The reposting of at least seven commissioners of police within 10 weeks in and out Bayelsa State by the police causing many to raise an eyebrow, writes Emmanuel Addeh
This is one question that close observers of what appears to be an inexplicable situation in Bayelsa State are trying to answer. Those who have expressed concern say they do not query the police’s power to send any of their officers to any part of Nigeria they deem fit, but that it becomes suspicious when in some instances, various police commissioners are sent to a single state in a period of just 48 hours.
Even more so when the curious postings come in the heat of an election period, many see as a straight fight between the federal government and the people’s will. And so, the drama continues to confound even the most discerning.
The issue is that at least seven Police Commisioners have been sent to the state in the last two and a half months, with some of the police chiefs spending less than a week on duty. There are insinuations that the frequent change of guards regarding top officers in the state may have its roots in the politics of the state to ensure that the police helmsman in the state is amenable to certain forces.
Indeed, those who buy into this school of thought point to the build-up to the 2015 election and the role that the security agencies played in one of the most hotly contested governorship elections ever in the country.
The uncanny decision to frequently change police commissioners in the state, a senior police officer confided in THISDAY, was not just a source of embarrassment to the rank and file of the police but has become also the butt of jokes.
Aside from causing unnecessary tension in the political circle, the situation had also become a source of low morale among officers, who have to perform the ritual of welcoming a new police commissioner almost every week. Even some of the police commissioners, who had stayed the longest in the state since the drama started, were just on the routine familiarisation tours to their sister security agencies when they were recalled.
Since the redeployment of Mr. Don Awunah, former Nigeria Police Spokesman, who was allowed to spend over six months in the state, to the Force Headquarters, Abuja and replaced by Joseph Mukan, who never resumed, it has been a matter of two skilled sportsmen trying to outplay each other in a game of ping-pong.
Barely 48 hours later, Mukan was removed and replaced with Ahmed Bello, who was still preparing to take over when the Force Headquarters asked Ahmad Abdulraman to proceed to Bayelsa as the new police boss. Before Abdulrahman assumed duty, Austin Iwar, former Kaduna CP was deployed in the state and had barely spent a month before he was retired from the Force.
Mr. Ebere Onyeagoro, who took over less than four weeks ago, has now been replaced by a new man, the same Mukan, who was first sent to the state less than two months ago, but didn’t even have the chance to resume duty before his sojourn to Bayelsa was abruptly cut short.
At a point, the Bayelsa State Command of the Nigeria Police Force did not even have a substantive commissioner of police for over 14 days, a development many saw as strange. But there seems to be a consensus, even if speculative on the matter; that the multiple deployment of commissioners of police in the state command is a direct result of intense power play between Governor Seriake Dickson and his arch rival, former Governor Timipre Sylva, who is also the leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state.
It is claimed that Dickson had been suspicious about working with some of the police chiefs involved in the ongoing saga, including Mukan, the current one, who was posted this week and had not hidden his displeasure at their coming, same way the Abuja forces are said to have kept pressing the police high command to deploy an officer, who would be malleable and pliable to their whims.
Incidentally, Mukan is a former Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of administration at the state command, whose nomination to the position was not without the backing of those, who now call the shots and bent on wrestling Creek Haven from the current leadership of the state.
In the 2015 election, the new police boss was said to have been a major actor during the fiercely contested poll, which saw clashes between both the APC and the PDP.
While the PDP largely sees Mukan as an agent of the APC, who was sent for the sole purpose of ‘delivering’ the next set of elections to the party, his backers view this as an attempt to malign for his refusal to dance to the tune of the ruling party in the state.
But the new Commissioner of Police said he was taking the accusation of bias with a pinch of salt, insisting that he was not in the state to play partisan politics. He maintained that his job was to provide a level-playing ground by ensuring security for politicians, regardless of which party they choose to play their politics.
“We always strike a balance by playing a neutral role. We won’t be distracted by people trying to address us in borrowed robes of supporting politicians. We are not politicians. We are here to maintain law and order and provide security for those, who play politics. We must ensure that there is a level-playing ground by giving them the security needed.
“We are not here to take sides with anybody. If the police are to have a political party, our own political party is the Nigerian Police Force Political party. We know the responsibilities of the police. The police work is just like a call to duty and you are expected to be a professional. Our basic responsibility is the protection of lives and properties. That is my main mission in Bayelsa. Bayelsa is not a new terrain to me. I know the terrain very well, because l was opportuned to serve here briefly,” he reasoned.
An attempt to burnish the image of the new man had also been embarked upon by Asinim Butswat, the Bayelsa Police Spokesman, who described Mukan as a ‘disciplinarian’.
“CP Joseph G. Mukan takes over from CP Ebere C. Onyeagoro, who has been redeployed to Force Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department (FCIID), Abuja, as CP Special Fraud Unit (SFU). He is a disciplinarian and a professional Police officer, who has served in various commands and formations in various capacities,” said Butswat.
However, Governor Seriake Dickson seemed not to be having any of the explanation. He believed that there was a grand plan to rig the elections even before it begins.
He has therefore warned the federal government not to undermine the peace and stability of the state and the Niger Delta as a whole, using state apparatus represented by the recent curious postings.
Aside the police, the governor insisted that the same frequent unexplained deployments and redeployments were also taking place within the leadership of the Department of State Service (DSS) in Bayelsa.
He argued that within a short period of time, Bayelsa State had witnessed the posting and redeployment of several Commissioners of Police and three DSS Directors, stressing that the development portended a threat to the prevailing peace of the state.
“Just yesterday I was told that a new Commissioner of Police that they sent to Bayelsa State has been redeployed and they have brought the one they claimed to be their party member to police the state so that they can use cult boys to kill and destabilise our state. But my message to President Muhammadu Buhari is that he should not allow the authority of any state to be undermined. He should not also allow the peace and stability of any state to be subverted for flimsy partisan considerations.”
Dickson warned that playing politics with the security of the state wiould not only throw the state into chaos, but capable of eroding the credibility of the security forces, which he said must remain neutral at all times for them to be able to do their job effectively.
Apart from the governor, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Bayelsa, through its Chairman, Mr. Moses Cleopas, has raised the alarm over the development. He accused some opposition leaders, working in tandem with the federal government of politicising security in the state.
“They have influenced the frequent removal and posting of Commissioners of Police culminating in Bayelsa having seven Commissioners in the last two months,” Cleopas said.
He said the aim was to instill fear in the citizenry and create a false impression that the opposition would use security agencies to take over the state in the upcoming elections.
At the time of putting this report together, the APC through its Spokesman in the state, Mr. Doifie Buokoribo, had yet to respond to enquiries on whether his party had a hand in what is turning out to be a theatre of the absurd in the state.
But the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) Worldwide, through its Secretary General, Mr. Alfred Kemepado, has also raised eyebrow over the incident, maintaining that Ijaw youths would rise in unison against any attempt to give an unfair advantage to any party involved.
He said the ongoing action of the Force Headquarters was to use the police authority to politicise the security architecture of the state with the sole aim of causing instability.
“We in the IYC, the umbrella body of all Ijaw youths across Nigeria are inclined to believe that this frequent deployment of police to Bayelsa might be traceable to political desperation and tendency to cause instability in the state. We wish to make it clear that instability in Bayelsa, the only homogenous Ijaw State in Nigeria, could cause instability across the Niger Delta,” Kemepado said. For now, the jury is still out on whether the last has been heard of the entire saga or whether Mukan, the new Police Commissioner, will be redeployed like the rest in a matter of days, but what is obvious is that there is already a growing mutual suspicion in the polity concerning the unfolding scenario.