A New Sheriff in Anambra

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CP John Abang

When Anambra’s new police commissioner, Mr John Abang arrived the state, he read the riot act to criminals. Less than two weeks in the state, he has started walking his talk, writes David-Chyddy Eleke

CP John Abang’s transfer from Rivers State to Anambra two weeks ago, and the fan fair that heralded his arrival at the state police command was unprecedented. As early as 8am, on Thursday, July 11, a guard of honour had already been mounted in wait for his arrival at the command’s headquarters in Amawbia. The command had the previous day just sent off CP Mustapha Dandaura, who was going to take over from Abang in Rivers State.

Abang’s arrival and the gallantry that accompanied his movement left no one in doubt that a new sheriff was in town with a new resolve to fight crime. The gait that accompanied his inspection of the guard of honour and the swiftness with which he moved to the conference room to address journalists told so, but his briefing and the seeming riot act confirmed the fact that time had come to reduce if not phase out criminality entirely in the state.

“It is my pleasure to address you today as the 28th Commissioner of Police in Anambra State – the Light of the Nation. On assumption of duty, I have been fully briefed on a few criminal and security challenges in the state at the moment. These include disputes over land, the menace of one chance robbery gangs, robbery, kidnapping and of course cultism.

“In keeping with the vision of the Inspector-General of Police (IG), Mohammed Abubakar Adamu to ‘make Nigeria safer and more secure for economic development and growth…’, the command under my watch shall take a zero tolerance stance on crime. Therefore, all our efforts and energies shall be mobilised and deployed towards the prevention of crimes; and the successful apprehension of criminals that would test our resolve.

“Regrettably, only last week, we lost an operative of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in an onslaught against kidnappers. This is indeed unacceptable. Therefore, the command shall reinvigorate Operation Puff Adder and give it more bite to tackle cultism, robbery and kidnapping particularly. This is a clarion call to all officers and men of the command to brace up for the task ahead. My advice to cultists, robbers and kidnappers is for them to have a rethink and purge themselves or relocate away from the state.

“The command will sustain the existing inter-agency collaboration and improve our respect for the Rule of Law and fundamental Human Rights in accordance with international best practices. I want to assure all Ndi Anambra both at home and in Diaspora that the command under my watch will work assiduously to continue to make the state the safest in the country.”

True to his words, to ensure a synergy between the command and other security agencies in the state, CP Abang has paid courtesy calls to heads of other security agencies in the state, including the paramilitary. Abang took out time to pay a courtesy visit to the Sector Commander FRSC Anambra State Command, Mr Andrew Kumapayi; the Director Department of State Service (DSS) in the State, Mr Yusuf Isyaku; the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps(NSCDC), among others.

The spokesperson of the state police command, SP Haruna Mohammed told THSIDAY that in all the visits, one thing featured prominently; “this was inter agency collaboration, safety and security of the state, her citizens and their belongings. They resolved to enhance existing synergy between the sister agencies which has greatly contributed in making Anambra the safest in the federation”.

Again, in line with his resolve to phase out crime, just one week into his resumption, the command, last Sunday, said it had arrested no fewer than 90 suspected cultists across the state. The command added that offensive weapons and other incriminating items were recovered from the suspects. The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Haruna Mohammed, in a statement said personnel attached to the command’s Operation Puff Adder, in conjunction with the Special Anti- Cult Unit, arrested the 90 suspected cultists from several locations across the state.

“At the Obosi area, six suspected cultists were arrested. At Ogidi, six suspected cultists were arrested, while at the Ihiala area, 15 suspected cultists were arrested,” the statement read in part. Mohammed put the number of cultists arrested in Onitsha, Awka, Oko, Igbariam/Awkuzu and Nsugbe at 63. He said “From all the raids carried out, a total number of 90 suspects have been arrested; 28 were screened out; 15 suspects were charged to court; 12 suspects were placed under police supervision for being underage; while 35 others are undergoing investigation.”

However, following reports that the police was arresting youths indiscriminately from several location in the state and tagging them cultists with the hope of extorting money from them, Abang in a press briefing with journalists just one week after his arrival blew hot, insisting that those making the unfounded allegations were simply out to tarnish the image of the police and stall its good work.

