by Lazarus Mom
A chick that will grow into a cock can be spotted the day it is hatched. So goes a popular saying. Put in another way, an efficient and effective management of a situation by a good and responsible Public Officer can be perceived by his first action. No high ranking Security Officer has manifested this maxim more than Mr. Ibrahim Idris, the Inspector General of the Nigerian Police.
Since the attack on Logo and Guma Local Government Areas of Benue State by the Killer herdsmen on New Year day, Benue has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. On that fateful morning, the terrorist herdsmen mauled down 73 souls mostly Women and Children. From then on, no day passes by without reports of pockets of attacks every here and there by the terrorists in Benue. As at the time of writing this report, 24 souls killed by the almighty and Untouchable Herdsmen are awaiting mass burial by the Benue State Government. The mass burial of the victims was postponed due to the President visit to the State.
The situation in Benue has exposed the ineptitude, rascality and crass carelessness of the Security Agencies especially the Police Force personified by its Inspector General, Mr. Ibrahim Idris. His poor handling of the Benue crises and his seeming complicity was noticed from the very beginning of this cycle of violence. For example, less than 24 hours after the carnage, Mr. Idris waved away the public concerns and labeled an orchestrated genocide as “A communal Clash”. This reaction was greeted by a huge public outcry all over Nigeria. He was forced to retrace his comments and reluctantly apologize to the Government and People of Benue State. As the highest ranking Police Officer in Nigeria, and supposedly grounded in Security situation management, that statement was a huge miscalculation that borders very close to mischief. That statement gave an impression of a hurried statement based on terse situational report of which no good and responsible Senior Public Officer will make. He was forced to eat the humble pie and apologize albeit needless.
From that moment on, a seeming face off ensued between the Benue State Government and the Inspector General. On the 9th of January 2018, a statement was credited to the Police High Command accusing the Benue State of owning and arming a militia group. The Benue State Government vehemently denied this accusation. The Police based its “findings” from the confessions of some hoodlums arrested in Arufu with arms and ammunition claiming to be working for the Benue State Government. In a matter of such weighty and grievous concern, one would have thought that the Nigerian Police should have been careful and cautious in making such sweeping statements especially in these perilous periods. Unfortunately, it did not. This statement further eroded the slim confidence the Government and People of Benue State had in the Police. The bad blood continued.
In February, 2018, appearing before the Senate to give the situational report on the Benue killings especially on the likely remote and proximate causes with a view towards peace, the Inspector General told the upper chamber that the passage of the Anti Grazing law in Benue was the cause of the crises. He recommended that the implementation of the law be suspended until peace returns to the State. This position irked the Government and People of Benue State and rightly too.
The wanton attacks and killings in Benue State by the marauding herdsmen has been going on for years now with little or no constructive effort made to stop the constant cycle of violence. In 2014 for example, herdsmen overran Gwer West, Guma, Makurdi, Tarka, and Agatu local governments killing hundreds and destroying invaluable property and farmlands with careless abandon. The Anti grazing law was not yet in place then. The IG’ claim that the passage of the law is the cause of the present crises, is not very convincing and correct. Plateau, Adamawa, Nassarawa and some States in North Central Nigeria are under attack by the herdsmen and they certainly don’t have the Anti Open Grazing Law in place.
The face off and war of words between the Police and the Government of Benue State culminated in a live TV program on Channels TV on the 6th of February 2018. On that show, the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor of Benue State Mr. Terve Akase had a hot altercation with the Force Public Relations officer Mr. Jimoh Moshood over the call for the resignation of the Inspector General of the Police due to his poor management of the crises. The argument got to a point that the host had to threaten to send them off the program if they fail to live up to the ethics and decorum of the show.
What angered the Press Secretary was that Mr. Jimoh maintained the narrative that enough security measures had been put in place by the Police that the Governor Dr. Samuel Ortom was a drowning Governor who could not control his State. This episode like the many others sparked an outcry. How could a very senior Police Officer call a sitting Governor a drowning Man on National TV? The bizarre and irrational action by Mr. Jimoh on National TV received nether rebuttal or reprimand from his boss the Inspector General. What that meant is that Mr. Jimoh was speaking the mind of his boss. This position falls far short of responsible Policing and effective crises management. It sends wrong signals to the minds of the people especially the warring parties.
Common sense dictates that, the Security agencies especially the Police should not be seen as taking sides in a conflict situation. This was the impression left on the minds of the Benue by the actions and inactions of the Police especially the Inspector General.
