…says he will be the first to enforce hate speech law
Abia State Commissioner of Police, CP E. Ene Okon is a no nonsense cop who knows his beats. Since he assumed duty in Abia State command ten months ago, he has not rested on his oars in the battle against criminality in the state. His efforts have resulted to the reduction in kidnapping and other forms of criminality in the state. But the CP is one man that is sad that Nigerians have so much hatred for the Police that they take delight and celebrate the death of a Policeman in the line of duty. He says that should the hate speech bill succeeds, the Police will be the first to implement and enforce the law. According to him, the command is well prepared to ensure that Abians enjoy a peaceful yuletide season, just as he said that he will not allow yahoo yahoo boys to thrive in the state. When asked if his men are on the trail of internet fraudsters, he questioned if yahoo yahoo is not a crime. He says “So if it is a crime you think I will sit here and allow it to thrive, I’m on their trail”. CP Okon regretted the unfortunate incident that took place at Ndiegoro Aba wherein he said some Policemen on surveillance operations were killed by hoodlums and their riffles carted away, that instead of sympathising with the Police some politicians are using it as 2023 bait to win cheap popularity. On the burial of the late Nnamdi Kalu’s mother and IPOB, the CP insists that IPOB has been proscribed by law and declared a terrorist organisation, warning that he will not live to watch IPOB overrun Abia. This interview was conducted by The NewsCritic Executive Editor, CHIKA NWABUEZE. Excerpts:
Q: What is your candid appraisal of the security situation in Abia State since you took over as the Commissioner of Police?
A: I am E. Ene Okon, a Fellow of the Defence College, and I assumed duty in Abia on February 11, 2019 as the command commissioner. The period of my assumption to duty coincided with the period of electioneering campaigns. In fact, that was the peak of electioneering just about 10 days to the election proper. As at that time what I met on ground was that the crime rate was not too high, the reasons I discovered was that most of these bad boys were engaged by these politicians, either as political thugs…so they had a job that kept them away from crime and criminality as at that time. Soon after the election their political pay masters did not pay them again, so they have to go back to crime.
Of course Aba became a hotbed of kidnappings, armed robbery, cultism as well as Umuahia. So, it was at the peak between April and May that there was no day that will pass without incident of kidnapping in Aba, it was a disturbing situation and occasionally it will spill over to Umuahia. So I sat down with my team to strategize and we responded by putting strategies in place to contain it. Thank God, gradually kidnapping was reduced and as at this time I am talking to you, for the past three months in Aba I can beat my chest that we don’t have up to three or four cases of kidnapping, I will not want to disclose our strategy here.
And we are still bent on ensuring that there is no case of kidnapping in Aba in particular, the city is very important to the economy of Abia State, not only Abia State but the South East and South-South region. Aba is the commercial nerve centre of the eastern region, so it becomes our priority. I thank God for now that we have taken care of kidnapping in Aba and Umuahia. One thing I will tell you is that we will sustain the tempo.
Q: What is the situation of things now at Ndiegoro Aba where it was alleged that Policemen burned down houses belonging to families over some disagreement?
A: For some time, I have been avoiding responding to that issue for obvious reasons. When I see people peddle false information that Police did this or that, but I make bold to say it is not true. No police destroyed or burned down buildings at Ndiegoro. What really happened is that our men on routine surveillance operation were attacked, a Police Sergeant killed, the driver of the vehicle they hired killed, and the Police Inspector left with severe machete cuts to the point of death. It was only one person that escaped unhurt, and four Police AK 47 riffles were seized and carted away with 80 rounds of ammunitions.
How will Police go and burn down houses when its personnel were killed, if we wanted reprisal we would have looked for the people that killed our men and kill them, of course that would have amounted to extra judicial killing. But we did not do that, rather we went there to recover our riffles, which we recovered two of the riffles, because as far as the Police is concerned to have four riffles and 80 rounds of ammunitions in the hands of hoodlums is dangerous. Aba wouldn’t have been at peace. So, investigation was instituted, we know the killers of the policemen, we know those who burned the place, they did it to cover up their tracks so that nobody will know that it is their training ground, we know that.
However, this matter is in court about 36 suspects have been charged to court for offences of arson, murder, armed robbery, conspiracy and terrorism. It will be pre-judicial for me to sit down here and start talking about this matter again, it is in the court.
Apart from that the governor, Dr okezie Ikpeazu instituted a probe panel and we have made our representation. But fortunately or unfortunately the member representing that constituency went to the floor of the House of Representatives and moved a motion that police murdered and burned houses at Ndiegoro, which an ad-hoc committee was set up to find the immediate and remote causes of the incident and they are still sitting. I had to go to Aba and appear before the committee and I made my representation to them in writing and also telling them that the Police is not culpable. I even presented the investigation report of the whole matter to them. As I speak to you now, they are still inviting me to Abuja. I will honour their invitation because we have nothing to hide that is the truth.
