The Senate on Wednesday advised the Federal Government to evolve and implement holistic reforms in the Nigerian Police Force.
It believes employing more able-bodied personnel, injecting more financial resources for the purpose of procuring arms, ammunition, and other policing gadgets, as well undertaking regular training will ensure efficient policing in the country.
This formed part of the recommendations contained in the 69-page report of the Joint Committee on National Security and Intelligence; Defence; Police Affairs; Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters on the mayhem visited on the ancient city of Calabar during the #EndSARS protests on October 23 and 24, 2020.
In his presentation, Chairman of the Joint Committee, Senator Ibrahim Gobir, said that investigative hearings by the lawmakers revealed that the violence in Calabar metropolis during the protests, which led to the looting and destruction of private and government-owned properties, was “largely spontaneous with no identified goals, leaders, sponsors or financiers”.
“It was a free reign for amorphous groups, gangs, and criminals,” Senator Gobir was quoted as saying in a statement by Senate President Ahmad Lawan’s media aide, Ezrel Tabiowo.
He disclosed that one of the victims of the protest, Senator Bassey Henshaw, who appeared before the committee, narrated his ordeal, saying it took a miracle to get him, his wife, and daughter out from the mob which vandalised its way right into his bedroom.
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Security Forces Overwhelmed
Henshaw, according to Gobir, stated before the committee that the attacks were deliberately orchestrated by some politicians who perceived them as political enemies.
He attributed the violence to the displacement of the people of Bakassi as a result of ceding their homelands to the Republic of Cameroon, a situation that turned some of them into militants.
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The former lawmaker said that the #EndSARS protest was used as an opportunity by militants to unleash mayhem on the city of Calabar, adding that he lost properties worth over N9.3 billion to the attack.
In addition, the joint committee stated in its report that a total of 41government properties were vandalised by hoodlums during the #EndSARS protests around Calabar municipal and neighbouring Bakassi, Odukpani, and Akpabuyo Local Government Areas of Cross River State.
It revealed that at the time of the invasion of homes, the security agencies failed to promptly respond to distress calls from victims and several victims got hints of the planned attacks before the actual acts.
According to the panel, the police, Department of State Services (DSS), and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) were overwhelmed by the sheer number of the hoodlums who unleashed mayhem on the city of Calabar.
The joint committee said it was also alleged by the police before it that the force lacked adequate personnel, vehicles, arms, ammunition, and other tactical equipment for effective policing of the Calabar.
It stated that the police claimed that 106 suspects were arrested, 90 per cent of whom were indigenes of Akwa Ibom extraction, including two females.
The panel observed that the Internally Displaced Persons of Bakassi peninsular have not been resettled by the Federal Government, neither has any kind of respite been given to them.
It added that among those notable leaders whose property and businesses were attacked were former governors of the state – Senator Liyel Imoke and Donald Duke, as well as serving and former senators such as Senator Gershom Bassey, Senator Victor Egba, Senator Henshaw, and a member of the House of Representatives, Etta Mbora.
The joint committee disclosed that the financial value of the vandalised property/items were also submitted by the affected persons and verified by the committee set up by the governor amounted to over N73 billion.
According to it, Cross River State Governor, Ben Ayade, wrote to President Muhammadu Buhari requesting support/funds in the sum of N73,069,634,615.70 to enable the state to rebuild, reconstruct, and compensate individuals and groups who had lost property.
Call For Help
Accordingly, the Senate in its recommendations underscored the need for regular and purposeful training of personnel of the security agencies in line with international best practices.
It called on the Federal Government to give priority in terms of security to Cross River, considering the peculiarity of the state with a very large landmass.
The lawmakers stated that the over 6,000 Cameroon refugees, the influx of Ambazonian army at the border with Cameroon, the large number of militants and those granted amnesty by the state government but yet to be integrated into the National Amnesty programme, constitute an imminent threat to the state’s security.
They recommended that the Federal Government should evolve and implement holistic reforms in the police, to be in tandem with international best practices.
“These will ensure and guarantee effective and efficient policing and coverage of the polity”, the chamber said.
The Senate also recommended that educational programmes and curricula should be geared towards inculcating functional education in individuals, as well as empowering them with academic, technical, and vocational capabilities.
It also advised the Cross River State government to hold regular State Security Council meetings to ensure the total safety of its citizens and their property, as well as treat the regular intelligence report of the DSS with utmost dispatch.
The lawmakers urged the amnesty office and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to provide relief materials and assistance to the victims of the mayhem.
They advised the state government to support its security bureaucracy financially, and with equipment to make it more purposeful and effective.
“There must be a synergy between the state government and all the Federal Government security agencies domiciled and operating in the state for robust interchange and comprehensive deliverables,” the Senate said.
It also resolved to transmit the cost of N34,255,427,822.44, and N10,927,321,757.50 to the Cross River State government as an amount to defray the cost of rebuilding and reconstructing vandalised and looted property belonging to private individuals and Federal Government agencies, respectively.