By Comfort Obi
Nigerians have just witnessed another very embarrassing incident. It is the second in the past few weeks. The first was when masked operatives of the Directorate of State Services, DSS, invaded the National Assembly, took it over, and stopped both National Assembly members and staff from accessing their offices.
The second is the invasion of the residence of Elder Statesman, Chief Edwin Clark on September 4, by policemen, mercifully, not masked, who carried out a search for over two hours.
Both times, the security operatives said they acted on intelligence information received by them. In the case of the National Assembly, the DSS said it took over the premises because the Service had information that some people planned an invasion, with arms, of the NASS. That invasion by the DSS made a ridicule of Nigeria before the civilized world. And cost the Director General of the spy agency, Lawal Daura, his job. Not a few people laughed, in relief, as they watched the operatives jump into their vehicles, their tails tucked behind them, the minute they heard their DG has been sacked over the invasion.
In the latest incident, an embarrassed Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, quickly disassociated himself from the raid and, ordered the arrest and detention of the four policemen – an ASP and three Inspectors – who carried out the search at the Elder Statesman’s residence.
The story surrounding the incident is still confusing and one hardly knows what to believe.
But according to Clark, the policemen arrived his residence, flaunted a Search Warrant, and told him they were in search of arms, allegedly, stockpiled in his residence. Taken aback, Clark said a guest of his, Amb. Boladei Igala, put a call to the Assistant Inspector General of Police, (AIG) Federal Intelligence Unit, Umoru Usman Shehu, who said he was unaware of the mission. He said the AIG spoke to the team leader, but surprisingly, didn’t stop them from carrying out their mission.
Questions, then, are: What did the team tell the AIG? On whose authority did the Team leader, – an ASP – tell the AIG he was carrying out the search? If the AIG was convinced the search was unauthorised and, therefore, illegal, why did he not stop them? And there are more questions.
But before anyone could provide answers, the Force Spokesperson, Ag. Deputy Commissioner of Police, Jimoh Moshood, told Nigerians that the IGP was unaware of the incident. Meaning that the Police Team was on its own; that the search was illegal and unauthorised, which was why, Moshood emphasized that the IGP has ordered the immediate arrest and detention of the officers involved, along with their informant, who has since been dragged to court for prosecution.
His offence: Giving false information to the police.
The informant, Ismail Yakubu, has also told his own story. According to him, a taxi driver, whose vehicle he boarded told him that large cache of arms and ammunitions were being stockpiled in the home of Edwin Clark. As a patriotic Nigerian, he said, conscious of his right to report suspicious moves that could compromise security in the Federal Capital Territory, he had no choice but to report to the police what he heard.
His argument: “Where did I go wrong? I performed my civic duty as a responsible citizen by reporting what I heard. That’s what the Police asked us to be doing.”
Smart man. One can hardly fault his argument. But the question is: Where is the informant’s informant – the taxi driver?
Not surprising, condemnation of the raid at Clark’s residence has been coming like claps of thunder. From the IGP who quickly sent a high powered police delegation led by Joshak Habila, DIG 0perations, to apologise to Clark, to the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Governor Henry Dickson of Bayelsa, Elder Statemen and, several organisations, it’s been overwhelming. All have spoken in condemnation of the police raid. Worse: Niger Delta Militants, who have been quiet for a while now, say that for humiliating Clark, “we are going back to the Creeks.” If they do as threatened, our economy will be reduced to ground zero. Somebody should quickly stop them, please. Afterall, Clark says he has accepted the police apology. He has also petitioned President Muhamadu Buhari, expressing his outrage, and asked for an honest probe into the embarrassing incident.
But the question which remains unanswered is: Who dunnit?
That we are breathing easy now, so to say, is because of the prompt actions the IGP took. He disowned members of the team. He condemned their action. He ordered their arrest as well as that of the informant. He apologised to Clark. Yet, the most important reason we are having this breather is because nothing incriminating was found in the old man’s house. Otherwise, the story would have been different. People would have been falling over themselves to take credit for a job well done. And, the informant would have been celebrated as hero.
