARS commander or his alleged INEC victims. They claim that Fakorede assaulted INEC official, but the officials police report quotes the same officials as saying that PDP thugs and Wikeâ€™s police aides were the ones that attacked the staff. The viral photos of what happened that day show it all. The same Mary Tunkayo was holding on to Fakorede for protection.
â€œFollowing an internal investigation into the activities of the SARS commander, the IG found him blameless and also exonerated him effectively on December 7, 2017. It is clear that the role Fakorede played in exposing Wike and INECâ€™s wrongdoings has placed a target on his back. Neither Wike nor his bad eggs will succeed. No amount of paid media blackmail will work.â€
The governor stated that the SARS commander was planted in the state to sabotage the security architecture of Rivers and create an atmosphere of fear