He said, “That is blackmail aimed at stopping us from doing our job, but we will not bow to this. Whether it is one chance or two chance robbery gangs, cultists, armed robbers or kidnappers, we will continue to arrest them, and no blackmail will stop us. Our resolve is to ensure that Anambra continues to be safe, and we will not relent until we achieve this. Parents whose children are arrested for cultism should not come to me to beg because I will not listen to them. We will continue to arrest them, so parents should go home and do proper parenting, than coming to beg for release of their children or blackmailing us.”

He added that, “All these people we are parading today, ask them if they were sleeping in their houses when we came and arrested them. Except on a tip off, we cannot go to the house of law abiding people to arrest them. All these people, we arrested them in their hideouts, and we have our informants who feed us with information, so no one will come and say we arrested them because we want to use them to make money. That is blackmail, and we will not fall for it.”

Unlike what is often experienced with most parade of suspects, Abang left the suspects in the care of journalists, asking that they feel free to interact with the suspects to ascertain if they were arrested for crimes they did not commit. While most of the suspects owned up to the crimes for which they were arrested, others blamed the devil and lack of job for their actions.

Parading over 50 new suspects in less than two weeks of his arrival in Anambra, Abang said, “On the 14/07/2019 at about 8:00am, Puff Adder operatives deployed to Upper-Iweka in conjunction with patrol team attached to Okpoko Division arrested one Sunday Igwe ‘m’ aged 28 years of Obibiezina in Owerri, Imo State and one Ede Chigbo ‘m’ aged 35 years of Ozara in Nkanu East LGA of Enugu State.

“Suspects attacked, stabbed and robbed one Ubasineke Chinonye ‘f’ student of Federal Polytechnic, Nekede, Imo State at Upper-Iweka in Onitsha. Exhibits recovered from the suspects include one ladies hand bag, Techno k7 and knife used in stabbing the victim.

“On the 16/07/2019, following the distress, police patrol teams attached to “Operation Puff Adder” in conjunction with operatives attached to Central Police Station arrested one John Eke ‘m’ aged 35 years, Izuchukwu Enwelum ‘m’ aged 32 years, Muodilum Anthony ‘m’ aged 40 years and Umadi Emmanuel Obinna ‘m’ aged 36 years. Exhibits recovered from the suspects include; one fabricated revolver pistol, one live ammunition, weeds suspected to be cannabis sativa, unmarked shuttle bus used by the suspects, cash sum of N60,000, four handsets, ATM Card, charms and other incriminating items.”

Abang also paraded suspects said to be carjacking specialists, numerous cultists and armed robbers. He said all suspects would be charged to court once investigations were concluded.

Also, another set of three suspected cultists have been arrested for allegedly abducting and raping two teenage girls in Awada, a suburb of Onitsha, Anambra state. The suspects, Andrew Ejike (20), Chidiebere Edwin (19) and Chisom Christian (17) were said to have raped the victims after subjecting them to initiation rituals.

The police spokesperson, Haruna Mohammed who confirmed the incident, said the victims were later set free by the cultists but not without a warning not to reveal their ordeal to anyone. But luck ran out on them and they were arrested by Surveillance Patrol team attached to Awada Division.

He said, “The suspects abducted two young girls aged 15 and 17years and forced them to undergo some initiation rituals and allegedly gang-raped them before letting them go. All of them have confessed to their membership of a cult group known as the “SAITARIS”.”

Addressing journalists recently, Abang said “You may recall that during my maiden press conference I made it very clear that the command will redouble its efforts to stem the tide of crime and other security challenges in the state. The strategies put in place have started yielding positive results, and that is what we are showcasing today. We will not go back on this resolve, so the only option for criminal elements in the state is to turn a new leaf or leave the state.”

Though Anambra has remained a relatively safe state compared to what it formally used to be, but the resolve of the commissioner if it continues may now see Anambra as a crime free society, which the governor of the state, Chief Willie Obiano has continually promised to make it be. The ball still remains in Abang’s court, as the days ahead will prove him either right or wrong.