The straw that broke the camel’s back was the visit of the President to the State on Monday, the 12th day of March, 2018. During the interactive session with the Benue people especially elders, community leaders, faith based and other interest groups, the President was shocked to learn that the Inspector General of Police stayed less than 24 hours in Benue during the heat of the crises. The perplexed President revealed that he specifically instructed Mr. Ibrahim Idris to remain in Benue until peace and calm returned.
Need one say more?
This blatant disregard to a Presidential Order could only mean rascality or mischief at the expense of the lives and properties of the Citizens. The cumulative action of the IG in the Benue crises clearly shows how Senior Public Officers in Nigeria abdicate their roles and responsibilities regardless of the consequences. The media reported that the Inspector General left Benue in a hurry for his birthday party in Abuja and never returned. Whether he left for a birthday party or not, the truth is he left his duty post as instructed by the President
The case of the Inspector General of Police is only a tip of the iceberg. If the President had not revealed to Nigerians the true case scenario, no one would have known the Inspector General of Police abdicated his duties in Benue. What this scenario has depicted is that, there are many Senior Public Officers in Nigeria who flounder Presidential directives with the damming consequences as the Benue situation. Such officers can be found in Health care delivery sector, Education, Agriculture etc. it is perhaps the reason Nigeria has remained stagnant.
What this revelation has further depicted is the level of ignorance the President lives in. it is bewildering to know that the President issues a directive in January and only gets to know about its non-compliance in March. One begins to wonder how many Presidential directives have been disregarded without the President’s knowledge. This is worrisome.
For peace to return to Benue and Nigeria to move forward, senior public officers including the Inspector General of Police must be above board in the discharge of their tasks and responsibilities.
In another light, we salute the courage and resilience of the Benue People especially the Executive Governor for standing firm in their resolve even in the face of grand scale opposition including hostilities. In his welcome address to the President, the Governor highlighted the position of Benue People. He told the President “that between 2013-2017, Forty-Seven attacks were recorded, over 1,878 men, women and children have been slaughtered in cold blood across 14 Local Government Areas of the State, 750 were seriously wounded while 200 were missing. Over 99,427 households have been affected. Furthermore, the State has lost an average of 47% of Internally Generated Revenues due to attacks by armed herdsmen in the State. He said this was the logic behind the Open grazing Prohibition Law 2017 which represents the wishes of the People of Benue State.
The Governor went ahead to challenge the President by asking for the arrest of the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore who on 30th May, 2017, in a ‘World Press Conference’ held in Abuja, opposed the Ranching Law. They called on Fulani herders in all of West Africa to come into Benue to help them reclaim their land. In the same vein, Miyetti Allah Cattle Herders Association in their Press Conference declared that more blood will flow in Benue if the Ranching Law is not rescinded. True to their threats, the attacks have been carried out and are still on going.
This is the situation in Benue. If all hands were on deck, a lot would have been avoided. If the Inspector General had not flagrantly disobeyed the directives of the President, the violence would not have probably degenerated to such a magnitude. The killings in Gboko, Okpokwu, the uprising in Makurdi etc all would have been avoided if the Inspector General of Police had stayed back in Benue as directed. His presence would have sent a very strong message to both sides of the warring parties that this is no joke. It would also have kept every single Police Personnel on his or her feet to be alert to their duties. Regrettably Mr. Idris failed to do such and his subordinates followed suit, giving way to rancour and mayhem to reign supreme in Benue State.
Given the above therefore, Lawyers Alert recommends the following:
That the current Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris be removed with immediate effect for flagrantly disobeying a Presidential order which is unbecoming of a Senior Public Officer of his calibre.
That an apology be issued from Mr. Ibrahim Idris to the Government and People of Benue State over his failures and its attendant consequences,
The relocation of a new Inspector General of Police to the State to see to it that Peace returns to Benue,
That the Presidency should strengthen its monitoring systems to check the actions or inactions of Senior Public Officers towards their functions especially directives from the President.
As stated earlier above, the actions of Mr. Idris is an indictment on Public officers in Nigeria. Many of them have abdicated or are still abdicating their duties to the detriment of the growth and development of Nigeria. Until and unless Senior Public Officers begin to see that the Citizens are the raizon de tre they are appointed, Nigeria will keep moving in cycles.
Lazarus Mom is a Director with Lawyers Alert