John B Abang is the Assistant Inspector General of Police, AIG, in charge of zone 4 Makurdi, and until recently he was the Commissioner of Police, CP, Anambra State command where he acquitted himself well. He attended the National Defence College, Abuja, and trained in operations and investigations of high-profile cases such as armed robbery and kidnappings. In this interview with NewsCritic online newspaper, AIG John B Abang cautioned that the Nigerian elites must stop interrogating the security challenges facing the country based on sectional interests, because it would not bring solution. He also insists that Sheikh Ahmad Gumi should be applauded for his involvement in negotiation with the bandits.
Q: Nigeria appears to be at crossroads at the moment following the rising security trends, as a senior police officer what do you have to say about the security situation in the country?
A: let me start by saying that whatever is the security trend in the country at the moment is at the public domain. Any right-thinking person should know, however, for me as an individual and senior Police officer, what I always caution is that the elites should not be carried away by their emotions and sentiments and primordial talks…we should not present whatever challenges we are experiencing outside the context in which such challenges are happening.
Again, what is happening is not peculiar to Nigeria alone, we’ve the same issues in Mali, in fact the whole Sahelian states is facing similar challenges. If you go to Cameroon, we have security challenges, but in Nigeria the real picture we are seeing is that we tend to look at and interrogate challenges based on sectional interests and that’s where I’m not very comfortable. When we start doing that it doesn’t bring solution to the issue, so I’m worried about it.
Q: We’re are talking about kidnapping for a ransom which has become a recurring decimal in our national life, and some Nigerians are questioning the legality of the interventions of Sheikh Gumi in negotiating with bandits for the release of victims. Do you think that this route is the way to follow in this circumstance?
A: I’ll take you back to my opening remarks when we started this conversation. Let me ask you, when we had the issue of the Niger Delta militancy in this country what did Nigeria do? We relied on stakeholders who are respected in that region and that was how the militancy was abetted. like I keep saying, the world over where there is challenges of this nature nations always look up to citizens, who are respected by the group who may be threatening the security. I don’t want to call names, when we had militancy in the Niger Delta, I thank God I’m a Nigeria citizen of South-South origin I know that certain individuals were used to broker the relative peace we are enjoying in the zone.
So, if what is happening today in the Northern part of the country either in North West or North Central, and somebody is bold enough to come out, to stand up to be counted in ensuring that the bandits released their victims I think we should be applauding him. If we start seeing it or interpreting it from the negative theory, we’ll not go forward. By my training as a cadet superintendent, I’m not trained to view things from the negative perspective rather I’m trained to look at solutions.
Q: As former Commissioner of Police in Anambra State how were you able to handle the security challenges, especially the IPOB challenge?
A: As the commissioner of Police Anambra State command, during my tenure, I’ll say that first and foremost I saw my deployment there as divine, and that was what guided my operations. Secondly, Anambra state prides itself as the safest state in Nigeria and I thank God that I was part of the security architecture. I met a template on ground, a template in the state which I keyed into and took it a notch higher. It wasn’t about me anyway, but it was about a template I met, a synergy between all the security agencies in the state, and a synergy with the traditional institutions in the state. There was a synergy with the communal people in the state, a synergy with non-state actors and that was the secret behind my success.
So, I tell people that in tackling security challenges, most times if you know what you are doing you don’t need to throw a teargas to solve the problem. The other time when I had issue at the duty command, I knew I had contacts I could call and the tension that was about brewing will stop. So that is why I said my success in Anambra, it’s not about me, it was about a template I met, about the people who were ready to work with me because I was open to them. We worked like a team with mutual respect for each other. I pray my successor will build on that and perform better than I do.
Q: How do you feel about your new posting?
A: Well, I will start by thanking God for the privilege of taking me to a higher ground because when I joined the service several decades ago, I didn’t join to remain an CP forever but I joined to progress to the best of my ability as God will have it. I want to use this opportunity to thank the Inspector General of Police, IGP, Adamu Abubakar who found me suitable and recommended me for promotion, and I must tell you that I’m a very happy and fulfilled man because I’m now an Assistant Inspector General of Police, AIG, controlling more states … I thank God and the IGP who found me qualified.
I say it again that Nigeria must survive, Nigeria must unite despite what is happening. Liberia, Sierra Leone had the same worry we are having today. I don’t pray for anything to happen to this country, it’s a blessed country and if we can harness our differences the sky will be our limit.