There are dangerous dimensions to this whole messy situation. If the IGP was not in the know, as I sincerely believe, who authorised the search? Who is the other ship Captain at FHQ? Somebody must have authorised this search. Honest, it is difficult to believe that an ASP and three Inspectors would, on their own, without any authorization from anybody, go to Clark’s residence to carry out this search unless they were drunk. As I write this, the three Inspectors have been dismissed by the IGP and, the ASP interdicted. He, of course, sooner than later, will be disciplined by the Police Service Commission. Are they fall guys? The officers would have known the implications of what they were doing. So, why take the risk? How did they get a search warrant from a Magistrate’s Court? Who sent them? It will not only be sad, but dangerous, the day Non Commissioned Officers, and a middle level officer, or any officers for that matter would, on their own, without clearance from the IGP or his delegated authority, start raiding the homes of high profile Nigerians, as if they were criminals, as the Police would have us believe in this case. The fate of Daura ought to have taught the Police high command a lesson. Or, is anybody deliberately trying to sabotage the IGP and, set him up for a Daura treatment?
For the records, in the very dangerous times we are in, nobody is above the law. The Police, no doubt, have the right to search anybody’s house. But as explained by Moshood, due process must be followed and professionalism should be the watch word.
I submit that the dismissal of the policemen should not be the end of the sad incident. A probe should be instituted to, excuse this cliché, get to the bottom of the story.
The actions taken by the IGP are because a big man is involved. But I can tell the IGP, for free, that many people, everyday, even along the roads, go through the humiliating experience of being searched by the police, and their phones scrolled, most times, for no just cause. And the police is not the only culprit. Everyday, law abiding citizens and organisations go through this same humiliating experience, and nothing happens. Nearly all security agencies are involved in the illegality.
In 2014, soldiers pounced on distribution vehicles of Media houses along the roads in Southern Nigeria, seized them and thousands of newspapers. For three consecutive days, they brazenly carried on with this illegality. The media houses involved lost hundreds of millions of naira in sales, advertisement and, Special Projects.
Reason: The unimaginable! They said they had intelligence information that Boko Haram was using the media vehicles to transport arms and ammunition. They saw none in the vehicles because it was a lie from the pit of hell, concorted by deranged minds. When the Newspapers Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria, NPAN, wanted to sue the Federal Government, then President Goodluck Jonathan invited the members to a breakfast meeting in Lagos where he apologised. But most members insisted on some form of compensation. And why not? They lost millions of Naira. At the end, the NPAN and the office of the NSA, where Jonathan directed the Association to, because the shame stemmed from a false security report, settled for N10m per media house (12 in all), a paltry sum, considering what they lost. But in 2015, the media houses involved were forced to return the money to government. Till date, nobody has apologised to them. And nobody has invited the Association to a round table to know the truth. The losses were entirely that of the media houses to bear. Nobody has raised a finger on their behalf.
In 2016, DSS operatives, in the middle of the night, invaded the residences of some Supreme Court Judges in search of proceeds from alleged corrupt activities. And one can go on and on. When did we descend to this level where criminally minded people could take advantage of, and wreak havoc on high profile Nigerians?
But back to the case at hand. We must appreciate the IGP for the prompt actions taken. We must appreciate him, especially, for apologising to Clark. But he should do more. Nigeria is not a Banana Republic where any uniformed personnel can just jump up and go and search the homes of innocent citizens. In this era of whistle blowing and all that, quite a number of people out of mischief, or envy, deliberately write petitions against others. The job of security agencies, which receive such petitions, is to investigate the source of their information first, confirm the authenticity, before pouncing on, and embarrassing innocent people or organisations.
That was where the Police went wrong in Edwin Clark’s case. And that is why the IGP should institute a probe panel, parading men and women of character, to get to the root of this mess and make the truth public.
Otherwise, there will always be doubts and questions.
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