Q: But it was reported that the Police failed to appear before the Reps committee investigating the incident?
A: We did not get any invitation, the invitation did not reach us for the one that was slated for 26, then the one slated for December 4th that invitation got to me on the 3rd of December by 2pm and as at that time nobody would expect me travel out of the state because of the security situation in Abia which did not permit me as the commissioner of Police to go. That time it was rumoured that the late mother of Nnamdi Kanu was going to be buried on the 5th and 6th of December and with the threat by proscribed IPOB, it will take a commissioner of police that is not sensitive to security of the people to leave the state, without ignoring them that was what happened. As I speak to you another letter has come for me to appear on the 11th, which I am preparing for, we have nothing to fear.
Nigerians and Abians should know that it is painful that a Policeman that leaves his family to serve this nation, to protect the people would be killed in cold blood. I feel sad for this country, in some other climes like US such offence of killing a Policeman is not taken lightly but here in Nigeria, Nigerians take delight and celebrate the killing of policemen. How I wish they will come up with this hate speech bill we the Police will be the first to implement that law, to enforce it.
Q: So you are in support of the hate speech bill?
A: Yes, because the hatred I have seen most Nigeria have for the Police, the people that are protecting you, 24 hours they are on the road, come rain come sunshine they are there to make sure that you sleep with your two eyes closed. Nigerians don’t consider that Policemen are human beings, they have fundamental human rights too. And their lives should not be cut short, but somebody will go and kill a Policeman in the line of duty then one politician is using that one to harness his political popularity, so the only dividend of democracy he can bring to his people is to look for a way and ridicule the institution of the Nigeria police, so that Nigerians of his community will hail him and take him as the hero of their lives. It is sad for people to use the police to prepare for 2023.
Q: We’re aware that you advised against the lifting of the restriction placed on tricycle operators in Aba and Umuahia, yet the governor went ahead to relax and extend their operational hours. How has it been since then in terms of security trends?
A: When the government comes up with a policy like executive order the governor made because the situation called for it, the crime situation then was terrible. Then most of the crime in Aba and Umuahia were perpetrated by these keke operators, so the governor banned them from operating beyond 7pm and we enforced it. We discovered that the crime rate was going low, the governor is conscious of the people and he discovered that a lot of people were suffering because of transportation. A listening governor went back and decided to move it to 9pm. Before he did that he was sure that we are equal to the situation. I know there are pockets of criminals using keke here and there to commit crime, we have been apprehending them. Last night we apprehended those criminals that went and snatched a keke from somebody using another keke, we had to trace and arrested one of them, and two fled. We also recovered the keke. We are hunting for the suspects that fled and we will arrest them.
Q: The CP Crack Squad are here and the yuletide season is around the corner with the attendant fear of possible increase in crime rate. How ready are you to ensure that security is intact in the state and the yahoo yahoo boys are you also on their trail?
A: Is yahoo not a crime…?
Q: Of course it is a crime…
A: So if yahoo yahoo is a crime you think I will sit down here and allow it to thrive? I am on their trail. Let me even tell you about the security situation in Abia, recently the governor won an award not in Nigeria, as the governor of one of the most peaceful states in Nigeria. He doesn’t want publicity, he kept quiet but we in security circle know he won the award. Do you think the award given to the governor was a fluke? It was not, during the election Abia was rated as one of the most peaceful. Let me tell you, we started preparation for securing Abia for yuletide as far back as August, where we had our operational order in place. Every police division, every area command has operational order.
What you need to do at what point and at what time we will do this, and the operation will end by 31 of January 2020. As I am talking to you, are you not safe in Abia, in Umuahia. Some three days ago you saw what happened or you heard what happened that the notorious armed robber, who was terrorising everybody here that make businesses to close as early as 6pm and night life was at the lowest ebb was gunned down by my men. Now you can move freely at night and businesses stay open till late hours, is it not sign of good things to come during this yuletide. We realised that people will come from far and wide and we prepared ourselves. The only thing I promised the people of Abia is to have a peaceful Christmas and new year. It is a promise and I keep promises.
Q: Does the coming burial of Nnamdi Kalu’s mother pose any security threat?
A: Naturally we have our own threat analysis, and our own threat analysis has shown that IPOB, that proscribed organisation is poised to coming out in their numbers to participate in the entire event. You know that this is an organisation that has been proscribed by law and members declared as a terrorist organisation. They are now saying they must come out, is that not enough threat? We are conscious of the fact that IPOB is a security threat. We all are aware of what happen in Anambra state and how IPOB members killed a senior Police officer. So, we will sit down here and allow IPOB to overrun the state, it will not happen as long as I’m alive.